The "Worst Premed Advice" thread

Docfunk22

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    I am currently a PGY-3 radiology resident. I wanted to start a thread to collect the worst pieces of advice people have personally received with regards to applying to medical school. This could be anything from where to apply, specific experiences, bad test advice...the more ridiculous the better. There are a lot of well meaning people out there who give pretty awful advice unintentionally. I think everyone trying to find their way to medical school could really benefit from a public deconstruction of this advice. Thanks guys, have some fun with your responses! I'll go first...

    As an undergraduate, I worked a part-time job in a pharmacy as a technician to help pay my tuition. Starting my junior year I presented to my advisor for an honest assessment of my application and where I stood. I thought I was doing well but I hadn't yet taken the MCAT. She freaked out when she saw that I did not have any clinical experience. I brought up the pharmacy work and she quickly dismissed that as counting for anything in the eyes of admissions committees. Even worse, she strongly insinuated that I would have trouble getting into an M.D. program if I didn't do something drastic to get experience. Naturally...I flipped out and began volunteering in the local ED. Sounded great on paper...except the volunteer work literally consisted of walking in a large square pattern through the hallways for 6-8 hours at a time and making coffee. Epic waste of time. It ate into my study time, social life, and sanity. I was told I needed hundreds of hours of this sort of work....so I walked in squares and made terrible coffee for over 100 hours.

    Long story short, I applied to medical school and something amazing happened...on every interview the committee members loved my pharmacy work and couldn't have cared less about my ED volunteer work. Now I look back and I realize it was pretty obvious why...they knew it was likely a garbage experience. As a resident, I would never be able to actually delegate work or real patient experience to a shadowing undergrad student in an emergency setting. Now it sounds ridiculous.

    Everything worked out well for me and this piece of advice really didn't harm my long term future...but I think it serves as an interesting learning point for premed students. It's really easy to get distracted by the noise surrounding resume stuffing activities and experiences. Before you stretch yourself out thin to add something extra...be sure it is adding value to your life. I strongly believe in the concept of "big wins." If you get just a few "big wins" right in your academic life you are more than likely golden regardless of your experience. The "big wins" are pretty obvious...gpa, science gpa, and MCAT. Everything else is background noise.

    I'd be happy to elaborate on both narrow and broad strategies for achieving "big wins" and getting into medical school...maybe in a future thread. Thanks for reading guys. Let's collect some terrible advice and have some fun.
     
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    efle

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      Not myself: had a sibling whose advisor said it was fine to take a pre-req during semester abroad, despite the fact that classes taken abroad were recorded as Pass/Fail by the college. So effectively told them to take a prereq Pass/Fail!
       
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      Funny_Current

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        Kind of echoing what you have said, but it was really the push by my advisors to have these broad, generic ECs instead of being able to focus on one or two meaningful experiences. I literally hated my UG advisory committee so much that I chose to opt out of the committee letter/portfolio package and risk having to explain why I chose not to utilize them (really risky now that I think about it and can't recommend it, although I ended up being accepted so whatever) I wanted to do something unique instead of doing the regular MD ECs that had little personal reward or offering a good human experience. I found a way to volunteer about one hour a night to using social media to help people find their lost dogs. It was really incredible how much success we had. And it was one of my most talked about ECs in during my interviews.


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        Astra

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          Taking out an extra 100k in loans for med school isn't so bad.


          Wrong. Add in interest, by the time you pay it back, it can become 300k.

          I'm of the mindset of going wherever is cheapest and minimizing debt.
           
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          ciestar

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            I am currently a PGY-3 radiology resident. I wanted to start a thread to collect the worst pieces of advice people have personally received with regards to applying to medical school. This could be anything from where to apply, specific experiences, bad test advice...the more ridiculous the better. There are a lot of well meaning people out there who give pretty awful advice unintentionally. I think everyone trying to find their way to medical school could really benefit from a public deconstruction of this advice. Thanks guys, have some fun with your responses! I'll go first...

