Marine Corps to Medical School Advice

Discussion in 'Nontraditional Students' started by landon7765, Feb 7, 2019.

  1. landon7765

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    Hello Everyone,

    This is my first time posting in SDN forums after many years of browsing. Specifically I am posting in regards to receiving general advice on my current situation and the best route for me to apply to Medical School.

    Background

    I received my Undergrad degree in Biology in 2016 and completed all of the Medical School prerequisites. I graduated with a cumulative GPA of 3.39 and a science GPA of 3.0. I commissioned as Marine Officer in December of 2016 and completed my training in May of 2018. Now I am currently serving as a Combat Engineer Platoon Commander. I am responsible for 45 Enlisted Combat Engineers and I have already served one short deployment on a humanitarian mission and will be deploying again for six months in May. From today I have about 1 year and 9 months left on my contract before I get out.

    I knew prior to joining the Marine Corps that my long term goal was to become a physician. I chose to become a Marine Officer because I wanted the chance to make a difference in young Marines lives as well as to experience the physical, mental, and spiritual challenge of leading Marines. The past two years has been extremely rewarding and has lived up to the challenge in every way. But now as I have gotten over the halfway hump I am beginning to look towards the future.

    MCAT

    One of the primary issues I need guidance on is the MCAT. I have not yet taken the MCAT, nor have I taken any MCAT practice tests. It has been around 3 years since I last took a Biology or Chemistry class and I am definitely rusty on the material. My upcoming deployment takes the majority of my time (spending weeks on end in the field) and I don't know how my schedule will look during the deployment itself. I would like to do some light review and study over the deployment and then commit a solid 6 months of part time study when I get back. But much of the advice I have seen points toward dedicating a solid 3 month full time block of study prior to taking the test.

    -Does any one have any advice or guidance on how long or when I should begin studying?
    -With my lower cGPA and sGPA, what score should I be aiming for in respect to both DO and MD?
    -For someone who has been out of school for a while, what material provides best in depth review of the review of each topic?

    Low GPA

    As I understand for MD school a 3.39 cGPA and 3.0 sGPA is well below the average for admission. On top of that I have multiple withdrawals and failure grade replacements. When it comes to the grade trend, you can see from my Freshman year a decrease in grades until I hit second semester of Sophomore year. Then the grades improve until the freshman semester of Senior year. That first semester I just finished Officer Candidates School the summer prior, I lost focus on my long term goal, and my grades suffered. I completed two more semesters after that and my grades improved to all A's and B's before I graduated in Fall of 2016. Understanding the "not so consistent" positive trend and the low cGPA and sGPA:

    -With a decent MCAT score is MD school a realistic option or should I limit my applications to primarily DO schools?
    -Should I be considering Post-Bac and SMP programs as an essential to be admitted?
    -Would retaking any of the Pre-Reqs (Physics II) that I received a C in at a local community college be of any help for an application?

    Clinical Experience

    I became a certified EMT-Basic in high school. I did some volunteer fire fighting and volunteered in an emergency room through my senior year of high school. During college I worked as a paid per diem EMT for and worked around a total of 200 hours. I also worked as a scribe in the Emergency Room my senior year of college (2016) and accumulated 1200 hours scribing for Emergency Medicine Physicians and Physician Assistants. I got the opportunity to sit in on several major surgeries and developed some really great relationships with the providers at that ER. Currently I am volunteering at a local hospice center and I plan on volunteering as an EMT when I return from my upcoming deployment.

    -Cumulative I have around 1400 hours of clinical experience. Do I need more hours in order to be considered competitive?
    -Is there any other types of clinical experiences that are considered more favorable than others?
    -Does my time working as a scribe count towards shadowing or do I need to exclusively shadow for those hours to count?

