Sep 14, 2010
266
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I'm a recent graduate in psychology, and I just finished sending out my applications to doctoral programs in clinical neuropsychology geared mostly toward research. I thought I'd feel really relieved at this. Instead I'm just left wondering why I didn't do premed in undergrad... especially toward the end of my career I really noticed that I was finding endocrinology and A&P a lot more appealing than developmental psychology. When I was a research assistant I was usually working alongside neuro-majors who wanted to go into medicine, as opposed to other psychology majors. For a while I thought clinical neuropsychology was probably for me, but I've been hearing such bad things about the state of clinical psychology lately... from psychologsts, that it just doesn't seem worth it.

Anyhow... I thought I might consider psychiatry over psychology. I don't know much about the medical school admissions process but I'm wondering what it would take for me to turn myself around and go that route, or if I should:

Undergrad GPA: 3.6
Standardized Tests: I think I generally test well; I received a 1400 on the GRE. I don't know how comparable the MCATs are to other standardized tests.
Research Experience: 18 months of research in psychopharmacology and behavioral neuroscience
Clinical Experience: None. While this isn't as much of a problem in research-oriented clinical psychology programs, I don't know what medical admissions committees expect.

For my coursework...
Biology- a lot; also plenty of psychology and neuroscience
Chemistry- 8 credits of general
Statistics- 8 credits of statistics
Calculus- 4 credits of calculus
Physics- none

So I'm wondering if its feasible at all to try and switch gears if I still feel this way after admissions decisions come out. And what else should I do to build a solid application? I had considered taking physics and organic chemistry at a local state college - I don't know if that would be frowned upon. Do I also need more calculus? And what kind of clinical experience is available that I should seek out?

Thank you, and I'm sorry for the long and meandering post. I thought it belonged here rather than in the WAMC forum since I'm not actually applying so much as seeking advice on possibly gearing myself more toward medicine.
 

Lunasly

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May 17, 2010
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I am just a freshman so take my advice lightly. I am not quite sure which direction to point you in other then the fact that I think you would still have to complete the pre-reqs I enter medical school (i.e. Organic Chemistry).
 
OP
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Sep 14, 2010
266
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Pre-Health (Field Undecided)
Well my question was more or less if it would be held against me if I completed them as a non matriculated student at local state college as opposed to my alma mater.
 

barcoderider

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Jan 27, 2010
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3 years ago, when I was just entering my 3rd year of college and majoring in Psychology, I realized that I was more interested in medicine, so I know where you're coming from.

I'm currently applying and interviewing. Hopefully I'll have an acceptance soon.

I think you have a good chance of getting accepted to medical school if you play your cards right and put in some hard work, but you likely wouldn't be able to begin medical school for at least 2 years.

1. Courses: usually medical schools require 1 year general bio with labs, 1 year general chemistry with labs, 1 year ochem with labs, a semester of calc, a year of physics, and maybe a semester of stats. Do some research and find out if the Chem and Bio you've taken count for any of those; they may or they may not. If it was something like "chemistry for humanities majors" that won't cut it. It would be fine to take the courses at a state school, preferable to taking them at a community college like many people in your position have to.

2. Clinical experience: get on that right away. One, to make sure you really want to do this, and two because it's the one thing that medical schools absolutely require. Just go volunteer at your local hospital if you're not sure what else to do.

3. Numbers: GPA is a bit low by this forums standards, but around average for a medical school applicant. Make sure you get solid A's in any additional courses you take from here on out. As I understand it 1400 on the GRE is pretty good (though I'm not familiar with that test at all) You need to crack 30 on the MCAT, which is 80th percentile or so. Don't worry about taking that until after Ochem and Physics, but don't underestimate it when you do.

It won't be easy, but not impossible either. Good luck!:luck:
 

Suenya

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I know how you feel. I'm still not sure I made the right decision, but I switched from applying to PhD clinical psych before finishing a few applications (I think Yale and BU went out and that was it). I took my prereqs senior year and some the year after graduating.