            As an undergraduate, I worked a part-time job in a pharmacy as a technician to help pay my tuition. Starting my junior year I presented to my advisor for an honest assessment of my application and where I stood. I thought I was doing well but I hadn't yet taken the MCAT. She freaked out when she saw that I did not have any clinical experience. I brought up the pharmacy work and she quickly dismissed that as counting for anything in the eyes of admissions committees. Even worse, she strongly insinuated that I would have trouble getting into an M.D. program if I didn't do something drastic to get experience. Naturally...I flipped out and began volunteering in the local ED. Sounded great on paper...except the volunteer work literally consisted of walking in a large square pattern through the hallways for 6-8 hours at a time and making coffee. Epic waste of time. It ate into my study time, social life, and sanity. I was told I needed hundreds of hours of this sort of work....so I walked in squares and made terrible coffee for over 100 hours.

            Long story short, I applied to medical school and something amazing happened...on every interview the committee members loved my pharmacy work and couldn't have cared less about my ED volunteer work. Now I look back and I realize it was pretty obvious why...they knew it was likely a garbage experience. As a resident, I would never be able to actually delegate work or real patient experience to a shadowing undergrad student in an emergency setting. Now it sounds ridiculous.

            Everything worked out well for me and this piece of advice really didn't harm my long term future...but I think it serves as an interesting learning point for premed students. It's really easy to get distracted by the noise surrounding resume stuffing activities and experiences. Before you stretch yourself out thin to add something extra...be sure it is adding value to your life. I strongly believe in the concept of "big wins." If you get just a few "big wins" right in your academic life you are more than likely golden regardless of your experience. The "big wins" are pretty obvious...gpa, science gpa, and MCAT. Everything else is background noise.

            I'd be happy to elaborate on both narrow and broad strategies for achieving "big wins" and getting into medical school...maybe in a future thread. Thanks for reading guys. Let's collect some terrible advice and have some fun.

            I was actually told on SDN that my 4000 hours of my lead pharmacy tech work wouldn't cut it (and that I had to convinced adcoms I didn't want to do pharmacy...). This was on top of the 225 hours I had doing CNA-like work as a nursing student... still didn't have enough clinical experience. :eyebrow:
             
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            21Rush12

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              Community College health professions advisor:

              "Go through the 2-year paramedic degree program, and then you can transfer to a 4 year school and get your bachelors degree in two years! Med Schools will love all the clinical experience!"

              Except when the credits are worthless and don't transfer anywhere. Found out a year into it...I was my own advisor after that.


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              Matthew9Thirtyfive

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                I was actually told on SDN that my 4000 hours of my lead pharmacy tech work wouldn't cut it (and that I had to convinced adcoms I didn't want to do pharmacy...). This was on top of the 225 hours I had doing CNA-like work as a nursing student... still didn't have enough clinical experience. :eyebrow:

                I would think the pharmacy tech stuff would have to depend on the setting. I mean I guess you're interacting with patients, but isn't it mostly on a customer service capacity? How clinical is it really? (Actually asking.)
                 

                ciestar

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                  I would think the pharmacy tech stuff would have to depend on the setting. I mean I guess you're interacting with patients, but isn't it mostly on a customer service capacity? How clinical is it really? (Actually asking.)

                  I guess so, but I think it depends on your personal experience. I was basically full-time, so plenty of customers came in and felt like they knew me and shared so much about themselves with me, even their illnesses. I think that's what made more of a difference for me, at least.
                   
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                  Penguin94

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                    I was told by a neurotic premed friend that benchwork research was worthless and that I should only look into clinical research because it relates more to medicine and healthcare. Lol how about no
                     
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                    greenturtle22

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                      I was told by a neurotic premed friend that benchwork research was worthless and that I should only look into clinical research because it relates more to medicine and healthcare. Lol how about no
                      LOL my research was in psychology and not related to medicine or "hard" science whatsoever. I also had people tell me it would be worthless for med school admissions.
                       
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                      Nietzsche's Barber

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                        After all of the aforementioned, a plastic surgeon gave me some of the best advice I had ever heard: "If someone hasn't personally went to medical school, don't believe a ******* word that they say".

                        Prior to application: "You are not very competitive for medical schools" - Accepted to 5 MD schools (3 top 50's).

                        Prior to application (fellow 'pre-med'): "Dude, adcoms don't care about the psych/soc section" - Every interviewer commented on my psych/soc section and how they believed it will correlate to clinical grades.

