Premed Stuff

Helpful [hopefully] Links/Articles for Premeds Applying to Medschool

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So, I’m still re-arranging the blog around in attempts to make it easier to navigate. But as things pile up, my board exam is coming up, courses, and random things I took on, so it’s going to take a while to get things how I’d like them [here]. I am actually on vacation, and I thought I’d do some background editing here. But, instead the instinct to survive took over, and I’m doing some board review (biochemistry, yay!). However, as people are applying soon and you may be one of them, thus I thought it’d be helpful to just gather-up some articles I wrote:

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The General Schedule and Requirements for Applying to Medical School

Medical School Admissions Guide – if you take two things away from this whole page, 1) apply early to medical school and 2) buy the Medical School Admissions Guide access for your application year!


How I Studied for the MCAT – feel free to use or ignore anything you’d like


How Much Did Applying to Medical School Cost Me?

More on Costs, and How I Went Into [more] Debt Just to Apply!

Personal Statement Drafting  and Planning Phase

Six Simple Rules to Accomplishing a Draft

Making a Personal Statement Review ‘Committee (part 1) and part 2

Personal Statement Editing Phase

Editing and Composition Planning 

Pitfalls to Avoid While Writing Your Personal Statement

Even More Tips on Things to Avoid (article written after a round of reviews)


Example Personal Statement

Mine. – Sorry, I do have a trove of personal statements on my hard drive, but I only have permission to really put my own personal statement up. If I edited your personal statement, and you’d like you’re to go up here too just let me know.

Medical School Application

Small Blurb on Deadlines and Status Changes

Tips on Getting Letters of Recommendations

Primary Application Samples (mine)

Work Activities Section of Application – especially important for nontraditional applicants!

Tips on Preparing for Secondary Applications

More Info Secondary Applications

Secondary – Diversity Essay (one of the ‘harder’ essays), Community Essay, Greatest Weakness Essay

Medical School Interviews

My Limited Interview Experience – went on 5 interviews [across the country], declined a couple mostly due to budget constraints.

OSCE/MMI Interviews

Interview Tips 

Elevator Speeches – optional read

Good luck and Best Wishes!







Premed Q and A

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Often, my motivation to write and my time to do it aren’t in concert. So, sorry I’ve been slacking off on blogging. I’ve traded writing time for doing better in my coursework time. Though, I assume are here for premed stuff — some might even notice it’s just a random dude’s blog. Over the years, because I’m no longer abreast in premed issues and news, I’ve sort of drifted away from premed posts. Neither the less, when I was glancing through my blog stats “search results” (see below) I decided to take a crack at a few premed issues. Out of the interest of time, I decided to chose three:

  • premed memory survival strategies for nontraditional
  • feeling sad after MCAT
  • did horrible on mcat first time

Search Query:

Premed memory survival strategies for nontraditional (premeds)

I’m going to interpret this query as, “Knowing what you know now as a medical student, and thinking back as a premed, what are some strategies for survival?”

Find a mentor – easier said than done, this is super hard, but the pay off is worth it. I sort of flailed about in college, switching majors several times, my interests in subjects would ebb and flow. I would flip-flop between a dedicated student, to taking time off to work and attend school part time. At no point did I think “premed”, that is until I met my mentor. Thinking back at the time, there were several people reaching out to attempt to mentor me, I failed to recognize their efforts of the people who tried. My biggest advice, in this area, is to put yourself out there. Now, being on the reverse side, I’ve tried to reach out to mentor. Sometimes, mentoring has been rather rewarding — it’s been great to give people that little nudge in the right direction into matriculation. A few who I met online this way I’d now even consider friends. However, I imagine like most mentoring relationships, it’s usually not this way. Case in point, my first year of critiquing personal statements for medical school about 1/3 (20 out of the original group of 60) were lost to follow-up. In other words, they just gave up on revising their drafts and fell off the face of the planet. To be fair, I do make very direct critiques, I don’t think it’s useful to waste people’s time being obtuse in a time crunch (aka medical school applications). Negative experiences with mentees may lead to a natural down regulation of a mentors’ willingness to expose themselves to risk. Having use to work at a university, I’ve seen many professors get burned after investing time (and possibly their credibility) into mentees that went AWOL. So, with that being said here’s my advice that I wish I had as a premed:

  • Don’t be surprised if someone you want as a mentor is a little reluctant to make a connection with you. First, it may require a brief period of proving yourself, i.e. don’t be astonished if you’re placed on “mentee parole” for weeks if not months. Some people would say to avoid a mentor who takes so long to warm up, there may be some merit to that. However, those slow to engage introverted types are often the commitment types — slower courting periods means time to get to know you prior to committing. I’ve had rather inspirational fast talking mentors totally flop on their commitments — maybe, you can even argue they’re so over-committed that they have no time for one additional commitment.
  • Find a counselor who believes in you, but won’t blow smoke up your butt. I’ve had several interactions with assigned college counselors, the first convinced me that I ought to aim a little lower, another without seeing my transcripts projected how I must be doing badly in my courses (I actually had a good GPA). I assume there’s some great college counselors out there, if you know them then stay with them. If you live in a counselor desert, widen your search. Also, there are some counseling services for premeds. As a premed, I’ve never paid for any services, so I can’t make any fair judgment calls. But, I suggest ProMEDeus, only because they were really helpful when I needed some help on how to negotiate for a better financial aid package — a disclosure: I’m biased as I’ve since become friends with one of the CEOs. They’re really good if you’re feeling in the dumps, and just need someone in your corner. Also, though I never paid for her services, the owner of MDAdmit did shoot me some good advice during my application cold feet times. She did write a damn good guide to medical school admittance, arguable if you can’t find a counselor at all then this book (the book link is best found in the link above) will do the job — in my case it did a better job than any counselor.
  • Understand that those who are good at getting you through college, or through a project, aren’t necessarily experienced enough to help you make the right “final-quarter” decisions to get admitted into medschool. Yes, everyone wants what is best for you, though it may not seem like it at the time. However, that doesn’t meant that good intentions are met by tangible rewards. At the end of the day, the person who’s most positively or negatively effected by your admittance (or lack thereof) is you. So, remember, at the end of the day it’s you that needs to do whatever needs to get done.

Search query: 

  • feeling sad after MCAT
  • did horrible on MCAT first time

For this search query, I’m not sure if the person was talking about their practice exam or their final score. For the final exam I was fortunate, I took the test once and never again. However, during my first (timed) practice exam, I remember having the urge to vomit from the stress. Afterwards, during the grading, I recall having a panic attack when I saw how abysmal I had performed. I still remember thinking to myself, “I should give this up…there’s no way I can even get close to 30 [then, getting a 30 was equivalent to getting an average national matriculation score in the new MCAT]. My advice to you, if you haven’t taken the real MCAT yet, is to make sure your worst scores come from your practice.

That being said, I know people in different medical school programs (mine included) where people proclaimed to have bombed the MCAT only to go onto do very well on a re-take. On the other hand, I know people who’ve re-taken the exam numerous times and have yet to break that magical statical threshold. And lastly, I know a minority who have bombed the MCAT, never got that “threshold score” but still found matriculation. Thus, it’s hard to interpret one facet of the application going south, i.e. the MCAT not going so well and perhaps the rest of the application being absolute gold. With that being said, getting a bad MCAT score does close a few doors. The rest of the doors are left slightly ajar, i.e. you can go into them but it just doesn’t seem all that inviting. But really, if you had a bad MCAT you have a few options:

  1. You decide, score be damned, you’re applying anyways. Cue the 80’s music montage of you training and studying for the MCAT to overcome your circumstances — in the 80’s any challenge was surmountable by a montage. The bad part about the re-take is that you’re re-taking it, and really no one enjoys the MCAT except the people getting paid to administer it. The good part is that, if you do it right, you’ll only be studying for your weak points. I won’t be an “optimism troll” and say that’ll make everything feel better. But, at least you’re learning how to trouble-shoot your short comings on the hardest admissions exam in the solar system [fact!]. And honestly, if you’re admitted into medical school just about none of what you struggled with on the exam will matter. Correction, none of the content you struggled with will matter. However, what will matter is the lessons you took away from the exam, a lot of them are lessons on “how you learn best” combined with learning what academic “hunger” means. Sometimes, what you messed up on was obvious, often it’s not. But, the worst mistake you can make is underestimating what went wrong and overestimating how little you need to do to address your issues.
  2. If you decided to re-take it, be sure to know why things didn’t go well the first time(s). The worst mistake you can make it not having a humble wake up call, and you decide to reschedule the test ASAP without any real thought about strategy. Statistically, most people get around the exact same score. But, the MCAT isn’t an intelligence barometer, it’s just a test of how well you can take a test. Before, I could give specific ranges and tips, now I can’t because the scores have changed. But, in general, score improvements come from three ends of the spectrum (triangle spectrum-thingy): a) content b) test strategy c) timing. If you’re scoring well below the national average (of all test takers, not necessarily of those who matriculate) then you need to likely work on all three categories, but you’ll have to make some choices in where you can gain the most points — you might need an official course. If you’re scoring at the national average or slightly above, but not quite at matriculation score, then it’s probably not a content review problem from what I hear — a class would probably help you for testing strategy, self studying would also be reasonable. If you’re scoring at the matriculation score during the practice exams, but always fall short during the real deal, it’s definitely not a content problem and more of a test strategy/timing one — don’t waste time reviewing content all over again, instead handle what’s messing with you on test day. In general, at some point you probably know a lot more content then you think you do, it’s just a matter of learning how to apply it in the MCAT format.
  3. You decide to re-take after some time off. Time off can either make you stronger or weaker, all depending on how you decide to rationalize. Some would see time off as a pure negative experiences, an experience where they only get further from their goal. Others, find a more optimistic interpretation, “If you still want to go to medical school then you really mean it”. I fall into the latter category. It’s very easy to fall into a groove, i.e. be gun-ho about being a premed when everything seems in sync. It’s a lot harder, I think, when you fall out of sync and you realize at the end of the day it doesn’t matter if you go or not to anyone else but you. Yes, you parents and close ones may nag you, or you may project their inquisitiveness has nagging — when it comes to goals, when not taken to the extreme, it’s typically better to have tiger parents than cuddly ones. But, one day your friends and family who prodded you will be gone, you’ll be alone with your decision. There’s a lot of ups-and-downs to medical education (and education continues well into practice), it’s a lot easier to deal with my bouts of medschool dumps knowing that I own my decision. So, if you need time off, don’t take it as a failure. Go get some industrial experience, find love, travel, take a larger role in your community, focus on being happy and adding good memories into your reminiscence savings account. If you decide to revisit the idea of medschool then you’ll be very happy you had time to address all of this, once you’re in medschool your time belongs to medical education.
  4. You decided to not re-take it. Maybe you have an inside application slot, maybe you prefer to wrestle crocodiles with nothing more than a little elbow-grease. Whatever your reasons, it’s yours to make. Despite my moniker, doctor or bust, I don’t think anyone should actually have a do or die mentality about medical school. Going to medical school, trying to get in, and even finishing all depend on how happy you are with your decisions. And although I think you shouldn’t let this one exam hold you back, deciding to do something else is always a good idea if it means you’re happier in the end. If you’re waiting, and hoping, that medical school will turn life around you’re probably in for a big surprise. Trust me, medical school isn’t a place people go to have their self esteem or outlook on life repaired — if anything, medical school and medical education is exceptional at bringing all of your self-doubts and personal misgivings to light.

The big take-away is that you shouldn’t let me, or your score, talk you out of medical school. But, be realistic and pragmatic about your own situation. A few years ago, when I was actively editing people’s personal statements, I stumbled onto a lot of premeds who’d easily get in if they just had some time off to address extra-premed problems: bills (some premeds have a large role in supporting the household, so missing a salary means immediate sufferings of those around us), family illnesses (some suddenly become primary care givers to their siblings), financial (it’s a rigged system). Yes, some people overcome all of these, go onto right self-help books, and perhaps appear in Oprah. But, it’s stupid to assume that a “meat-grinder” is broken because a few pieces make it through the blades unscathed. So, sometimes taking a break to re-evaluate or to reset your foundations is the best you can do.

Best Wishes to Applicants

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Through the medical education onslaught it’s easy for me to lose appreciation for how it felt to apply to medical school. It’s funny how quickly you lose touch with time and reality. But, right now there’s a new batch of premedical applicants applying. And if you’re one of them this cycle, then my hat’s off to you! Regardless if you received an interview, I congratulate you on just clicking the submit button — there’s a world of a difference between intending to apply to medical school and being committed as an applicant. There’s a whole lot of reasons, but most people never get the opportunity to apply. So, if you are good luck and focus on being well!

I think interviewees start arriving, at our program, in a few weeks. This Monday there’s a free dinner an opportunity to learn how we can help in the admissions process. Last year, I participated in the admissions days, it was fun and I think I’ll do it again. It’ll be fun to see bright, hopeful, and lively faces around the medical campus again. The first time I saw interviewees as a medical student, awkwardly enough, was while I was holding someone’s severed leg — you build lots of hallmark moments in the first year. I was lucky to meet a few more during a less odd social setting. Last year, I even met someone who reads my blog, that was a pretty cool situation. [if you’re reading this thanks for reading, and hope you got in somewhere!]

