Premed Secrets from a Former Director of Admissions

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PMY 501: Premed Secrets from a Former Director of Admissions

Session 501

Dr. Scott Wright is the former Director of Admissions at UT Southwestern. He used to run the entire TMDSAS system as well, and he is now an advisor at Mappd. Today, he shares his thoughts on being a premed student, what you should be doing, how you can “stand out” and so much more.

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Listen to this podcast episode with the player above, or keep reading for the highlights and takeaway points.

[03:56] The Role of the Admissions Committee

Dr. Scott Wright has an extensive background in the medical admissions world and on the premed side of things. He can’t stress enough the importance of being prepared in whatever you’re doing to set yourself up for success. As a student, you have to lay the foundational framework.

At its core, the role of an admissions committee is to make sure their applicants not only fit the medical school but also make sure they’re successful in their path to medicine.

For most medical schools in the United States, the attrition rate is at 2%. Compare that with the attrition rate at law schools which is 50%/. So this says a lot about the admissions committees.

It’s not about the stats, but the ability of the student to be successful in medical school, in residency, and in their career.

'The admissions committees are doing a good job of making sure that the students are going to be a good fit for the profession, as well as for their institution.'Click To Tweet

[09:15] What Changed Over the Years

From being a Director of Admissions at UT Southwestern, Scott then moved to the position of executive director at TMDSAS.

Maybe 30 years ago, you could get in with a 4.0 GPA and a near-perfect MCAT score without a lot of other things. Because we didn’t really have the data and think about the soft skills and the bedside manner. We simply assumed that the smartest people make the best doctors. And by smartest, we mean the GPA and the MCAT since those are the only things we can measure. And this has changed now.

Scott also adds how technology has changed in terms of how the MCAT is taken and the application process as a whole. Before, they would get paper applications in boxes. And that has totally changed now.

Scott also recalls having a General Knowledge section on the MCAT before where they would test the students’ awareness of the world around them and what’s going on.

What he has found exciting, too, is seeing the passion students have for medicine. But he also would like to see students being passionate about the things they’re really passionate about, whether that’s sports, arts, or whatever.

'You need to be passionate about something… we need to have passion in our lives.'Click To Tweet

[16:09] Message to Parents

The focus on stats is still primary for a lot of students, especially parents because many of them are actually pushing students toward the metrics. And so, for the parents out there, let your student be involved. You need to take a backseat. Guidance and moral support are important.

Parents don’t like letting their kids fail and that is a failure in and of itself. And students have to learn how to fail and how to respond when they fail.

'We learn a lot about ourselves when we fail at something... we learn a lot about what life is about and how you respond.'Click To Tweet

[20:16] How to “Stand Out”


Scott says the language is a very important thing. This doesn’t only refer to the use of grammar, but how you’re communicating your thoughts and writing your thoughts in a way that makes sense for somebody reading it.

Scott recalls doing a mock interview with a student that says “like” a lot, which is not a really effective way of communicating. Therefore, you have to have that self-awareness so you’re able to communicate appropriately.

Be aware of what your tendencies are. Maybe you’re speaking too quickly or too loudly. Be intentional about what’s appropriate.

It’s also about emotional intelligence and being able to judge the character in the room. Be able to respond to those cues, whether it’s a patient encounter or whether you’re at a coffee shop with a friend.

True enough, he did another mock interview with that same student the week after, and the student never said the word “like” again.

'It's just being intentional about every single word leaving your mouth.'Click To Tweet

A great way to do this is to record yourself on audio and video, so you can watch yourself and hear yourself. And that stopping part is the easiest part once you’re aware of it. Slow down enough to be able to listen to yourself talk.

[29:18] Where and How to Get Started

'The hallmark of an educated person is knowing what you don't know. If you don't know that you don't know, that's big-time problematic.'Click To Tweet

Scott advises students to create a road map of their application process. Scott also points out that this is a process that you don’t have to do all alone. There are people who can help you so feel free to reach out to the right people. Gather as much information as you can. Check out Mappd and our podcasts. There’s no excuse anymore for saying you don’t know because the answers are right in front of you.

That being said, be careful with what you’re learning too because there is a lot of misinformation happening around the world. Just because you found things online doesn’t mean it’s true. Be careful with where you’re sourcing information from. Learn to ask questions to find the knowledge.

Whether you do this on your own or you’re thinking of getting an advisor, Scott underlines the importance of self-awareness. Do some reflection on what you really need and what help you need and be honest with yourself.

[39:49] Final Words of Wisdom

Scott encourages students to see the world in a different light. Be thoughtful, be resilient as you seek this passion in your life.

[41:05] The MCAT Minute

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