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Great grades, no EC's -- doomed to failure, should consider new career?

Discussion in 'What Are My Chances?' started by Senlin, May 28, 2008.

  1. Senlin

    Senlin 5+ Year Member

    May 28, 2008
    .Everyone talks about how grades (and MCAT, let's ignore that for now) are *SO* important for medical school. Well, I didn't do that great in high school, and was lucky to get where I am now. With that in mind, and a renewed drive to succeed academically, I worked my butt off to get good grades these last three years. After all, I'm going to college to get an education, and how can you get the most out of your education if you don't work hard to get good grades? Unfortunately, I've done so at the cost of extracurricular activities. I'm a junior now, and the only significant extracurricular activity I have to show for it is a year of undergraduate research. I have literally *nothing* else of significance, and only now have I realized this..
    .The question is, do I stand *any* chance at getting into medical school, and a fairly respectable one, if I do something to counteract my lack of EC's now? (No offense, but in my case if I have to go to a different country to get into medical school, I probably wasn't meant to be a doctor...).

    .I am planning to take a year off after my last year (duh, or else I'd have to apply this summer), and just now am trying to volunteer at a hospital and shadow physicians -- too little, too late? Would I have to take two years off?.

    .Thanks for your brutally honest opinions, though I would appreciate it if you didn't moralize (e.g. "oh, well you probably don't deserve to be a doctor if you went three years without volunteering in a hospital"), not to imply that you would....
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  3. SketchLazy

    SketchLazy 5+ Year Member

    May 16, 2007
    Your chances aren't shot, but you still have a long way to go. I was in a similar situation and I'm going to be attending med school this fall. It's completely possible to have nothing during undergrad and pick up activities after graduation. For me, the mcat and everything clinical or research related was done after I graduated except for some volunteering I did at a free clinic for less than a year. If you start now with your activities, you can apply next year and have a decent amount of experience. Just make sure you find them quick and stick with them so that you'll have over a year's worth of experience in each of your activities by the time you interview. Even if it doesn't happen next year, you can always apply the year after that. The average matriculating age for a lot of medical schools is around 24-25, so don't worry. You can still do this. Think of it as starting from the beginning rather than being behind.
  4. DoctorPardi

    DoctorPardi In Memory of Riley Jane Moderator Emeritus 7+ Year Member

    Dec 26, 2005
    The things you need for medical school go like this:
    1) MCAT - in the acceptable range, hopefully 30+, although I got in with a 27
    2) GPA - in the acceptable range, hopefully 3.7+ but people get in with a wide range of GPAs
    3) Research - (depending on the school and a million other facotrs, this could be 4th or 5th in importance)
    4) Clinical Experience - (this could be 3rd depending on the school, but very important) This means being close enough to "smell" a patient as a famous SDNer put it. You should get a job as a nurse's assistant, or volunteer in a way that allows you some patient contact. Shadowing isn't bad, but I don't feel it is true clinical experience unless you are really interacting with the patients in some way.
    5) Volunteer - either at a hospital, or a soup kitchen or something, but only do this if you really want too, don't try to do some soup kitchen stuff to put on your application.
    6) Leadership - a lot of people don't have this and it may not matter, it can't hurt, but it isn't hugely important. Something like being the secretary for a campus organization that meets twice a semester isn't impressive. If you founded some organization and spent 10+ hours a week working on it that is a different story.

    So those are the general things people look to for "what you need". You have good grades, you will hopefully come up with a good study strategy for tackling the MCAT and you have some research. Hopefully the MCAT will work out and you'll be on your way. You should get some clinical experience for yourself (making sure this is what you want to do) and also because almost all applicants have it. Some schools look at not having clinical experience in that you may have not truly considered the depth of the profession or what it is about without being up close and personal with it. Don't worry about logging 500 hours of shadowing and so many weeks of volunteering, just do something and have some experiences.

    You're going to have to write a personal statement, answer a bunch of secondary questions and eventually interview. You will need to make a case for why you deserve a slot in the profession. During interviews they will ask, "why do you want to be a doctor?" You will need a solid answer to that, as well as the "why not nursing?" question. These are things in my mind you can only answer once you get some patient contact, or at least that was how it was for me.

