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Med student at Top 20 with learning disabilities - AMA!

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TheTortoise

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Hi everyone, I don't see much talk about how to win at the premed and med school game for students with learning disabilities so I'd like to offer my advice for anyone interested.

I have dyslexia, dysgraphia, and auditory processing disorder. Wasn't impressive in high school, went to an unknown liberal arts undergrad, 3.93 undergrad GPA, and scored in the 99th percentile on the MCAT. Learning disabilities have forced me to work extremely hard to achieve what I have and I hope to make the road a little easier for the readers of this thread.

Ask me anything!
 
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TheTortoise

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What’s your study routine in med school?

My studying revolves around reading as little as possible. So I use boards and beyond for content, sketchy for the mnemonics, and firecracker flashcards to get the reps in. I don't want to read 200 pages a week in the school syllabus with everyone else because that's not something I'm good at.

I'd say the biggest idea of med school studying that I didn't know going in is that there are learning devices and remembering devices. Both are important and both have their roles. Don't reread a book to review and don't use flashcards to learn concepts.
 
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kkooko

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I am also likely to attend a "unknown liberal arts college."

What would you say best helped you stand out and be competitive for a T20 school? I ask because most T20s look more favorably onto prestigious undergrad applicants. Was it your extracurriculars? If so, would you be kind enough to describe them?

Also, I have a bit of ADHD, so I find most class lectures really useless as of now (in high school). Would you say that this would likely carry on if I attend a smaller, LAC? I wonder because the smaller classroom size might force me to pay more attention or motivate me.


Thank you from a soon-to-be college freshman
 

TheTortoise

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sounds good! repetition is key!

Yes sir. My general advice is to commit MS1 to finding your ideal system and then grind through MS2 to accumulate all the knowledge for step. I spent all of first year completely changing study strategies each class until I saw my scores jump. Let me know if you have any other questions, yo
 

TheTortoise

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I am also likely to attend a "unknown liberal arts college."

What would you say best helped you stand out and be competitive for a T20 school? I ask because most T20s look more favorably onto prestigious undergrad applicants. Was it your extracurriculars? If so, would you be kind enough to describe them?

Also, I have a bit of ADHD, so I find most class lectures really useless as of now (in high school). Would you say that this would likely carry on if I attend a smaller, LAC? I wonder because the smaller classroom size might force me to pay more attention or motivate me.


Thank you from a soon-to-be college freshman

Yeah so funny enough I'd say you have an advantage over most Ivy League kids. A ton of my classmates come from unknown schools or state schools. I think the reason is that at an unknown school you can be at the top academically and have time to do extracurriculars. If you go to a school where everyone is super smart then its harder to get the grades and have a complete application. GPA >>> School prestige. So I would bet on you over a lot of Ivy League folk.

My extracurriculars included leading a homeless outreach organization, lots of research at my school and Harvard med (7 presentations, 1 pub), and chess. My advice is to do everything with intensity. If its worth doing then it is worth over doing. Also, choose strategically. Pick research labs where you know they will prioritize you learning and helping your application instead of washing dishes. If you want to lead groups on campus, look for ones that can pretty much guarantee you leadership opportunities and that you can grow. A great thing about being at an unknown school is that if you double down there are tons of opportunities and only a few people for them. You'll notice that all the sought after positions are held by the same few people. Be one of those people.

For the ADHD my advice is to triple down on what works for you and ignore anything thats useless. I suck at reading. I don't read any thing longer than a few sentences. I even have my computer read manuscripts to me. So don't worry about if classes are useless, your job is to develop your learning system.

Let me know if there's anything else I can help with
 
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Gigijay

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Did you disclose your LD when applying? Were you asked about it on interviews?
 

TheTortoise

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Did you disclose your LD when applying? Were you asked about it on interviews?

Yeah it was in my personal statement and it came up during interviews. Usually in a positive way and I could talk about what its taught me, some times I'd get asked if I was worried I'd be able to keep up in medical school. I don't use accommodations so I was just trying to show that I was scoring as well with the best with a handicap. I think most medical students that get into well known schools have some sort of X factor that makes them different from everyone else and I used my LD as my major one.
 
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TheTortoise

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Thank you for this! I appreciate your input. I sent you a Private Message with a few more questions. Thanks once more :)

No problem, happy to answer. One piece advice I wish when I was entering college is that when you judge what makes a good premed applicant there will always be statistics on how much research or volunteering people do, grades, etc. but the people who do the best have an special achievement/skill that make them essentially unique amongst applicant. So I would figure out a way to get something like that in your wheelhouse.
 
