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30. Going back to school. Calling for help with potential plan.

Discussion in 'Nontraditional Students' started by Johnrawlsneuro, Apr 16, 2018 at 10:38 PM.

  1. Johnrawlsneuro

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    Bear with the long post, apologies in advance to those who read through it all. Just spitballing what looks to be the beginning of a long journey.

    Going to preface this with the need to knows: turning 30 this year, have a wife and kid. Have a house with equity and decent savings and wife has a good job. Have done alright for myself in real estate and politics and tutoring/consulting. Don't care too much about debt, just tied to location (SoCal).

    I never finished college and I'll be honest, I've had an interesting life. Started a homeless job training nonprofit after high school because I was homeless after my parents divorced. Eventually went to community college for a couple years and earned an AA with a 3.8ish like 7 years ago. Never got to commit to education because of family/work/chaos. Divorced parents. Mom's an addict with mental health issues. Barely knew dad until a few years ago. URM, tough upbringing, blah blah. I've done well for myself through survival and therapy and what not. Always worked too much to finish school but I'm an enormous bookworm. Been reading philosophy since high school and a chunk of my closest friends are academics. Thought about being an academic but 10 years in school to write stuff that doesn't impact people's lives to vie for a tenure track job in Wichita, KS sounds awful. I've mostly just schlepped around, working my butt off, making money to keep my family healthy and happy, and trying to build myself into the person my parents didn't have the capacity to teach me to be. As much as I love philosophy and literature, nothing ever struck me as a life calling.

    Except medicine. But that was when I was like 15 and I gave up on that dream around 20 when I realized I wouldn't have any chance to commit to school.

    Aaaand then some ridiculousness happened. After just a few years being close with my old man, a couple months ago, he had a major watershed stroke. No one knew exactly what happened because I just found him aspirated and non-responsive when I was supposed to pick him up for dinner. For months I've been reading medical journals to understand anoxic brain injury and prognosis and fMRI readings. He went from persistent vegetative to minimally conscious to now showing signs of recovery. Every doc I've spoken to asks if I'm in medicine because of the sheer amount of time I've spent becoming minimally proficient in what he's got.

    Dad is still nonverbal but... almost 3 months in and he's actually responding to commands; nonverbal communication, real awareness and alertness. I don't know how much he'll recover but for now there's hope. These people... from the EMT to the ICU nurses to the DU docs to the LTAC neurologist... they saved my dad. Politics and business and academia, they're all fine. But medicine is the bare bones of it. People helping people. On the ground. Every day.

    Having a stable home life, a supportive spouse with a good job, and some savings... I'm going back to school. Going to use my community college credits (there's a good chunk of them + APs) to get my BA somewhere. Don't really care where. Could be brick and mortar, could be online. Major was philosophy so I guess I'll just finish that. When I commit I'm a pretty good student. Solid test taker, did like 9 APs in high school, scored well on GRE and LSAT just to land tutoring gigs. I'll probably finish BA with a pretty good GPA, just gonna be an old man when it's done but meh.

    I'm thinking after that, I do a post-bacc somewhere hopefully with a linkage to a med school. As long as it's in SoCal, I don't care about rankings and stuff. Just want to get somewhere and do well. Also, currently finishing an EMT program so I can go do that. I want to be in the van, on the ground helping folks, long before I'm a med student.

    I figure, it'll take about 1 year to finish my BA. Tack on a year or 2 for post-bacc + slide. Maybe I start M1 at 34. 40/41 finishing residency is fine by me. I'll have the rest of my life to do what I love.

    As the memes say, "I'm an old man going back to school to practice medicine because the dad I was just getting to know and love almost died and medical professionals saved him. Change my mind."

    EDIT: A few concrete questions:

    I want help getting a handle on whether this plan makes sense. Is a post-bacc worth it or if I'm going back to finish my BA anyway should I just take a little longer and switch majors to Bio or something. What MCAT do I need for any of the SoCal med schools (MD or DO)? In practice and job prospects what are differences between MDs and DOs?
     
    #1 Johnrawlsneuro, Apr 16, 2018 at 10:38 PM
    Last edited: Apr 17, 2018 at 7:26 PM
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  3. Malthusian99

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    Not quite sure what you need help with here. Mind elaborating?
     
  4. IsleyOfTheNorth

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    I think we're just supposed to be awe-struck by his story and bask in its glory?

    I'm going to err to the side of charity and assume that Mr. Neuro here is asking for advice.