Your research will be a strong benefit. You need to find something clinical if your research isn't. Shadowing a local doctor is probably the best bet. Quite honestly, if you worked a few hours in a psych unit or for a local VA as a psych tech while doing your prereqs, that would probably be enough. My clinical experience was all work stuff I did after graduating, both while finishing prereqs and making sure I knew I wanted to do MD instead of PhD. Things like research with PTSD, working with autistic kids in a residential setting, and working in patient placement/social work in the psych part of an ED. Nothing more medical than that. If you don't want to do psychiatry though, you probably would want to shadow other docs instead to see if their day to day job is as interesting as the subject they work with are.

That's a pretty strong GRE score. The MCAT is a test like most standardized tests, but you need to know the prereq knowledge, instead of just some words and geometry like you do for the GRE. With a 1400 I would be surprised if you had trouble scoring >32/33 though, so you should be fine.

For prereqs, you may or may not need Bio. They need you to have taken intro bio, and alot of biopsych/neuroscience will count towards your science GPA, but not the prereqs. Physics you probably will need too, although places are more forgiving about. You will need to take Orgo sadly. I would not take more calculus. Very few places require it or care. Take them anywhere you want. If an undergrad takes them some random place, it looks worse than if you're already out. That shouldn't matter.

But really, you should do a bunch of shadowing. If you end up following through with medicine, you'll get many questions on why you changed your mind on your interviews. The shadowing will alleviate concerns that you don't really know what you're getting into because you changed your mind so late.

Now, with that out of the way: I wonder if I should have gone clinical neuropsych instead of medical school now that I'm here. I like learning things, but the pace makes it less enjoyable than it would be otherwise, and there is alot I just don't get that excited about. I think I'll prefer being a psychiatrist than I would a psychologist, but I'm pretty sure the years spent in school (and with the work hours, maybe residency) would be more enjoyable as a PhD student, and this is not some small amount of time to trade off. I think I made the right choice, but I'm not sure. You should think long and hard about this decision.

On the plus side, psychiatrists make more money and have far better job security.
 
OP
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Sep 14, 2010
266
1
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Pre-Health (Field Undecided)
Thank you for the replies. Its good to know that my situation is salvageable (and that my change of heart isn't unusual), and that my my pre-clinical research experience will have some value.

As for volunteering and ECs... I'm seeing a lot of people with non-clinical volunteer work? Do they care about that? From what I gathered about Clinical Psychology they don't, and are mostly looking for signs that you'd make a great scientist. I don't know if in medicine they're looking for more general volunteer work, or if that's just CV padding that they'll skim over.

As for clinical experience, or more specifically, shadowing a doctor... I feel like it might be difficult to get that experience now that I've just graduated - as important as I gather it to be. Would volunteering at a hospital be a good way to make connections to shadow someone in the future?

...and as a very last note... I don't know if medical school applications require letters of recommendation, but if they do, would asking professors who'd written letters of reference for my neuropsych programs be a faux pas? And are there any other potential references I should be trying to obtain?

(My minor was biology and 'most' of my senior year of college was spent on that: I've taken introductory courses, physiology, cell, neurobiology, and endocrinology all with labs. The chemistry courses I took were lab classes and prerequisites for orgo. It seems like what I need are a year of physics w/ lab, and a year of organic chemistry w/ lab. So I don't think I have much further to go with regard to coursework)
 

osteohopeful09

7+ Year Member
Nov 30, 2009
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heres the deal, my fiancee is a 2nd year in clinical psych, and I am a first year DO school.

Psychology...well, first off, don't go into it for money (same goes for medicine). psychologists barely make $100,000, average is close to $65,000 nowadays. Mos psychologists also teach or write or something, to make a bit more on the side. You might not care about income, but I feel after 5+ years in a psych program, the compensation should be a bit higher.

Second, you gotta love research. Psychologists dont become renowned for their level of "care", they get well known by doing tons of tons of research, both clinical and more "lab rat" styled.

thirdly, I mean no offense by this, but a clinical psych grad program (from what I've seen indirectly), is pretty damned easy, at least compared to med school. The teachers are a lot more relaxed and laid back, and the course load is interesting but not intimidating at all. if you're in a clinically oriented program, there is is even less route-memorization, instead you spend a good amount of time doing interesting things like talking to "crazy" people.

