Met two people with MCAT less than 500, how? + What they said

Jul 5, 2017
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So, this week I met two people who were coincidently good friends prior to medical school with lower MCATs attending the same school
--My question at the end...

The first guy is a URM with a 497 and a 3.5
The second guy is a ORM with a 500(sorry its technically not less than 500) and a 3.9
I didn't know them well and they seemed busy so the conversation didn't go too in depth.
They told me they applied to their respective state schools and other private schools with lower stats.
They are not from any of those "magic states" i often see on here
One said he applied to "alot" of schools, and got in at 2, the other person didn't comment on this.

I asked them what they think they did right, and they both said they believe they had good LOR's and alot of strong EC's among other things.
They believe their two strongest EC's are:
- that they had a couple thousand hours volunteering in underserved communities doing a bunch of different stuff
- they both also said they spent significant time abroad helping in third world countries as well

My question is: How important were those LOR'S and those specific EC's to adcoms? Do you need to do something extraordinary like that with a low MCAT? Do you think something else helped that they're leaving out, or is their explanation possible?

P.S-- These two people aren't the first people I met like this, but they are the first ones that answered my questions.
-I am not in their old situation but I hope this post helps someone out there
 
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I'm a little more than shocked at the 500 but... that said... sometimes applications get moved to the reject pile because nothing stands about any aspect of it: 3.75, 512, 100 hours shadowing, 100 hours volunteering, 100 hours clinical, are a dime a dozen (speaking as someone who has family as current adcom of US allopathic med school and been given their thoughts on MY package).

It would also seem the 500 applied to a broad spectrum of schools... which is the correct way to do things. Remember, tho, there is a certain % that is admitted and matriculated that don't fit into the lowest combo of GPA/MCAT. That 500 could be that 1 of 3 people admitted last year.

P.S. Fix "alot" before a certain cat loving DO adcom gives you a little chuckle :D
 

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While I cannot speak for the former scenario, going to foreign countries to provide untrained medical help, or taking labor away from the economy will likely be seen negatively by adcoms. Voluntourism is bad mkay.
 
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I don't want to say this, but remember one is URM, although I'm surprised that the other one is ORM.
Usually ORM means over-represented and should not be favored right?
 
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I'm a little more than shocked at the 500 but... that said... sometimes applications get moved to the reject pile because nothing stands about any aspect of it: 3.75, 512, 100 hours shadowing, 100 hours volunteering, 100 hours clinical, are a dime a dozen (speaking as someone who has family as current adcom of US allopathic med school and been given their thoughts on MY package).

It would also seem the 500 applied to a broad spectrum of schools... which is the correct way to do things. Remember, tho, there is a certain % that is admitted and matriculated that don't fit into the lowest combo of GPA/MCAT. That 500 could be that 1 of 3 people admitted last year.

P.S. Fix "alot" before a certain cat loving DO adcom gives you a little chuckle :D
why does the 500 one stand out more? and do you believe their EC's were more average or did it truly set them apart?
 

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This is impossible to say because you don't know their application profile + quality of their essays + quality of letters that got them the interviews. And probably they don't know either. All we know is something in their application got a school's interest to interview them and they did well enough to be accepted.
 

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While I cannot speak for the former scenario, going to foreign countries to provide untrained medical help, or taking labor away from the economy will likely be seen negatively by adcoms. Voluntourism is bad mkay.
Volunteering in developing countries does NOT = medical tourism or anything else. That could have been through various agencies like Red Cross, etc.

Don't presume.

why does the 500 one stand out more? and do you believe their EC's were more average or did it truly set them apart?
ORM with a 500... I think any ORM AND URM must have something extraordinary to get into the interview bucket pipeline. There has to be something for them to get beyond the screeners...

No idea on their EC's...
 
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I don't want to say this, but remember one is URM, although I'm surprised that the other one is ORM.
Usually ORM means over-represented and should not be favored right?
Yeah im not sure about being favored but maybe it had something to do with the EC's Im not sure
 
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Volunteering in developing countries does NOT = medical tourism or anything else. That could have been through various agencies like Red Cross, etc.

Don't presume.
If I wanted to do this, would volunteering outside organizations like red cross be bad? Like if I could find a clinic abroad and volunteer there would it be "medical tourism"?
 

