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Advice For Older, Nontraditional Students

Discussion in 'MCAT Discussions' started by buckrogers, Jul 20, 2002.

  1. If you're approaching 30, and definitely if you're past that benchmark, you may find some of the points I've leaned instructive, and you may want to read on. (I'm never going to apply to medical school again. I've been interviewed and waitlisted to the extreme. I'm too old for this anymore. For the curious: my stats are 26 MCAT, (7P 9V 10B) 0 Writing, 3.3 Science, 3.0 Nonscience, 3.7 in 100+ postbaccalaureate credits. Good extracurriculars, health care work and volunteer., etc. And I've been told I interview well too.)

    1. If you're already out of school, and will have to return to school to take the premed courses you need to apply to medical school, REALIZE THAT GETTING INTO MEDICAL SCHOOL IS A BIG GAMBLE THAT YOU MAY NEVER WIN! I am in my early forties, and have been applying, off and on, for almost seven years. Do you want to turn out like me? Don't think it can't happen. I would never have thought it would happen to me either 11 years ago when I returned to school as a postbaccalaureate. I'm not trying to discourage anyone about trying to fulfill their dream of becoming a doctor. I JUST WANT YOU TO BE FULLY INFORMED OF WHAT YOU'RE POTENTIALLY GETTING YOURSELF INTO.

    2. YOUR PREMED ADVISOR PROBABLY DOES NOT KNOW AS MUCH AS YOU THINK. YOUR PREMED ADVISOR PROBABLY KNOWS MUCH LESS THAN EVEN HE OR SHE THINKS. A better source of info. are credible websites, credible premeds, reference books, and the med. school admission offices themselves.

    3. If you have to return to school as an older student, TRY TO GO TO SCHOOL FULL-TIME AND GET THE DAMNED THING OVER WITH, ONE WAY OR ANOTHER AS SOON AS POSSIBLE. Take out student loans, whatever you have to do, I would say, and try not to work so that you can get good grades. Since, I wasn't lucky enough to have any financial support through school, and was paranoid about taking out student loans and worked a lot, my g.p.a. suffered when I was an undergraduate. Some people are smart enough, or can get by without much sleep I guess, so that they can do it. I could not, at least not in my early twenties. If only someone had explained to me, as a young man, that my g.p.a. would be an albatross around my neck that would eventually sink me! I should have taken out a bunch of student loans and concentrated on school. What you say? And graduate with a huge debt? Yes, didn't I tell you trying to get into medical school is a gamble? Remember, every year you spend doing premed stuff is time essentially wasted in preparation to your goal. You'd be surprised how quickly time goes by if you're only going to school part-time. You're saving money by going to school part-time, yes. But you're also wasting your life away.

    4. IF YOU HAVE GOTTEN POOR GRADES IN PREMED COURSES AT SOME POINT IN THE PAST, BUT ESPECIALLY IF IT IS RECENT, TAKE IT AS A SIGN THAT YOU MAY BE CUT OUT FOR SOMETHING ELSE EQUALLY VALUABLE IN LIFE. Sometimes people mature later in life and overcome problems with science courses they had as younger students. But you've got to ask yourself if it's a horrible struggle for you to get good grades, is it really worth it?

    5. THE MCAT SUCKS THE BIG ONE AND THERE IS NOT NECESSARILY A CORRELATION BETWEEN HOW MUCH TIME YOU STUDY FOR IT AND THE SCORE YOU GET. I prepared for the MCAT for six months, full-time, (yes, you read that correctly) and I took the Kaplan MCAT course, practically living in their office. This is ridiculous. I only got a 24. The second time I took it, about five years later, being rusty on my premed knowledge and not preparing as much as I had the first time, I got a 26. Of course you need to study for the MCAT if you're going to take it. Just realize the MCAT, as life, is not fair.

