Nontrad College Soccer Coach to Med School Student

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PMY 512: Nontrad College Soccer Coach to Med School Student

Session 512

Join me as I talk with Laura Jackson, a non-trad M1 student who immigrated to the US to play college soccer, but never gave up her dream to attend med school.

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

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[02:22] Laura’s Background

Living in the U.S. now for 13 years, Laura moved from England to the U.S. when she was 18 years old because she got a soccer scholarship. Her mom is a Jamaican immigrant in England where Laura lived during her first 18 years of life.

She has wanted to be a doctor since she was young. She tried looking into law but it didn’t interest her that much. So she always had this goal to become a doctor. But she put this on hold when she got recruited to come to the U.S. and got the scholarship.

Laura’s dad is a science teacher and her mom was a professor at a medical school, so medicine and science have been ingrained in her from the very beginning. She was interested in science and a lot of her role models were also in the science field.

[05:08] Her Premed Journey

Laura quickly found that the education system in the UK is different from the US. She didn’t know she had to go to class and turn in her homework so she ended up with a 2.3 GPA. She realized she wasn’t that prepared to go to college and that she was only focusing on soccer. Her soccer coach also reminded her that she had to stay above a 2.2 to keep her scholarship and this added pressure on her.

Transferring Schools

At that point, she lost belief in herself. Her first two years of college, taking classes, had nothing to do with medical school.

Laura ended up transferring to another school after her second year and played somewhere else. She remembers her premed advisor telling their class that if they didn’t have a 3.75 GPA then they should leave.

Taking a Master’s Degree and a 10-Year Detour

Laura gave herself another chance to get a master’s degree in neuroscience. It was more of a test to herself that if she got good grades in this higher education graduate degree, then she could go to medical school. Her master’s was paid for through a coaching scholarship and she was coaching college soccer. Then she took a 10-year detour in college coaching before finally coming back to medicine.

Laura got a master’s degree and a Ph.D. for immigration reasons. She was on a student visa for five or six years of that 10-year journey. And when she finally got onto her work visa, she got married to her wife before COVID. Ultimately, COVID gave her the time to think through what she really wanted in life.

Seeking Activities to Water Her Seed

A week before COVID happened, she decided to pursue applying to medical school. At that time, she started studying for the MCAT. When the restrictions started to be lifted 10 months later, she reached out to hospitals in the area and was able to find a shadowing opportunity.

For her, the biggest motivating factor other than the fact she loves medicine and science is that COVID opened her eyes to the community of people she wanted to serve. 

Coaching college athletes, she found them to be more privileged compared to the people of color and those that really needed health care and the rate at which they were being affected by COVID and dying. And so, this opened her eyes to minority populations and she had the desire to make an impact on those populations.

[14:19] The MCAT Journey and Seeking Out Resources

Laura recalls having to teach herself most of the subjects from scratch because she didn’t remember a lot of them. And then, she started taking practice tests and doing question banks. Laura took it only one time – one and done.

Laura adds that this podcast as well as Mappd have been her sources of information. She also got the opportunity to be mentored by the premed head of the biology department at her undergraduate institution eight years ago who guided her on this journey.

[17:05] The Hardest Part of Her Application

Laura credits her athletic career for making it this far. She had to retire from playing because she got injured. And so, her 10-year journey of coaching helped her see how much everybody can learn from failure, even much better than she ever did before.

For her, the hardest part of her application was the fact that nobody knew about her application, except for his wife and other friends close to her. She admits it was quite difficult for her to focus on her job, knowing there’s this massive goal she’s also working on. She just had to be the same person because nobody else knew.

Her reason for keeping it a secret is fear that if people knew and she didn’t get in, then her job would suffer. And so it was a personal decision and she thought it was the right decision.

[23:26] Reasons for Applying Early Decision

One of the reasons Laura was coaching was to support her wife who was in law school at that time. And when she got her first job offer, Laura had already taken the MCAT. And because this was her first job, and it was in the state that they live in, she decided she had to stay at the state school. She also has a large connection to the state school and so she applied.

Her backup plan if she didn’t get it is that after her wife has worked for a year, then they could open up choices to different cities and different states that she could work in. She was making the decision as a family.

The Cost of Applying Early Decision

Although aware of the risk, Laura also knows that the cost of the early decision was so much less. She was applying to one school and it didn’t even charge for secondaries. So there wasn’t that much monetary loss anyway.

Moreover, she didn’t take any of her undergrad classes. So she was leaning on the hope that they would look at her graduate-level work, which wasn’t in any way, like a postbac. She also knew that if she didn’t get into medical school, she would have to retake the undergrad classes again.

Researching the School

Prior to applying, she reached out to the school to get more information. And they told her that being a heavy in-state school, if you had over 3.0 GPA and over 500 MCAT, then you basically get an interview as an in-state applicant. She was also confident in her story and her background in playing and coaching soccer.

[27:40] The Interview Process

Laura had two 30-minute interviews. She shares how her first interviewer didn’t speak much except when he stated his concern over her 3.1 undergrad GPA and why medicine. The interview went well because she knew the interviewer knew everything about her because she didn’t try to hide anything.

The second interview was with physicians that didn’t know anything about her and when they heard about the soccer journey and the coaching journey, they focused on those.

'I would have applied again, and I would have improved my application because I just feel like this is the best decision that I pretty much made in my life.'Click To Tweet

When she got accepted he finally told the rest of the coaching staff and she cried while talking to them because she really loves coaching, but is also ready to move forward in medical school.

Laura is looking into different specialties such as orthopedic surgery, ENT, and internal medicine.

[36:46] Final words of Wisdom

Do all the things that need to be done. Laura wishes to tell other students to not let things define them. They need to do what needs to be done to achieve their dream of going to medical school.

'There's always more chances. The past doesn't have to define you, but it can certainly improve you and give you a story.'Click To Tweet

Now at 31 years old, Laura is ready to take on the rest of medical school and realize her dream.


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