My Medschool Updates

So, as a second year medical student, we just finished our first block of classes (Pharmacology, Pathology, Infectious Disease and a deluge of Drugs). We had the final exam this morning, it went well, so I’m happy. I used Sketchy Medical School, i.e. Sketchy Micro, for most of the microbe stuff. It was great. Also, I found a pretty decent study schedule/groove. My schedule isn’t so bad this year. I wake up at about 9-9:30 AM, I watch almost all lectures from home at 2x speed. You see, going to school by public transportation rips 1-1.5 hours out of my day. In the time it takes for me to transport myself, I could have already finished watching the day’s lectures. With my current agenda: I then leave my house to study, for about 5 hours a day I study alone or with a friend. I return home, get my fair share of cat videos watched, eat and preview for the next day of studying. I really enjoyed this schedule, because I had a lot of free time and time to get work done, hopefully it’ll work just as well for this coming Pulmonary Disease/Drugs block.

Besides the normal courses, our clinical training starts back up next week. Honestly, I have no idea what this entails in detail. I assume, it’s sort of like a role-playing-game, every time we level up in ability we’re given new challenges we couldn’t have handled before. Most of my time will be spent at a community clinic. Concurrently, I contacted a physician I worked with this summer in cardiology, my plan is to spend some time in both ambulatory and inpatient service cardiology — I really enjoyed the previous experience. Aside from that, not sure if I’ll be accepted, but I just applied to two community service programs with other friends/classmates. I’m really crossing my fingers, I knew about one particular outreach program before I even applied to this school, in fact it was the very reason I found out about this medical school in the first place. If things work out, I’ll update you.

Today, I just gave a mock medical school interview via Skype. It was fun. They sent me their AMCAS application, personal statement, and some secondary applications. My job is to read all of it, and make a mock interview out. Turns out, it’s epically faster to read someone’s applicant rather than to write it, it didn’t take very long to go through their application. I have a much better working memory than when I started school, so that helps. And, now that I know a few people who are on the admissions committee I have an even better understanding of what they’re trying to accomplish during the interview. Personally, I really like interviewing and I find it to be the easiest part, it’s a lot less hum-drum than cranking out application essays — in the past it was rare that I wouldn’t get a job if I scored an interview, and I was accepted at all programs where I interviewed. I consider myself an introvert, that’s a big reason why with my free time I’d rather be drinking coffee [alone] and writing, but I can turn on the interpersonal skills when needed. If you’d like some tips on how to tackle your shyness for the interview feel free to email me.

If you’d like to read more medical school interviews, at least my experience of it, then you can read more right below:

Tips on Interview Day

What my medical school interviews were like

Blog Updates

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Hit 100 countries, thanks for all the support!

Good luck and enjoy your day!

Thanks for reading

Why Medicine? — My Ridiculous Answer

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Hello All,

For premeds, applications for medical school just opened a few weeks ago. If you’re applying this cycle, or for that matter any cycle, submit your applications as soon as possible — find a balance between a high quality application and fatal perfectionism. Anyways good luck!

As for me, and how I’m using my summer, I’ve been toiling away and trying to keep busy. It’s my last summer, at least my last summer on the books. Some people take the summer off, I just didn’t for a number of reasons. For me, I’ve been so busy with medical school that I forgot why I wanted to go to medical school and who I was before it. Indeed, I even started to feel this guilt about not being the person I was originally that got me into medical school. So, I’ve taken some time to remind myself of who I was and who I am — this also means I’m taking time aside to remember, “Why Medicine?”

Stuff I’ve been up to:

1. Working with elderly atrial fibrillation/stroke risk patients with my team for our cardiology research project.

When I was still sitting on the fence about medical school or a PhD (to follow after my mentor), my grandmother died of a pulmonary embolism during surgery to remove a stent. We were really close, so this was a big setback for me. My grandmother was physically and mentally disabled, she couldn’t read nor write, nor did she have any real grasp of math. But, she was a swell lady. Before her death, she got married to my step-grandfather, who’s also mentally disabled. When she died, it was a very hard event for everyone. I, well, I was furious and distraught. I was also already an emotional wreck at the time because a friend just died from suicide just a month prior. One of the most painful things was to get into medical school and not have her come to my white coat ceremony.

In case you’re wondering about my original grandfather, I never met him on the account of him dying from a heart attack prior to my birth. So, the heart and I have some unfinished business.

