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NonTradMed

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I am curious what people who are working fulltime right now while applying to medical school are saying about their fulltime job. My problem is that working 40-50 hours/wk and studying for the MCAT (furiously) has left my little time to do any extracurricular activities.

I have plenty of extracurricular activities from my undergraduate days. I did hospital volunteer work all through my high school years. Did tutoring and hospital work in college. Worked with a radiologist professor at a hospital for three years before I quit.

I came out with a BS-MS in CS end of 2002 and have worked ever since in the IT field. My problem is.....should I start up my extracurricular activities or should I stress my work experience to the adcoms?

I don't want to seem rash in my decision to go med, but I'm afraid my willingness to go the med route aren't going to show on the application, that it'll look I abruptly decided to apply to medicine after a few years haitus from it (I finished all premed stuff in college then decided not to apply, instead went the CS route).

I went through a lot of emotional soul searching to reach upon my choice of medicine (again) but I'm afraid the adcoms won't see it and assume I am just grasping for a career. Should I start up the volunteer track again this late in the game (will start applying this summer)? Or should I focus on explaining my job and how I have gained maturity from it? Should I focus on the unique experiences that my journey has brought me or should I try some volunteer work after taking the MCAT and focus on my overall volunteer experience in my essays?

Advice, please!
 
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vtucci

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I understand your frustration-- working and studying for the MCAT can be a real balancing act.

First up, as a general rule, extracurricular activities several years out from undergrad may not have that much sway for someone who has worked in the real world. But you have only been out since 2002 so you are not really a nontrad in the sense of a serious break from school and then return. You merely took some time off to pursue another interest? field?

The best way to handle this I would say is to find something in your job that is applicable to medicine. I will give you an example from my life. I am an attorney and I am using the counseling aspect of my previous job as a point to highlight.

I would also use some of your extracurricular activities particularly any of them that show a sustained interest in medicine (Which is why I recommend additional volunteering below).

Also, be prepared to answer why you switched into IT when you had that volunteer experience from undergrad. Did something turn you off from medicine? I only ask because if I was on the admissions committee-- it would strike me as odd. Were you interested maybe in Bioinformatics? I would have a very good explanation for the career shift or if it was a more deliberate choice to give you skills that will somehow be applicable to med school, tell them. So if you have a good reason for going into IT, I would stress that. Otherwise, it could look like you are going into medicine because the IT job market dried up (as we all know it did).

Also, why haven't you kept up some type of volunteer work to show that you have a serious interest in medicine. I know you may be tempted to say that it is the MCAT and work. But there are a lot of nontrads on this site doing that, plus classes, plus volunteer work, plus raising families. I would consider getting an extra volunteer assignment now so when you apply this summer, you at least have 4 months in. You could always explain the previous lack of volunteer experience over the past two years by saying that your job schedule was not solidified (as it often is not in IT and I assume yours wasn't either).

Do you have a pre-med advisor? If so, what did he or she say? Keep in mind that if you have been out a few years it might be a good idea to cozy up to the pre-med advisor (if there is one) at your undergraduate school. They deal with so many students each year that even the outstanding students with tremendous personalities can be forgotten. Don't forget-- Med Schools usually require a premedical committee recommendation letter.

If all this stuff is not ready, you may have a bigger problem than deciding whether to stress work experience or extracurriculars in your PS.
 

edik

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It is beneficial to show some recent volunteering/research in the field. So start right after you take MCAT.
I have a BS in CS myself. I worked for 7 years in IT prior to applying. I did some recent volunteering... During the interviews you get asked a lot about your hospital experiences (I assume they want to be sure that you know what you are getting yourself into, since you have a job unelated to medicine).
BTW, I got in last week. So it is doable for us geeks! :clap:
 

MeowMix

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My experience is that nobody gives a crap about my 25+ previous years of community service work regardless of how demanding or important it was. The only thing they are interested in is the shadowing and clinical volunteering I have done in the past year.

Interviewers said they were impressed that I had thoroughly investigated what I was interested in (FP and OB) and could make a decision based on that. And those experiences would make your essay stronger too. If you can find any way to fit them in (cut back your working hours?), do it. Shadowing might be more productive than volunteering, at this point.
 

kito

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I think work experience is a plus, but it may be more of a plus if it came in certain key areas. For example, doing multimillion dollar deals or trades may show you to be very adept and smart and resourceful, but may not impress adcoms as much as spending the same time teaching in a New York City public school. I'm not arguing whether it should or should not, but the sense I get is that the more humanistic work experiences are looked fondly upon, This, ofcourse, does not bode very well for people who are changing careers from say finance or technology to medicine. There are exceptions but this is my general sense.
 