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Cnote

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Hi everyone, I don't see much talk about how to win at the premed and med school game for students with learning disabilities so I'd like to offer my advice for anyone interested.

I have dyslexia, dysgraphia, and auditory processing disorder. Wasn't impressive in high school, went to an unknown liberal arts undergrad, 3.93 undergrad GPA, and scored in the 99th percentile on the MCAT. Learning disabilities have forced me to work extremely hard to achieve what I have and I hope to make the road a little easier for the readers of this thread.

Ask me anything!
Hi, Thank you for your post and being open for questions. I was in a car accident 2 years ago, 2 months out from my MCAT date. I ended up canceling the exam and was in TBI OP rehab for 9 months. Resultantly, my post psych testing for ability showed my brain was functioning well and in the top 2%. However, my vision due to the accident made my reading rate extremely low. So far I am told it’s a convergence problem. I share this because while I had a 3.9 GPA, my MCAT score was right at the 50th percentile. I had an accommodation for extra time due to my vision, while I definitely needed it, it did not seem to help my score. Something does not seem right since I have my rehab team telling me I am highly capable and my high GPA, but my MCAT falls short. I did have to take the test over 2 days which was horrible. So now I’m looking at a second take for the MCAT and I don’t know what to do, what resources to use, how not to drain my vision. I am sure you understand with all of your challenges. PS I’m a non trad premed and current speech pathologist, my specially is dyslexia, dyscalculia, and processing!
I feel like I don’t know how to approach the exam again. Any input on how and what to use is appreciated. The first time I used Kaplan,Khan and AAMC resources. I would categorize myself too as someone who works hard. I put in the work with many hours. After taking the exam I felt my weakness was the research based passages. I did well on CARS. I worked very hard during MCAT study, unfortunately I had to take the exam 2 years post my car accident which put me 2 1/2 years out from when I finished my post-bac. Thanks so much for reading.
 

Pwny

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I was diagnosed with ADHD at the tail end of college, and had to conclude my long undergrad (8 years) career with a 2.6 cGPA and 1.9 sGPA. After graduation, I decided to do a 45-unit DIY post-bac. During this time, I worked as a research coordinator and finished a publication. I concluded my post-bac with a 3.8 sGPA. Unfortunately, my cGPA didn't change much, and is still below 3.0.

I write all of this because despite the student I have become, a part of me is concerned that adcoms may still think I can't handle medical school. I have heard good and bad things about disclosing medical conditions, but ultimately feel it's important to address in my personal statement.

I will be asking a few professors for LORs, many of whom are aware of my ADHD and have seen me work hard in their classes. Some have offered to address it in their letters. Did you also disclose your LD to your letter writers?
 

TheTortoise

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I was diagnosed with ADHD at the tail end of college, and had to conclude my long undergrad (8 years) career with a 2.6 cGPA and 1.9 sGPA. After graduation, I decided to do a 45-unit DIY post-bac. During this time, I worked as a research coordinator and finished a publication. I concluded my post-bac with a 3.8 sGPA. Unfortunately, my cGPA didn't change much, and is still below 3.0.

I write all of this because despite the student I have become, a part of me is concerned that adcoms may still think I can't handle medical school. I have heard good and bad things about disclosing medical conditions, but ultimately feel it's important to address in my personal statement.

I will be asking a few professors for LORs, many of whom are aware of my ADHD and have seen me work hard in their classes. Some have offered to address it in their letters. Did you also disclose your LD to your letter writers?

Wow great job achieving such a huge jump in GPA. You have a lot to be proud of :)

Only one of my letter writers was aware of my LDs and put it in the letter (I didn't ask her to though). If I were in your shoes I would have my letter writers include it. Your application needs to tell a story and your academic turn around despite ADHD should be a part of it. The big idea is that you really need to put every effort into building the strongest application because (as you know) the numbers are against you. I'm a big fan of talking to your letter writers and coordinating your personal statement with what they are going to say in their letters. That way you get the most evidence of the key 3 or so qualities you are trying to showcase.

What does the rest of your application look like?
 