2. Last week, I volunteered for the Special Olympics.

I felt like rubbish most of the year, so I needed to do something for myself, to see something of pure “good”. You see, I was so busy with school I didn’t get to do the things that got me into medial school. I sort of felt like a fraud. These kids and adults, or rather athletes, trained for months to compete. And their results were born out in the events included that included: shot-put, standing long jumps, 400 relay, and the 4 by 1, to name a few. It was actually a great competition, and I’m definitely going to try to find time to this again next year.

I met some awesome and confident athletes, they really helped motivate me to not be afraid to work harder.

3. Tomorrow morning, I’ll go with other medical students to teach high students about emergency medical procedures, and some advising about getting into medical school (from our perspective).

I’m not really sure about the details of the program, I just sort of haphazardly agreed to it because it sounded awesome. So, I’m not really sure what will happen, but learning on the fly is something we all get used to.

Why aren’t I in Hawaii for my last summer as a student?

I often find myself trying to repent by performing labors. You may wonder what is it that I want to repent. In my previous life, before blogging, was I an international jewel thief? A deadly double agent, but with a heart of gold? A Columbian drug lord? An evil water barren? No, nothing as gratuitous or even that interesting. Instead, I was just a patient most of my life. And, perhaps hypocritically, at those times [as a child till a teenager] I saw myself as a lost cause, and poor use of medical resources. My health was especially taxing on my family, my single mom maintained an unhealthy abusive relationship to ensure I had health insurance. My older brother I grew up with didn’t get the attention he needed, because the sickly child gets favor. A book smart kid, who grew up with a useless body. I really thought I was a waste back then, fortunately a few life events changed my views. Anyways, I’m now on this ridiculous quest to make my life mean something. Thus, I’m not sure if I can say that my reasons for loving to interact with patients is altruistic, I need them as much as they’ll need me — hopefully, me working on self improvement will mean they get more out of this relationship.

I’ll take a vacation when I feel I’ve earned one, and I’ve already taken a long enough vacation as a nontraditional who only later applied to medical school.

Kind of stupid, huh? I never told you my reasons would be logical. But, that’s my story, and one of the mean reasons I need to become a physician: people saving my life has to mean something, so I must invent a reason why they did. Sure, there are other factors, I want to help people, recent deaths around me, the challenge — some of these events almost broke me. However, at the heart of my motivation, I’m just trying to have a meaning [in a subjective sense].

So far, I think I’ve made a good choice in how to pay it forward and pay it back.

The 2015 MCAT, Now The Only MCAT

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It’s 2015, there is now the new MCAT, good luck to all of the new generation taking it. It’s something we all go through, so no matter how you do it’s a feat that you’re taking it. A lot of people start off as premeds, and then perhaps find something else that suits them better. But, people who take the MCAT have pretty much signed the premed contract with their blood. It’s a surreal experience when it eventually hits you that you’re be sitting for the exam a few weeks, and it will literally help shape your destiny. I took mine a few years back, a two years before I applied to medical school so I was one of the last to have the essays included. They eventually removed the essay portion, it was a pain to interpret if it even meant anything. Besides that, there are different forms of communication, and perhaps speed writing essays isn’t the most useful metric for who’ll make a good doctor. Personally, I liked the essay portion because it was a nice intermission between more rigorous sections. At the time, I was a paid contributing writer, so I didn’t practice essays for the MCAT. So, because I’ve never attempted them before it felt less draconian and repetitive as reading passages and clicking answer selections.

Though, I remember having a terrible week coming into the MCAT, including the night before the exam. Somehow, I had angered the MCAT gods that week, that night before dogs across my neighborhood barked from about 3:30-6 AM. So, instead of sleeping in for the MCAT, I was watching the History channel (this was way back when the history channel actually showed history, and MTV already had lost interest in music etc). During my exam, I was tired, delirious, and just ready to plow through the MCAT so I could go to a bar and celebrate my last day seeing the MCAT. If I think back about one of my essays, I was so giddy, I recall I wrote about hamburgers. When I finished the exam, for a brief second, I thought about not sending my score as you have that option. But, I thought, “NEVER AGAIN!”, and I pressed submit. I always feel lousy after exams, even if I’m prepared. A month later, I found out my independent dual readers at the AMCAS liked my hamburger rhetoric and I received a reasonable ‘matriculating score’, and I’m very proud I wrote about hamburgers. You’ll have your own experience, including some bad days and good days.