NonTradMed

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Well, it seems one of my biggest problem is a lack of connection back to medicine. Up until my junior year, I have had a strong connection to medicine, I worked with a radiologist professor at the med school, I did volunteer work.....but as some suggested, it has been 3-4 years since I've done any of that.

The best way to handle this I would say is to find something in your job that is applicable to medicine.
Does it help that I work for an IT company that specializes in medical software? All of our clients are hospitals and we have nurses and physicans helping to test and design our software. Unfortunately, I dont' interact with anything medically related, I just program. How much does this count? :D

Someone suggested shadowing a doctor and/or doing clinical work instead of volunteer work experience but since I work, how would one go about that? I am thinking about helping at a free health clinic on weekends after the MCAT is done.

It seems the general concensus is that my work experience, because it does not relate to medicine, will be a disadvantage when applying. Also, even though I have spent years working/volunteering in hospitals, I should do some recent volunteer work now, preferably with a medical bent, to show the adcoms that I am serious about my committement.

I have to say I'm a bit disappointed that my work experience and my foray into something nonmedically related, however much it helped me to mature and realize medicine was actually my first love, will not help, and perhaps even be a detriment.

My reasons for changing careers has nothing to do with the outsourcing phenomenon in IT. I have always felt the pull of medicine but was burnt out during my junior year in college and "settled" on finishing my degree (which I picked b/c I thought programming was more fun).

The masters I got b/c it was easier to enter the five year program than look for a job, again I "settled" for something easier. But it was during this time that I slowly realized I still wanted to do medicine and now, here I am. :)

I feel I will have no problem explaining my journey to medicine to the adcoms but I am not sure how they will react to my lack of doing medically related in the past three years. I dont' know if they will understand being AWAY from anything medically related, and specifically, anythingn school related, actually HELPED me to see that medicine was for me. I had been so bent on medicine, but after I burnt out junior year, I avoided it like a plague but the urge kept on coming back to me.......too bad I haven't had time to show it on my resume! :)

I appreciate all the advice I've been given thus far. Please, if anyone has more to add, join in!
 

nrosigh

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I worked for several years for a software company and was just accepted to med school starting this fall, with only very recent clinical exposure. I know it's hard to prepare for the MCATs while working, but I think that it's extremely important to also have some recent volunteer/shadowing experience. Then when you get asked in your interviews (and if you don't get ask you should bring it up), "what clinical experience do you have" you can talk about your *recent* activities, and not what you did several years ago.

Research is a nice bonus only if you want to go to a research heavy school - if your goal is to be a clinician then you don't need it to get in. It also takes much longer (and more time!) to do something productive with research - you normally can't join a lab and get a paper published very quickly. You can, however, go to your local hospital and begin volunteering next saturday afternoon after you've had your TB test : )

If you're taking the MCATs this april, then you still have plenty of time to get clinical exposure before your interviews. And I would definitely focus on your experience as an ADVANTAGE - i.e. you learned leadership skills, problem solving techniques, can work in a team, get work under pressure, etc...

Good luck!
 

NonTradMed

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What would be good 'clinical experience'? I have done flower delivery and playing with kids while they are waiting at the hospital. My hospital work assisting a radiatiologist on his research (nothing too technical, more secretarial at times).

I feel out of place if I go back to doing somethign like that at this point ---I'll be much older than everyone else, doing menial tasks.....what I really want is more patient interaction....is that feasible? How should I go about finding a volunteer position that would allow me more patient interaction without doing as much drudge work? One more thing....if I wanted to do some shadowing, how should I go about that? Especially with my work schedule, how do some of you guys who worked fulltime do it?

Thanks!
 

efex101

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Welcome to the club (the non-trad club) but you do need to get some clinical experience that is recent or you will be at a huge disadvantage. There are many non-trads applying now and we all have had the same issues that you are going through yet we still played by their rules. Meaning, you need to go out there and shadow/volunteer whatever to get recent exposure to medicine. In the competitive environment of applying although working is good it will *not* substitute for the other activities that adcoms are looking for. I am borrowing this statement from another non-trad "you have to play by their rules because this is *their* game" good luck!
 

