Lots of Questions from Worried Premed

Discussion in 'Pre-Medical - MD' started by Parmoset, Oct 21, 2000.

  1. Parmoset

    Parmoset Junior Member

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    Sex: Female
    School: U of Penn
    Year: Sophomore
    Majors: English w/honors definitely & likely biology double
    Experience: Clinical Volunteering, Lab Research
    Extracurrics: U Dance group, President & founder of major club in music dept.

    I partied a bit too much freshman year coming out of a tough boarding school and am in the hellish process of redeeming myself grade-wise.
    What kind of minimum GPA do i have to get assuming i rock the MCAT in order to get into

    a) a top tier school like my dream schools BU/Columbia
    b) a second tier school like Tulane
    c) a third tier school like Marquette

    I will have completed all of the premed reqs. besides biochem by this summer and plan to get EMT-basic certified in Cali where I live. Would you suggest taking the MCATs this summer?Thanks ugh it seems so far off and i'm so jaded...trying to keep a positive attitude
     
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  3. WingZero

    WingZero Senior Member

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    For top tier schools like Columbia (I don't know if I would include BU in the same category) you'll need a GPA above 3.7 - Columbia has become extremely selective recently (if you ignore legacy applicants) and something that distinguishes you from your fellow applicants. Almost everyone has some research/volunteering and the EMT thing has been done to death (I really don't think it helps your application that much - don't get the certification just because you think it will boost your chances of admission). GPA's in the 3.4-3.5 range will make you competitive for non-top 25 schools, especially coming from Penn.

    I most definitely recommend taking the MCAT the end of sophomore year - regardless of what others say on this board, you DO NOT need any other courses besides the intro ones. I took the MCAT summer of sophomore year and did well enough to teach for Kaplan the next year. I've taught all the MCAT science courses twice for Kaplan so I'm reasonably familiar with what's on the exam and there is nothing you will gain from taking advanced courses - it just means the brain space you fill with new material will cause your intro course material to leak out [​IMG]

    I know exactly how you feel though. I got a C+ in a required genetics course my freshman year that was populated by upperclassmen (huge mistake) but I used that as a motivator and I ended up getting into several schools. I felt jaded, as you said, for two years (probably why I didn't enjoy undergrad all that much [​IMG]) until junior year when I had finally built up a competitive set of numbers. In actuality, it will be a good test of your endurance and drive, of which you'll need plenty in medical school. And, if you're lucky like I was, you can use your comeback story as interview conversation fodder.

    Good Luck.

    WingZero
    UMich 2004
     
  4. turtleboard

    turtleboard SDN Advisor

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    Marquette University has a medical school?


    Tim of New York City.
     
  5. Emily1

    Emily1 Senior Member

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    Just a thought...I wonder if you're considering a year off between college & med school. I've noticed that we have comparatively few people in our 1st year class who went straight through, and I wonder if it's actually a bit harder to get in if you haven't taken a little time off. Notice, I am not saying that I KNOW this, it's just something I've been thinking about. And it makes a little bit of sense, since people who take the time off usually use that time to do some amazing thing that they can then write about in applications and discuss in interviews -- the life experience requirement, if you want to look at it that way. I'm not giving you advice here, just thinking that if you're looking for ways to compensate for a few red flags on your transcript, a year off could be one approach. Of course, as the previous poster said, you'll also need to bring that GPA up to the range for whatever schools you're looking at (any med school guide can tell you these). But please try to enjoy college too -- take classes you think are interesting, major in something you like. I think it's sad when people are so worried about pre-med that they miss out on all 4 years of undergrad. Good luck!
     
  6. kwalp

    kwalp Junior Member

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    Emily,

    I'm currently a senior and have always planned on taking a year off. However, now that it's time to actually plan that year, I'm having a lot of trouble coming up with ideas. Ideally, my experience would:

    1. Give me lots of patient contact (not because I haven't had any yet, but because I feel like I need to stay in the healthcare field to encourage myself along the application process!)

    2. Give me enough flexibility to schedule interviews

    3. Pay me enough so I can feed myself for a year and start paying off my student loans (which I don't think I'll be able to defer).

    and

    4. Be only one year long.

    Any ideas from your classmates would be very much appreciated!

    (By the way, I'm already a CNA with three years' experience, and I have also had some research experience.)

    Thanks!

    Karen
     
  7. gower

    gower 1K Member

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    Some comments on the responses, most of which I agree with.