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If I wanted to do this, would volunteering outside organizations like red cross be bad? Like if I could find a clinic abroad and volunteer there would it be "medical tourism"?
I'm a disaster services volunteer for the American Red Cross and it is listed on my application.

With respect to the clinic in a country like Nigeria could be seen as good or as medical tourism depending on how it came about. I have to think reading here that with a school group, it's probably like medical tourism; if it's with a sponsoring agency that is known for performing surgeries and vaccinations in developing countries, who knows with that? There could also be some frowning if you are doing medical procedures on patients when you've not been trained (unless EMT, etc).

I think YOU must follow what YOU want to do and not try to mimic what someone else did because doing what makes YOU fulfilled - outside of a med school application - makes you a better person.

Which is what volunteering is supposed to do.
 
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This is impossible to say because you don't know their application profile + quality of their essays + quality of letters that got them the interviews. And probably they don't know either. All we know is something in their application got a school's interest to interview them and they did well enough to be accepted.
So you don't think it has to do with what they attributed their success too?
and they told me their letters were excellent quality.
 

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So you don't think it has to do with what they attributed their success too?
and they told me their letters were excellent quality.
You have to get over what they did and focus on you. Get together the best application you can and stop comparing you to them.

They do not know what was in their letters unless they were given a presumed copy by the letter writer.
 

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Volunteering in developing countries does NOT = medical tourism or anything else. That could have been through various agencies like Red Cross, etc.

Don't presume.



ORM with a 500... I think any ORM AND URM must have something extraordinary to get into the interview bucket pipeline. There has to be something for them to get beyond the screeners...

No idea on their EC's...
Red Cross and Peace Corps are far rarer then "Pay $1000 to look and inject vaccines into poor people to look cool for facebook and med school apps"
 
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Red Cross and Peace Corps are far rarer then "Pay $1000 to look and inject vaccines into poor people to look cool for facebook and med school apps"
Don't disagree and I never said that but you presumed without asking first. :nono:
 

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Haha I'm just making a casual Archer reference.

I think you're spot on about the volunteering/tourism, for what it's worth. Good to keep in mind that quality experiences don't have to be flashy or extreme. Plenty of people in need in our own towns and communities if you know where to look


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Haha I'm just making a casual Archer reference.

I think you're spot on about the volunteering/tourism, for what it's worth. Good to keep in mind that quality experiences don't have to be flashy or extreme. Plenty of people in need in our own towns and communities if you know where to look

When I was in high school and part of a nondenominational youth group, I got sent with the leaders to a smallish tribal community to build a center for youth rehab. As part of that, we went into the tribal city (kind of famous now for the pipeline issues) and what I saw was absolutely soul-crushing. Did not think about it much after I left that area until 2007 and my
first trip to Manila where I saw the same thing... One only has to look in the US to find people who need help and often, they are the ones in plain sight. Homeless without shoes or socks, homeless with broken tents and worn backpacks, elderly having mobility problems with walkers and braces, children with torn and dirty clothing, and worse.
 

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Because there is more to this process than simple numbers. They are important of course, but a 3.9/25 isn't so rare it should be shocking.
 
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efle

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SDN vastly overestimates any effect that being URM/ORM has an one's admissions likelihood
I mean, numbers are numbers. Being Asian vs black with a typical admitted GPA (~3.7) and a high 20s MCAT means odds of 35% vs 87%, respectively. That's an absolutely massive difference.

If there are any estimation errors going on here, I think you underestimate how much of a standout you were in other areas to net 5 admits and a scholarship when only about a third of that bin gets in !
 
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I'm white and had a <30 MCAT, got 10 interviews, 5 acceptances, and a significant scholarship at one school. SDN vastly overestimates any effect that being URM/ORM has an one's admissions likelihood. If you're a solid applicant and can have a normal human conversation without coming off like a jackass, you'll be fine, regardless of race.
You are right. My bad. I apologize. Also congratulation with your success.
 
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I'm white and had a <30 MCAT, got 10 interviews, 5 acceptances, and a significant scholarship at one school. SDN vastly overestimates any effect that being URM/ORM has an one's admissions likelihood. If you're a solid applicant and can have a normal human conversation without coming off like a jackass, you'll be fine, regardless of race.
This. My friend received acceptances to a few DO schools and eventually landed an MD spot at our state school. Her MCAT was a 500 and her GPA was around a 3.6. As for her EC's and LOR, I believe they were fairly strong.
 
