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group_theory

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I know it's long, so I underlined the essentials.

Hi, I am a 24 year old junior/upcoming senior and posting because I could really use some advice. I just started going to college. Before I started last year I was living in a homeless shelter. I had been homeless a few times before then, and I decided that I didn't want to look back on my life and see that I didn't make a difference, that I didn't go do the things I wanted to do because they were too hard. So I started college and am currently finishing up my junior year. I had taken classes at a community college right after I got my GED, and I did pretty badly. Most of my grades were A's, but I was 17 and my life was obviously a bit of a mess, so I had 3 F's from just not dropping classes when I stopped attending, and my finishing grade point average was a 3.05.

At my current university I have a 4.0, and i figure my cumulative GPA will be 3.63 when I graduate. My science GPA will hopefully be a 3.7, assuming I do well in Org Chem 2 next fall. I took the MCAT last January and got a 32 (PS:10, BS:10 V:12). I hadn't taken all my prerequisites yet, so I'm considering retaking, but I haven't made up my mind yet. I'm not looking for a pity party, I mentioned my background story just for context purposes. I did have a lot of adversity growing up (childhood cancer, English is my second language, family issues and sporadic poverty, mild autism), but it could have been worse. Ultimately I am grateful for the adversity because it has made me a stronger and better person.

I had wanted to go into social science, and I had wanted to do research. Last semester I went and talked to different professors who were doing the kinds of things I envisioned myself doing. What they told me was discouraging, basically that I should stay away from academia if at all possible. I struggled with the idea of going to medical school. For one thing, I was scared. It is not a small thing to take someones life or even their health into your hands. It just seemed like the kind of thing you could never prepare for with due diligence. Last semester I had to render emergency aid to another student at my dorm (drugs are bad, mixing drugs is worse, mixing drugs and alcohol is :scared:), and I did a pretty good job (the paramedics resuscitated her) and it was exciting.

This may not be the right place to say this, but I also didn't want to throw myself into the "pre-med" category. I know that my sample size is limited, but all of the pre-meds at my school, even the international students, are kind of immature and possibly in school for not so good reasons. I still have a hard time saying it, I feel pretentious just thinking it, but oh well I didn't get here by being proud. So I'm a pre-med. I figured that going to medical school would provide me a flexible path to my goals.

The thing is, I came to this conclusion relatively late in the game. I have very little in the form of extra curricular. I was a pharmacy tech when I was 18, but only did volunteer work for about 40 hours at a clinic. I've been going back and volunteering at the homeless shelter (the last one I stayed at, they really helped me get on my feet, and showed me kindness that I wasn't accustomed to, so it's something I look forward to and enjoy it), I'd say I have about 50 hours recorded there. Finally, I joined a fraternity that primarily does community service work around where my school is at, but I just joined so when I graduate I will have been a member for one year.

That is the entirety of my extra curricular activities. I know it's not much, but I'm shy around large groups of people, and I don't know how to drive (I'm learning though). I've got some great potential LORs, and I found a D.O. that agreed to let me shadow her (I'm planning on applying in July 2013, but I don't know how much shadowing I should do). Also, I'm likely to start tutoring in statistics and chemistry next fall.

So long story short, I'm worried about my lack of clinical experience and weak extra curricular activities. I live in the middle of nowhere, well in rural Texas, so somewhere in an large sea of nowhere separating me from somewhere I could get clinical experience. I really would rather focus on volunteering, I actually enjoy helping out at the shelter, and I'm hoping to do some work for children with developmental disabilities over the next year once I'm mobile. I feel like any personal benefit I would get from doing CNA work would just be adding fluff to my application, but I'm willing to if necessary.

So yea, what do you guys advise me to do or work on between now and next July? I'd just like to have a realistic shot at making something happen. I'm applying to a wide range of D.O. schools, and I sincerely think my attitudes about the pursuit and application of science are congruent with many of the D.O. school's philosophies. I'm probably going to apply to the Texas MD schools as well, why not they are pretty stellar. But when I envision myself getting an acceptance letter it's from TCOM. I like Florida too, so NSU and LECOM have reoccurring roles in my daydreams. This isn't meant to be a what are my chances, but any affirmation you feel like providing in addition to the previously requested advice would be greatly appreciated.