    1. Parmoset, why don't you consult your peremded advisors at Penn? They are in the best position to evaluate your numbers etc. You need the experience of Penn's applicants to med school. It does make a difference where an applicant did his/her undergrad work, although professional schools rarely will say that up front. Penn is Ivy League with a strong reputation. However, the experienced, excellent premed advisor at Penn just left. The current advisors, there are two of them, are to be found in the Career Counseling office. I don't know them, but try them, they are your side.
    2)Wing Zero is right on target, especially about research and EMT work. You should do research only if you really want to, not simply to enhance your application. Interviewers commonly, not always, ask questions about your research, and if you stumble and mumble, they will surely not be impressed. I believe premeds should do volunteer work to learn about themselves, the people they will be delivering help care to, the people, such as nurses and others they will be working with, the system. If a hospital, for example, will not let you do much beyond running errands, find some other place that will. Talk with patients, chat with nurses if you can, speak with physicians if they are willing to. Speak with male and females. Assess your reactions to what you learn about yourself and the medical setting. Learn what you are getting into, not hold on to the romantic stereotype about "helping people." If you say only that at interviews, they will probably upchuck. If you speak intelligently with feeling and insight about your experiences, they will be pleased with you. But remember, volunteer work is only one facet of your application.
    I have some reservations about taking the MCAT in the sophomore year, reservations not
    objection. You can take the MCAT no more than three times, if necessary. After that, you must secure permission from MCAT to take it again. Probably not a risk for you; if you are at Penn, you must have had high SAT scores. However, there is a "statute of limitations," so to speak. Many med
    schools will not accept MCATs more than two years old, most of the rest more than three years old. If you take a year off, for whatever reason, and delay graduation, you might find your MCATs over the two year time limit. Also not a great risk, but you might want to think about it. The MCAT science portion tests in only chem I, II, organic I, II; biology I, II, and physics I,II, all of which you are likely to complete by the end of your sophomore year. Just food for thought, not a disagreement with Wing Zero.
    3) Marquette had a medical school. It was a drain on their resources and I believe it is now the independent Medical College of Wisconsin.
    4) Year off may or may not be a good idea. My personal bias, and it is just a bias, if you choose to do so, spend the year abroad. Cultural enrichment at a foreign university, for example, not to take science courses. Penn might even have study abroad programs for which they will give credit; ask them.
    5) Unless you rob a bank, or have a talent that will earn you big money, you are not likely to earn enough in a year to pay off all your student loans, if you have any, unless you have not borrowed too much. Penn ain't cheap. The top med schools ain't cheap either. Most med students don't come from wealthy families and so have to borrow. Just a thought to keep in mind.
    Good luck, enjoy and as Mr (not Dr)Spock said, live long and prosper.
     
  8. Parmoset

    Parmoset Junior Member

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    Thanks so much for your input. I do hope to defer admissions to a MS so I can take a year off to travel upon graduation. I realize that research/EMT-work don't set me apart from other applicants (although to me they seem almost like prerequisites these days) and although I admire medicine for its noble element, I am not premed because I want to "save the world," (in which case I'd join the Peace Corps), or to make $, (in which case I'd switch into Wharton and become an I-banker), but because I have a fascination for medical science.

    Here are some more:

    - Do lower-end med-schools accept students from ivys with gpas as low as a 3.0 (thankfully, my grades aren't that bad)? i'm curious because the college-office stats say that Penn has a 76% med-school admissions rate, which to me seems ridiculously high. (the stats were for allopathic admits of undergrads in 1999 only).

    -For those of you who went to schools where the science courses were large and lecture-oriented, how did you go about getting to know the faculty members who eventually wrote your recommendations? I'd feel silly going to office hours on a weekly basis when I didn't have any questions to ask that couldn't be answered during lecture or recitation.

    -How important ARE the pre-med advisors in gaining admittance? Upperclass premeds and Penn grad MS1s I know warn me that our advisors are both evil and incompetent.

    -How important is the "name brand" of your med school in terms of residency admissions?

     
  9. WingZero

    WingZero Senior Member

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    Regarding letters of recommendation - I wouldn't recommend getting them from the profs of your large intro courses since, as you said, it is very difficult to get to know them well on a meaningful level and medical school adcoms may question if their letter isn't just a form letter that prof gives for the 20-30 students who ask him for letters. You don't need letters of recommendation until late junior year so I suggest getting them from faculty who taught higher level courses with a smaller class size or faculty with whom you have been doing research since freshman year. Again, don't go to office hours just to "build" a rapport with the intro course profs. It will be impossible to get a strong letter that way. I've always been told that you should have at least one letter from an M.D. that knows you well.

    I'm not sure what you mean by pre-med advisors being "important". They don't influence adcoms, if that's what you mean. The most valuable service the pre-med office provided for me was the interview and composite letter of recommendation which basically had a faculty member compile all my letters and information from an interview to write a "cover letter" that presented me in the most favorable light possible. They charged $180 for this service, but it was well worth it.

    Regarding "brand name" of medical schools for residencies - it does play a role, although not a particularly large one if you are not hell-bent on getting into neuro, ortho, ENT, derm, etc. or the top residency in a less competitive field. That being said, however, residency directors obviously look at schools and what kind of graduates they produce and how those graduates have performed in their residencies. One of the biggest reasons I chose UMich was because of its extremely high reputation according to residency directors - 4th in the U.S. I didn't think much of it in the initial stages of my application, but at the interview, many fourth years mentioned that they themselves had thought the number meant nothing - until they went on interviews for residencies. Time and time again, residency directors were very excited to have UMich students there and would say how well some other UMich grad did in a previous residency there. The adcom here has a saying about how the blue and golden transcript (blue and gold are the school colors) works wonders. I hope it turns out to be true for me (/end UMich rant [​IMG])

    Bottom line - if you get into a med school, you will become a doctor. If you're particular about what kind and where you want to practice/train, then factors like school name, board scores, and letters of recommendation from department chairs start to weigh in a little more heavily.
     
  10. Lt. Ub

    Lt. Ub Senior Member

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    I'm at Penn Med - one of my classmates is an RA in the Quad (freshman dorm). 2 weeks into school, he had a couple of girls on his floor in tears over pre-med pressures! 2 weeks into the best years of their lives and they were already on the verge of nervous breakdown! I don't know why I bring this up except that I was amazed by the lunacy. I never saw that kind of ridiculous self-inflicted pressure at my small, unknown liberal arts college. Penn must have a pretty internally competitive pre-med progam. Is that your impression?

    Concerning the residency thing. You may want to check out where Penn people go - last year's list is posted outside of Suite 100 in Stemmler Hall. It's totally impressive, and I just hope I can follow that up.
     

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