    6. DO NOT INFLICT THE CHINESE WATER-TORTURE ON YOURSELF. IF YOU DO NOT GET INTO MEDICAL SCHOOL IN ONE OR TWO TRYS. DO SOMETHING ELSE. I would recommend that once you're finished with your premed courses, MCAT, and you've applied to medical schools, that you IMMEDIATELY START PURSUING AN ALTERNATIVE PLAN. DO NOT JUST SIT THERE AND WAIT TO SEE IF YOU GET ACCEPTED INTO MEDICAL SCHOOL. PURSUE ALTERNATIVE PLANS AS THOUGH YOU HAVE BEEN REJECTED FROM MEDICAL SCHOOL AND WILL NEVER GET IN. If you do get accepted, that's great! You can cancel the alternate plans. But it you are rejected, you will not waste time the way I did. Life can be wonderful, but expect life to bite you at the most unexpected times! It does!

    7. BE AWARE THAT THE ALLIED HEALTH PROFESSIONS THAT YOUR HELPFUL PREMED ADVISOR MAY STEER YOU TOWARDS MAY NOT BE YOUR CUP OF TEA. Think hard if you would really be happy in some of these positions. There are many wonderful allied health professions, and I commend those who aspire to pursue them, but are you going to be happy in these second choice fields after all of your hard work trying to get into medical school? Perhaps, but perhaps not. I explored the following professions (These are my biased, subjective, potentially offensive, yet honest opinions. They might save you some research.): Podiatry: Sounds okay, if you go by the pretty, glossy school admission pamphlets, with the happy students in the white coats on the cover, but I've interviewed at a few schools, and I had to practically go on the Witness Protection Program to get away from them. I met their admission requirement of being alive, and for a while, I felt like a hot NFL quarterback being pursued by the talent scouts. Podiatry schools are desperate for students and will take just about anybody. Recent podiatry graduates are having a devil of a time paying back their student loans. Don't do it unless you have connections (dad's an established podiatrist, etc.) Physician Assistant: When my mom was sick, and I was taking her to the doctor all of the time, I felt kind of sad for the P.A.'s whose judgment was often condescendingly overriden by the doctors, right in front of the patients. I know there are exceptions, but the P.A.'s I have encountered seemed to have even less autonomy than the nurses. I can't see myself or many of my classmates being happy as P.A.'s. Dentistry: great, but it can be as hard to get into as is medical school. Foreign medical school: If you can get into a school in the United Kingdom or Australia, it might be hard to come back to the U.S.A., but it's probably worth a try. Grenada is the best of the others, relatively speaking, (don't think about going to any other foreign schools) but the residencies are drying up, through the intentional legislation of the congress in Washington DC, and you may not be able to return to the U.S.A. to get a residency, even if you are able to surmount all of the hardships of going to a foreign school. Naturopathic and Chiropractic School: No, no, no! Unless you are willing to forget scientific method, not to mention logic and rational thinking, don't pursue these fields. What to do then? That's up to you, but I would encourage you, if you don't think you'd be happy in an allied health profession, to THINK OUTSIDE OF THE HEALTH CARE PROFESSIONS BOX WHEN IT COMES TO ALTERNATIVE PLANS. Yes, it looks good on your application, if you reapply to medical school, if you get your M.P.H. and work as an epidemiologist or you become an E.M.T., but do you want to pursue that path the rest of your life if you never get into medical school? What about pursuing more school or a job that coincides more with your interests, just in case you don't get into medical school, rather that just what looks good to a medical school admission committee when you reapply?

    8. Finally, the last point I wish to make before I bid you a fond farewell is that WHEN IT COMES TO TRYING TO GET INTO MEDICAL SCHOOL, THERE IS A FINE LINE BETWEEN PERSEVERANCE AND OBSESSION. You will have to decide where you stand on this one. I finally realized, too late, that it had become an obsession with me, and by that time it had ruined a good part of my life. You see, some people's lives are damaged, sometimes beyond repair, by serving a long prison sentence, or chronic alcoholism or drug use, and so on. It is also possible to damage a life with a seemingly noble pursuit ? such as trying to become a doctor. Why do we find this societal phenomenon of people striving so hard to become doctors? We see it in other professions too: aspiring actors, fledging writers, striving musicians, big-talking entrepreneurs with dreams of becoming millionaires. These are just a few examples, and all may be worthy professions. But to be sure, certain vocations speak to our hopes and dreams about what our lives would be like -- could be like, if we could just.... Well, dreams are great, they keep us all going in what can be, at times, a very unfair world, but you've got to keep it in perspective and not let your dream take control of your life if your dream is not working out. I'm sure that many of us have stories of friends or relatives who never made it, for example, as rock stars, or as the next Bill Gates, etc., and whose lives were ruined by such a dream pursued too far, for too long. The key thing, I think, is to let go of dream, after you've done your best, before it wrecks you. I say, change your dream if bashing your head against that brick wall, that keeps you from your dream, never even cracks the wall but gives you a horrible headache! You must make this call, not your premed advisor, your parents, your friends, or your family. But, be true to yourself!