                        Sophomore year: "You want to major in Anthropology? That's fine if you want to go to dental school, but I can't recommend it for medical school" - All of my interviewers were fascinated by my majors (anthro and socio).

                        Freshman year: "You didn't take the SAT, so I bet that the MCAT will be out of reach for you in terms of scoring well" - 80% < MCAT.
                         
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                        darkjedi

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                          Taking out an extra 100k in loans for med school isn't so bad.


                          Wrong. Add in interest, by the time you pay it back, it can become 300k.

                          I'm of the mindset of going wherever is cheapest and minimizing debt.

                          Not really, at the end of the 10 year repayment period, even with like 10% interest, it still won't hit 300k. For federal loans it will likely be around 200k, which after 10 years is not really going to be worth the same "200k" as it's worth now due to inflation anyway.

                          With a physician salary you can pay off an extra 100k in a single year if you really wanted to. Considering the lifetime earning potential for most physicians range in the $5-7 million range, it's really not bad comparatively.

                          Cost of attendance should certainly be a factor, but definitely not the end all be all of decisions.
                           
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                          Astra

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                            Not really, at the end of the 10 year repayment period, even with like 10% interest, it still won't hit 300k. For federal loans it will likely be around 200k, which after 10 years is not really going to be worth the same "200k" as it's worth now due to inflation anyway.

                            Did not know that. Thanks for the reply

                            I've seen the phrase "Every dollar spent with loans is 3 dollars owed" so I extrapolated from there.

                            What do you think is big enough difference in CoA to warrant going to an unranked school vs a ranked school?
                             

                            Goro

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                              Worst pre-med advice? Does SDN have enough electrons????


                              I am currently a PGY-3 radiology resident. I wanted to start a thread to collect the worst pieces of advice people have personally received with regards to applying to medical school. This could be anything from where to apply, specific experiences, bad test advice...the more ridiculous the better. There are a lot of well meaning people out there who give pretty awful advice unintentionally. I think everyone trying to find their way to medical school could really benefit from a public deconstruction of this advice. Thanks guys, have some fun with your responses! I'll go first...

                              As an undergraduate, I worked a part-time job in a pharmacy as a technician to help pay my tuition. Starting my junior year I presented to my advisor for an honest assessment of my application and where I stood. I thought I was doing well but I hadn't yet taken the MCAT. She freaked out when she saw that I did not have any clinical experience. I brought up the pharmacy work and she quickly dismissed that as counting for anything in the eyes of admissions committees. Even worse, she strongly insinuated that I would have trouble getting into an M.D. program if I didn't do something drastic to get experience. Naturally...I flipped out and began volunteering in the local ED. Sounded great on paper...except the volunteer work literally consisted of walking in a large square pattern through the hallways for 6-8 hours at a time and making coffee. Epic waste of time. It ate into my study time, social life, and sanity. I was told I needed hundreds of hours of this sort of work....so I walked in squares and made terrible coffee for over 100 hours.

                              Long story short, I applied to medical school and something amazing happened...on every interview the committee members loved my pharmacy work and couldn't have cared less about my ED volunteer work. Now I look back and I realize it was pretty obvious why...they knew it was likely a garbage experience. As a resident, I would never be able to actually delegate work or real patient experience to a shadowing undergrad student in an emergency setting. Now it sounds ridiculous.

                              Everything worked out well for me and this piece of advice really didn't harm my long term future...but I think it serves as an interesting learning point for premed students. It's really easy to get distracted by the noise surrounding resume stuffing activities and experiences. Before you stretch yourself out thin to add something extra...be sure it is adding value to your life. I strongly believe in the concept of "big wins." If you get just a few "big wins" right in your academic life you are more than likely golden regardless of your experience. The "big wins" are pretty obvious...gpa, science gpa, and MCAT. Everything else is background noise.

                              I'd be happy to elaborate on both narrow and broad strategies for achieving "big wins" and getting into medical school...maybe in a future thread. Thanks for reading guys. Let's collect some terrible advice and have some fun.
                               
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                              DokterMom

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                                What do you think is big enough difference in CoA to warrant going to an unranked school vs a ranked school?