    Sorry that was so long winded, but I started writing and couldn't stop, if it doesn't make sense sorry it's late lol. Best of luck!
  5. Manyac86

    Manyac86 5+ Year Member

    May 6, 2007
    I'm your 1 year forward twin. I have a good GPA (3.9+) and a good MCAT (40+) but I didn't really have any extracurriculars till late. Throughout undergrad I was involved slightly with my old high school team but that was my only extracurricular.

    At the beginning of Junior year I started working in a research lab (ended up being 1 year worth by the time I applied during summer after Junior year which I continued until I recently graduated).

    During spring of Junior year I started volunteering in an Emergency Room and during spring semester/early summer I had opportunity to shadow a few people for a day or so each. During the summer I ended up working at a science-y summer camp (although this was after my AMCAS was submitted)

    Another problem I had: I got my Letters of Rec in sorta late which delayed me at a few schools.

    So how did I do? Because I didn't know where I stood I applied to 30 schools. Maybe 20 were top/middle tier and rest were safeties. (although there is really no such thing as a safety med school and good doctors come out of all med schools.)

    I got into a good med school (to give you some idea ranked in top 15 by US News) during October and this is the one I'm probably going to end up at. I was offered interviews at 6 other schools total. 1 was a top 5 (waitlist). 3 others were middle tier (waitlist and didn't go to interviews). 2 Others were a safety and my state school. (didn't go to safety interviews and rejection from my state school)

    What were some conclusions/thoughts I had?

    A lot of safeties didn't even bother interviewing me and my state school rejected me after the interview. - For a lot of adcoms you need the whole package i.e. better clinical than I had. This is a pretty accurate truism: you need to be at least average in every area.

    However I had some luck with some of the more "number-heavy" better schools. What does this mean? Different adcoms want different things! I.e. if you've got average extracurriculars but good GPA/MCAT/maybe letters if you apply broadly enough some people will show you love.

    Conclusions: even if you get a great MCAT and GPA don't be cocky. Apply broadly. Also it's not too late if you're still a year away from even applying. The MCAT and GPA are the hardest areas to improve. The other areas of the app will come with time and effort. Start doing clinical. Keep doing research. I have some friends who got an EMT-B and then used it. Worst case scenario you take time after graduation and continue doing clinical work. This actually might not even be a bad case to enjoy one last year of semi-freedom. I'm starting to get scared as the clock ticks till I have to start.

    I think overall it's not that you need to be great in every category, but you need something to sell yourself. If I had a purely average MCAT i'm worried I wouldn't have a single interview because other than MCAT/grades I don't think i'm more than an average applicant.

    I've known a lot of people apply to med school with me and in the year before. People who got into top places/had a lot of success applying tended to be at least average in every category but really shine out in an area or 2.
    A girl I know who got into Harvard started a really great program for underpriveledged kids and was one of the nicest people I know along with perfect GPA and good MCAT. She had average clinical afaik. A guy I know who is going to Stanford got a mediocre MCAT but had a perfect GPA, amazing research experience, won a prestigious national scholarship, and is just a pleasure to be around.

    One guy I knew had average statistics but probably above average clinical and applied sort of late but eventually got in. Even though he had his ducks in a row I don't think he really had any particular area to really sell him. Also I think this process is harsh and he didn't apply to as many middle tier/higher tier schools as he ought to.

    I see this turned into a rant. Hopefully it helped.
  6. 135892

    135892 Guest 2+ Year Member

    Feb 5, 2007
    Look at the bright side, the situation that you are in is much more managable than if you had good EC's and poor grades. At the end of the day, GPA and MCAT score do account for a lot in applying to med schools. You also have some research which is a very positive thing. Just get a years worth of some good clinical experiences that show you are ready for and dedicated to a career in medicine. You should be able to atleast garner some interviews and hopefully even some acceptances
  7. Senlin

    Senlin 5+ Year Member

    May 28, 2008
    Thanks, everyone! For the advice, and for not being judgmental. I'm glad to know it's not too late (although given the many non-traditional applicants who still make it, I suppose it's almost never too late if you really want it).

    I'm currently applying for a mini-TA (you assist the TA) position, hospital volunteering, and I want to start e-mailing to ask about shadowing. I'm pretty introverted so I can't really see myself pulling off some leadership role, and that's probably going to bite me during interviews too. (But hey, we can't all be Type A personalities or whatever, and my friends say I'm charismatic for what it's worth :p).

    I'm also going to continue doing research (potentially for the next two years) and start studying for the MCATs when I get my ExamKrackers books from Amazon...

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