    Now it is time for me to go. I will pull my name from this website, never to return. I will never apply to medical school again. I hope that some of you will benefit from my experiences. But for me, I have grown up. I have put away my toys. My dream has ended, and I must get on with life. There will be happy and rewarding times in another career, I am sure. But it will never be the same. You see, to steal a line from General Macarthur, old premeds never die, they just fade away....
     
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  3. Lavndrrose

    Lavndrrose Senior Member

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    Your post is so sad...I'm sorry that things turned out the way they did. I'm curious...did you apply to DO schools?

    Well, best of luck in whatever you decide to do. :)
     
  4. Mudd

    Mudd Charlatan & Trouble Maker

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    What a post!!!

    I'm not sure if that was done as a catharsis or as a public service announcement, but either way... WOW!!!

    There are so many brilliant words of wisdom in there, but as is true with many insights in life... they are not fully understood unless learned first hand.

    I especially like the comment about pre-medical advisors. This is so applicable to an outspoken expert advisor at UC Davis. I wonder if that is who you were thinking of when you typed this.
     
  5. Green912

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    Man this post is a real bummer. I'm in somewhat of a similar situtation and this whole ordeal has been an emotional roller coaster. I'm also approaching 30, however this is my first (hopefully only) application cycle, and I'll be taking the MCAT for the first time on the 17th. I read something like this and think HOLY [email protected]&P I'm doomed. On the bright side I also know and have heard of plenty of people who make into Med School after years off.
     
  6. Mr. Z

    Mr. Z Senior Member

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    What was this guy expecting? He shows up with a really crappy gpa (which by the way must have been about a 2.2 before all his post bacc glories), an mcat best of 26, and expects med schools to accept him with open arms?? Give me a break. To be a physician requires hard work, dedication and intelligence, this guy has no evidence of any of those qualities. Were they supposed to take his word on how smart and dedicated he is? Are we?

    Personally, I come to these boards because I want to be a doctor, not to look for excuses to quit. Thanks for all the advice, dude, but next time save it for someone who's looking to quit.

    I
     
  7. Tweetie_bird

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    aaww come on Z, you can do better than that! Let's give the guy some credit...I honestly feel sorry for him.

    As for his "crappy" GPA--I am a 3.37 NON-Sci and 3.2 Sci with a whacko (read: from 2.0 to 4.0) upward trend and only 27Q on the MCAT. I have hope that med schools WILL accept me with open arms. Why? Because I would like to think its' beyond the numbers. Aren't we, average B students not as hard working and diligent as you are? Don't we also know that med school is no cake walk and ofcourse the whole app process is a bit random? And what's wrong with giving a little advice in good faith, hoping it will help others?

    Come on, let's not bash him like that.

    Tweetie
     
  8. limit

    limit Molesting my inner-child

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    I partially agree with Z. There is a 5 year gap between his two MCAT scores. He's choosing to quit and not take it a 3rd time. His MCAT scores are substandard; as a non-traditional candidate he should have known that he would be expected to "stand out from the crowd". A 26 isn't my idea of a good way to stand out.

    I did poorly on my first MCAT in april, and I've admitted to myself that I wasn't prepared. I'm busting my balls now to get ready again this 17th, thats my choice and I hope I do well enough never to take it again. I'm not about to take 5 years off and choose an alternative plan. That's absurd. If I had to have alternative plans for every one of my life choices I would be in serious trouble. Successful people are those that can make a plan and stick to it. The original post is one of surrender, lets think twice before feeling too sorry here. Maybe I'm just in my typical apathetic exam mode, but it's a sad story, and I sympathize, but thats about as far as it goes.
     
  9. Mr. Z

    Mr. Z Senior Member

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    Alright Kidmel...