                                Different folks will have different perceptions and values, but here's mine -- When you're earning over $200K per year, an extra $500/month is not a troublesome amount, so for my own personal perspective, a $50,000 total cost difference will end up being pretty insignificant. An extra $1,000 per month you'll notice, but be OK with. An extra $2,000 per month will begin to impact your lifestyle.

                                Consider what type of specialty you want to go into and whether or not the lower-ranking school will hold you back -- for some specialties much more than others. And consider how each school feels to you and how you think you'll do there psychologically -- which will probably be much more important than the school's ranking.

                                If the ranking difference is small and the price difference is big, save yourself some money. But if it's the other way around, spend more to get more. It's the in-betweens that you gotta think about...
                                 
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                                TMC07

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                                  Advisor: "You need to rewrite your personal statement. It should highlight all of your extracurriculars and awards."

                                  Me: "Isn't that what my AMCAS application is for? I thought the personal statement should be about why I want to become a physician...."

                                  Advisor: "Well, what if the person doesn't look at your whole application?!"

                                  Me: Applies with "inappropriate" personal statement, praised during almost every interview for said statement, accepted to 5 of the 6 schools I applied to.
                                   
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                                  stickgirl390

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                                    I have so many hours of clinical experience working as a veterinary technician, that I lost track. We're talking at least 4,000+ that I was told "wouldn't count for anything" since it was animal medicine. Now granted vet med is very different from human med, but to say it counts for nothing seemed very "horse-blinder" for my advisors to say.

                                    Also, my advisor told me that I was "too old" to pursue MD, and that I should just take the PA route. I'm 26.
                                     
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                                    mcworbust

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                                      Was instructed by premed advisor, after getting a 3.4 gap my first semester freshman year, that I wouldn't be able to go to medical school, and should do something else....(obviously did much better in my remaining 3 1/2 years)

                                      The only people she encouraged to pursue medical school after first semester freshman year were perfect 4.0 students, everyone else wasn't good enough, lol
                                       
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                                      χmaverickχ

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                                        It's encouraging to hear about your experience as a pharmacy tech. Currently I volunteer in a multipurpose clinic, mainly in the pharmacy, doing technician work and training other volunteers. Relatively speaking, the pharmacy has the most patient interaction so it's awesome to hear that adcoms looked favorably on your experience

                                        As far as worst advice, a chiropractor once asked me, after I expressed my desire to enter medicine, "Have you thought about becoming a D.C. instead?"
                                         

                                        Docfunk22

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                                          There are people on here with a 3.1 GPA and graduated from college asking if they should apply to medical school. People actually tell them yes.

                                          In super specific cases I've seen very low GPA students gain acceptance. Had a close friend who graduated with a 3.0 and got accepted into medical school a few years later, ended up being near the top of our class. But he is an outlier. If you are going down the road of applying to medical school with a very low GPA, you better be ready to either offset it by having a ridiculous MCAT, being a world class performer in some other field, or the understanding that you're 99% likely going to have to do some supplemental course work. I don't believe in telling anyone their dream isn't possible...but I strongly believe in holding people accountable and telling it like it is. That's why I always advise prospective premeds to just get two things right, MCAT and GPA.

                                          As others have said above, your major literally does not matter. Another huge myth...your name on your undergraduate degree matters far less than anyone cares to admit. Once you get accepted into a medical school and realize your classmates attended schools ranging from Ivy league to tiny liberal arts colleges you've never heard of, you begin to understand. Except nobody tells you that prior to selecting where to go to college.

                                          The pharmacy tech work I did was actually in a retail pharmacy, not even in a hospital setting. Admission committees still ate it up. For the most part it really doesn't matter what you choose to do...it's more about how you sell it, and I don't mean that in a sleazy way. You have to shape a narrative for who you are and why you do things. I say this both as a successful medical school applicant and someone who served on medical school admission committees for 3 years during medical school.
                                           
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                                          DokterMom

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                                            I will say that I've been told by family members that I shouldn't become a doctor because it'll all be socialized medicine soon.

                                            Define "soon"...

