BoxVersionAce

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Jun 26, 2011
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Hey guys, my deal is an unusual mcat scheme, an uncomfortable load of EC, and I want to stay in CA. I feel as though delaying my app. another year on top of gap year 1 could help immensely. I have thought about it quite a bit and figured I'd come here. Here is my application's essence broken up into activities/numbers. The duration for some of the latter activities are tentative and by the end of June.

4th year Biochem major with Math minor (classes from a UC)
ORM
cGPA: 3.86
sGPA: 3.89
1st MCAT take May 2012: 28 (11/6/11)
2nd MCAT take Septermber 2013 (an entire year apart): 39 (14/11/14)
4 years volunteering with various community-based organizations (probably around 100 hrs nonclinical volunteering)
2 Years (first 2) experience working in university dining hall/retail (leadership experience)
Summer 1: Restaurant Work & CC courses
Summer 2: Private tutoring and university courses/MCAT
2 Years (latter 2 years) being a TA for various courses
1 year lab research experience (no pubs or posters)
1 year lab research experience in another lab (potential publication acknowledgement for the in 2015 during my gap year if I do not delay).
120 hrs of volunteering in various departments of the hospital
24 hrs pediatrician shadowing + potentially more
Summer 3: Volunteering in lab, TA, hospital volunteering, some community service, MCAT

Currently, I am on track to graduate this June with the potential to apply early in the 2013/14 cycle w/ gap year. My main problems with applying at this time:
1.) I do not believe my letters of recs are going to be strong. 1 letter of rec from o chem prof, 1 letter from upper-div bio prof, 1 letter from sociology prof. Could get it from PI's/lab supervisors but unfortunately I do not believe they would be as strong.
2.) I will not have any of the significant markers that people have in working in labs (posters or pubs).

In the gap year, I will be doing hospital volunteering, physician shadowing, lab volunteering, and hopefully a full time job teaching. The full time job teaching and the lab volunteering could potentially yield me really strong letters of recs (science profs) as opposed to my current ones. Also, I will likely do a presentation or get pub acknowledgement for the current project I am working on.

I know that I can update schools on pub/research work during the gap year but I certainly can't do that for letters of rec. So my main question is, how much better will my chances be if I delay another year (2 gaps) get stronger letters and get more involved in the lab? I WANT to stay in CA. However the idea of going out of state is exciting and still considerable to me. I would like to do this for practical experience as well but it may not be financially practical for me to delay another year. I must also consider my MCAT expiration date, which would be okay for most schools in the 14/15 application cycle.

General Application Questions (again for CA competition):
1.) I know it depends on the schools, but how does the MCAT discrepancy (esp. the first verbal score) look to you guys? I can definitely talk about how I worked my butt off the second time and had a lot of academic maturing within the year (TA experience, lab environment exposure, and upper-division lab courses).
2.) My application is kind of shotgun method-esque with nothing strongly unique. How much of a problem is this if I can clearly elucidate how each activity contributes to my desire to learn and practice medicine?
3.) No strong student leadership, problem? My past high school experience has lead me to believe I can better use my leadership skills in tutoring and leading activities rather than organizing events.
 

Goro

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Jun 10, 2010
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I don't think there's any need to take a gap year, much less two. Your ECs are solid. Very few UG students get a paper or poster, so don't feel the need to do so. Learning about the scientific method is far more important.

I know that I can update schools on pub/research work during the gap year but I certainly can't do that for letters of rec. So my main question is, how much better will my chances be if I delay another year (2 gaps) get stronger letters and get more involved in the lab? I WANT to stay in CA. However the idea of going out of state is exciting and still considerable to me. I would like to do this for practical experience as well but it may not be financially practical for me to delay another year. I must also consider my MCAT expiration date, which would be okay for most schools in the 14/15 application cycle.


While there are some schools that don't like repeat testers, your secod score is outstanding, and more schools will look at that, not the first-time VR 6.

1.) I know it depends on the schools, but how does the MCAT discrepancy (esp. the first verbal score) look to you guys? I can definitely talk about how I worked my butt off the second time and had a lot of academic maturing within the year (TA experience, lab environment exposure, and upper-division lab courses).

I don't see a problem with it.

2.) My application is kind of shotgun method-esque with nothing strongly unique. How much of a problem is this if I can clearly elucidate how each activity contributes to my desire to learn and practice medicine?

Shouldn't be a problem unless you're aiming for the Ivies. Your TA/tutoring counts for something.