In short I'd say psych is a lot more laid back than med school, but the lifestyle of a psychologist has different priorities than that of a physician.
 

Drrrrrr. Celty

Osteo Dullahan
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Nov 10, 2009
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heres the deal, my fiancee is a 2nd year in clinical psych, and I am a first year DO school.

Psychology...well, first off, don't go into it for money (same goes for medicine). psychologists barely make $100,000, average is close to $65,000 nowadays. Mos psychologists also teach or write or something, to make a bit more on the side. You might not care about income, but I feel after 5+ years in a psych program, the compensation should be a bit higher.

Second, you gotta love research. Psychologists dont become renowned for their level of "care", they get well known by doing tons of tons of research, both clinical and more "lab rat" styled.

thirdly, I mean no offense by this, but a clinical psych grad program (from what I've seen indirectly), is pretty damned easy, at least compared to med school. The teachers are a lot more relaxed and laid back, and the course load is interesting but not intimidating at all. if you're in a clinically oriented program, there is is even less route-memorization, instead you spend a good amount of time doing interesting things like talking to "crazy" people.

In short I'd say psych is a lot more laid back than med school, but the lifestyle of a psychologist has different priorities than that of a physician.
I wouldn't generalize this at all!
 

Suenya

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I used 2 out of 3 of the same letter writers. The last one only changed because schools require you to have one written by a BCP science professor.
 
Oct 18, 2010
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Hey a little off-topic but you seem like you would be knowledgeable about the subject. Right now I'm at a community college and I'm transferring as a psychology major next fall but I've only taken one psychology course, which was the only psych course the UC's wanted on assist.org. I like psychology and I've dealt with therapy and social workers and I am interested mostly in behavioral psych especially with troubled youth. However, my main goal is to go to medical school and become a physician. How did you get involved in psychology and at what point did you really feel a passion for psychology. I'm having alot of trouble deciding on what i truly want to major in for undergrad, and although I like psychology I can't say i was astounded/taken-aback/fell in love with my psychology 101 course. My interest is in helping people and I like talking to people, do you think the major will grow on me in further classes, or is it something that you just felt right away for psychology. Sorry my thoughts are kind of scrambled I hope you understand what I'm asking. If you don't mind can you please give me a little background on what made you want to do psychology?

Thanks.
 

Suenya

Hail Eris
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I wouldn't generalize this at all!
I would some aspects of it. A good friend is starting his clinical right now too. He has far less studying, although he has alot more grading of papers and TA responsibilities, and tons of time working on research. Far less memorization and definitely a lighter course load.

I wouldn't call it easy though. I would imagine most of it is conceptually harder, because medical school just isn't. Medical school is, for most people, much more intense than clinical psych PhDs. On the other hand, it's sort of nice knowing that my future career doesn't somewhat depend on how above and beyond I go in the program to advance as a researcher while still working on my degree.
 

Catalystik

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1) As for volunteering and ECs... I'm seeing a lot of people with non-clinical volunteer work? Do they care about that?

2) As for clinical experience, or more specifically, shadowing a doctor... I feel like it might be difficult to get that experience now that I've just graduated - as important as I gather it to be. Would volunteering at a hospital be a good way to make connections to shadow someone in the future?

3) I don't know if medical school applications require letters of recommendation, but if they do, would asking professors who'd written letters of reference for my neuropsych programs be a faux pas? And are there any other potential references I should be trying to obtain?
1) Nonclinical community service is another EC that strengthens a med school application. Looking ahead to ECs that would also be good to list if one were applying for psychiatric residency programs, you might get involved in a homeless shelter, womens shelter, or crisis hotline. BTW, teaching and leadership activities are valued as well.