    Extracurricular

    In college I did a good variety of extra curricular activities. I played on the rugby team and I was counselor in my Campus Outdoor Leadership Club. I worked for a my campuses alcohol, violence, and education program where I taught classes to fellow students about domestic violence, drug abuse, and alcohol abuse. I also worked as a call responder for a Crisis Hotline number, totaling about 300 hours of call time. I studied abroad in Peru for five weeks and volunteered at a rural health clinic and a special needs home. Being a Marine Officer and platoon commander has definitely been a growing part of my life. I have been through a year and half of intensive leadership training. I had the opportunity to lead a platoon of 45 Combat Engineers during a complicated humanitarian mission where I was responsible for hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of equipment and I will be taking that same platoon on another 6 month deployment in May. I understand that I would have to find a way to communicate how all these things I have done translate into the decision to pursue medicine and why they would make me a better physician.

    -How if at all does my military service affect my competitiveness as an applicant?
    -Are their any veterans out there who know effective ways to translate all they have learned and experienced in the military to into applying for medical school?
    -Is my lack of research going to negatively impact my application? If so, are their many part time research opportunities for individuals who are no longer full time students?

    I am sorry for the lengthy post, but after so many years of just having a loose idea of my eventual goal of becoming a physician, I need to begin solidifying how I am going to make it happen. Thanks for reading and I greatly appreciate any guidance, advice, or encouragement.
     
  2. MusicDOc124

    MusicDOc124 MS-III
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    Fellow Marine here in my M3 year.

    Your GPA appears to be on the low side for applying MD and even on the lower side of DO, but will still have a viable shot with DO with a good+ MCAT. I can't really suggest a score as I'm unfamiliar with the new MCAT - I took the old one. You would likely need to do a post-bacc or SMP of sorts for MD with your GPA though.

    You have more than enough clinical hours. You don't need to be doing anything specific per se. Not any particular type is overtly more favorable than another. You're fine there.

    Military service might give you an edge over an otherwise similar applicant, or even over one slightly stronger academically, but it won't do you any good beyond that to get an interview. Once you have an interview, beyond what I just mentioned, it would then be quite beneficial simply because it gives you something to talk about in the interview that not many people can say they did themselves.

    Send me a message and I can help with translating some of the info you need translated.
     
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  3. NicMouse64

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    With the marines and a stellar MCAT score you have a decent shot at MD schools. You will have a better shot at DO schools if you don't absolutely kill your MCAT. I'm talking 95 percentile. So devote 3 months of your life to it and take a look at the SDN forums for advice.
     
  4. Goro

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    When it comes to picking schools, Eastern Tennessee Quillen treats Veterans as in-state.

    And many thanks to you for your service to our country! Semper Fi
     
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  5. Matthew9Thirtyfive

    Matthew9Thirtyfive Class of 2023!
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    I just went through this app cycle and was fortunate enough to get accepted to a couple MD schools. I have a stellar MCAT but a mediocre GPA that is still higher than yours, and I barely got any love from MD. I did get lots of love from DO schools though. Unfortunately, even with a great MCAT, your best chance is with DO schools. That said, you should still go onto MSAR and apply to the schools with the highest percentage of the class with vet status.

    And second @Goro's suggestion. ETSU - Quillen LOVES vets. They accept about 10 or so out of state students per year, and almost all of them are vets (they count you as in-state when they are reviewing your app and for tuition purposes, but they still report them as out of state for reporting purposes).

    The standard advice for prepping for MCAT for 3 months is for the traditional student who has taken all the prereqs within the last couple of years and is either still in school or has just finished. As someone who will not have taken a prereq in 4-5 years and will not be a student anymore (and coming off a deployment), there is no reason why you shouldn't take longer to prepare. I might suggest taking a biochem course while you prep. Biochem is literally the biggest subject that gets tested on, and if you don't have a good grasp of it, you will have a really hard time doing well.

    For your ECs, you have plenty of clinical experience and great ECs. Your military experience will range from a decent EC to extremely helpful. Most schools look at military experience as a very strong EC. There are a few ways to really highlight your experience and show everything you've gotten out of it. I have seen enough of this question that if there's any interest in it, I may make a guide for this forum for how to put your military experiences into AMCAS to make sure you highlight everything.

    You should be solid if you apply to selected MD schools and a bunch of DO schools.
     
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  6. Mike Bagwell

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    Medical school admissions is first and foremost a numbers game that is played by every person that joins the game; that is both vets and non vets.