The old MCAT was around for over 20-years, and this allowed for the AAMC to gather a lot of data about correlation (but not necessarily causation) of the data. The old MCAT had a maximum score of 45, with 3 sections each worth 15 points, and for most of the exam’s shelf-life an essay. For all people who take the MCAT, the national average was about 24 points. The average matriculant for US MD programs had gradual creep up, from about 29 to 31 towards the end of the exam when message boards, tutors, and prep companies had the MCAT down to a science (no pun intended). Please note that because we’re talking only of averages we’re throwing out a lot of higher or lower scores that go into medical school and did just fine, an average score and a person’s score are not the same thing. We survived the MCAT, I can only imagine how those before felt with their paper test (I like paper tests). But, one thing is certain you’ll survive the new one, good luck and do your best!

At the end of the day, it’s just part of your application. So a bad score won’t doom you but a great score won’t buy you an acceptance either.



3 Myths About Medical School

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1. You’ll never have time for anything else but studying.

Don’t get me wrong, there will be periods in your medical school career where it’s not reasonable to do more (studying for exams, boards, 3rd year), but so far everyone I’ve talked to at my program still has a life and are getting things done with their education. People in my class run half marathons and other random events, go to theatre, coach soccer, married and some have children. For myself, I still have time to schedule in events (saw Atul Gawande speak last week) and crank out a post or two, go out for walks around the park etc.

Though, medical school was giving me a good stomping at the beginning with the course load (had 4.5 courses at the beginning plus out patient clinic hours) you eventually learn how “you” can get on with it, and well you just get on with it. This isn’t to say medical school is easy either, it’s the most challenging thing I’ve ever attempted, but it’s certainly doable without ruining your personal life. Some parts of medical school are difficult because of the conceptual parts, but some most of it is just knowing when you have to brute force learn concepts in order to make the conceptual part intelligible — and you have to learn to find the balance between it all and your time.

2. Medical school is full of gunners, waiting to slash your brake lines so you don’t make it to the final on time…or at all and will ruin your life.

Whereas, some people adopt a definition of the person who wants to be “the best”, I believe a gunner is someone who while trying to be “the best” while hoping everyone else is beneath them is rubbish. If there is anyone in our class like that, they’re doing a stellar job at hiding it. Usually, people post/share their own study guides and charts, or useful links for the whole class to see. There are study group cliches, but it’s pretty easy to get invited, make, or to crash any study group you see. Maybe different programs will have different experiences, but most of my friends at other medical schools feel the same way about their class in general. The gunner talk is a sticky subject, by definition being the best means you’re better, but in a team (medicine) being the best individual is less important than the team being at it’s best. Wanting to be at your best, that is being better than you were before, is what I think most medical students strive to.

If anything, I feel people were a lot more Lord of the Flies tribal in undergrad than now in medical school.

3. You’ll never use that premed stuff in medical school.

You’ll never sit down and calculated a long winded titration problem again, that much is true. Nor will you try to figure out the coefficient of friction between the IV lines and the hospital bed pulling the line tout. No, you won’t sit down and calculate how many ATP and FAD molecules will result from burning 90 grams of sucrose, nor will you ever be asked again to show the conjugation on retinol. But, it’s tacitly expected that you could understand the concepts (or main ideas) in all of your first year of medical school and into the future. I don’t need to write out each molecule’s Lewis structure in metabolism, but understanding Lewis structures and organic chemistry make the information easier to digest conceptually while I brute force memorize steps. You’ll definitely never be as detailed orientated with the steps, but you need to have a broad understanding — it’s all about the basics. Le Chateau still comes back as the Bohr Effect in blood as does ferromagnetism when talking about oxygen carrying ability of heme. You’ll never really strip away the science from life, because life is science in action.

So, to pay homage to all of those hard working premeds: all of your hard work is for not. But, don’t worry if you’re admitted into medical school you likely have the skills and dedication to finish it even if you have an eternal hate for the prerequisites. In fact, most of the things you’ll need to be a good doctor will likely be much later in medical school and into residency. So, on one hand in the scale won’t play out day to day in our futures — no one calculates the amount of joules imparted into the cyclist who was struck by a trunk in trauma, but understanding the concepts makes it easier to explain to the cyclist he’s lucky to be alive because doubling his speed quadrupled the punishment on his tattered body as raced down the hill. If anything, your understanding of science will always carry you on the concepts and being able to explain things to others effectively (assuming you also have communication skills).

With that said, back to studying for me (see the first myth).

