Best Path to Med School

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YoungOti

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Hi everyone, I am a senior at Georgia Southern University who will be graduating with a History Degree in May 2017. I should be graduating with a GPA between 3.85-3.88. I chose History because I was planning on going in the Army after graduation and I'm interested in History, not because I had any serious career aspirations in history (terrible decision making, I know). I was in ROTC for 3 years and excelled at it and did very well. Unfortunately, last December I had a stroke and now I won't be able to commission or join the military. After being misdiagnosed with a brain tumor by one doctor I spent four days in the hospital while getting a second opinion. During that time I decided that if I got kicked out of the military I wanted to pursue medicine. I really enjoy the thought of helping others as my doctors helped me, medicine is very interesting to me, and the doctors I had really inspired me to want to pursue medicine.

That all being said, I wanted to ask for advice on how to best pursue this. My degree has nothing to do with Medicine, and my resume to this point consists only of ROTC stuff (which has a lot of leadership in it, but I'm not sure if that will help at all). In addition, my GPA would be a 3.85ish and one of my Bs is in math (really didn't apply myself because I was a freshman and history major), is this already putting myself at a disadvantage?

So here are my questions, I would appreciate any help:

Besides pre reqs, what other classes should I take to help prepare for the MCAT/Med School?

Is it best to just take pre reqs? OR should I try to minor in Bio or Chem?

What is best to boost my resume, shadowing? Part time job? Volunteering at a hospital?

Should I load up on classes to knock out pre reqs or take my time and boost my resume?

Will my ROTC resume help at all? or am I essentially starting from scratch in terms of resume?

Am I chasing a lost cause with a liberal arts degree, or is this actually doable?

Any other advice and help would be greatly appreciated, and please be brutally honest. I want to pursue this and I want to give it my all, but I want to approach it smartly and with a plan.

Thank you all.

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Biochemistry, Cell Biol, Genetics and\/or Molecular Biology. And Anatomy!

Besides pre reqs, what other classes should I take to help prepare for the MCAT/Med School?

You can do with just the pre-reqs
Is it best to just take pre reqs? OR should I try to minor in Bio or Chem?

Here's the deal: You need to show AdComs that you know what you're getting into, and show off your altruistic, humanistic side. We need to know that you're going to like being around sick or injured people for the next 40 years.

Here's another way of looking at it: would you buy a new car without test driving it? Buy a new suit or dress without trying it on??

We're also not looking for merely for good medical students, we're looking for people who will make good doctors, and 4.0 GPA robots are a dime-a-dozen.

I've seen plenty of posts here from high GPA/high MCAT candidates who were rejected because they had little patient contact experience.

Not all volunteering needs to be in a hospital. Think hospice, Planned Parenthood, nursing homes, rehab facilities, crisis hotlines, camps for sick children, or clinics.

Some types of volunteer activities are more appealing than others. Volunteering in a nice suburban hospital is all very well and good and all, but doesn't show that you're willing to dig in and get your hands dirty in the same way that working with the developmentally disabled (or homeless, the dying, or Alzheimers or mentally ill or elderly or ESL or domestic, rural impoverished) does. The uncomfortable situations are the ones that really demonstrate your altruism and get you 'brownie points'. Plus, they frankly teach you more -- they develop your compassion and humanity in ways comfortable situations can't.


Service need not be "unique". If you can alleviate suffering in your community through service to the poor, homeless, illiterate, fatherless, etc, you are meeting an otherwise unmet need and learning more about the lives of the people (or types of people) who will someday be your patients. Check out your local houses of worship for volunteer opportunities. The key thing is service to others less fortunate than you. And get off campus and out of your comfort zone!

Examples include: Habitat for Humanity, Ronald McDonald House, Humane Society, crisis hotlines, soup kitchen, food pantry, homeless or women’s shelter, after-school tutoring for students or coaching a sport in a poor school district, teaching ESL to adults at a community center, Big Brothers/Big Sisters, or Meals on Wheels.

What is best to boost my resume, shadowing? Part time job? Volunteering at a hospital?

You should be able to walk and chew gum at the same time; meaning, take classes and do your ECs.
Should I load up on classes to knock out pre reqs or take my time and boost my resume?

A little bit. the maturity angle coming from ROTC is always good.
Will my ROTC resume help at all? or am I essentially starting from scratch in terms of resume?

We don't care about your major or minor, only that you do well. Actually, given that 80%+ of med school applicants are Bio or Chem majors, a Liberal Arts major is refreshing.
Am I chasing a lost cause with a liberal arts degree, or is this actually doable?

This is a marathon now, not a sprint. Med schools aren't going anywhere.
Any other advice and help would be greatly appreciated, and please be brutally honest. I want to pursue this and I want to give it my all, but I want to approach it smartly and with a plan.