2) You could volunteer in a hospital, clinic, hospice, nursing home, or rehab center, among others to gain clinical experience. An average applicant would give about 4 hours weekly for 1.5 years by the time they apply. This is a good way to meet docs whom you could hit on for shadowing opportunities, but you could also ask your own physician, those of family members, friends' parents, or cold call local docs' offices and ask if it's permitted. About 50 hours split among a few specialties is typical. One should be in primary care.

3) The usual LORs asked for are two science faculty who taught you, one nonscience, and a letter from a PI. Others occasionally asked for/used are an employment letter, volunteer coordinator letter, or physician letter.
 
OP
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Sep 14, 2010
266
1
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Pre-Health (Field Undecided)
If I'm going to be taking classes by night and fitting clinical work/shadowing into my schedule as well is it alright to forego non-clinical volunteerism?

Not that I'm opposed to the idea, but with limited time on my hands is it something I can afford not to do?

Hey a little off-topic but you seem like you would be knowledgeable about the subject. Right now I'm at a community college and I'm transferring as a psychology major next fall but I've only taken one psychology course, which was the only psych course the UC's wanted on assist.org. I like psychology and I've dealt with therapy and social workers and I am interested mostly in behavioral psych especially with troubled youth. However, my main goal is to go to medical school and become a physician. How did you get involved in psychology and at what point did you really feel a passion for psychology. I'm having alot of trouble deciding on what i truly want to major in for undergrad, and although I like psychology I can't say i was astounded/taken-aback/fell in love with my psychology 101 course. My interest is in helping people and I like talking to people, do you think the major will grow on me in further classes, or is it something that you just felt right away for psychology. Sorry my thoughts are kind of scrambled I hope you understand what I'm asking. If you don't mind can you please give me a little background on what made you want to do psychology?

Thanks.
Psychology is a very broad field, as you probably gathered from your introductory class. Its a very hit-or-miss field when it comes to arousing passion in students. My own experiences taking classes in Physiological/Biological Psychology, Conditioning, and Research Methods are what made me want to do psychology: my own general research interests are the neural substrates of memory, and neurodegenerative illness. I find this body of research to be particularly fascinating.

Judging from what you've said and the interests you professed, however, you don't seem too thrilled with experimental psychology (Introductory classes often vary but they often like to emphasize the science of the discipline). You might want to try taking a one or two more courses, maybe in developmental or abnormal psychology, since they tend to emphasize the "helping profession" aspect of the field. Its important to remember that aside from working as a lab assistant a BS in psychology does not open doors to many jobs, and you're not going to learn psychotherapy or assessment in undergrad. A psychology major is going to give you an overview of the field, its theories, and the general know-how to conduct and evaluate research. To do the kind of work you're interested in you'd be best served by looking into master's programs in social work or MFT. When it comes to the PhD (and PsyD) world of psychology research and publications are what's paramount, as osteohopeful pointed out.

In addition to the fact that I feel my academic and clinical interests are fairly close to psychiatry and neurology, one of the reasons I'm looking into medicine over psychology is the fact that 6-7 years of training to earn a PhD isn't worth the low income, poor job security, and lack of prestige.
 

Catalystik

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If I'm going to be taking classes by night and fitting clinical work/shadowing into my schedule as well is it alright to forego non-clinical volunteerism?

Not that I'm opposed to the idea, but with limited time on my hands is it something I can afford not to do?
It depends on the schools you plan to apply to. Some schools feel this is an essential component of a good application and others focus on different strengths.
 

gettheleadout

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2) You could volunteer in a hospital, clinic, hospice, nursing home, or rehab center, among others to gain clinical experience. An average applicant would give about 4 hours weekly for 1.5 years by the time they apply.
I didn't realize the average was so high...that's like 300 hours?
 
Dec 23, 2009
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Hmm, well it's great that you're really taking the time to think through this, before actually jumping in one of the graduate programs.. But I'm just wondering - are you sure that neuropsychology isn't your fit?

Just asking this, because neuropsychologists also work in a clinical field (the hospital), and see the same kinds of patients as neurologists (TBI, stroke, AD, PD, etc.). Also, from what I've heard, they get a decent pay, and that option of research is still accessible to them if they do decide to go that path. I'm just suggesting you to do a little more research on what neuropsychologists do (by either contacting and talking to them) or checking websites, etc.. In psychiatry, it's mostly about prescribing medicine, and seems to have a less focus on behavioral aspects of psychology.