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AnatomyGrey12

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I agree to an extent. Yes, I had a strong application in every aspect other than my MCAT score, but my ECs were fairly comparable to most of the other pre-meds at my school. Yes, numbers are numbers, but you can't accurately consider those out of context of the rest of the application which involves more than just race. Moreover, black applicants have a 36% acceptance rate overall; Asian applicants are at 42%. Despite policies to increase URM representation in the medical field, URM students are by definition still underrepresented in medical school and among physicians. So at least in this example, it's pretty clear that there is something about being a URM applicant vs an ORM applicant that makes it more disadvantageous to be URM in the grand scheme of things.
You are misinterpreting the data here. The overall data is so low because there are very few even applying, and very few of those who even apply have what SDN would consider decent numbers. If you break it down into statistical categories rhebdiscrepancy you describe goes away even in the low stat categories. This is why if a URM (particularly male African Americans) have GPAs around 3.7 and an MCAT around 513 they are advised to apply very top heavy. They are an extremely hot commodity.
 
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Goro

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So, this week I met two people who were coincidently good friends prior to medical school with lower MCATs attending the same school
--My question at the end...

The first guy is a URM with a 497 and a 3.5
The second guy is a ORM with a 500(sorry its technically not less than 500) and a 3.9
I didn't know them well and they seemed busy so the conversation didn't go too in depth.
They told me they applied to their respective state schools and other private schools with lower stats.
They are not from any of those "magic states" i often see on here
One said he applied to "alot" of schools, and got in at 2, the other person didn't comment on this.

I asked them what they think they did right, and they both said they believe they had good LOR's and alot of strong EC's among other things.
They believe their two strongest EC's are:
- that they had a couple thousand hours volunteering in underserved communities doing a bunch of different stuff
- they both also said they spent significant time abroad helping in third world countries as well

My question is: How important were those LOR'S and those specific EC's to adcoms? Do you need to do something extraordinary like that with a low MCAT? Do you think something else helped that they're leaving out, or is their explanation possible?

P.S-- These two people aren't the first people I met like this, but they are the first ones that answered my questions.
-I am not in their old situation but I hope this post helps someone out there
Normally, SDNers are astounded that people with very high stats do NOT get into med school, but this is, I think a first post at the opposite end.

First off, SDNers should not think that med school admissions boils down to a single metric. This is pre-med thinking at its worst.
Int he post above there are sevral things that suggest how applicants with a single poor metric could be successful.

One is URM status. The name of the school the person got into is not known. It could be a state school, or one of the HBCs, depending upon the candidate's ethnicity.

And here's the second clue, even bolded int he text:
- that they had a couple thousand hours volunteering in underserved communities doing a bunch of different stuff
- they both also said they spent significant time abroad helping in third world countries as well

If there's one think I've learned from SDN after being here for > 5 years, it's that med schools LIKE service to others.

Somebody has to be in the < 10th %ile. Why not these two people?

Other things that lead to success for people with lower stats:
Veteran status
Killer ECs (as above)
Compelling life story
Legacies

And LORs do not have magic qualities, people. They're not going to get anyone in med school by themselves. Neither will your essays.

Capeesh?
 

TheBiologist

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I'm a little more than shocked at the 500 but... that said... sometimes applications get moved to the reject pile because nothing stands about any aspect of it: 3.75, 512, 100 hours shadowing, 100 hours volunteering, 100 hours clinical, are a dime a dozen (speaking as someone who has family as current adcom of US allopathic med school and been given their thoughts on MY package).

It would also seem the 500 applied to a broad spectrum of schools... which is the correct way to do things. Remember, tho, there is a certain % that is admitted and matriculated that don't fit into the lowest combo of GPA/MCAT. That 500 could be that 1 of 3 people admitted last year.

P.S. Fix "alot" before a certain cat loving DO adcom gives you a little chuckle :D
Not to hijack this thread, but wouldn't someone with a 512/3.75 and 100 hours each volunteering, research, shadow etc. be a fairly good applicant from a statistical standpoint? certainly above average?
 