5 Tips on Getting into Medschool — as posted on

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Reflections on Getting Accepted to Medical School

Are You Trying to Navigate the Med School Application Process?

A few weeks ago I was asked to write an article for on my past reflections on premed life as a current medical student. It actually took a few weeks for me to fulfill this request, as I was moving to Boston from California. Some of it I wrote while on the airplane, the rest I eventually finished in bit pieces in Boston, writing a sentence here and there between white coat ceremony and after classes. So, with that, here’s the article as reposted from their site:

In general, all the cliche tips you’ve heard are true: get good grades, you need an ‘acceptable’ MCAT, definitely get patient experience, and you’ll likely need some extracurriculars. All of these things about this pseudo check-list are true, it’s just a matter of figuring out a strategy to execute it. It’s also important to take a 10,000 feet look at the process of trying to get into medical school: you just want to get in, but medical schools are looking for people who can add to their program.

1.    Find a mentor as soon as possible, it’s never too late.
2.   Go at your own pace (grades, scheduling and taking the MCAT, and extracurricular activity).
3.   Gain marketable skills during your undergrad.
4.   Have the right attitude.
5.   Understand how the admissions process works overall and for the specific programs you’re applying to.

Finding a Mentor

Finding a mentor is easier for some more than others. If you already have connections, then it’s a rather straight forward process since all you need to do is reach out to who you already know. This mentor doesn’t have necessarily have to be a medical doctor, they should just know or be willing to get to know the difficulties you’ll face. Statistically speaking, since you’re in college you’ll probably have more access to a PhD professor than a MD or DO, it’s okay to start there. My mentor was my old physiology professor, I later worked on several projects with this individual. Because my mentor was an active researcher in electrophysiology it allowed for me to gain marketable skills and later find a job after graduation in the office of research at my old university. This made it easier for me to develop a set of traits and experience that may come of value to my matriculating class. I think people put too much emphasis on finding a physician mentor, while it’s great to have a physician as one, it’s important not to neglect your other resources. If you don’t know where to start, try checking out your universities “Office of Undergraduate Research” (or something analogous to it) as they typically specialize in aligning undergraduates with research mentors. I highly suggest research mentors because of the amount of depth and involvement that will be required for both you and your mentor — the deeper your involvement the easier it is to argue to medical schools just how you’d add to their program. Research certainly isn’t required (for most programs), but it’s a lot easier to explain what you did if you were part of a research team than say passively shadowing a physician. A good mentor will know your personality traits (the good and the bad) and will be able to work with you, helping you to become your own person and not necessarily a miniature version of them. Another trait of a good mentor is that they’ll often push you further when you’re all but ready to give up, not to torture you but because they know you’re capable of it.

Go at your own pace, don’t rush into failure

It’s easy to get sucked up into following another’s pace. Don’t be afraid to slow down, and be sure to get help when you need it — rushing to apply when you’re not ready, or trying to plow through the organic chemistry series isn’t the best strategy if things aren’t going your way (unless you’re applying for DO remember that your retakes at best are averaged together with the old scores). You have to be flexible about your abilities at the moment and pragmatic about what you can accomplish. That’s not to say you can’t get past the MCAT, but maybe trying to rush to take it so you can apply isn’t the best strategy. I’ve seen a lot of friends lose their chance to apply to medical school because they tried to sprint through the requirements or stack up too many extracurriculars concurrently. Take your time, this is your life, one or two years won’t really make a big difference in the long-run; take on challenges at a pace you can handle, you need not emulate anyone else or follow other premeds “suggested timeline.” Really, the only timeline you need to worry about is applying early during your application season, everything before that should be a personal journey. For myself, I didn’t go straight into the university I actually found myself working for years and considered dropping out of college completely because I had a career going at a young age. I later decided to go back, and went to a university and graduated in 5 years with a major, minor, and research under my belt. I took my time, and found my own path, with the help from mentors and several friends, and I ignored people whenever they questioned my timeline. Realize that a lot of people who you think are “rocking it” and will “surely get in” won’t, part of this is probably because of rushing and doing badly or burning out while doing well.

This also means that it’s better to do several things exceptionally than to do 100-mediocre things. In my old lab we used to host premeds who were ‘interested’ in research, but it soon became obvious where their heart was when they’d stop showing up once they got what they wanted, wouldn’t finish their assignments, or would put minimal effort into what they considered to be “scut work”. At that point, for example in lab, you’re probably unnoticeably sabotaging the lab. So, keep in mind that if you’re involved in activities you may be hurting more than helping by participating. If you hurt the organization more than help then don’t expect either a transformative experience or a letter of recommendation. So, if you can’t commit, and things are going too fast for your pace, slow down and figure out your priorities and only commit to things that you can help.