Sorry if I come off stiff, I'm really not a robot, I'm just tired. I really am grateful to anyone who responds/read this, have a nice weekend and good luck with finals.:)

Also I'm not an URM, white as paper unfortunately, but hey at least I know how to dance:cool:

Honestly with your background, I wouldn't worry about not having enough extracurricular activities. The fact that you were homeless, but pulled yourself up through community college and now university, and with decent GPA and good MCAT score, speaks more of your character than any additional extracurricular activities that you can do now. I wouldn't worry about your lack of volunteer experience (the fact that you even have some is remarkable)

The clinical exposure, at this point, would be to make sure that you know what you are getting yourself into, and what to expect. A lot of people, including premeds, don't know exactly that it entails to be a physician - the time committment, the sacrifices, the future financial obligations, etc. You don't need additional clinical exposure to impress admission committee members, you need clinical exposure to make sure you know what you are going into.

If you keep up your GPA, with your MCAT score, as long as you finish your pre-requisite, and you apply broadly, I anticipate that you will have more than a handful of acceptance letters to medical schools (MDs and DOs). You are certainly an example and role models for many people.

Keep up the good work.
 
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group_theory

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Thanks, that made me feel nice about myself. I don't know that I'm remarkable, but I think everyone has some part of them that just needs to be found and put out there. I was kind of arrogant before I became homeless, but I met so many good people that I realized that you can't write people off. There are good people who are smart and not so smart, white and black and any other shade you can find, rich and poor, etc.

I made a lot of mistakes, but learning is about trial and error, and if you learn from your choices and grow, they aren't really failures. A lot of the things I felt bad about when I was younger have turned out to be blessings in disguise.

What kinds of clinical exposure would suffice, and what amounts should I aim for? My mom started going back to school around the same time I did, and she just became a nurse practitioner. She's worked in ER and primary care clinics, and I spent a lot of time helping her study and hanging out at her clinic, so I have some idea what medicine entails. I've also talked to a few doctors, and although some had violated expectations after going into medicine, none said that they didn't get to help people, or that their opportunities to do so were limited. Medicine offers a well rounded education in science, and an unmatched degree of flexibility (big fan of flexibility), I mean you can do research, development, play with cool toys (TMS looks pretty fun), and once a PC came to the shelter and a woman cried from joy because her three kids hadn't had a medical check up in 3 years or something, I mean what other career can you accomplish that just by doing your job? I know it's hard, and stressful, but it's a lot harder to quit and go home. Plus the whole go hard or go home becomes easier to abide by when you don't have a home to go to.

I know that it's an overly general question to answer, but I'm have so much on my plate, so if you have any ideas on potential clinical experience and amounts to aim for that are with in reach I would appreciate them. And thank you very much for replying.

There is no answer to your question - the amount of exposure should be enough that you feel confident that you know what you are getting yourself into.

Since you helped your mom when she became an NP, and have spent time with patients and clinical settings, you may have a fairly good idea already what medicine (and practicing medicine) truly entails. I would spend some additional time with doctors and ask them about what medical school was like, what residency was like, what fellowship was like, etc. What they wish they had known before they went to medical school, etc.

People make mistakes, people learn from their mistakes. You got a second chance and seized it. Not only are you doing an incredible thing, but you are showing others how to succeed, and using your free time to help. That speaks a lot about your personal character.

People love stories of overcoming adversities.

Here is an example of someone who overcame a lot of adversities. Dr. Quiñones went from being an illegal mexican migrant worker to Harvard Medical School and then a neurosurgical residency at UCSF... and now is a neurosurgeon at Johns Hopkins Bayview Hospital.

http://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/hmn/W07/feature1.cfm
 

NeuroLAX

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Thanks, that made me feel nice about myself. I don't know that I'm remarkable, but I think everyone has some part of them that just needs to be found and put out there. I was kind of arrogant before I became homeless, but I met so many good people that I realized that you can't write people off. There are good people who are smart and not so smart, white and black and any other shade you can find, rich and poor, etc.

I made a lot of mistakes, but learning is about trial and error, and if you learn from your choices and grow, they aren't really failures. A lot of the things I felt bad about when I was younger have turned out to be blessings in disguise.

What kinds of clinical exposure would suffice, and what amounts should I aim for? My mom started going back to school around the same time I did, and she just became a nurse practitioner. She's worked in ER and primary care clinics, and I spent a lot of time helping her study and hanging out at her clinic, so I have some idea what medicine entails. I've also talked to a few doctors, and although some had violated expectations after going into medicine, none said that they didn't get to help people, or that their opportunities to do so were limited. Medicine offers a well rounded education in science, and an unmatched degree of flexibility (big fan of flexibility), I mean you can do research, development, play with cool toys (TMS looks pretty fun), and once a PC came to the shelter and a woman cried from joy because her three kids hadn't had a medical check up in 3 years or something, I mean what other career can you accomplish that just by doing your job? I know it's hard, and stressful, but it's a lot harder to quit and go home. Plus the whole go hard or go home becomes easier to abide by when you don't have a home to go to.