    I've been where you are. Here's my advice: Don't think medicine is going to be a cakewalk. I don't know what classes you took for your A.A. in philosophy, but upper-level science classes are no joke. The MCAT is no joke. I know you're super-smart and all, but consider the possibility that you just haven't been in the big pond yet. Your hubris can definitely hurt you.

    / End of lecture
     
  5. star.buck

    star.buck MD Class of 2020

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    Sounds to me like you just need encouragement... as you’ve got a plan and are moving forward with it. You’ve got a great story, and if you pull the stellar MCAT and grades, add in the EMT experience and a little volunteering... I’d think you’ll be fine.

    However... be humble. You’re shying towards a little bit of boasting, and I can tell you from experience that making it through a lot of **** in life, being able to climb out of it, and still be humble - that’s admirable, and desirable... and will serve you greatly as a med school applicant and future physician.

    Best of luck to you.

    P.s. I’m a rising MS3, musician background, 34 yo... CC prereqs, no post bacc; and climbed out of my own pile of unpleasant life dealings to get here
     
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  6. Goro

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    Read this:
    Goro's advice for pre-meds who need reinvention
    You'll need to shadow doctors, and get in some non-clinical volunteering, preferably in service to others less fortunate than yourself.

    Some of my all-time best students have been in their 30s and 40s.
     
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  7. Johnrawlsneuro

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    This is awesome advice, thank you. I want to work in historically disadvantaged communities, even after med school. That's my ultimate goal. Charles Drew med school is particularly attractive to me for that reason. Not sure if there's any SoCal post-baccs that have that goal but if so, sign me up.

    Glad to hear that. Really trying to get over the whole "I'm too old for this" thing. I already feel ancient going back for my BA at this age.
     
  8. Johnrawlsneuro

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    Kudos and congrats to you on making it out and getting where you are. I hear you. The tone is often a survival/defense mechanism. I'm pretty daunted by what's ahead to be honest, but I know if I take good advice and stay the course it'll be alright.
     
  9. Johnrawlsneuro

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    EDIT to OP, forgot to ask the stuff I'm looking to pick the brains of SDN on:

    I want help getting a handle on whether this plan makes sense.

    Is a post-bacc worth it or if I'm going back to finish my BA anyway should I just take a little longer and switch majors to Bio or something?

    What MCAT do I need for any of the SoCal med schools (MD or DO)?

    In practice and job prospects are differences between MDs and DOs enough to not just focus on getting into DO schools?
     
  10. DarklingThrush

    DarklingThrush SDN Gold Donor
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    Admittedly I didn't read everything you wrote, but if you don't have a bachelors yet, finish your degree and do your pre reqs at the same time. Your major doesn't matter, so don't switch and do well in your pre reqs. Also California is notoriously difficult when it comes to getting medical school acceptances. You need to do well on everything.
     
  11. Johnrawlsneuro

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    Huh... didn't even really think about that. So just finish my degree in whatever and do prereqs? I assume there's an easily accessible place I can find those prereqs? Or is it different for each school? That's a better route than finishing up then doing a post-bacc?

    Any reason why CA is more difficult than elsewhere? Is it difficult for MD and DO here? I'm pretty tied to CA for a lot of reasons.
     
  12. feeling-dizzy

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    California is very competitive because simply there are so many premed around here. Let face it, most talent people would chose California as their place. Genius immigrant from all over the world chose Cali to compete w each other for med school admission; that not to say even students from other states would also come. UCLA pre-med student alone would be enough to fill all med school spot in California.
     
  13. DarklingThrush

    DarklingThrush SDN Gold Donor
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    Yes, I highly recommend if you are unfamiliar with what the prerequisites are for medical school, you start doing some research. I spent a year on these forums, talking to schools, and talking to doctors before deciding I wanted to do this. I really wanted to make sure I knew what I was getting myself into. Not saying you should do the same as we’re in a different place. I left a competitive career behind for this. You sound like you’re at the very beginning of this long haul, and you need to start doing some research so you know what to expect. You’re going to have to be your own advocate in this process, so you need to know what’s going on and don’t just rely on SDN advice.
     
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  14. curbsideconsult

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    Buy the MSAR. It lists all medical schools and their requirements and stats, etc. For the DO schools, you probably have to check each school's website, but the requirements for MD and DO are more or less the same.

    Agreed with DarklingThrush. You might as well take all the prereqs while you're getting your bachelor's rather than get your bachelor's, graduate, then re-enroll for post-bacc classes.

    As high as you can possibly get. It's out of 528 now and I believe the average for matriculating MD students is 510-512 or somewhere around there. I believe CA DO schools also have pretty high MCAT averages. With your LSAT background and love of all things philosophy you probably don't need to worry about CARS like most pre-meds do. Even still, the other sections can be killer.
     