    "so you say you've come here because you want to be a doctor....here are a few tips I've learned by being the patient.
    DON'T be condescending!!
    DON'T stereotype!
    Make time for the patient.
    Forget about YOUR needs and wants and focus on the PATIENT'S needs and wants"

    -This is all good stuff... but, I didn't ask for your advice on doctoring, and even though what you say may be true, its off target. We are discussing admission standards and this guys inability to gain entrance to medical school. No where did I say what kind of doctor this guy would make (you made an assumption, and a bad one at that). I said he has shown no evidence of the traits that medical schools look for, apparently the adcoms thought the same.

    My problem with the OP is that he gives out some really questionable advice and colors the whole process in a very negative light. Telling premeds that their advisors probably don't know **** is not good advice, its anecdotal and represents his very narrow view of advisors. A lot of schools have very competent advisors and premed committees, which could do a far better job of guiding premeds than his post ever will.

    I don't even want to get started on the OP's ignorance and downright condescension of the allied health professions. Once again he is presenting his very narrow and uninformed opinion, this time on the allied health fields. Go back and read his views on Chiropractic medicine, they are really well thought out!

    The OP claims he has been applying on and off for the past several years, and that he's been going to school part time. How about committing to the process? this isn't what i would call dedication, would you? If it was such a priority to him, why didn't he take out the loans and go back to school? I know that there maybe be circumstantial things we are not aware of, but, the fact remains med school doesn't seem to be too high on his priority list. Also, Why so much time in between MCATs? maybe because he was half heartedly going after his so called "dream".

    And as for the rest of your post, I agree with all of it. Except for the paragraph with standing on a soapbox thing and preaching, both of which you were doing loudly. Though I can't understand why you felt the need to post your stats, they weaken your argument (that's a compliment).

    And just remember, as a doctor, the ability to sit and cry with your patient doesn't mean anything if your too stupid to figure out the differential diagnosis.
     
  10. Mudd

    Mudd Charlatan & Trouble Maker

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    Well Mr. Z, I respectfully disagree with your opinion of the OP. Personally, I think it's one of the most honest and cathertic things I've read here. There are many insights there that only age and experience can give. Being that I have not taken the path of the person writing the OP, I cannot refute or support their emotions. But I will say my path has lead a few matching conclusions.

    I think a problem at a site like this is that if it's not upbeat and warm, then the kneejerk response is to disagree with it. So while many people comment on the sad or depressing tone of the OP, I see it as a motivation to really know your path. The point I find hitting home is "know your path and you'll will go far." I also read that it is important to be realistic, which is also valid. The reality is that low scores do not lead to admissions very often. So rather than reading a post about giving up I see it as one about moving on. I also see it as positive that adcoms saw that this person wasn't cut out for the field, and hopefully gave a spot in their class to someone more driven and better able to consume the information in medical school. It is a positive passage in many ways.

    I completely agree with you that a sensitive doctor that gives me an incorrect diagnosis is worthless. They sure as he|| better sit and cry with me if they just lopped of the wrong body part or gave me the thorazine instead of erythromyacin.

    Anyway, I have to commend the author on a few great points.


    • 1. Some advisors are excellent (I hear the two advisors at Stanford are two of the best on the planet). Some are good and make a strong effort to be informed. Some have a good resource book from AAMC and they know how to reference it as needed. But there are difinitely some that are flat out bad and uninformed (perhaps too busy to be informed). Then there is the bottom of the barrel (the lady at UC Davis who is condescending and uninformed) who mislead students and give horrible critiques of personal statements.

      A smart pre-med does not blindly trust someone who may have just been cornered into the advisor position. They should seek other resources. I think the OP makes this point very well.

      2. Post-bach success is not always enough to overcome a less-than-average undergrad GPA. Be realistic that there are more people in post-bach programs that will not get into medical school than will. When you are young, you have time to make a few mistakes. When you are older, as is the case with many post-bach program students, you can't afford the mistakes as much.

      3. If you have a hard time getting good grades, psot-bach or not, you will have a hard time getting into medical school. It should be this way, because if undergrad is highly challenging, medical school will be overwhelming.