I know that it's an overly general question to answer, but I'm have so much on my plate, so if you have any ideas on potential clinical experience and amounts to aim for that are with in reach I would appreciate them. And thank you very much for replying.

Your life story is something you should be very proud of. Just reading your post makes me feel like your personal statement could turn into a book. Trust me when I say that with your background, upward GPA trend, and solid MCAT, you should have little problem in gaining multiple acceptances next year. I wouldn't limit yourself geographically and would apply broadly to both MD and DO schools.

To answer your question about clinical experience, there really isn't a number you should be shooting for. Adcoms look for commitment, which you seem to have a lot of given your current and past experiences. So with that said, I would definitely get some shadowing in and continue with your non-medical community service projects. I agree with group_theory in that trying to get a ton of hardcore clinical experience would essentially just be icing on the cake. But other options include hospital volunteering and pre-medical clubs and organizations, but I don't think that really is as important as shadowing and community service, still looks good though and gives you experience in the hospital environment. Just don't stretch yourself too thin, because getting good grades is a MUST. I don't think you need to improve you MCAT score, but if that is something you wish to pursue then I'm not going to argue against your efforts.

I'm glad you have decided to become a physician. Your life experiences will certainly make you a more caring, understanding, and successful doctor. Keep up the great work!! We're rooting for you! :woot:
 

johnnydrama

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He sounds like an awesome guy. I forget sometimes what a great place this country can be. Hope he thanked his cousin.

With your story, I'd definitely apply to some of the top programs (eg Harvard, Hopkins, etc) - especially if you can qualify as an URM.

Just expect then to exploit you for publicity (homeless --> medical school articles in the paper).

EDIT: Might want to downplay the "mild autism". Medical school admissions committees are pretty wary of mental illness (diagnosed or otherwise).
 

Iliketoytles

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Thanks a lot! I really love science, but if there is anything the last few years have taught me, it's that there's more to life than books, much more. Plus I remember when my doctor told my mom that I had cancer. (sorry if this is getting too Oprah) I remember her face and how it looked. I didn't actually hear what he said. She told me he was very blunt and matter of fact, and I get the impression that if he had been even a little empathetic it would have made a difference. I'm never quite sure about anything, but some of the neuro stuff I've been studying has led me to think that the mind and body might just be two parts of the same whole, so I figure no matter what I do, it's a good idea to show some love. Thanks for all the support, it's kind of refreshing after the burnout from studying for finals.

First, I'd like to say you are really an inspiration to a lot of underdogs in life (in and out of the premed realm). I'm really tired of hearing some people say they have overcome obstacles in their lives when the main obstacle they're referring to is balancing their partying with their studying. You have legit obstacles you overcame, and it's super impressive. Sorry for the rant, but it's amazing that you've managed to come this far. Major props, man. :thumbup:

Anyway, to address your questions... you don't need a lot of shadowing. Just get about 40-50 hours if you can. What matters most is the quality of your DO letter, so make sure you get to know him/her and more importantly... let him/her get to know YOU, so a good LOR can be written.

For clinical volunteering... just get as much as you can. Try doing about 3 hours/week for the next few months. If everything seems to be going well, then continue to do it through next year. For the type of clinical, it doesn't really matter. Most hospitals have some volunteer program for students... so just research it a bit online, call the hospital about it, and apply.

Your MCAT is fantastic (how you managed to study for it and balance your life at the same time, I have no idea... very impressive, tbh). Your science and cumulative GPAs are fine too... just keep it up! Your ECs are great too, so you're fine there. Between now and next May, 2013... all you need to focus on is keeping your grades up, doing clinical volunteering, and shadowing (and getting an LOR). Everything else you've already taken care of.

Ultimately, I think you have a great shot at getting into an upper-tier DO school, and whatever school that is will be lucky to have you.
 
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That was an inspirational story. Congratulations in your successes, and continue to be humble. More premeds need this type of humility. I hope to be colleagues with someone like you in the future. Good luck!
 

johnnydrama

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Oh come on, autism is not a mental illness. I imagine it meets the criterion of mental disorder, but it's a neuro developmental disorder, and no one describes people with down syndrome or epilepsy as mentally ill... although I guess bipolar and mood disorders would be examples of neuro developmental disorders too.