Thank you all.[/QUOTE]
 
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Thanks so much for the reply and the advice. I'll definitely be using this advice moving forward. It is greatly appreciated.
 
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really didn't apply myself because I was a freshman and history major

I failed every class my freshman year. Not because of my major (computer science) or because I was a freshman, either. I simply lacked the drive to pursue an education and the courage to tell my mommy I decided waiting tables at Ruby Tuesday was more important than going to class. That was 12 years ago, and a whole lot has changed since then. I'm currently in my final year of undergrad, and so far have been able to pull my GPA up to "acceptable" and get an MCAT score of "better than most." I've worked very hard on my pre-medical education, but other than the MCAT I haven't done anything for the sole purpose of getting into medical school. I'm majoring in a field I find interesting, I volunteer for organizations I really connect with, and my work makes a lasting impact on patients. If I don't get into medical school, none of this work will have been in vain.

I'm hardly qualified to give advice to fellow pre-meds, so take this with a grain of salt. Good luck on your journey!
 
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Thanks for the note! Good to hear others have improved their GPAs and done well enough to have a good shot at med school. Volunteer wise I'd like to volunteer at the hospital for two reasons, 1) to get a feel for how a hospital operates from outside of the patient bed, and 2) because I've been in the hospital I feel like that would be very rewarding for me and that I could really do some good to help people. And like you said about connecting with your volunteer activities, I want to do as much as I can with stroke patients/survivors since I can relate to that. Any other advice you or anyone else has would be greatly appreciated!
 
Literally everything Goro said is pretty much the only post you will ever need to read :) I'm doing hospice and habitat as my volunteer hours (though I'm a former Army medic as well). Hospice is pretty cool and my patients are usually a boat load of fun to visit with :hardy:
 
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Thank you for your service. I will definitely be taking Goro's post to heart. I think hospice would be really rewarding to do and experience. I did a bunch of research on volunteer opportunities in my area and through my school. My biggest worry now is going to an average school with a history degree and no research experience.

Out of curiosity, will my undergrad institution (GA Southern, ~20K students, good regional university but not as good as UGA or especially GA Tech/Emory) have a big impact on admissions? Any tips or insight on that subject would be appreciated.

Thank you again to everyone providing responses to my post, I really appreciate it.
 
My observation is generally that the better schools tend to produce more matriculants, but that could be based on a number of factors, most of which probably aren't the school's fault. You personally are more likely to hold yourself back than your school will. The MCAT is the great equalizer. A high score on the MCAT takes a lot of the bias out of the picture.
 
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I was an art major (I believe art generally wins the cake for lowest paid/"most useless" degree) with no research, and a much lower GPA (3.5). I wouldn't worry about your choice of major at all (schools seemed really interested in my major). I did do very well on the MCAT and in my post-bac program though, which made up for my low overall GPA. My school was respected, but it wasn't a big-name university.

Getting some research exposure would help, but since I was a career changer and was enrolled full-time in a post bac and working half-time, I only had time to do research or volunteer. I chose volunteering because I was interested in it (I had almost zero interest in research), and then I prioritized applying to programs that were more clinically focused.

Your ROTC background should help a lot. Goro gave an excellent post earlier--if you follow that advice you should do great. You are not starting over--everything you've done so far will help you get into medical school. Now you just need to direct your focus a bit more, do well in those pre-reqs, and get more exposure to the medical field.
 
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Thanks for the response, it is very helpful. I won't be in a formal post bacc program, I'll just be taking the pre reqs at my university. Based on responses here and in other threads I don't think that will put me at a disadvantage as long as I do well in the courses.

Thanks again everyone for the responses. Each response makes me feel like it is more up to my grades in the pre reqs, my MCAT and my exposure to the field when it comes to whether I will get accepted. That is good to hear for someone who previously thought I was already at a major disadvantage.
 
@RangerBob one more question for you, albeit a few weeks later. Was your post bacc a formal one or a DIY post bacc?

I'm looking into my options and I'm thinking a DIY may be the most practical for me because I could continue at my school. I just need to figure out how that would work. I think it would require me to do two years of pre reqs, take the MCAT and then apply during a gap year. The other option would be take the MCAT prior to taking Bio Chem, which after looking at other posts on here I'm thinking that is a bad idea.

Regardless of if your post bacc was formal or DIY could you give me some insight on how you liked it, pros cons of what you did, etc.?

Thanks.
 
@RangerBob one more question for you, albeit a few weeks later. Was your post bacc a formal one or a DIY post bacc?

I'm looking into my options and I'm thinking a DIY may be the most practical for me because I could continue at my school. I just need to figure out how that would work. I think it would require me to do two years of pre reqs, take the MCAT and then apply during a gap year. The other option would be take the MCAT prior to taking Bio Chem, which after looking at other posts on here I'm thinking that is a bad idea.