  15. silverqueen16

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    So I'm not exactly "qualified" to answer this thread, but you and I are basically at the same place in our journeys. I just restarted my undergrad studies this spring semester. Why do a post-bac? Why not just take the extra science pre-requisites? From what I understand, med schools like a well-rounded applicant. I think a philosophy degree shows how much of a thoughtful person you are, and your capacity for deep analysis and reasoning. As long as you do well in your science pre-reqs, I see no issue with a philosophy major. Just add on the extra classes and call it a day. I did go with a biology BS track, because I entered school as basically a second semester sophomore with no major classes done yet. Pre-reqs are essentially the same everywhere, general bio 1 & 2, general chem 1 & 2, organic chem 1 & 2, a year of math, a year of English, a year of humanities. Some schools require calculus, others don't. Some require biochemistry and genetics, others don't. Make a list of the schools you want to target, get a list of prereqs from their websites, and go from there. You won't be able to determine what caliber of med school you can apply to until you have a decent amount of science classes to formulate a science GPA. Hopefully this helps..

    edit: I'd like to add that my mom was also a nontraditional pre-med student. She applied to every school in the NYC/long island area (dad is partner in a law firm, they cannot move), had a 3.9 GPA, but only got into 1 school, and it was a DO school (not that that's a bad thing, she IS a doctor now...) Her MCAT wasn't the greatest, but all she did was research. No volunteer hours, no shadowing. Volunteer hours (BOTH clinical and nonclinical) and shadowing are slightly above research in terms of importance, so get started on that.
     
    #14 silverqueen16, Apr 18, 2018 at 6:16 AM
    Last edited: Apr 18, 2018 at 6:32 AM
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  17. curbsideconsult

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    I forgot to add: hopefully you've been keeping up with your non-profit and/or other service to disadvantaged communities. If you haven't, you should start up again. A brief look through SDN will reveal tons of high gpa/MCAT students who don't get in because they don't have enough service hours or clinical hours, etc.
     
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  18. redfish955

    redfish955 Probationary Status

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    I'm not sure how many years you are from graduating but if you fully intend on doing a post bac I would consider nursing school too. That way if you don't get into med school you can go work in a hospital and try to become a nurse practitioner on the floor of your choice. nursing grad programs tend to favor men because there are fewer applicants.
     
  19. Johnrawlsneuro

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    2 years from graduating if I tack on prerequisites. I’ll consider it but for now I’ll be taking the needed classes and gunning for Med school but certainly that’s a solid contingency. Anything else I need to do immediately to have that as a backup or just keep doing what I’m doing?
     
  20. Johnrawlsneuro

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    Solid advice and your moms an inspiration.

    I’ve definitely kept up with nonprofit Work. It’s always been just about my number one concern just needed to shy away sometimes to make money. A lot of going into medicine other than just enjoying it is because it lets me work with those folks in a job that’s also financial stable.
     
  21. Johnrawlsneuro

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    Thanks. Seems like post-bacc is unnecessary unless I need a gpa boost or want med school and already got my BA without taking pre-reqs but neither is the case so I’ll just tack those on while I’m finishing. I think it probably comes out to less overall time which is even better.

    Are med schools picky about caliber of undergrad? Should I be going for speed and picking a school I can transfer maximum credits to or should I try to transfer to a more prestigious UG?
     
  22. redfish955

    redfish955 Probationary Status

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    Most nursing programs will let you in after two years of undergrad. It may be possible to do the pre reqs and nursing at the same time. I would talk to an adviser about qualifying and your options.
     
  23. Forever Geebs

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    Outside of the obvious changes and risks you're presenting by going this path, the one gaping hole in your plan in pursuit of medicine is being tied to SoCal. That is unlikely to happen with med school, and then with residency, and then with fellowship (if you were to pursue one). The training path is one that involves a lot of fluidity and typically weeds out the rigid, even the most qualified and capable ones.
     
  24. Johnrawlsneuro

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    Thanks for the input. I’m curious because this seems incongruous with what I’ve heard about the demand for solid folks in medicine in the lower half of the state. Being fluid is obviously simpler but is it really near impossible to stay in such a large area with multiple motors throughout the process? Especially if my desire is to work with disadvantaged communities.
     
  25. Johnrawlsneuro

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    *metros
     
  26. Forever Geebs

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    Where you end up practicing AFTER training is a different story entirely. My point is that med school acceptance % is low as is, compared with CA competitiveness (most CA residents go out of state for training), etc. You are limiting your options significantly which has a grave impact when you consider the odds are stacked against you already.