                                            But if the prospect of working in an essentially single-payer system where you'd earn roughly $200K (instead of $200-500+) would be enough to change your mind, then do consider your root motivations. You need to enjoy what you do all day to find happiness in life. Every job has some 'suck' and if the prospect of diminished financial returns would be 'intolerable suck', then yeah, medicine's high risk right now.
                                             
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                                            Redpancreas

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                                              I am currently a PGY-3 radiology resident. I wanted to start a thread to collect the worst pieces of advice people have personally received with regards to applying to medical school. This could be anything from where to apply, specific experiences, bad test advice...the more ridiculous the better. There are a lot of well meaning people out there who give pretty awful advice unintentionally. I think everyone trying to find their way to medical school could really benefit from a public deconstruction of this advice. Thanks guys, have some fun with your responses! I'll go first...

                                              As an undergraduate, I worked a part-time job in a pharmacy as a technician to help pay my tuition. Starting my junior year I presented to my advisor for an honest assessment of my application and where I stood. I thought I was doing well but I hadn't yet taken the MCAT. She freaked out when she saw that I did not have any clinical experience. I brought up the pharmacy work and she quickly dismissed that as counting for anything in the eyes of admissions committees. Even worse, she strongly insinuated that I would have trouble getting into an M.D. program if I didn't do something drastic to get experience. Naturally...I flipped out and began volunteering in the local ED. Sounded great on paper...except the volunteer work literally consisted of walking in a large square pattern through the hallways for 6-8 hours at a time and making coffee. Epic waste of time. It ate into my study time, social life, and sanity. I was told I needed hundreds of hours of this sort of work....so I walked in squares and made terrible coffee for over 100 hours.

                                              Long story short, I applied to medical school and something amazing happened...on every interview the committee members loved my pharmacy work and couldn't have cared less about my ED volunteer work. Now I look back and I realize it was pretty obvious why...they knew it was likely a garbage experience. As a resident, I would never be able to actually delegate work or real patient experience to a shadowing undergrad student in an emergency setting. Now it sounds ridiculous.

                                              Everything worked out well for me and this piece of advice really didn't harm my long term future...but I think it serves as an interesting learning point for premed students. It's really easy to get distracted by the noise surrounding resume stuffing activities and experiences. Before you stretch yourself out thin to add something extra...be sure it is adding value to your life. I strongly believe in the concept of "big wins." If you get just a few "big wins" right in your academic life you are more than likely golden regardless of your experience. The "big wins" are pretty obvious...gpa, science gpa, and MCAT. Everything else is background noise.

                                              I'd be happy to elaborate on both narrow and broad strategies for achieving "big wins" and getting into medical school...maybe in a future thread. Thanks for reading guys. Let's collect some terrible advice and have some fun.

                                              How do you know that they didn't have someone look over your app and say hey, he checked the box for volunteer work at the ED and that's what allowed your other stuff to shine. If you didn't have those 100 hrs. you could have easily been grilled on why you don't have hospital/inpatient experience. I'm not saying that your pharmacy work is not superior and I'm not even saying that you were wrong in thinking this was bad advice from your advisor you had very long ago. All I'm saying is admissions is incredibly chancy in that someone may think one way and someone else may think another way.

                                              Some MD adcom who went through the process at a traditionally grade deflating school and has been bitter ever since may look at rigor more, for example. Similarly, someone who worked as in pharmacy before medical school may not have been that interested in your pharmacy work and was grilled during their interviews about their lack of clinical volunteering so they would see it as a right of passage to do the same to you. The possibilities are endless and for that reason, all you can do is fill the holes in your application and apply broadly to maximize your chances.

                                              Any post claiming to explain the science of this process can easily be countered with devil's advocate.


                                              Sent from my iPhone using SDN mobile
                                               
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                                              UNMedGa

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                                                Define "soon"...

                                                But if the prospect of working in an essentially single-payer system where you'd earn roughly $200K (instead of $200-500+) would be enough to change your mind, then do consider your root motivations. You need to enjoy what you do all day to find happiness in life. Every job has some 'suck' and if the prospect of diminished financial returns would be 'intolerable suck', then yeah, medicine's high risk right now.