Regardless of if your post bacc was formal or DIY could you give me some insight on how you liked it, pros cons of what you did, etc.?

Thanks.

I did a formal post-bac, but I think doing a DIY is fine if you're very motivated. I had a lot of friends in med school that went the DIY route. Personally I liked and benefited from being in the pre-reqs with like-minded career changers and a more mature cohort. I really liked it--it was a lot of fun and the seriousness of my classmates helped me be more serious too, and I think that had a lot to do with going from an undergrad GPA of a 3.45 to a post-bac GPA of 3.9. I credit doing well on the MCAT to how well I did in my post-bac. I also benefited from the really strong mentoring.

Had I been a better/more serious student I could've likely done just as well in a DIY program, but the structure was something I really needed and it helped me a lot to prepare for medical school. It did cost quite a bit to do the post-bac, but I was able to accelerate the program to one year (though I came back to TA and take some courses for free the following year), which helped mitigate the cost. It was a busy year since I was taking bio, o-chem, physics all together, then volunteering another 20hrs or so a week at two different clinics, and studying for the MCAT, etc. I'm not sure I could've done all of that as successfully as I did without the structure of the formal program and the like-minded and very cooperative/collaborative atmosphere.

I don't know how the new MCAT is, but I didn't take biochem before I took the MCAT and it didn't seem hurt me at all. I just studied all the pre-reqs really hard (the best way to study for the MCAT is study for the actual classes and get straight A's). But I know the new MCAT is different than the old one, and certainly taking biochem won't hurt you. Since I took physics, bio, and o-chem all in the same year so the nice thing was the only thing I had to really review in depth was gen chem that I had taken the prior summer at another university. I took regular practice tests to gauge my progress and that helped me know when I was ready for the real test.
 
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@RangerBob @Goro @esob

Hey guys, just wanted to revive this thread real quick to see if I am on the right track. I plan on taking the MCAT next spring and apply next summer. Since I am a Georgia Resident my goal is Mercer Medical School, but I am also planning on applying to MCG, USC Greenville/Columbia, Moorehouse and then a wide range of DO schools (MSUCOM, PCOM/PCOM-GA, Campbell, LECOM-B, VCOM-Carolinas, VCOM, ACOM, plus others). Obviously this is way ahead of where I am at now and this is very dependent on GPA/MCAT but I wanted you guys to get an idea of where I am shooting for when considering if this is a good plan. I know there is no magic number for hours of volunteering but my plan is to:

-Volunteer at a local social services shelter in the Children's Program beginning this semester (would be consistent volunteering from now until I apply)
-Applying to Volunteer at the local hospital's college student volunteer program for the upcoming fall semester, would be at least 64 hours
-Volunteer at the soup kitchen 3.5 hours each Saturday
-Apply for a program where I would shadow a variety of doctors in primary care in rural Georgia, this would get me 30 hours
-Shadow another primary care MD or one of the three DOs in my town. My goal is to get ~100 hours of shadowing and a letter of rec from a physician. I am still not sure whether I should shadow another MD or DO, I am leaning DO since I will be applying to a bunch of DO schools.
-My plan is to get at least 200 volunteer hours and 100 shadow hours

I am still trying to volunteer at a local nursing home/mental health facility but so far I have been unsuccessful in reaching them.

I really value you alls opinion since because it was so helpful the first time, so if you could give me an opinion on if this is a good plan that would be greatly appreciated. Also if I went through with this plan what would be the MCAT you all recommend to be competitive for MD and DO, assuming I had a 3.7+ Science and Cumulative GPA. Sorry for all of the questions but I'm trying to make the best plan possible so I can be successful in this pursuit.

Thanks everyone!
 
Make sure you get two letter of recs from a science professor as most schools require that. That was a roadblock in my application that I didn't account for. Rangerbob is a resident and took the old MCAT. It's almost throwing your application in the trash if you don't take biochem before the new MCAT.

Everything else looks good, just get those A's and learn a lot!
 
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Thanks for the reply! I'll be sure to stay on top of the letters and take Biochem before the MCAT. If I had an extra year before applying and the MCAT (may happen due to course availability) would you all suggest adding anything to my plan?
 
Your plan looks pretty good to me. I picked a few things to volunteer at and I got involved really deeply. I did most of my work at two clinics, then I also worked as a case manager which brought in interesting experiences. They were both really great experiences--working one on one with patients (often with a translator as well), running the clinic, etc. I would look into exactly what kind of experience that college volunteer program will actually get you--are you just transporting patients (that can actually be fun if you like chatting with them), acting as a scribe, or something where you lean more?

I think free clinics are great places to volunteer--they generally can actually use your help for bigger things, with you often filling the role of an MA, gathering most of the history, doing patient counseling/education, etc. The social services shelter sounds really interesting and you will learn a lot there. Soup kitchens are always great places to volunteer and give back to the community as well. But whatever you do, just commit, and commit deeply.

