Authored by: Brigham W.
- My stats are mediocre at best: 507 MCAT, 3.5 science GPA.
- I have an MSc from a top school and a few years of biotech industry experience as a non-trad.
- I had plenty of Bs and Cs in undergrad. Plentyyyy.
Things I wish I knew:
A: your identity shouldn’t be consumed and lost in this process. It took me many years and tears to get here, and over that time my identity became the MD. It is unhealthy when we forget who we are, what we enjoy, and truly what life is while we pursue our missions on earth. Our mission/dream/passion need not destroy our personal growth. Focus on you and yourself a little more.
B: The mcat was my nemesis. I studied a lot and did below average. Take lots of sample tests in real situations and go over every single question in detail. This test beat me down and my advice again here would be to try and find a little breathing room while you study. Work on not being so intimated and Try believing in yourself as you go through this arduous process. This is the hardest test I’ve ever taken and I regret letting it abuse me emotionally. So when you start your mcat battle, don’t make my mistake and ensure you remain stronger than this test. You got this.
C: Extra curricular activities: I did a lot of research, had publications, etc. what came up in interviews is something – anything- you are passionately dedicated to. Passionately dedicated = you truly care about it and can show you’ve done something for several years towards that end. Don’t just shadow or travel to Africa to fill out a line on a resume. Do what you love and do it consistently. Adcoms are tired of us just going through the routine of what we think we need to do.
D: writing. Being able to convey what you’ve done, why you did it, and why that represents who you are as a person is king in this process. I wrote and rewrote my app and secondaries at least 20 times. I happen to be a strong writer, but if you aren’t that’s fine – find a friend who is willing to help you. Ensure that you speak simply in your essays, answer the questions and BE HUMAN AND HUMANE. The essays aren’t there to demonstrate you’re a genius; show them something unusual and earnest about your identity. I really believe writing is king – in every interview I had the interviewers mentioned my essays. So please focus on that.
E: when you get your scores back, don’t freak out. I’m a bit older than most of you and I got my mcat score back when my son was just born. Many ppl told me that without a 511 I’m screwed. I was about to refocus and take it again, but I simply couldn’t. So I got busy with life and told myself to let go of what I can’t control. If you’ve taken the test once or a few times and are now “ stuck” with a poor score, once you decide to apply, stop fretting over the score. It’s fine, it’s done and now it’s time to focus on the next step in this process.
F: it’s important to be honest – holistic reviews begin after the mcat and gpa are there. Meaning, the system still heavily favors wizards of the mcat and that’s just life. I completed 50 secondaries ( yes, 50) and didn’t get many interviews because my gpa and mcat were low. That’s just the rule of this game and we need to accept that. Remember – you only need 1.
G: it’s ok to postpone the mcat, to void and to take a year ( or a few) off. Being a physician isn’t going anywhere, and if you need time to regroup and build yourself up then do it with your head held high.
H: your mental health is more important than anything else. Don’t lose sight of your needs and do take good care of yourself.
I: don’t overdo it with adderall/vyvanse. Sleep well, exercise and eat well.
J: be open to helping others succeed. Especially with the mcat.
K: don’t overindulge on social media about people who already got accepted and are “ ahead of you” in this race.
L: don’t be discouraged by ppl showing off their 515+. Kudos to them for being smart and dedicated. Just focus on you and your talents. Focus on you all the way.
M: it’s okay to breakdown. It’s ok to have a bad week. It’s ok to take breaks. It’s ok to lose focus. Just get back up and try again. Don’t let the fall hold you down longer than it’s natural consequence.
I want to end by reminding you that this isn’t the only thing that matters in life. I spent the last 8 years in biotech, I’m married and have a child, and yet I always had an inability to enjoy life because I wanted to be an MD. I was mistaken and wrong and I hope my insights help you refocus the aperture of your life. Regain yourself and your purpose. Don’t lose it in this process. I know it’s cliche and I can’t begin to write how many reasons I had to quite. I’m currently leaving a job that pays me 200K+ to go to school…. think about that. Don’t do this for alternative reasons. Do it if you have to. And you have to if you find you can’t do anything else but medicine.