                                                Exactly. I like the thought of making big money as much as the next guy, but when it comes down to it there is nothing I love as much as medicine and as far as I can tell even in most countries with single payer systems doctors still make reasonable money. Might not be as much as here but still easily worth it for me if I get to practice what I like doing. It's a different set of problems to work with, some of which wouldn't be worth it to some current practitioners, but might still be worth it for others.
                                                 
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                                                Dream_big

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                                                  I was told by many bio/biochem majors that I had it "easy" as a health science major..that I wouldn't get into ANY med school with that track..that schools want to see me do rigorous coursework like quantum chemistry.
                                                  Well...:rolleyes:
                                                   
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                                                  Docfunk22

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                                                    How do you know that they didn't have someone look over your app and say hey, he checked the box for volunteer work at the ED and that's what allowed your other stuff to shine. If you didn't have those 100 hrs. you could have easily been grilled on why you don't have hospital/inpatient experience. I'm not saying that your pharmacy work is not superior and I'm not even saying that you were wrong in thinking this was bad advice from your advisor you had very long ago. All I'm saying is admissions is incredibly chancy in that someone may think one way and someone else may think another way.

                                                    Some MD adcom who went through the process at a traditionally grade deflating school and has been bitter ever since may look at rigor more, for example. Similarly, someone who worked as in pharmacy before medical school may not have been that interested in your pharmacy work and was grilled during their interviews about their lack of clinical volunteering so they would see it as a right of passage to do the same to you. The possibilities are endless and for that reason, all you can do is fill the holes in your application and apply broadly to maximize your chances.

                                                    Any post claiming to explain the science of this process can easily be countered with devil's advocate.


                                                    Sent from my iPhone using SDN mobile

                                                    Your point is well taken and of course, admissions committees are a total wild card. Getting into medical school is much more of an art than a science, and anyone saying otherwise is definitely lying.

                                                    Of course there is no way to know what truly made the difference for getting into medical school, but I do believe my ED volunteer experience would qualify as bad advice for a few reasons:
                                                    1) The term clinical experience is broad and after going through the process and participating on medical school admissions committees, I really believe that quality/ crafting a meaningful narrative about what you did is much more important than arbitrarily checking a box
                                                    2)That advice forced me to divert valuable time and energy in a less high yield direction (studying and MCAT prep were hindered). If you have limited time/energy/resources, those are the last areas you want to compromise
                                                    3)My pharmacy experience which was specifically referenced as being "good exposure" and relevant. I guess it is possible that the only way this could have happened is because of my ED "work" but I'd venture to guess that is an unlikely correlation.

                                                    I wouldn't discourage anyone from seeking out good clinical experience if you have the opportunity and time to make it work.
                                                     

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                                                    1. Pre-Medical
                                                      Define "soon"...

                                                      But if the prospect of working in an essentially single-payer system where you'd earn roughly $200K (instead of $200-500+) would be enough to change your mind, then do consider your root motivations. You need to enjoy what you do all day to find happiness in life. Every job has some 'suck' and if the prospect of diminished financial returns would be 'intolerable suck', then yeah, medicine's high risk right now.

                                                      I'm not sure I can blame someone for being upset with a 200k salary if they have 300-400k in loans.
                                                       
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                                                      PB&Jam

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                                                      1. Medical Student
                                                        I saw my premed advisors at the beginning of my junior year to ask them what I should improve on before I applied. I was specifically concerned about volunteering, since I had some non-clinical volunteering but no clinical volunteering. (I had shadowing and clinical work experience, though). One of my advisors told me that med schools look at all volunteering as one monolithic block, and as long as I had some (even though it was non clinical) I would be okay. The other responded to my concerns with "you've done everything we've asked you to do", which for some reason rankled me and still makes me kind of mad at him. It just sounded patronizing to my concerns, to the things I'd done up to that point, and made it sound like the sole reason I'd get into med school was because I'd followed their strictly laid out guidelines (which I hadn't--i pursued marching band when they cautioned me against it).

                                                        Anyway I didn't listen to either of them and got a volunteering gig at the hospital where my grandmother goes for care. I had done fundraising work for them in the past, and had shadowed there before as well. Despite my relatively short amount of time working there by the time I applied, I listed it as one of my most meaningful experiences (because it is) and talked about it at length in my PS. I got all LOR from the volunteer coordinator, who said she wrote about how I'm a patient favorite over there. I've developed wonderful connections with all the patients I care for, and wouldn't trade this experience for anything.
                                                         
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