3.) No strong student leadership, problem? My past high school experience has lead me to believe I can better use my leadership skills in tutoring and leading activities rather than organizing events.[/quote]
 

gyngyn

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1 No one is worried about an 11 in verbal.
2 The rest of your application is normal
3 Play to your strengths.

In summary, as long as you continue to validate your understanding of what it means to be a physician between now and next summer, apply. As long as you articulate a reason for your medical education that resonates with someone screening in CA, you should get interviews.

Everyone wants to stay in CA. Let it go. It will greatly improve your chances and your psyche.
 

nemo123

5+ Year Member
Jul 22, 2011
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Medical Student
1st MCAT take May 2012: 28 (11/6/11)
2nd MCAT take Septermber 2013 (an entire year apart): 39 (14/11/14)
4 years volunteering with various community-based organizations (probably around 100 hrs nonclinical volunteering)
2 Years (first 2) experience working in university dining hall/retail (leadership experience)
Summer 1: Restaurant Work & CC courses
Summer 2: Private tutoring and university courses/MCAT
2 Years (latter 2 years) being a TA for various courses
1 year lab research experience (no pubs or posters)
1 year lab research experience in another lab (potential publication acknowledgement for the in 2015 during my gap year if I do not delay).
120 hrs of volunteering in various departments of the hospital
24 hrs pediatrician shadowing + potentially more
Summer 3: Volunteering in lab, TA, hospital volunteering, some community service, MCAT

I know that I can update schools on pub/research work during the gap year but I certainly can't do that for letters of rec. So my main question is, how much better will my chances be if I delay another year (2 gaps) get stronger letters and get more involved in the lab? I WANT to stay in CA. However the idea of going out of state is exciting and still considerable to me. I would like to do this for practical experience as well but it may not be financially practical for me to delay another year. I must also consider my MCAT expiration date, which would be okay for most schools in the 14/15 application cycle.
Pub acknowledgement or author? An acknowledgement won't mean much. Apply next year. Doing 2 gap years instead of one won't enhance your app that much. Try to get a poster/abstract this year and apply. It should be enough.

Also, I don't really see how doing 2 gap years would improve your science letter recs, since they should be coming from professors who taught you in a class. Your PI letters might be better, but there's no guarantee that your PI will write you a better rec after being in the lab for another year, especially if something goes sour between you and your boss.

Do you have any other hobbies/other non-pre-med involvements that you would put on your app? Get some more shadowing done before you submit your app (as most CA schools don't accept pre-interview updates), continue to volunteer (particularly a long term position that would require 2 hrs/week... It seems like you've been doing events on and off for non-clinical volunteering).

The first MCAT is a little alarming, but the second one is great. LizzyM has said her school averages the MCAT (putting you at around a 33/34), but in the end, people on SDN have said that when schools submit your MCAT score to MSAR and USNews, they only need to report your highest score so in effect your 28 will disappear. That said, I have seen a lot of MDApps of people who retake low 30s and get 37+ on their retake and they seem to end up at fine schools.
 

alpinism

Give Em' the Jet Fuel
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Nov 6, 2011
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So my main question is, how much better will my chances be if I delay another year (2 gaps) get stronger letters and get more involved in the lab?
Depends on what you get out of the research. A pub or poster presentation would definitely help, but just getting more research experience for the sake of it would do very little.

Don't fixate on CA. There a ton of great medical schools (with more money and resources than UC public schools) in the midwest and on the east coast.
 

darkjedi

how did this get here I am not good with computer
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If you are going to do a gap year, you should take more advantage of that time than merely getting a couple stronger letters and more involved with a lab. I'm not sure what leadership experience your dining hall job entails, but adcoms also really like to see peer leadership.

You obviously have a very strong application already, but since I imagine you are maneuvering yourself for a top-tier schools, you should try to improve on the parts of your application that the top-tiers really like to see. If you still have the time to get involved in, and like global experiences, give that a shot. Meet with some academics you may strongly admire and see what work can come of that. Peer leadership takes some initiative to either start, or contribute significantly to some student groups.

You will more likely than not get into a good school and have some choices of schools. Really take this extra time to focus on finding what your passions are in medicine and beyond, and dive deep into them. Whether it's something you imagine will be a part of your career, or something as small as a neat hobby, now is the time to define yourself.
 
