Everything You Need to Know About Being a Pre-Med

In this live presentation, Dr. Sahil Mehta, founder of MedSchoolCoach, describes the pre-med journey to students at the University of Texas at Austin. Watch for yourself, and learn what it takes to get into medical school, and how to optimize your chances at becoming a physician.

Full Transcript

I’m Sahil. I’m the founder of MedSchoolCoach and I’m also a clinical professor at Harvard and an endovascular surgeon up at Beth Israel Deaconess. I am here today to talk to you guys about everything you need to know about being pre-med. So who’s a pre-med in here?

Alright, cool. We’ve got the right room. All right.

So you know there’s there’s so much stuff that you guys hear and know about and learn about and read about, I mean this this organization seems awesome just in that five minutes that I observed here, like I was telling Skye. I was not in an organization anywhere near as organized and on top of things as you guys are. So already, nice job.

What I want to talk to you about is sort of everything you know about being a pre-med and then I’m going to tell you some stuff that you’re pre-med office might not tell you. So do you guys have a pre-med office here that you go to, and how are they? Do you guys find good advice from them? Yeah. OK. So that’s usually what I hear. Right. It’s like maybe, maybe not.

Obviously, they’re a great resource that you should start with. A lot of them are going to be awesome. But you know there’s stuff that you may not always get. And so I’m going to try to give you a little bit more insight into what an admissions committee might be looking for, what I look for when I review an application, and I’ve reviewed thousands of applications. I’ve interviewed hundreds of students both for medical school and for fellowship and for residency so I’ve done this for a long time. And then of course helped a lot of students actually through the process.

So I’m going to start with this. So no medical slide or medical presentation is complete without a picture of Hypocrates, right? Like you have to put him in there to start. And one of his quotes was: “Life is short. The art is long.” Right? And this could mean a whole bunch of different things.

But the first part of my presentation here I want to devote to all of you guys who are saying you want to be pre-meds. And let’s just think about the journey it’s going to take for you guys to actually become doctors, right. And it’s going to take a long time for all of you guys to get to the point where you’re treating patients and it should take you a long time. Right.

None of you guys should go treat patients tomorrow because that’s kind of scary. I don’t want to be your patient tomorrow. It’s gonna take years and years of training to get there. But you know it takes a long time to acquire these skills and for effect the expertise, and then before you know it the things you think you know are obsolete.

And so this is one thing I tell all my pre-meds which is stay humble. Right. And you really ,all of us in medicine, we we don’t know Jack, you know. If you think back in the day, and this was not that long ago, we were doing things like that right (pointing).

Cutting people open, and we still do actually very similar things. Today, I practice medicine and I do endovascular procedures, so I get super cool pictures and I can do really fun essentially minimally invasive procedures, things that used to require people being cut open, I can do through catheters and small tiny incision in the wrist or the groin basically see inside people and be able to cure their disease. And that seems really cool to me right now. Right.

But the reality is when all of you guys become doctors you’re going to look back at what I did and say “Why did he do that. That was really weird. We have immunotherapy now. We have this cell that we can just program to kill cancer. We got to go cut it out. We have to go irradiate it.”

And that’s sort of the ever evolving process of medicine. Right. You guys are all gonna be a part of this as you go through it and that’s part of the most, I think that’s the best thing for all of you guys who are young and going into this is that this is going to evolve so much in your lifetime in my lifetime.

I’m about 15 years ahead of you guys in my practice, so by the time that I’m old you guys are gonna be kind of in the middle of your practice and you’re going to I promise you we’re going to look back at things that we do today and we say why did we do that? That’s crazy. Just like I look back at things that people did 20, 30 years ago and said “that was crazy what were those doctors thinking?” That’s not the way you should treat this today. So that’s my little interlude on sort of, you know, where you guys are gonna go. So now I’m going to take you through the process, right.

Now most of you guys know the vast majority of this, but let’s let’s go through it right.

So you started college, great. You guys chose UT. It’s beautiful here. The campus is really cool. I really like that building in the George Washington statue. We took some pictures and selfies out there earlier. Really nice. Now four years of college, right. And then a lot of you guys probably you’re gonna be going through maybe a year or two of post bacc, maybe a gap year or two.

How many people are actually applying to medical school right now? Have submitted the application? One. How many people are seniors? OK so you seniors know that you know obviously you guys are gonna be taking gap years, right. You guys are gonna be doing something else in that year and maybe it’s a post bacc. Maybe it’s an SMP. The average matriculate age to medical school, does anybody know what it is? Yes. Twenty six. Right. That means the average person who’s starting med school has taken three or four years off between college and med school, right.