I'll take your advice into consideration, but try to be less blunt in the future. My little brother has classical autism and he's great. I wouldn't have mentioned it on an application. While I don't like to define myself by those kinds of things, it is part of who I am, and I'm thankful for that.

Semantics. I'm not casting any judgment on people with mental illness, but that is a valid term (and synonymous with mental disorder, if a bit less PC).

Admissions committees definitely look for red flags about depression and to a lesser extent mania and psychosis. If you have Aspergers, I'd wager they'd worry about your interactions with patients - they are actively trying to weed out applicants with poor social skills, even without an official diagnosis.
 

group_theory

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With your story, I'd definitely apply to some of the top programs (eg Harvard, Hopkins, etc) - especially if you can qualify as an URM.

EDIT: Might want to downplay the "mild autism". Medical school admissions committees are pretty wary of mental illness (diagnosed or otherwise).

:thumbup: You read my mind.

Don't think the OP will qualify as an URM. Doesn't matter though - great background story (almost too good to be true)

I definately agree that you have the potential to be recruited by top medical schools (it was the first thing that popped into my mind when I read your story - either this is too good to be true, a troll, or a very excellent candidate that medical schools will salivate to admit)

Schools such as UT Southwestern, Baylor College of Medicine, Harvard, Yale, Penn, Vanderbilt, etc. would probably love to have you. (pure conjecture but with surviving childhood cancer, homelessness, decent MCAT score, decent GPA, rebounding from lackluster community college grades, etc). Also, schools with large endowments can also offer more financial aid scholarships.

I wouldn't worry too much about autism or aspergers. You have enough on your plate when it comes to your personal statement that you can leave autism spectrum disorder out ... otherwise you will be cramming too much into a character-limited essay.


*just remember us poor SDN folks when you're a successful facial plastic surgeon/ENT fixing cleft palates in Sub-saharan Africa :p
 
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I know it's long, so I underlined the essentials.

Hi, I am a 24 year old junior/upcoming senior and posting because I could really use some advice. I just started going to college. Before I started last year I was living in a homeless shelter. I had been homeless a few times before then, and I decided that I didn't want to look back on my life and see that I didn't make a difference, that I didn't go do the things I wanted to do because they were too hard. So I started college and am currently finishing up my junior year. I had taken classes at a community college right after I got my GED, and I did pretty badly. Most of my grades were A's, but I was 17 and my life was obviously a bit of a mess, so I had 3 F's from just not dropping classes when I stopped attending, and my finishing grade point average was a 3.05.

At my current university I have a 4.0, and i figure my cumulative GPA will be 3.63 when I graduate. My science GPA will hopefully be a 3.7, assuming I do well in Org Chem 2 next fall. I took the MCAT last January and got a 32 (PS:10, BS:10 V:12). I hadn't taken all my prerequisites yet, so I'm considering retaking, but I haven't made up my mind yet. I'm not looking for a pity party, I mentioned my background story just for context purposes. I did have a lot of adversity growing up (childhood cancer, English is my second language, family issues and sporadic poverty, mild autism), but it could have been worse. Ultimately I am grateful for the adversity because it has made me a stronger and better person.

I had wanted to go into social science, and I had wanted to do research. Last semester I went and talked to different professors who were doing the kinds of things I envisioned myself doing. What they told me was discouraging, basically that I should stay away from academia if at all possible. I struggled with the idea of going to medical school. For one thing, I was scared. It is not a small thing to take someones life or even their health into your hands. It just seemed like the kind of thing you could never prepare for with due diligence. Last semester I had to render emergency aid to another student at my dorm (drugs are bad, mixing drugs is worse, mixing drugs and alcohol is :scared:), and I did a pretty good job (the paramedics resuscitated her) and it was exciting.

This may not be the right place to say this, but I also didn't want to throw myself into the "pre-med" category. I know that my sample size is limited, but all of the pre-meds at my school, even the international students, are kind of immature and possibly in school for not so good reasons. I still have a hard time saying it, I feel pretentious just thinking it, but oh well I didn't get here by being proud. So I'm a pre-med. I figured that going to medical school would provide me a flexible path to my goals.