OP
BoxVersionAce

BoxVersionAce

5+ Year Member
Jun 26, 2011
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Pre-Medical
Thanks for the responses guys! I have not been able to get back this thread until now, but I certainly do appreciate it and will consider my application more thoroughly due to this newly gained insight. Sorry if the following is not organized well or if I missed the point of your post entirely.

@Goro
I don't think there's any need to take a gap year, much less two. Your ECs are solid. Very few UG students get a paper or poster, so don't feel the need to do so. Learning about the scientific method is far more important.
While there are some schools that don't like repeat testers, your secod score is outstanding, and more schools will look at that, not the first-time VR 6.
I don't see a problem with it.
Shouldn't be a problem unless you're aiming for the Ivies. Your TA/tutoring counts for something.
1.) I should have been more clear in my first response about my research. I am currently working on a project in which I am giving large contributions and I am likely to get in the paper, not just in the acknowledgements section but as an actual author. Because the project is a bit slow compared to others, I may just get a poster presentation before this upcoming June (student bio symposium). The project/experience in the lab is something I find fantastic and will be a large part of my application that I could talk about. I suppose I shouldn't be worried about my name in the project.
2.) I hope that most schools won't care for the first one. I will have to check on which schools do what in terms of MCAT calculations/considerations.
3.) I'm not particularly aiming for the Ivies, just for in-CA. I would definitely like the opportunity but I suppose I would need to make my application more unique within my gap year (1 or 2) somehow if I wanted to compete.

@gyngyn
1 No one is worried about an 11 in verbal.
2 The rest of your application is normal
3 Play to your strengths.

In summary, as long as you continue to validate your understanding of what it means to be a physician between now and next summer, apply. As long as you articulate a reason for your medical education that resonates with someone screening in CA, you should get interviews.

Everyone wants to stay in CA. Let it go. It will greatly improve your chances and your psyche.
CA so cool! Also I see that playing to my strengths is a great idea. I think in my gap years I would like to get good teaching experience. One position would be to be a TA for a university course of a prof. that is already willing to give me a letter (which would be more legitimate if I TA'd for him more). Other options could be Americorps or some sort of outreach position. Working in a more service-based job is something I am definitely interested in as I've been too busy to kind of use my talents to help other people out.

Pub acknowledgement or author? An acknowledgement won't mean much. Apply next year. Doing 2 gap years instead of one won't enhance your app that much. Try to get a poster/abstract this year and apply. It should be enough.

Also, I don't really see how doing 2 gap years would improve your science letter recs, since they should be coming from professors who taught you in a class. Your PI letters might be better, but there's no guarantee that your PI will write you a better rec after being in the lab for another year, especially if something goes sour between you and your boss.

Do you have any other hobbies/other non-pre-med involvements that you would put on your app? Get some more shadowing done before you submit your app (as most CA schools don't accept pre-interview updates), continue to volunteer (particularly a long term position that would require 2 hrs/week... It seems like you've been doing events on and off for non-clinical volunteering).

The first MCAT is a little alarming, but the second one is great. LizzyM has said her school averages the MCAT (putting you at around a 33/34), but in the end, people on SDN have said that when schools submit your MCAT score to MSAR and USNews, they only need to report your highest score so in effect your 28 will disappear. That said, I have seen a lot of MDApps of people who retake low 30s and get 37+ on their retake and they seem to end up at fine schools.
1.) Sorry I was not clear but I would actually be considered to be an author as I am not just going in to perform assays and getting out. It is a smaller lab in which there is an academic atmosphere of which I contribute to. I should have been more clear in my first response about my research. I am currently working on a project in which I am giving large contributions and I am likely to get in the paper, not just in the acknowledgements section but as an actual author. Because the project is a bit slow compared to others, I may just get a poster presentation before this upcoming June (student bio symposium). So, do you think it would be worth it to wait another year assuming I will get on the paper (again a dark assumption, but WAMC threads are for these types of things???
2.) One of my science letters of rec is coming from a upper-div prof. that I have taken to 2 classes with and have gotten A's with. I have not TA'd for him and could potentially in my gap year. I just figured it would be a more legitimate letter if I got experience under their wing. I suppose this is an extremely weak argument for staying another year.
The other science is from an o chem professor that TA'd for and took classes from. I can say this one is currently relatively good. But our relationship isn't such that I could safely say it is strong compared to some other prof-student relationships I've seen.
3.) I do like painting and do practice percussion as a hobby. I've thought about starting a painting class type of thing with my family, since we have several painters and my mother has experience teaching children already. WILL-DO on the shadowing, or at least try.
4.) Oh wow, I definitely hope that schools mostly consider my second score. Can you clarify a bit? Are you implying that even the schools that average the MCAT scores might actually consider my second score more relevant? I guess the logic dictates that my score could be better for their MCAT USNews report.