But anyway, if you have good reasons for choosing the medicine path instead, then best of luck to you! Consider doing some type of 1 year SMP programs, and building up your clinical EC's on the side.
 

musafirah

im so cereal right now
Jun 14, 2009
307
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i have to say, you really don't need to worry about how many hours of clinical experience you get. people rarely scrutinize that for admissions, especially with your strong research background and other science experience. i also came from doing a lot of research (different field though) and decided to go to med school at the last minute.. and literally started my clinical volunteering the same time i started my mcat studying- so i had about 3 months of volunteer/shadow experience before sending in my application. i still got into med school. what really matters is trying to find something unique in ur experience or just showing how much you got out of it and how valuable it was to your development etc. not numbers.. how you write about it and then interview. i don't think non-clinical volunteering is as important as how you tell YOUR story and show passion and well-roundedness. lots of ways to do this.

doing the rest of ur pre-reqs at the state college is a great idea (and you dont need more calculus). --you dont need an SMP program and your gpa is decent. also make sure to do a lot of practice mcat. other than physics and organic, some schools want biochemistry and/or genetics so if you didnt take those, it would be a good idea.

good for you for getting out of psych.. its so not worth it if you can get into med school. just a sad reality =/ but if people want more PhDs and scientists passionate about their fields, there has to be better incentives. not. worth. it.
 

musafirah

im so cereal right now
Jun 14, 2009
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Oh yeah for LORs i'm sure getting letters from neuropsych profs would count as letters from science profs (you can always double check with admissions people to make sure).

and having just graduated won't make it difficult for you to shadow doctors. in fact some doctors will love to hear about what made you decide you were interested in medicine, and its a great way to find a good mentor! i think the best would be to start with any doctors you already know, and if that's not a possiblity, then talk to doctors at the hospital you volunteer at. just let them know you are interested in going to medical school and would like to shadow them. its easy.
 
OP
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Sep 14, 2010
266
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Hmm, well it's great that you're really taking the time to think through this, before actually jumping in one of the graduate programs.. But I'm just wondering - are you sure that neuropsychology isn't your fit?

Just asking this, because neuropsychologists also work in a clinical field (the hospital), and see the same kinds of patients as neurologists (TBI, stroke, AD, PD, etc.). Also, from what I've heard, they get a decent pay, and that option of research is still accessible to them if they do decide to go that path. I'm just suggesting you to do a little more research on what neuropsychologists do (by either contacting and talking to them) or checking websites, etc.. In psychiatry, it's mostly about prescribing medicine, and seems to have a less focus on behavioral aspects of psychology.

But anyway, if you have good reasons for choosing the medicine path instead, then best of luck to you! Consider doing some type of 1 year SMP programs, and building up your clinical EC's on the side.
I'm very interested and passionate about the research and field, but I'm concerned about where the field is headed and my ability to practice and be gainfully employed if I'm able to get a doctorate; the work involved does not sound like its really worth the outcome. And if I can make it so I have a shot at medical school, hopefully going into neurology, it might be wise to investigate that option and see if it suits me better.
 
Sep 28, 2010
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If you do decide to apply to medical school, you will have a few years to decide what to specialize in if you are accepted. You may decide that you prefer a subfield other than psychiatry or neurology.
 
OP
B
Sep 14, 2010
266
1
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Pre-Health (Field Undecided)
So its better to work on painting yourself as having well rounded interests as a clinician and in medical science to start off, rather than having a specific a specific interest in research?

(My experience is more with the PhD application process so I'm trying to find parity between the two; what should be the same, what I should do different etc.)
 

gettheleadout

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Not when you take out school breaks and weeks you don't show up due to XXXXX. About 150 hours total is common.
Oh okay that makes more sense, I assumed year round because I've never been too clear on how continuous involvement should be beyond "summers only = bad"