Gain some marketable skills

I wasn’t sure if I’d get into medical school, so I was terrified to graduate without any marketable skills. In other words, try to “specialize” in college. Unfortunately, not everyone will have an appreciation for your pipetting prowess or that you took labs like the thousands of others — so don’t be fooled into thinking that just because you’re a premed you’re automatically skilled because you’ve titrated a few times (some people get their PhD on titrations). If you get into research, it’s rather straightforward, you’d likely gain skills because you’d have to grow more proficient than the average premed because the success of your lab is riding on it. If you’re not a research orientated person, learning how to start service orientated clubs for example is an excellent skill, as is learning how to fundraise. What helped me in this process was to keep a resume and a CV, this way I was always objective when it came to “why” I was doing something. This also makes writing your applications for medical school dramatically easier, as you already understand your motivation and your objectives. Most premeds have a problem filling out the AMCAS application, though if you’re used to applying for jobs (jobs that require a degree) then  it’s not an extraordinary process.

Have the right attitude — once you think of it as “scut work” all is lost

“Scut work” is a amorphous phrase, one person’s ‘scut work’ is another’s dedicated career. You may feel wiping out vomit and feces is below you, but besides the lessons in humility it’s also a lesson in relativity and often a lesson in team work. You may wonder what mopping the floor with disinfectant has to do with you becoming a physician. Well, in that case a lot, because you’re helping to prevent MRSA infections in the hospital, lessening the load of the staff etc. You may feel washing lab ware  is beneath you, after all you just shadowed a neurosurgeon on Friday, but I’ve seen months of data lost (plus the lives of mice wasted) because premeds thought rinsing out the soap at the bottom of our glassware wasn’t important enough of a task for them. Yes, shadowing the surgeon was probably conceptually cooler, but how much did you really do besides observe? Often, it’s really the “scut work” that is where you can have the most impact. Besides, if you can’t wash glassware, or pipette properly, why would you be given harder tasks that you seem to not able to handle?

Once you start seeing things as “scut work” you’ve probably already missed the lesson, and the lesson is typically team work. Yes, I’ve gotten coffee for my lab mates and professor, but at the same time my lab mates and professor have brought me food and coffee because they knew I couldn’t leave my work space until dusk.

At the end of the day, hypothetically if you didn’t get into medical school and you abhorred your extracurriculars, than you probably weren’t doing it for the right reasons.

Know how the admissions process works

There’s a ton of advice floating around, some of it is legit, most of it is garbage. There’s a certain website, who’s name I won’t mention, that is ripe full of useless or misleading advice. Some advice you’ll get will be bad because people are ignorant of the process because they’ve personally have never went through it, but they’ll consider themselves self appointed experts because they’ve read enough anecdotes. Instead, go with people with admission experience and keep up with the latest AAMC news, and of course your specific programs’ guidelines and advice. The AAMC isn’t an evil agency as some would make it out to be; they’re rather invested in making sure you have the best shot possible at getting in — though, you wouldn’t know it by how some people act about the process of applying to medical school. Applying to medical school isn’t necessarily a mysterious process, but it sure will be if you didn’t do your own homework. Make sure not to be pulled into 20 different directions, stick to a few good sources (including the crown jewel aka the AAMC website), and don’t dilute your efforts too much by taking disparate advice from others. — even those who’ve applied many years ago are likely out of touch with what is required or expected of you currently, so it’s very important that you secure your future by doing your own background research. In the end, if you don’t get in no one will be accountable or more affected than you.

And lastly, it’s okay to be pragmatic, but don’t give up hope because of a bad grade or MCAT score. For the most part, courses and the MCAT can be retaken. Sure, it’s ideal to get past them with flying colors, but life doesn’t work that way usually. A test of your commitment is not only getting past these things, but learning how to do what it takes to get past them. This may mean you can’t apply to all Ivy Leagues, or that you’ll have to make a few detours. But, one C (or even D) won’t exile you from medicine, nor will a bad MCAT score — nor does it imply that you couldn’t survive medical school. You might find yourself taking a few detours, but in the end if you’re satisfied than that’s all that matters. Getting into medical school isn’t that transformative, but the journey to get there is, and if your endgame is just to get in without trying to better yourself then it’ll make applying just that much harder.

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