@alpinism
Depends on what you get out of the research. A pub or poster presentation would definitely help, but just getting more research experience for the sake of it would do very little.

Don't fixate on CA. There a ton of great medical schools (with more money and resources than UC public schools) in the midwest and on the east coast.
Like I said above, presentation probably likely at the end of this year, pub likely in review sometime after this summer. Not entirely sure as this project is certainly slower than others. So I guess you can almost say, 1 gap year=poster presentation on app, 2 gap year=publication author. Dark assumptions, but I wanna know if it might be worth it.
I won't fixate too much on CA and will consider other schools as I need to put more research in to it, but it is my main goal for family and financial reasons.

@darkjedi
If you are going to do a gap year, you should take more advantage of that time than merely getting a couple stronger letters and more involved with a lab. I'm not sure what leadership experience your dining hall job entails, but adcoms also really like to see peer leadership.

You obviously have a very strong application already, but since I imagine you are maneuvering yourself for a top-tier schools, you should try to improve on the parts of your application that the top-tiers really like to see. If you still have the time to get involved in, and like global experiences, give that a shot. Meet with some academics you may strongly admire and see what work can come of that. Peer leadership takes some initiative to either start, or contribute significantly to some student groups.

You will more likely than not get into a good school and have some choices of schools. Really take this extra time to focus on finding what your passions are in medicine and beyond, and dive deep into them. Whether it's something you imagine will be a part of your career, or something as small as a neat hobby, now is the time to define yourself.
1.) I've been thinking about my peer leadership. It is weak for personal reasons as well as simply because of my other obligations. Dining hall leadership involves essentially being a student lead, directing others to be on task when needed, rounding about activities that need to be done in order to keep the place running.
2.) Yeah, I'm pretty much maneuvering myself for higher tier schools and to be able to stay in my home-state (family for the most part). For global experience, I've considered several exciting and rewarding programs (like missions, teaching, outreach). Weighing it out, I do not think I want to pursue these experiences. I know that I can learn a lot from it and help people on a larger level, but I simply don't think it's the right time or place because of how my family/parents haven't been out of the country for nearly a decade. I can't see myself involved in worldly experiences when those close to me can't even afford to go across sea themselves. Don't get me wrong, the programs I've considered aren't just vacations like some, but it just doesn't feel like something appropriate for me. Plus, I like being able to talk about my application to my family members. I like grounding myself in the community I live in currently and have learned I lot where I am.

However, as I've mentioned above, I am still considering some like teach for america or Americorps. Going to other states to help Americans out is an activity that certainly feels appropriate as I am considering to go to medical schools in other states.
3.) I have not had time to delve into passions (other than academics/science) since my high school era. Like I mentioned above, percussion and painting are activities I can look to.

In Summary/Newdevelopments

Most of you have stated that an extra gap year is superfluous. I suppose from an application point of view, that is the case. I am still not certain.

- 1 gap year=poster presentation on app, 2 gap year=publication author.
- My gap year(s) could potentially involve either of the main activities (full-time obligations):
A.) TA for prof for a year or so (weird system for hiring, but it works), who I'm already getting a LOR from. Potentially legitimizing it/making it stronger.
B.) A teaching job that is more service based. (?)

I'd probably be more comfortable teaching college students. But I feel I would learn more from the second option (B) that could be beneficial to my practice as a physician.

My gap year(s) could potentially involve these other activities (probably can only choose 1/2 at one time, but I can juggle or do some activities for only a fraction of my gap years):
A.) Lab I currently volunteer at
B.)hopsital I volunteer at
C.) more physician shadowing
D.) teaching people/chlidren how to paint (?)
 

nemo123

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Jul 22, 2011
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Yes, what I find is that although the 28 will be a black mark, schools seems to overlook it when your retake is a 39 because in essence, schools don't need to report the 28 to MSAR. However, schools might question why you got a 28 in the first place.
 

Goro

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Jun 10, 2010
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They're more likely to ask "how'd you go from a 28 to a 39?"

Yes, what I find is that although the 28 will be a black mark, schools seems to overlook it when your retake is a 39 because in essence, schools don't need to report the 28 to MSAR. However, schools might question why you got a 28 in the first place.