    The likely path is med school out of state and then potentially doing residency/fellowship in state. That means 4 years being out of CA, or at the very least, out of your immediate geo. It may not be ideal but that's how it works, especially for CA folks.
     
  27. danistarr

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    Welcome to SDN! I'm just a pre-med myself (25, non-trad), and I have to say, your post is brimming with enthusiasm, but also filled naivety. I feel like you need to do a TON of research about getting into medical school. Read the stickies (under nontrad and pre-med forums), google "how to get into medical school," read how to get into medical school books. You need to do as much research as you did for your dad's disease. Buy the MSAR (I think it is like $30 for a 1 yr subscription or something)

    Just from reading your post and comments, it doesn't seem like you understand the degree of difficulty to get into A medical school (let alone one in California, let alone in Southern California.)

    There isn't a certain GPA, MCAT, extracurriculars, etc. that will get you into medical school. You could have a 4.0 GPA and 520 MCAT and still be rejected from medical school. There is no guarantee. Acceptance rates for SoCal med schools (for MD) are around 3-5% I believe, and probably a little bit higher for DO schools, but not by much. When people come on here asking for advice for which schools to apply too, people typically say your state school (except for CA applicants) as there is so much competition. Living in the state with the top medical schools and research powerhouses makes it harder for cali applicants to get into a cali medical school. Go to the medical schools you want to go to home page, and read about the applicants statistics. Keep in mind though, you could have the same exact stats, and get rejected. On the other hand, you could have lower stats and be accepted (less likely).

    Sure, you should aim for the highest possible GPA and MCAT, but you have no guarantee that you will get into medical school just because you have a good GPA, MCAT score, and E.C.s. You are competing with thousands of other people.

    I completely understand needed/wanting to stay in a certain location due to family, but that will limit your (already limited chance) of getting into a medical school. Most people apply to 20-40 schools, and are lucky to gain one acceptance. If you really can NOT leave SoCal, there is a possibility of you applying multiple cycles, and never getting in. You have a higher chance with DO schools over MD schools, but like I said, no guarantee. So you have to decide if it is worth it to you to take the chance knowing you might never get in if you limit yourself to SoCal.

    All of that said, I will address the other stuff in your post.

    There is a slight negative stigma about taking prereqs at a community college vs a 4 yr university. Some schools don't care, some won't accept them, some are okay with 1 or 2 prereqs but not all, others say something along the lines of "we recommend applicants take prereqs at the most rigorous 4 yr university." For people who choose to go from a community college to 4 yr university, who are science majors, who therefore have to take the prereqs at a CC in order to transfer, it is recommended you take upper level science courses (genetics, biochem, etc.) at the 4 yr to prove you can handle rigorous science courses.

    I would recommend going to a 4 yr college if possible. You already have a lot going against you given you want to stay in SoCal, so I would just finish your degree at a brick and mortar 4 yr college, that way you don't have another thing to worry about.

    Something to keep in mind that the pre-reqs aren't just classes you want to get through and knock out as fast as possible. These classes help you study for the MCAT, so the better you do in them, the more you take the time to understand the material, the more helpful it will be when you start studying for the MCAT.

    I would also argue your timeline might be a little off for getting the pre-reqs done. Typically in order to take general chem 1, you have to take intro to chem unless you can test out of it. So for the chemistry sequence, it is Intro to Chem, Gen Chem 1, Gen Chem 2, Organic Chem 1, Organic Chem 2, and Biochem (it seems to be highly recommended to take biochem before taking the MCAT, some schools now require biochem as well). If you go to a school that has a semester schedule, and don't take classes in the winter or summer (which I wouldn't recommend personally, although I've read that other people have done it), that is 6 semesters= 3 years of classes. You might be able to double on organic chem 2 and biochem, it depends on the school. That still is 5 semesters of classes though, unless you can test directly into gen chem 1, then you would be down to 4 semesters. Maybe it is different at quarter schools, I've never been to one or planned on going to one, so I have no clue.

    As already been addressed, your major doesn't matter. You can finish completing your philosophy major, and just tack on completing all the prereqs as well.

