Jul 17, 2015
Hello all. I'm a rising senior at a large, state university. I am slightly non-trad, considering I went to community college for a year with the intent of becoming a paramedic before I decided I wanted to be a doc (I DID NOT take core science classes at community college- I've had to cram them into my schedule). Long story short, I intended to take the MCAT at the end of this summer but do not feel adequately prepared due to social distractions, work and financial issues (resulting in a serious lack of adequate studying). I will definitely be taking a gap year. Here are my stats:

-cGPA 3.52
32 credits until graduation (maximum POSSIBLE cGPA will be 3.65, not counting on that)

-Wrote one non-controversial opinion piece in my school's newspaper (it was published)
I intend to write some more articles for them and frame myself as a guest commentator

-Extensive (>5 years) EMT experience
Have done volunteer, paid-emergent AND paid-non-emergent consistently through out life of certification. I've developed some pretty good relationships in this community.

-Good 'why I want to be a doc' story, appropriately motivated

-Only have one LOR so far. It's from a non-science professor. I self study a LOT and so never really tried to develop relationships with faculty. I'll be working on that during my senior year.

-Shadowing to come

-No research and no intent to start it

Would it be wise for me to only take 12 or 13 credits during the fall semester, study for the MCAT during the extra time and take it at the end of winter? This would necessitate that I take an extra course during the summer/next fall (after I should have graduated). Keep in mind that virtually all credits I take now are in upper-level science classes, so juggling working+16credit hard science+MCAT prep isn't something I'm comfortable trying.

Also, what should I aim to do in my glide year? I love working as an EMT and am considering applying to work at a busy, urban EMS system (I'm from NJ and there's plenty of options here). I would like to be recommended something I may not have thought of.

I'm disappointed I won't be able to take it at the end of the summer like I had planned. Sometimes life gets in the way and I want to get it right the first time I take it.
Dec 24, 2015
Medical Student
Hey there, you haven't fallen too far off track, so don't worry too much! It's very smart of you to postpone your MCAT if you don't feel ready for it. Now you can take it when you're truly prepared for it and knock it out of the park.

First, MCAT:
Your options are:
1. take it in January after taking a reduced course load in the fall. This will work as long as you don't use that extra time to socialize and have fun! You have to treat the MCAT as it's own class that you're studying for. If you can't do that on your own, consider enrolling in some kind of course (whether online or in-person) that will force you to reach study milestones. Since you won't be studying full time, consider starting now, that way you ensure you have ample time to study and learn all the material.
2. take it in the spring (April, May, or June) - consider that an April or May test date could interfere with final exams. A mid-June test could work with your schedule, it depends on how much time you anticipate you'll have during your spring semester.

I don't recommend taking it past June, otherwise you risk being "late" or you risk not knowing your score when selecting schools to apply to.

Next, ECs:
1. EMT is great, you have definitely got clinical experience and clinical volunteering down.
2. Do you have any non-clinical volunteering? If no, consider getting some either this year or during your gap year. Try and do this in something you're passionate about - coach little league, read to kids, work in a soup kitchen, the sky's the limit!
3. Research is a great way to get to know faculty and you won't know you hate research until you actually try it (I thought I'd hate it and I ended up loving it). Keep in mind that at almost every school, >80% of matriculants had some kind of research experience. No research will also prevent you from getting into the top schools. Also keep in mind that "research" doesn't necessarily mean pipetting. You could get involved in clinical research or data analysis - perhaps look into options that would keep you in the emergency room, which may keep you more interested. This is something you could pursue next year or during your gap year. If you absolutely aren't willing to even consider it, that's fine, but I just wanted to let you know the circumstances.
4. Shadowing - aim for at least 50 hrs in a few fields. Try to get experience both in-patient and private practice/office settings. If you can get in the OR, that's awesome, but don't worry if you can't.

Finally, LORs:
Reach out to your college's pre-health department to find out the requirements to get a committee letter (if your school offers them). If your school has a committee letter, get one. If they don't, then try to get 2 science LORs, 1 non-science, and perhaps 1 from a boss on one of your EMT services.
Self-studying is fine, but many professors might know your face or your name without you bombarding them at office hours. Try reaching out to professors whose classes you enjoyed and that you did well in (A or A+ grade). Shoot them an email, visit their office hours, send their assistant an email, whatever. Tell them you're applying to medical school next year and you were wondering if they would consider writing you a letter of recommendation. Offer to send them your resume and CV and any important info about you. Offer to meet with them if they would prefer.

Oh and gap year options:
1. EMT
2. scribe/CNA
3. research
4. TFA or other service job
5. work in a doctor's office (front desk/secretary position/etc.)
6. other job not necessarily related to medicine (something that gives you experience with people would be great but the opportunities are essentially endless: bartending, waiting tables, retail, fast food, etc.)

Hope that helps, good luck! :)
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Jul 17, 2015
I'm not necessarily against research. As a rising senior in college with no prior research experience, I don't feel like I'm a good applicant for any post-graduation research opportunities (looking past graduation because I think its too late to do/apply to any programs for this year). Unless there are ways to get involved in research as a college grad without undergraduate research experience, I think I'm out of luck in that category (if I'm wrong, please correct me).

Shadowing will come in time. I'm very comfortable with my clinical experience, but I know that I don't (fully) understand the role of docs in healthcare systems.

My gap year is a big concern for me- I feel like working as an EMT won't buff my application anymore because I've already got a ton of experience with it (>6 years at time of application). However, I doubt I can make enough money to support myself working full-time as anything else with my qualifications (especially considering I will have to pay out-of-pocket for a summer class and begin re-paying student loans). Scribing isn't a bad idea, albeit a pay cut from working in EMS. But I don't mind 50+hr workweeks consistently.

January feels like the safest bet for the MCAT. I think I'd do better slowly learning the material and actually committing it all to memory than trying to cram.

Thanks a lot @anonymoose1640. Your contribution was very thoughtful and I appreciated reading it.