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So regardless of the reason that discrepancy exists, the fact remains that even if you get a few bonus points in the actual review process, being a black applicant still puts you at a significant disadvantage compared to ORM students.
No it doesn't. For the applicants that meet the threshold of minimum competence for being able to pass medical school it is a large advantage.

Unless you believe that black students are less able to perform well on the MCAT due to inherent, internal factors, there is obviously some systemic factor(s) that make it more difficult for black applicants to get into medical school overall, as evidenced by their continued URM status and a 6% lower admission rate.
Yes I do believe that socioeconomic status and the inherent systemic issues (lack of educational support, infrastructure, advising, quality teachers, etc) facing many African American communities leads to lower GPAs and scores, many low enough that schools feel they can't risk that student failing out. If an applicant makes it to the actual application stage with at least stats high enough to show potential for making it through a medical school curriculum then they are at a significant advantage, as evidence by their much higher acceptance rates in these statistical bins compared to their ORM counterparts.

Unfortunately we have inherent educational infrastructure issues that prevent many future doctors from developing the educational skills necessary to succeed, and they don't even get to the point of application, and many who do make it that pose too much of an academic risk for failure in a brutal medical curriculum and schools feel they can't take the chance. The ones who do overcome these systemic issues have large advantages in admissions, and rightly so.
 
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You have to get over what they did and focus on you. Get together the best application you can and stop comparing you to them.

They do not know what was in their letters unless they were given a presumed copy by the letter writer.
Your right, Thanks
No it doesn't. For the applicants that meet the threshold of minimum competence for being able to pass medical school it is a large advantage.



Yes I do believe that socioeconomic status and the inherent systemic issues (lack of educational support, infrastructure, advising, quality teachers, etc) facing many African American communities leads to lower GPAs and scores, many low enough that schools feel they can't risk that student failing out. If an applicant makes it to the actual application stage with at least stats high enough to show potential for making it through a medical school curriculum then they are at a significant advantage, as evidence by their much higher acceptance rates in these statistical bins compared to their ORM counterparts.

Unfortunately we have inherent educational infrastructure issues that prevent many future doctors from developing the educational skills necessary to succeed, and they don't even get to the point of application, and many who do make it that pose too much of an academic risk for failure in a brutal medical curriculum and schools feel they can't take the chance. The ones who do overcome these systemic issues have large advantages in admissions, and rightly so.
I think the "socioeconomic status and the inherent systemic issues" is a true URM's biggest disadvantage which is why I can understand why one is saying they are more disadvantaged than a ORM, because those issues are very significant factors.

However, I do also agree with you in the "The ones who do overcome these systemic issues have large advantages in admissions, and rightly so." A true URM to overcome such issues is to me very impressive.
 
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Normally, SDNers are astounded that people with very high stats do NOT get into med school, but this is, I think a first post at the opposite end.

First off, SDNers should not think that med school admissions boils down to a single metric. This is pre-med thinking at its worst.
Int he post above there are sevral things that suggest how applicants with a single poor metric could be successful.

One is URM status. The name of the school the person got into is not known. It could be a state school, or one of the HBCs, depending upon the candidate's ethnicity.

And here's the second clue, even bolded int he text:
- that they had a couple thousand hours volunteering in underserved communities doing a bunch of different stuff
- they both also said they spent significant time abroad helping in third world countries as well

If there's one think I've learned from SDN after being here for > 5 years, it's that med schools LIKE service to others.

Somebody has to be in the < 10th %ile. Why not these two people?

Other things that lead to success for people with lower stats:
Veteran status
Killer ECs (as above)
Compelling life story
Legacies

And LORs do not have magic qualities, people. They're not going to get anyone in med school by themselves. Neither will your essays.

Capeesh?
Thank you, this ties things up well.
 

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Not to hijack this thread, but wouldn't someone with a 512/3.75 and 100 hours each volunteering, research, shadow etc. be a fairly good applicant from a statistical standpoint? certainly above average?
Absolutely. In fact, this is the median acceptee for MD schools.
 

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Not to hijack this thread, but wouldn't someone with a 512/3.75 and 100 hours each volunteering, research, shadow etc. be a fairly good applicant from a statistical standpoint? certainly above average?
Be fairly good? Yes, of course...