HessExpress

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Premeds over emphasize clinical experience. Just keep a good GPA, and do one thing clinically related that shows commitment and passion for medicine...I'm doing EMT training right now, and it's intensive for a 3-4 month period. I find this is much better than sitting in a hospital all summer long like a jack ass. Don't waste your time finding every opportunity to get some experience. Do just a couple things that show true commitment, experience.
 

medic8m

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Originally posted by HessExpress
Premeds over emphasize clinical experience. Just keep a good GPA, and do one thing clinically related that shows commitment and passion for medicine...I'm doing EMT training right now, and it's intensive for a 3-4 month period. I find this is much better than sitting in a hospital all summer long like a jack ass. Don't waste your time finding every opportunity to get some experience. Do just a couple things that show true commitment, experience.

Im not sure about this advice. Especially as a non-traditional applicant, one should do anything to set himself apart. GPA and MCAT are not everything. I was a non-trad. applicant and my GPA was mediocre with average MCAT. I got into several schools, including Cali. I think what you do outside the classroom sets you apart from the average applicant. No offense but isnt EMT training the most generic thing one can do for clinical experience? That doesnt show any commitment or passion for medicine at all. I agree that if you have STELLAR grades and MCAT you probably dont need a whole lot of clinical experience.

Go for it Non TradMed, kick ass!
 

medic8m

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I had zero research experience when I applied, it isnt necessary for non-trad. applicants. We have already proven a committment to the profession, caring etc. simply by being willing to switch careers.
I also had to convince ad-coms why I wanted to switch from nursing to medicine. That was not an easy task... I want to help people, I want to make a difference, I want to use critical thinking, i want patient interaction, I like helping the sick.. Nurses already do all these things so why switch? I think it would be much easier to convince an admissions committee why you wanted to switch from a non-healthcare field. good luck!
 

MeowMix

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You're getting a lot of great advice here (it's great because I agree with most of it!). I do think that older premeds have a different situation than younger, and that we need enough recent clinical experience to demonstrate realistic exposure and commitment. The volunteering is important not because it demonstrates a selfless desire to serve humanity, but because it's the way we get clinical experience without being an MA/CNA etc. So that's why other volunteering can't substitute.

I started clinical volunteering in April and applied in June, MCAT in August. By the time I got to interviews, I had 200 hours of volunteering at a free clinic (lots of contact, doing vitals, charts, etc.) and 100 hours of shadowing. It's not a huge amount, but I had lots of experiences to talk about. I had also spent time with PTs, nurses, and chiropractors, and could talk about why I knew those were not the right professions for me.

I wish I had had more experience when I did my AMCAS application, because some schools don't give you an opportunity to do much of an update on the secondary. So that is the advantage to starting ASAP. Also, bear in mind that most places will take about 2 months to get you checked out and started after you apply as a volunteer. Start looking now.
 

Thundrstorm

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Maybe you could just do a little clinical volunteering one or two weekends a month until the MCAT, and then step it up to once or twice a week?
 

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I think the big factor is how your life (or job) has made you the person you are today, and why this person would benefit medicine. Yes, clinical experience is required, whether or not they say it. But for the most part its to show that you've experienced medicine in some form or another. How much clinical experience depends on you. I think most people out there can get by with 1-3 quarters of volunteering in some medical field.

I sometimes see pre-meds overemphasize this area, and start to forget about their grades or their lives. One must remember that everyone out there will have clinical experience to some extent or another. The whole point is to have that clinical experience, but also do something or show something unique about yourself as an applicant, and how that makes you better than the next guy.

I'm not a CS major, but I can relate to you in regards to working, going to school and taking the MCAT. Its hard! But, really years later, i think it actually worked out well for me. Encountered a lot of people, learned a lot both academically, and personally. I think it just makes a person a better applicant in my own opinion.

I spent 2 years of my life as salesman/deliveryman, while coaching water polo and swimming on the side. Later I became a research assistant/post-grad researcher at the med school here, TA for my school, and software developer for the US Army. Pretty much I've maintained at least 2 jobs at one time (albeit pretty fun jobs) to keep myself fed and in school. I'm sure you can say the same about your IT experiences. Clearly IT is something very unique in terms of what other pre-meds have.

Balancing out time for work, school, and MCAT is something that you will eventually have to learn by yourself. I think all of us here can give you some helpful hints but beyond that, i think you know yourself the best, and what your limitations are. Just remember to don't OVER DO it, but at the same time don't underestimate yourself.
 
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