So plenty of people taking a long time off. Why? You’ve got to improve your application. You got to do your extracurriculars. Your grades stink. Your MCAT sucks. You didn’t shadow enough. You gotta do all this stuff, right. You’re getting to the point where you’re making yourself a more competitive applicant.

Then of course you have med school, for years, and you say yeah I’m in med school, but it doesn’t stop there, right. Then you got an internship for a year. You have residency for anywhere from one to six years. Then you have a fellowship which can be another three to four years. And then finally you become an attending after all that time, so that’s about 12 years away from where most of your guys sit right now, which is a long time, right.

Before you ever practice medicine in the sense of have a patient’s life in your own hands and your hands only it’s going to take you about twelve years, which again is not a bad thing, right. I don’t want any of you guys treating me today, but maybe twelve years from now I will.

So. You guys know that medicine and being a pre-med is a great weed out, right. For every 10 people who start college as a pre-med, about six of them end up finishing the pre-reqs and getting to the MCAT. Right. And what’s in between there? Things like orgo, right. That’s when people drop out and they say “Screw this, I’m out,” right. They go somewhere else.

Once you finish the MCAT, right, or you take the MCAT then you actually you know, some people look at the MCAT they have PTSD and decide not to take it because they took the S.A.T. so many times. You guys have probably never filled out a bubble sheet. Right. Have any of you guys filled out this bubble sheet? OK. Yeah. OK. Fair enough. All right. So we haven’t evolved as quickly as I thought we did.

So for every six people. So we have ten, about six of them take the MCAT, and then about four of them get to the point where they actually submit an application And of those four people, how many actually get into med school? Yeah one or two, Right.

So for all of you guys who said you’re pre-meds, look around because for every 10 of you probably one or two of you guys will make it. It’s a humbling thought, right. But the reality is that you can make it if you plan ahead.

So last year there were about ninety six thousand or so applicants to M.D. schools in the United States and about 40,000 matriculants, right. So about what about 40 percent of people actually got in. And remember, that’s only the 40 percent that ended up passing orgo and getting to the point where they could actually apply. Right.

So what do you guys need. You guys have all taken bio, or you will take bio, you’ve all taken high school bio and you guys know you have the brain, heart, lungs, liver, right.

So the brain. You gotta be smart. You’ve got to get through this. You’ve gotta get good grades. That’s obvious, right.

I say heart because you have to have a desire to actually do this. This is a long pathway, and that’s why you also need your lungs. You’re gonna get winded throughout this pathway. It’s long. You’ve got to make sure that you’re taking deep breaths along the way.

And then the liver, right. What does a liver do? Filters out toxins, right. And guess what. There are plenty of toxins along the way right. Not only that social night where you’re bingeing and drinking but there’s other things too that are gonna be going on in your life. You’re gonna hit road bumps along the way you’re gonna get a bad grade your MCAT score is not gonna come out as good as you wanted it to. These things are going to happen and you just have to kind of get over them and move on. A question that I I want everybody to ask themselves who says they’re pre-med in here is is this really for you, right.

Have you shadowed doctors? You guys are in this club obviously. Some of you will go to international trips which is an awesome start to see what physicians do. But keep in mind that the way physicians practice in Guatemala or Ecuador is not the way physicians practice in the States, but at least the concept of taking care of a patient is there. Are you doing this because you really want to make money? Probably not a good idea. You can make money as a doctor, but you probably can make a whole lot more money going into finance or any number of things.

Are your parents doctors? Terrible idea if you’re going into medicine because your parents are doctors, right. A good starting point to think about medicine but not why you should go into it. Have you explored other careers? By show of hands for those you guys who said you’re pre-med, when did you decide your pre-meds? When you were a baby? When you were five? When you were in high school? When you started college? when did you guys decide?

I mean most you guys probably have thought about this at least since you were in high school. I would assume right. I got a four year old kid at home and I got him a doctor set and he says I want to be a doctor. So there are some people who start pretty young, but that’s not a good reason. You should explore other careers. You should make sure that that you’ve seen other things because mostly you guys who said I want to go into medicine have probably thought about that since high school and I want you just to explore, right.