TheTortoise

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Hi, Thank you for your post and being open for questions. I was in a car accident 2 years ago, 2 months out from my MCAT date. I ended up canceling the exam and was in TBI OP rehab for 9 months. Resultantly, my post psych testing for ability showed my brain was functioning well and in the top 2%. However, my vision due to the accident made my reading rate extremely low. So far I am told it’s a convergence problem. I share this because while I had a 3.9 GPA, my MCAT score was right at the 50th percentile. I had an accommodation for extra time due to my vision, while I definitely needed it, it did not seem to help my score. Something does not seem right since I have my rehab team telling me I am highly capable and my high GPA, but my MCAT falls short. I did have to take the test over 2 days which was horrible. So now I’m looking at a second take for the MCAT and I don’t know what to do, what resources to use, how not to drain my vision. I am sure you understand with all of your challenges. PS I’m a non trad premed and current speech pathologist, my specially is dyslexia, dyscalculia, and processing!
I feel like I don’t know how to approach the exam again. Any input on how and what to use is appreciated. The first time I used Kaplan,Khan and AAMC resources. I would categorize myself too as someone who works hard. I put in the work with many hours. After taking the exam I felt my weakness was the research based passages. I did well on CARS. I worked very hard during MCAT study, unfortunately I had to take the exam 2 years post my car accident which put me 2 1/2 years out from when I finished my post-bac. Thanks so much for reading.

I'm so sorry you're going through this. Its really a shame a test can get in the way of people in your situation.

So what I'm getting from your post is that you are smart, hard working, and the main problem is endurance from difficulty reading. Which is the same situation I found myself in preparing for the MCAT. What was your test taking approach for each section and how did you choose each strategy?

What I recommend is:
1) Give up on reading speed: Reading will always be draining so focus on conserving energy by making other moments that require energy easier. For me that meant that I made sure I was unbelievably solid on the material being tested and had seen every practice question available so that I could answer the questions immediately. That gave me more energy I could shunt towards reading.

2) Relentless experimentation: When I took the test I really sucked at the CARS questions. Like 70th percentile on a good day. Then I looked at the verbal strategies in every resource I could find (including the SDN threads). Every week I would try a different strategy and record my scores waiting for a week where my score jumped ~10%. Once I found that strategy I stuck with it and got even better at it. So a few weeks out from my test I got that 10% jump, kept practicing it and finished in the 99.7th percentile in that section. I must have gone through 10 strategies and it takes a lot of faith to wait for the 10% jump, but once you get it you can get those huge score improvements.

3) Perfect preparation for test day: For 3 weeks before my test I took the same amount of Zquill, woke up at the same time, ate the same breakfast, drank the same amount of water, drank coffee at the same rate, took my practice tests under the exact situations of the test and that helped test day go off without a hitch.

What were your practice test scores like? What was the challenge with the research based questions?
 

Pwny

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Wow great job achieving such a huge jump in GPA. You have a lot to be proud of :)

Only one of my letter writers was aware of my LDs and put it in the letter (I didn't ask her to though). If I were in your shoes I would have my letter writers include it. Your application needs to tell a story and your academic turn around despite ADHD should be a part of it. The big idea is that you really need to put every effort into building the strongest application because (as you know) the numbers are against you. I'm a big fan of talking to your letter writers and coordinating your personal statement with what they are going to say in their letters. That way you get the most evidence of the key 3 or so qualities you are trying to showcase.

What does the rest of your application look like?

Thanks! It wasn't the most graceful jump, but I eventually found my stride!

Yeah, the odds aren't in my favor when it comes to the numbers. When I applied to formal post-bac programs before my DIY, I coordinated my PS with my letter writers, and a majority of them wrote about my previous struggles with ADHD. I was told that my rejection was because of the numbers; apparently, my application wasn't even reviewed because I was filtered out. :dead: If my application had been read, I wasn't sure how the mention of ADHD would affect my overall application, so thanks for the input! I think I will go ahead and do that for my med school apps.

As for the rest of my application, I have ~4,000 hours working/volunteering in emergency departments, free clinics, and operating rooms. I worked as an ED scribe for one year and did 2 years of clinical research in an ED, then worked for 3 years doing wet lab research, and 6 years doing public health research with my alma mater's medical school. I'll have 6 letter writers, some being from this school.

Haven't taken the MCAT yet, but am planning to set aside 6 months before taking the exam in March 2020. It's a long time because I'm concerned with time management in an exam setting. My post-bac exams were provided with extended time which won't be afforded to me for the MCAT. So, I want to spend 3 months dedicated to learning content, and the other 3 working on being an efficient test-taker and keeping my test anxiety at bay! Any suggestions on tackling this issue?

By the way, thanks so much for this thread! For a long time, I felt alone with my struggles, so it's really inspiring to read about people like you overcoming it all! :)
 
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