The thing is, I came to this conclusion relatively late in the game. I have very little in the form of extra curricular. I was a pharmacy tech when I was 18, but only did volunteer work for about 40 hours at a clinic. I've been going back and volunteering at the homeless shelter (the last one I stayed at, they really helped me get on my feet, and showed me kindness that I wasn't accustomed to, so it's something I look forward to and enjoy it), I'd say I have about 50 hours recorded there. Finally, I joined a fraternity that primarily does community service work around where my school is at, but I just joined so when I graduate I will have been a member for one year.

That is the entirety of my extra curricular activities. I know it's not much, but I'm shy around large groups of people, and I don't know how to drive (I'm learning though). I've got some great potential LORs, and I found a D.O. that agreed to let me shadow her (I'm planning on applying in July 2013, but I don't know how much shadowing I should do). Also, I'm likely to start tutoring in statistics and chemistry next fall.

So long story short, I'm worried about my lack of clinical experience and weak extra curricular activities. I live in the middle of nowhere, well in rural Texas, so somewhere in an large sea of nowhere separating me from somewhere I could get clinical experience. I really would rather focus on volunteering, I actually enjoy helping out at the shelter, and I'm hoping to do some work for children with developmental disabilities over the next year once I'm mobile. I feel like any personal benefit I would get from doing CNA work would just be adding fluff to my application, but I'm willing to if necessary.

So yea, what do you guys advise me to do or work on between now and next July? I'd just like to have a realistic shot at making something happen. I'm applying to a wide range of D.O. schools, and I sincerely think my attitudes about the pursuit and application of science are congruent with many of the D.O. school's philosophies. I'm probably going to apply to the Texas MD schools as well, why not they are pretty stellar. But when I envision myself getting an acceptance letter it's from TCOM. I like Florida too, so NSU and LECOM have reoccurring roles in my daydreams. This isn't meant to be a what are my chances, but any affirmation you feel like providing in addition to the previously requested advice would be greatly appreciated.

Sorry if I come off stiff, I'm really not a robot, I'm just tired. I really am grateful to anyone who responds/read this, have a nice weekend and good luck with finals.:)

Also I'm not an URM, white as paper unfortunately, but hey at least I know how to dance:cool:
Continue to gain clinical experience in a medical environment, as what you have now, even with the pharm tech time, is still sparse. You might check into nursing homes, other clinics, hospice, and rehab centers.

Get in the shadowing you planned. About 50 hours is the average, but it might be good to ask the doc how long she recommends, to allow her to write an LOR that will be meaningful. You might even ask if you can volunteer to help in the same office, so long as you interact directly with patients.

Do the teaching you planned, as this also strengthens an application. Keep track of your hours with the homeless shelter and frat community service. If you are able to add in the gig with the kids, that would be great, but don't over-extend yourself.

Meanwhile, keep your grades up. You're doing great with that so far.
 

trojjanhorse

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That took a while to read :)

I honestly think you have nothing to worry about form the momentum you currently carry. Those 3 F's will haunt you but if you keep at getting better grades from now on, you would most definitely be fine. I hope that shadowing experience will be fruitful as you lack clinical exposure. From the sounds of things, you still have a bit of more time to enjoy other ECs.

Also, your perseverance would not be ignored once you meet the cut offs and being reviewed by admissions.

I wish you the very best my friend.

-trojjanhorse
 
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I'm curious about something, you said you're white but English is your second language? Whats your first language?

But if your story is even half as accurate as it seems then you're completely golden. Stories like these are super rare, and if this is your story then wow you've overcome so much that med schools are going to eat your PS up.
 

NeuroLAX

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IDK, I'm starting to think I might be disclosing too many personal details, but what the hell. German, it's basically angry English. Seriously there are a number of common sentences in German that I cannot say without sounding angry, definitely not a bedroom language, wish I could go back in time when I was learning french as a kid and told myself use it instead of loose it.

I knew it! French was my second guess. Then Italian. I took French for 6 years and became really proficient. Even complimented by French natives while I visited France, which meant a lot to me because I know much they appreciate tourists speaking French. But I've since lost most of it. I still read Le Monde online but have started struggling with the translation. Grrrr

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1TB4RKSB4CK

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Man, if you can get an interview... and know how to state your issues to an advantage, I don't see any problem with you getting in and low-tier. Try and add some mid-tiers too. A couple reaches wouldn't hurt if your pockets can pay for it. These reach schools usually look or someone with diversity and difference in application, so you may stand out.
 

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I really admire your spirit. I hope I can be as strong and focus as you when I'm faced with such adversity. Your accomplishments till now despite your circumstances are really inspiring.

You deserve a place in med school & I'll be queuing up to give you my congrats when you share the good news. :)
 
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