I want you to make sure that this is really for you because as I said like on the first slide it’s very long, right. Now medicine is also really diverse. Right. When you say you want to be a doctor that actually doesn’t mean a whole lot to somebody who’s actually practicing because what I do on an everyday basis is very different than what Doctor X does, is very different than what Doctor Y does. Right. I do minimally invasive procedures. I stick long needles in people. My patients are asleep. I talk to, or see them in clinic once a week.

There is somebody else who sees patients in clinic 40 patients a clinic a day every single day in an outpatient setting. My patients are dying on the table. Other physicians have patients who want prettier legs. Right. So there’s always a huge variety of what physicians actually do. You guys have all watched House probably, right? You all know that that’s not real. That guy does everything that every physician does. That’s not actually when anybody really does in life. Right. We only do one one-hundredth of each of those things.

But it gives you an idea that the medicine is so diverse that as you guys are going through this and shadowing people you should really think about what that person is doing and if that’s what you want to end up doing, right. So if you’re shadowing a cardiologist in an outpatient setting that’s very different than shadowing a surgeon in an inpatient setting. It’s very different than shadowing a radiologist or a pathologist or a pediatrician. And each of these things is just their everyday life is so very different that if you don’t like one of them that doesn’t mean you don’t like medicine or if you really love one of them that doesn’t mean you love everything about medicine, right.

There’s a lot of other variation within their. Have you guys, I don’t know how many you guys might be familiar this. Has anybody ever seen the U.P.S. driver versus a doctor slide? Ok so a couple of you guys have. Right. So let me let me take you through this right.

I said in the beginning that you don’t want to go into medicine because you want to make money. So the person from your high school who became a U.P.S. driver, not that there is anything wrong with that, but the person who decided that that’s what they’re going to do is going to make more money than you for the first 16 to 18 years post-high school, right. That’s a long time. And so you’ve got to be willing to kind of go through this.

Now the Green Line says a U.P.S. driver a working M.D. like ours, which is you know sixty to eight hours a week, how much money can they make? And they can obviously make a whole lot more if they’re doing that. So what’s the reality, right?

Eighty five percent of you’re going to come out with some kind of debt. Your debt’s going to be in the two hundred thousand dollar range. Now you guys are at state school. That’s probably a very smart idea because hopefully you’re saving some money there. But even with that if you go to medical school, public or private, you’re going to come out with that from there, too. Average debt for medical school graduates around three hundred thousand dollars these days. That’s a lot of money, right. It’s a lot.

So, if that hasn’t scared you away and you say you know what I am all about debt. I don’t care, like, ring up the credit card. It’s my parent’s money. We’re all good, right. And then let’s keep going. Right. So what’s it going to actually take to get you to get there. So we’re going to get into some specifics. You know a lot of you right now look like this. Right. You’re like, Holy Oh, this is a lot longer than I thought. It’s going to cost a lot of money. But that’s OK, because with the right planning you can get there. Right.

So I’ve laid out a few steps that I think it takes. Right. So this present day you, looking good. You’ve got to get good grades. Gotta get a good MCAT score. All the extracurriculars that you guys have heard about. I put in something extra there. Right. Because just having extracurriculars is not enough. Just checking off the boxes is not enough for med school.

I want to see a story. I want to see a theme. I want to see who you are as a person. So you got to do something extra. And then if you get through all that then you actually have to write your application. Then you have to sit down for interviews and you have to write your personal statement and secondaries and all that kind of stuff. Right. So it’s a long process. And we’re going to go through all the steps of these.

Hass anybody seen this chart before? OK so a few of you have. So this is the AAMC Table 23, OK. This chart lays out what an applicant with an MCAT score on the top and a GPA along the side. How many of those applicants apply and how many of them end up getting into school? Right. And so let’s take a pretty good GPA. Right. Let’s take a pretty good GPA of 3.6 to 3.8. Not bad. Most you guys would be happy with that. You should be proud of that. That’s not bad. Right.

And let’s take a let’s take the average MCAT score which is around a 500. Last year sorry. This is like two years worth of data. No, sorry. One year worth of data. There were 2,000, no about 3,000 applicants with those numbers and about 700 got in, right, for 25 percent acceptance rate. It’s pretty low, right. Even with pretty good grades and an average MCAT score only 25 percent of those students will get in. Right. Obviously as you go up more, the more people go in. So your goal is to be in this corner, right. Everybody is gonna get a 517 on the MCAT here. Alright. and everybody is going to have a 4.0 GPA, right. But even those who have a 517 and a 4.0, only 88 percent of those people got in, right.