      4. It's always a good idea to have a back-up plan in life. Some interview questions center on this very idea. Having a short-term and long-term contigency plan does not show lack of dedication and perseverence... it shows common sense.

      5. I don't know much about Podietry school, but the comment about needing the witness relocation program to get off their mailing list was funny to me. Laughter is good, so while I can't comment on the point, the OP made me laugh.

    I disagree with the OP's opinion on the MCAT. It is a well-written exam that makes you think. It is an excellent exam in and of itself, although I'm not sure how good of an indicator of medical school success it really is. The process of studying for the MCAT forces people to make connections about the material they've learned in ways they otherwise would never have done. It makes you understand things. It is the great equalizer for people who couldn't afford tutoring for all of their classes, couldn't get into to professor's office hours, couldn't get a hold of previous exams to memorize, and couldn't free of time from other aspects of life to study twenty-four seven.

    It is a great measure of confidence, intelligence, common sense, and logic. Hard work can get you to a 30 (or so), but true understanding and good logic are needed to get the really high scores. It's a great test in that people who work really hard can scrape by and get high enough numbers to compliment a good GPA and get into medical school. It also allows a truly brilliant person the chance to shine. In the years I've been tutoring, I have to say it is very rare that an MCAT score is not a good indicator of BOTH the person's preparation (knowing the material and what to expect) and intelligence (having good test logic and a broad information base).

    That said, the one cruel comment I have in response to the OP is that if you "prepared for the MCAT for six months, full-time, (yes, you read that correctly), took the Kaplan MCAT course, practically living in their office, and only got a 24," then I'm glad you got filtered. There is very little chance that the fast-pace of medical school would have worked for them.

    Lastly, I tend to disagree with the OP when they advise "just realize the MCAT, as life, is not fair." I happen to think that the MCAT is as fair as a standardized test can be. They can't give everyone the same exam, so within that limitation, they do a great job at offering an exam that is uniformly standardized. I think the author of the OP somehow was convinced that the hours you put in should be rewarded by the score you get out. If that were true, then it would not reward innate intelligence, which I would argue is unfair. It is an exam that rewards both work and intelligence.
     
  11. agent

    agent agent, RN

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    right on.. i totally agree.

    this guy sounds like everyone else that tells us we cant do it. i will do it and i will do it well. i go to school full time and work full time and i have a 3.68 gpa. i plan to give it my all.

    maybe the name of this thread should be "some ppl just aren't cut out for med school!"
     
  12. God. I really hope I never get you as my doctor. Because "your" real smart and all, but your posts lack so much in tact. I would hope you wouldn't post anything that you wouldn't say to someone's face.
     
  13. Mr. Z

    Mr. Z Senior Member

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    did you ever hear of tongue in cheek? Learn to read things in context fool, it was in response to a comment made in the previous post.


    I hope i don't get you as my doctor, you can't read or write. And what makes you think i wouldn't say it to your face, that's a little presumptuous, don't you think?
     
  14. Mr. Z

    Mr. Z Senior Member

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    By the way Einstein, if you're gonna start busting on typographical errors, try to use grammatically correct sentence structure when you do so.
     
  15. Tweetie_bird

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    Z, this kinda behavior is not gonna be tolerated on SDN. Clean it up, please.

    To everybody else: We are not going to tolerate condescending remarks about others on SDN. There's a fine line between criticism and outright word calling; have enough strikes against you and the Admins will make sure you can't post again.

    This is not a threat, but a gentle reminder that we all need to be civil here.

    Thank you,
    Tweetie
     
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  17. tedstriker

    tedstriker wicked retahhded

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    Buckrogers, have you considered pursuing your medical education outside of the US?

    There are plenty of programs that have more lenient admissions standards, but which can at the same time get you a US residency after graduation. I'm applying to a few of these, just in case things don't work out for me with the US schools. At the end of the day, it may be harder to get a Derm residency, but if you're like me and just want to practice medicine it may be worth the ignominy of going to a place like American University of the Caribbean (I've got a friend there who assures me they all get US residencies).

    So, I wouldn't give up now, with all of your effort. Obsession or not, you clearly still want to practice medicine. I wouldn't give up, even now, until I've tried these non-US but good-quality schools...
     