    To add on, the things that you need along with a good MCAT/GPA to apply:
    -leadership (being manager/president/similar of work/club/volunteer organization)
    -nonclinical volunteering (ideally with those less fortunate than yourself/underserved population- ie soup kitchen)
    -clinical volunteering/clinical work (for clinical volunteering- hospitals, planned parenthood, hospice, free clinic, camps for sick kids. If you would rather do clinical work, than EMT, ER tech, CNA, etc.)
    -shadowing (recommended to shadow primary care docs. For DO, need to shadow DO doc)
    -research (poster presentation, publications, etc.- I'm still pretty murky on research. If applying to a research powerhouse medical school (basically the UC's) research is important, for other schools it isn't as much)

    For volunteering, long in-depth commitment is better than shallow, short-term commitments. (Better to work with 2 organizations for 3 years and to move up in organization than to have multiple short-term/one off commitments.

    Copied and pasted this from another post in regards to number of hours for activities according to LizzyM
    "(suboptimal, decent, exceptional)
    1. clinical hours (work or volunteer): 99, 150, 1,000+ (employment)
    2. non-clinical volunteering hours: 99, 150, 1,000+ (full-time gap year)
    3. shadowing hours: 8, 40, 80"

    Also, a side note to being an EMT. Some admin view it as a "glorified taxi cab driver," others don't (just things I've read on the forums). It depends on what you are doing. After getting your EMT license, I would look into working as ER tech in the emergency room at a hospital as well. I read someone's post on here about doing that, and they got a lot of patient interaction.

    Scribing also is a good way to do paid shadowing, and see what it is like to be a physician. Although, the pay is typically crappy.

    As for DO vs. MD, you'll have to do more research on that yourself. My basic opinion is that DO is basically MD school + OMM. For most people, going DO doesn't prevent them doing what they want in medicine or as a practicing physician, from what I've read.

    Also, I don't mean to come across as only negative. I just want you to be realistic about the chances and everything that is needed to get into medical school. If I were you, I would complete your EMT cert.. I would stay a philosophy major, and complete your degree at a 4 yr college. I would take all the prereqs (and develop a fine-tuned list of what prereqs the CA MD/DO schools you want to go to require/recommend), and try to fit in a couple upper level science courses as well, especially if the school recommends them (like genetics, biochem, immunology, etc.). I would choose 1-3 organizations, ideally with underserved populations, and volunteer with them on an ongoing basis (while there are no hour requirements, 200 hrs+/per organization is what I'd aim for). I highly recommend focusing on DO schools as well. I feel like all that would give you the best chance of success.

    Good luck :)
     
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  28. Johnrawlsneuro

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    Okay so the gist is it’s hard. Real hard. Even harder to stay in SoCal. Got it.

    If I’ll be finishing my BA and taking prereqs anyway should I be preparing for contingency plans? PA, NP, other things? Do I take a shot 2 years in a row for apps? I know the UCs have a reapplicat post-bacc thing.
     
  29. Forever Geebs

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    Always have a backup plan. You’re older and may not have other factors to consider with your new career, such as a family, mortgage, spouse, etc. We don’t know your specific situation, but I don’t think anyone will argue that planning ahead is a bad thing.

    This is a long and taxing path, and you’re at least 2 to 3 years before med school is a reality for you - need to finish degree, take prereqs, build app with volunteering and clinical experience, etc. It is a marathon, not a sprint.

    The point about keeping your options open is if you fast forward to the time you’re ready to apply, after having completed all that was mentioned above, it would be a shame if you didn’t get in by limiting your options to SoCal. Imagine if you were accepted elsewhere though—would you simply turn down the acceptance?


    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
     
  30. Magus5454

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    Just going to throw on the pile, I didn't get my BS till 35. I'll be matriculating somewhere as a med student this year at 37
     
  31. Johnrawlsneuro

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    I would definitely turn it down. Wife with a solid career, young kid, Home with equity in a nice area. I’m definitely tied to the area. A few hours away is fine but nowhere I would have to move.
     
  32. Forever Geebs

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    It's important you know that now. At this stage, as you're likely well aware of by now, finish your degree, ace prereqs, and invest time in ECs to round out your profile. The goal is to be the absolute most competitive applicant you can be, so solids stats (including MCAT) will go a long way in realizing your goals. It's certainly not impossible to only apply (and matriculate) to a few schools, but so long as you're aware that it may not pan out (despite knowing you could matriculate elsewhere), is all that matters.

    Best of luck to you!
     
  33. IsleyOfTheNorth

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    IMHO, you don't want to be a physician. You want to be a physician if it's not too inconvenient. That's not enough to get you through the challenges ahead.

    Best of luck to you, nevertheless.
     
  34. Magus5454

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    This. My state school was my dream school. I didn't get in there. If you want to be a doctor you are going to have pursue all the options not just the convenient ones.
     
  35. Forever Geebs

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    What's most important is that OP understands the process and risk taken. It appears they do and that's all that matters.
     

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