I can't comment on how many hours of shadowing are needed. I actually had 0 formal hours of shadowing--I got all my shadowing through my paid jobs (academic coordinator/admin assistant for an ophthalmologist, who brought me in to the OR with her a lot, and medical assistant at a clinic for dayworkers, where I gathered all the history and the watched the physician do the physical and any teaching). I just looked at my old AMCAS and I had about 1200 volunteer hours over those 2 years (1 full time post-bac year, 1 half-time) plus working about 46hrs a week in that 2nd year. I guess I was pretty busy that year... To be honest I just kept volunteering and wasn't paying attention to any recommended minimums--I just volunteered at places I really enjoyed being at, with people who were really great. It was a blast actually.

If DO schools require a minimum number of hours shadowing a DO physician, make sure to get there. Otherwise I can't comment on whether it's better to shadow a DO or an MD.

I also have no idea what a competitive MCAT is on the new scale. I think when I applied the average matriculated medical student had a 32, so I wanted to score at least that. I think average MCATs have crept up slowly since then, and the test changed as well. If others are saying you need biochem and that it'll significantly help then they probably know more than I do about it.

A 3.7 GPA puts you in a much stronger position than I was in (mine was slightly below a 3.5 total. My post-bace sGPA was 3.8, but overall it was also a little below 3.5 with those undergrad grades factored in). If I were you, I would just get the best MCAT you can get. I had an idea of how well I wanted to do, but you just have to study hard and do you best and ideally do much better than your goal. If you really need a goal to work on to help you focus, look at the average MCAT score of a Harvard applicant and just aim for a point or two above that. Maybe you get that, maybe you don't, but why not aim as high as you can?

If you delay taking the MCAT for a year, I would recommend regular testing/refreshing of all the subjects you've learned up till that point, to keep them fresh in your mind. You'll be amazed how fast most of that knowledge can disappear. It's much easier to keep knowledge than re-learn it.
 
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@RangerBob Thanks for the advice, it is always appreciated. I'm looking in to becoming a scribe as well but I'm not sure if I'll be able to get a position or do that because the closest position I have found is ~1 hr away. So if I can make that work I will go through with that. I plan on getting really involved with the Children's shelter because it seems really interesting/rewarding. Whether or not I take the MCAT next year depends on if I can fit Biochem and Physics II in before I take the MCAT. If I can't I'll have to delay a year and do a gap year, because I've read all over SDN not to take the new MCAT without Biochem. I'll definitely focus on committing to less volunteer organizations and doing more with them as opposed to doing a little bit in a bunch of different organizations.
 
Part of the volunteer experience is going to be your fit with the experience. For example, my hospice gig is a perfect fit for me. It's veteran to veteran hospice so I really enjoy getting to hear all the war stories from so many highly decorated vets. On top of that, my volunteer coordinator is great, has been doing LOR's for medical schools for a decade and the hospice LOR comes with stamps of approval from the palliative care docs. If I get asked in an interview about my volunteering experience, I will have no shortage of things to say or stories to recount; that's what you should be shooting for in your volunteer gig.

Ironically, I just had a premed adviser tell me schools won't care about my volunteering for habitat for humanity and that I should look for a soup kitchen or something similar. However, I disagree and personally know the value of home ownership and what it contributes to the life of a family and to a community, thus I am choosing to ignore her advice and keep building houses :p
 
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Part of the volunteer experience is going to be your fit with the experience. For example, my hospice gig is a perfect fit for me. It's veteran to veteran hospice so I really enjoy getting to hear all the war stories from so many highly decorated vets. On top of that, my volunteer coordinator is great, has been doing LOR's for medical schools for a decade and the hospice LOR comes with stamps of approval from the palliative care docs. If I get asked in an interview about my volunteering experience, I will have no shortage of things to say or stories to recount; that's what you should be shooting for in your volunteer gig.

Ironically, I just had a premed adviser tell me schools won't care about my volunteering for habitat for humanity and that I should look for a soup kitchen or something similar. However, I disagree and personally know the value of home ownership and what it contributes to the life of a family and to a community, thus I am choosing to ignore her advice and keep building houses :p

I appreciate the reply. I think the children's program will be good for me then because I think I'll really enjoy it and learn a lot. I'm excited for the soup kitchen because I've served in others a couple times before and found it very rewarding helping out there.

Hopefully I can pair those two with a scribe job for some clinical exposure and some money. But obviously none of that means much without the grades and MCAT.

Thanks again for all the responses. This thread has turned out to be extremely helpful as I plan my DIY post bacc and ECs going forward.
 
Good luck, just keep putting one foot in front of the other. I have this little thing I've been saying to myself since I was on active duty: "Someday, this world will get the best of me....but today is not that day."
 
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