  18. Mudd

    Mudd Charlatan & Trouble Maker

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    Pardon my respectful disagreement, but how is what Mr. Z wrote such a bad thing? I fully understand and respect that you are in a position to interpret and enforce rules. But if calling someone a fool crosses the line, why allow the exchange of opinions at all? The term just doesn't seem that bad.

    For me, I fully expect some of my opinions to land me a lable far worse than fool. If that is the case, I personally would take little offense. In fact, it would up the entertainment value. I hope after thinking about it for a while, the line is not that strict. Profanity has no place, nor do intentionally damaging and harsh terms. But fool seems like a fair judgement of an opinion you disagree with.

    It just seems like a weird double standard that fool gets a warning while racist jabs are allowed in the pre-allo forum. I know it's not your forum or your task to filter there, but there are threads that contain racist comments FAR worse than calling someone a fool. JMO.
     
  19. Tweetie_bird

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    Completely agree with you on that one, Mudd. As you have mentioned, I can not address the people in PreAllo since I am not a PreAllo Moderator. I can however, report any inappropriate language to the PreAllo Mods and have them take care of it. And when other racial slurs have or will be used, you can bet that I am also going to PM the person and ask them to not use such language.

    Calling somebody a fool is not bad, but in my opinion, this is cause for somebody to say worse. And that is why I had to make it clear not just to Z, but to others in the room to not carry on that line of arguement. Simply put, I had to be harsh before something worse was said.

    In any case, I respect your opinion and think that I have addressed it. Z and I have talked it over and I have already let him know that I purposely had to appear "strict" so others may not retort back with worse words. Another moderator would have reacted in perhaps a better way, but I see nothing wrong with what I did, especially considering I took the time and explain my actions to Z in a private email. We have no hard feelings for each other. :)

    Thanks for looking out for the fellow SDNers in the forum. It's good to know that we are all each other's advocates here.

    Take care! :love:
    Tweetie

    PS: if you see any profanity or racial slurs etc in PreAllo, why don't you contact me and I'll have it addressed in the Mod Forum? The Moderators try their best to keep the rooms clean, but we need help from other members to report stuff to us that they think is questionable. Feel free to PM me next time you see such a thing, okay? :)
     
  20. Mudd

    Mudd Charlatan & Trouble Maker

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    Tweetie--

    Thanks for a candid open forum reply. That is what makes you a GREAT moderator. You play with an open deck.

    It is not easy being a moderator, because there will always be someone mad at you. But if your vision is always in the board's best interest, then it will all work out. Hurt feelings go away over time but damaged boards do not come back over time. You made a good choice to act, although I still think Mr Z was within his realm of good taste to use fool. My personal thesaurus has about 100 alternative words for that, all of which would likely land me in the banned realm. I think Z used good reason and judgement when he chose a gentle word. But I am not the moderator, you are, and in the interest of the board's existance, I 100% support your opinion.

    I'm sure ol' Buck knew that his or her post would end up generating controversy, but I doubt he or she ever guessed that it would be language controvery. It is funny to see the evolution of a thread.

    As for the racist comments, I am sure you've seen them too. While I appreciate the option to report (which is solid), I think debating someone in a thread is more effective. There is nothing like asking someone where they got some random statistic they posted about the inferiority of certain medical schools only to have them refute it with "I just heard it". It paints a better picture for the community here to see.

    Thanks again for taking the time to reply Tweetie.

    Mudd
     
  21. turk00

    turk00 Member

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    Not to sound harsh, but I totally disagree. The MCAT is one of the best indicators of how one will do in medical school (I'm not saying how well of a doctor one will be). But, from the academic standpoint, this tests the reasoning skills and application of knowledge abilities which are essential to survival in medical school courses. I think your comment is just bitterness because you did not perform as well as you would have liked to (and obviously not well enough to gain acceptance). I agree with Mr. Z's view in that doctors need to have superior intelligence, and it just seems like you either don't meet this criterion, or you just don't have the heart and motivation that you have claimed. Either way, the MCAT has an excellent correlation with medical school success, and I feel that while your post does bring some valid points and advice for older applicants, it seems to be interspersed with personal anger for the system which you could not conquer. Just my 2 cents worth...Good luck in your future endeavors.
     

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