    Being a vet doesn’t move you to the front of the line. I wouldn’t look at this process that way. I will say however that veteran status has its benefits with certain programs and there are programs that offer certain perks to vets that may not be open to others.

    I’ll give you an example. My program has a 3+4 BS to MD program and I know of at least one veteran who was offered admission to that pathway despite his non trad status. That right there is a guaranteed MD but will cost you the extra three years and I believe a 3.5 throughout the program. Any other person would have to meet the very strict entrance requirements usually set for traditional undergraduate applicants.

    If you apply straight into my program you will have to have the same numbers as any other student unless you are applying as a URM for which we have allocated slots.

    The point I’m making is there is opportunity like you are asking for but don’t forget the non vets are cranking out some serious numbers that you will have to meet or beat if you want an MD.
     
  7. Matthew9Thirtyfive

    Matthew9Thirtyfive Class of 2023!
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    Eh, I've seen some people with much lower numbers do better than they would have otherwise, likely because of their vet status. It obviously depends on the school, but the schools who really embrace vets seem view military service as essentially a guarantee of leadership, teamwork, and maturity (which for the most part it is), which is a huge leg up in the process. I've literally had interviewers put away entire sheets of questions because they felt like I didn't need to prove to them that I had leadership/teamwork skills--they assumed my service spoke for itself.

    However, I do agree that at plenty of programs, if you don't have the numbers, being a vet won't get you in the door. Still gotta show them you can succeed academically.
     
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  8. Mike Bagwell

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    It all depends where you apply I suppose. I'm in the Northeast so I can't speak for schools in the Midwest or on the West Coast. I was addressing an overarching theme that I am finding more common on this forum where vets are coming in and essentially saying "I'm a vet, so how much leverage will that give me with an admission." That's not a good way of approaching this and they really should get the same advice that we would give any other pre-med.

    I approach and will continue to advocate, based on my experience, that medical school admissions is strictly an academic journey first and foremost because that is the safest way of looking at it. If you are offering more than academics then that will only help you but numbers are what get you in the door not perceived leadership experience or service to the country. I offered the example of our 3+4 program and how a nontrad vet was offered admission which is unheard of. They could have offered another route with a direct admission but they probably want to make sure he's got the academic background to assimilate into the entering class. Either way, it's still a guaranteed MD anyway you look at it which works out for this individual rather nicely.

    Leadership, teamwork, and maturity can also be guaranteed many other ways so the safest bet is to make sure you have those qualities as well as the numbers before even trying to apply.
     
  9. Matthew9Thirtyfive

    Matthew9Thirtyfive Class of 2023!
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    I disagree with the bolded pretty strongly based on my experience. You need the stats, but if you are just an applicant with meager ECs and good stats, you will have a much lower chance of acceptance. That doesn't mean you won't get in, but you will probably have a much worse cycle than if you had demonstrable leadership, etc. Actual adcoms on this forum state as much, and in my own experience with my cycle and the cycles of a couple dozen military members, military service (and probably stuff that is similarly impressive) can definitely make up for low numbers IF you apply right (i.e., apply to schools that value that experience), and you sell it correctly.

    Med schools want to make sure you'll succeed, but they also want their class to be diverse and to be filled with people who will be leaders, be able to work together as part of a unit, and be able to relate to their colleagues and patients.

    Also, you are using the example of a 3+4 program which is not the same as applying just to an MD/DO. I know there are combined programs like that who look at non-trads as being worse applicants, which is pretty much the opposite of almost every medical school.

    To caveat though, I will reiterate that vet/military status will help you if you apply well. For example, I know a vet with a very good MCAT and a very high GPA (like 517+ and 3.8+) who has 6 years of great military experience. Stanford told him to not even bother applying because he doesn't have research. But I also know vets with MCATs well below what this board would consider competitive who have gotten into schools on their first cycle partly because of their military experience and how they framed it in their apps.

    The military experience has to be just part of your app. To be a really solid to stellar applicant, you should have everything.
     
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  10. Mike Bagwell

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    Yes, fair enough.
     

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