BUT those stats are normal; what might be the reason for the 500 get a more thorough review is that 500 is so ABnormal. That was my point. Sometimes, though perhaps not often, it's okay to be the outlier because you get seen... that 528 w/ 3.3 and that 500 with a 3.9...

I think the "socioeconomic status and the inherent systemic issues" is a true URM's biggest disadvantage
SES also can apply to ORM which is often lost today... just because someone doesn't fit an ethnicity or racial category, doesn't mean they are not SES.
 
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Also some Asians aren't ORM (idk if the guy here was Asian or not but still, an interesting point). I had a couple friends from UG that were South Asian and they were considered Hmong/Laotian URM at several Cali/Midwest places.
 
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If I wanted to do this, would volunteering outside organizations like red cross be bad? Like if I could find a clinic abroad and volunteer there would it be "medical tourism"?
I think you need to view your package in its totality, and it would be your ability to weave together the various components of the application in a way that illustrated your maturity and commitment to medicine that would most helpful. So, whether Red Cross volunteerism is "good" or "bad" has to be contextualized within the framework of your application. That being said, I would suspect volunteering through the Red Cross could not help but be viewed in a favorable light.
 

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I think you need to view your package in its totality, and it would be your ability to weave together the various components of the application in a way that illustrated your maturity and commitment to medicine that would most helpful. So, whether Red Cross volunteerism is "good" or "bad" has to be contextualized within the framework of your application. That being said, I would suspect volunteering through the Red Cross could not help but be viewed in a favorable light.
There are some commendable overseas volunteering. What we discourage and look down upon is the one week mission trip that really is about the applicant's CV, and not about helping people.
 
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I think you need to view your package in its totality, and it would be your ability to weave together the various components of the application in a way that illustrated your maturity and commitment to medicine that would most helpful. So, whether Red Cross volunteerism is "good" or "bad" has to be contextualized within the framework of your application. That being said, I would suspect volunteering through the Red Cross could not help but be viewed in a favorable light.
LOL at package totality
 
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There are some commendable overseas volunteering. What we discourage and look down upon is the one week mission trip that really is about the applicant's CV, and not about helping people.
I think you need to view your package in its totality, and it would be your ability to weave together the various components of the application in a way that illustrated your maturity and commitment to medicine that would most helpful. So, whether Red Cross volunteerism is "good" or "bad" has to be contextualized within the framework of your application. That being said, I would suspect volunteering through the Red Cross could not help but be viewed in a favorable light.
I have the opportunity to volunteer in a third world country, in a health clinic for around 2 months or so. The conditions are overwhelmingly indigent and possibly dangerous. I am doing this on my own through a connection with a physician, not red cross or something similar. What I was trying to get at is, will doing something like this look bad on my end? Im not sure the time frame one would have to stay for it to show that I didn't do it for my CV, or since I didn't do it through an official organization im not sure if Im crossing boundaries. I want to take this trip but thinking of my future I may have to reevaluate if the trip comes off in a negative light. Thanks
 

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I have the opportunity to volunteer in a third world country, in a health clinic for around 2 months or so. The conditions are overwhelmingly indigent and possibly dangerous. I am doing this on my own through a connection with a physician, not red cross or something similar. What I was trying to get at is, will doing something like this look bad on my end? Im not sure the time frame one would have to stay for it to show that I didn't do it for my CV, or since I didn't do it through an official organization im not sure if Im crossing boundaries. I want to take this trip but thinking of my future I may have to reevaluate if the trip comes off in a negative light. Thanks
We have come to look askance at these "mission trips."
The net effect can do more harm than good (displacing local workers with "free" pre-meds...)
Take a look at this survey: https://www.aamc.org/download/474346/data/clinicalexperiencesshadowingsurvey.pdf
 
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We have come to look askance at these "mission trips."
The net effect can do more harm than good (displacing local workers with "free" pre-meds...)
Take a look at this survey: https://www.aamc.org/download/474346/data/clinicalexperiencesshadowingsurvey.pdf
Assuming not all these activities are doing bad things to the local population (like working with local physicians, bringing supplies from overseas, etc.) I think this can be offset if the interviewee does a good job explaining that it was in partnership with the community instead of coming in briefly then leaving with little lasting benefit.
 

