Working Led to Poor Grades. Perseverance Led to an Acceptance!

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Session 518

Carly destroyed her GPA by skipping classes to focus on working. Two years later, she had to recover from those mistakes.

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

[00:43] Chad’s Story

Like many of you, Carly had to overcome a not-so-great start to her academic career because she had to work and was distracted.

“Poor grade is not a reflection of being a poor student. Oftentimes poor grade is a reflection of not being able to focus on being a student.”

One of the best stories that we ever told here was about Chad who had his share of undergrad and postbac struggles because he was taking care of his family. Eventually, he made a decision to stop working and pursue his dream of becoming a physician. He went on government programs to help provide for his family. And he was finally able to perform well in an SMP program. It wasn’t until then that he was finally able to show that he can be a good student when being a student is the only thing that he had to do.

Listen to Chad’s story back in Episode 230. He was rejected from a Caribbean medical school and he’s now a second-year surgical resident.

[02:20] The MCAT Minute

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[03:04] Interest in Becoming a Doctor

Carly grew up knowing she wanted to be a physician. Her mom is a medical assistant and still working at the same pediatrician’s clinic that she has always worked at, and who was also her pediatrician growing up. ​​Her mom and this physician were very close so Carly grew up thinking very highly and positively of her. For her, the pediatrician was the altruistic figure in her life whom she wanted to emulate. 

Carly wanted to be the leader of the team and to have responsibility for her patients. As she got older, she shadowed, learned more about the field, and explored different options. And all that helped solidify her decision to pursue medicine. She also did try to look into PA and Pharmacy and realized she was just really drawn to medicine.

[05:44] Premed Struggles

In college, Carly decided to live by herself so she had to pay her own bills and take care of everything which caused her education to fall by the wayside.

In her first two years, she was just working and didn’t pay attention to her classes. She was in denial about how poorly she was doing and she just ignored it. Although she followed the premed track, she didn’t really understand the process because she wasn’t really going to class. She didn’t even know the MCAT was a thing until she was a junior.

She got caught up in working which was easy to do and so it’s hard to be a good student when you’re trying to do both.

There’s this basic human psychology where we avoid the things that make us feel bad. It’s just human psychology. And so, how do we fix that? How do we accept the fact that organic chemistry is hard, and yet we still have to do it? It’s not fun to study physics or, or biochemistry or whatever. But we still have to do it.

It wasn’t until junior year that Carly started working in the medical field. She was a scribe in the emergency department where she gained mentors. She did love science and learning but it became easier for her to avoid that disappointment and instead go after working which was something she enjoyed.

[11:10] Connecting with Your WHY

Mentors are obviously a big part of this process. But then, this was also Carly’s first time seeing herself in that environment and being one of those people. So she finally got to see what she was working for.

A common theme that I see with students who struggle with their grades is that they’re not in a clinical environment and they’re not shadowing so they don’t understand. And so, students who feel the pain from having poor grades aren’t able to attach that pain to their why. And that “why” should be something tangible.

Imagine getting out of work as a scribe and then you become more excited to study because of where you just came from. And so, there’s that better understanding of what you’re working towards.

[14:55] What She Did to Improve

Carly was aware she wasn’t taking accountability for her faults. She wasn’t going to class. She wasn’t taking notes. She wasn’t immersing herself in the environment. When the switch flipped, she started going to class, she did not miss class, she took notes, and she enjoyed being there.

“Knowing what I was working towards, it was easier to put in that time, and invest in myself  because I knew that all of that work and investment would be worth it soon.”

Carly had a newfound respect for what she was now doing. She just studied all the time. She studied at school and in groups. She made friends with her classmates, which was something she had not done.

And so, once she put herself in a good environment, it all became easier and enjoyable. When she wasn’t working in the emergency room, she was still working towards something else. Listening to the success stories of other students who went down the same path was also her source of inspiration and motivation.

[19:41] The MCAT & The School List

Her MCAT Journey

Carly’s highest AAMC practice score was 508. She was personally comfortable with that, aware that she was not the best test taker. But during the test, she did not finish a single section and came out with a 499. As a result, she had to take two gap years.

Carly felt she was ready for medical school, but her statistics just didn’t show it and it wasn’t convincing on paper.

So Carly ended up applying with a 499 MCAT and a low 3.0 GPA but she had a strong upward trend. She didn’t do a postbac because she used her third and fourth years of undergrad as her postbac which we see a lot.

Curating Her School List

Carly applied very broadly to 30 schools, MD and DO. She was more open to whatever came her way. But at the same time, there were some schools where she just did not feel like she would be a good fit. And so, she didn’t apply to those. She looked into what people had to say about each school before applying. She had a rough list of schools she wanted to apply to beforehand.

She applied to a lot of schools in her home state. She was also okay with being out of state, and she applied to 20 DO schools and 10 MD schools. Carly received a good amount of interviews. And one of the keys was to do a bit of extra research on schools to make sure you’re a good fit.

“I didn’t let the stats hold me back… If I would have held myself back, I wouldn’t have had as many opportunities.”

That being said, Carly was very aware of the median MCAT scores and GPAs. But she took the leap to apply anyway. She knew she wasn’t going to hold herself back by applying to five schools that had very low stats. Ultimately, Carly didn’t apply to where she didn’t feel like she would be happy and she didn’t let the stats hold her back.

[28:54] The Interview & The Acceptance

When she got the interview invite, she was scheduled for the interview the following week. It was her only in-person interview and she felt very excited. She went to several more virtual interviews.

What came up in two of her five interviews was her MCAT and she was just very honest about it. Fortunately, it just translated well. And it didn’t actually come out as much as she thought.

When she finally got her acceptance, she was just screaming out of happiness. Finally, all the challenges did pay off.

For her, the hardest part of the whole process was writing her secondary and personal statement. She wanted to be very intentional and she didn’t want to rush it. So it took a lot of introspection and ]

“It takes a lot of introspection… It takes a lot of reflecting on yourself when you’re writing this personal statement and when you’re writing these essays.”

[37:34] Final Words of Wisdom

Carly says it’s really important to be confident in our abilities to overcome adversity. Understand that it’s not always a negative.

“Doing poorly is a very bad feeling and it can be very difficult to get out of that rut. But it makes us who we are. We move past it.”

Nothing is impossible. If you have enough grit and tenacity and if you’re willing to put in the work, you can do anything. Whether a school accepts or denies you, doesn’t define your worth as a future physician.​​


The Premed Years 230: Chad’s Story

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