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Assuming not all these activities are doing bad things to the local population (like working with local physicians, bringing supplies from overseas, etc.) I think this can be offset if the interviewee does a good job explaining that it was in partnership with the community instead of coming in briefly then leaving with little lasting benefit.
These things are practically a fixture in applications.
We realize that most applicants lack the sophistication to critically evaluate these "missions" and thus try not to let our distaste for most of them bleed into our evaluation of the candidate (whether they have figured out how to frame the experience or not). That said, anyone who has one of these things on their application should be able to answer how they know that their presence did not displace a local worker who would have been able to make a living wage and provide care long after the missionaries have gone home.

I look forward to the day I see pre-meds finding ways to train local people to provide on-going care instead of showing up as unskilled providers of that care.
 
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These things are practically a fixture in applications.
We realize that most applicants lack the sophistication to critically evaluate these "missions" and thus try not to let our distaste for most of them bleed into our evaluation of the candidate (whether they have figured out how to frame the experience or not). That said, anyone who has one of these things on their application should be able to answer how they know that their presence did not displace a local worker who would have been able to make a living wage and provide care long after the missionaries have gone home.

I look forward to the day I see pre-meds finding ways to train local people to provide on-going care instead of showing up as unskilled providers of that care.
In the volunteer-ship I am thinking of going to overseas, I do not think I would be taking a position from a local worker. My responsibilities would frankly be overtly mundane; passing out clean water, comforting patients, and other responsibilities similar to the responsibilities of a hospital volunteer in the U.S. Also the overseas position I seek is working alongside physician and nurses and I'm not sure anyone there would be getting paid to do what I plan on doing. So to you does that sound like a candidate that you would look at negatively, and if not do you think its wise to do it?
 

gyngyn

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In the volunteer-ship I am thinking of going to overseas, I do not think I would be taking a position from a local worker. My responsibilities would frankly be overtly mundane; passing out clean water, comforting patients, and other responsibilities similar to the responsibilities of a hospital volunteer in the U.S. Also the overseas position I seek is working alongside physician and nurses and I'm not sure anyone there would be getting paid to do what I plan on doing. So to you does that sound like a candidate that you would look at negatively, and if not do you think its wise to do it?
If your supervisors would have paid a local worker to do the job you would be doing, don't go.
If your job is entirely superfluous, then there is no harm.
 
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Piglet2020

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Also some Asians aren't ORM (idk if the guy here was Asian or not but still, an interesting point). I had a couple friends from UG that were South Asian and they were considered Hmong/Laotian URM at several Cali/Midwest places.
On applications, I dont think there is a place to specify you're a South Asian. I think all Asians are grouped under the big "Asian" label, unless you're a Pacific Islander. (Which is kinda unfair, considering that many Asian groups are underrepresented in medicine).

Correct me if I'm wrong but being half Taiwanese doesn't count as being a Pacific Islander right? I'm half but just checked off "Asian" on my app.
 

gyngyn

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On applications, I dont think there is a place to specify you're a South Asian. I think all Asians are grouped under the big "Asian" label, unless you're a Pacific Islander. (Which is kinda unfair, considering that many Asian groups are underrepresented in medicine).

Correct me if I'm wrong but being half Taiwanese doesn't count as being a Pacific Islander right? I'm half but just checked off "Asian" on my app.
Although Asians (including Taiwanese) are well represented, each Asian culture has a distinct experience.
There is usually a place to discuss this without appearing to "game" for under-representation.
There are sub-groups (e.g. Hmong, Cambodian...) who can legitimately point to healthcare disparities that might merit further consideration, especially if they speak their language fluently.
 
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md-2020

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On applications, I dont think there is a place to specify you're a South Asian. I think all Asians are grouped under the big "Asian" label, unless you're a Pacific Islander. (Which is kinda unfair, considering that many Asian groups are underrepresented in medicine).

Correct me if I'm wrong but being half Taiwanese doesn't count as being a Pacific Islander right? I'm half but just checked off "Asian" on my app.
You could very reasonably put "Other Asian" and list what it is that you identify as. Though most schools won't care, some do (those with significant URM communities that match your background near the school/in the state). Preferably in secondaries you'd talk more about how this identity has influenced you (i.e. in a diversity essay).

Taiwanese is just regular ORM East Asian.
 
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