That’s where some of the extra stuff comes in. It’s also where the interviews come in. I’ve interviewed plenty of people who have 520s and 4.0’s and I put a giant reject stamp on them because I would never want to teach them. I would never want them in my class. I would never want them taking care of a patient.

So this is a good slide or a good sort of reference point to have so you can understand, hey, if I have a certain GPA what MCAT score do I really need to kind of be competitive and vice versa.

So let’s look at the average numbers to first a sec, right. So the average numbers are this, right. The average matriculate, so that’s the person who actually starts medical school, had a 3.7 total GPA last year. The average MCAT score was a 510, about 10 points above above the mean. So pretty, pretty damn steep competition when it comes to it. Right. But some of you guys will make it through, which is awesome. You just have to plan and prepare and make sure that you’re thinking along these lines early. That’s where, you know, for those who don’t, that’s when they don’t get it.

Alright. Let’s talk about extracurriculars for a second, right. You guys are all doing great extracurriculars. This is obviously a great club. You’ve heard of the pillars. I call these the pillars of med school activities, right. Everybody needs to shadow. Everybody needs to have volunteer experience. Everybody should have some kind of leadership experience on their application. Research, and then clinical work. Right. And I’m going to go through each of these categories and kind of tell you on average what people have.

So volunteering. Right now volunteering takes on a whole set of definitions. But the bottom line is, you know, you give back in some way. Does this club count as volunteering? Well, if you go on the trips, sure. But maybe you want to count this club as your clinical experience, right. So you have to think along those lines. OK what am I going to count as my volunteering? What am I going to count as my clinical experience when it comes to putting together my application? So the average the average accepted person has about one hundred hours in four years. Right.

As you guys are going through each and every one of your activities, anything that you do, what you should do is maintain a simple Google Sheet. And just remember what you did and how many hours you did it for and it doesn’t mean that you’re going to put it on your application four years from now or three years from now or two years from now, but it means that you can reference back during that time. Because I work with so many applicants who say you know I don’t remember what I did, or I shadowed that person but only remember what specialty he is in. If you go shadow somebody, write down what specialty, write down, like, a patient that you saw that day that stood out to you. Just write that down. Keep a running document, because it’s gonna be so helpful for you later on.

So here’s a volunteer, right. Applicant volunteer for multiple years. Attended a mission trip in Mexico. Assisted in building homes. Tutoring and mentoring orphans. Right. That sounds like every single one of you guys, here. Right. Replace Mexico with any number of the places you go. So that’s great. Definitely something to put on your application. But how do you get that something extra. Right. How do you make that stand out. Well here’s how I think this person could make it stand out.

He started the chapter actually at his school, right. He also organized the fundraiser himself to get goods donated there. And by the way, he also decided that he wanted to learn Spanish because he wants to better communicate with the people when he went down to Mexico. Right. That’s taking the extra step in that extracurricular which really makes a big difference because I can’t tell you how many people I see who say “well I went on a two week trip.” OK. That’s phenomenal. What else did you do? Why did you do it? How does that play into the rest of your application right? How do you develop a theme around it.

Shadowing. Do you guys have opportunities to shadow? Have you guys been able to get into, I mean this hospital is obviously around here, how many people have been able to shadow somebody so far? Good. Perfect. So it sounds like you guys, you know, there’s places that have limited opportunities, sounds like you guys may have good opportunities, which is great.

I want each of you guys who are going to apply to school to have shadowed at least three physicians in three different specialties. Alright. That’s what I look for in application. It has to be specialties that are diverse, so I don’t want you just to do outpatient pedes, because as I said earlier, outpatient pedes is very different than inpatient ICU work, and I want you to get a broad exposure to it.

You also want to make sure that you, as I was just saying, I kind of, think about a patient that you saw or something, an interaction that you saw with that doctor that stood out to you, because you may use that as the basis of your personal statement or your secondaries or something else later on down the line. And I can promise you, if you’re applying four years from now, you’re not going to remember that interaction if you don’t write it down. Write it down. Think about it. Just think, OK, what was the one thing I took from this person?

Now it’s less important to do thousands of hours of shadowing, right. Some people think that their application just needs to have shadow, shadow, shadow, shadow, shadow. And the reality is that doesn’t really separate you in any way. What’s more important is the quality of the work ,as well as the clinical work, which I’ll talk about next.

So there is a difference between shadowing and clinical work. Right. Clinical work is you getting your hands dirty. Shadowing is you being a fly on the wall, just watching somebody. Right.

I heard that you guys were doing a little course on blood pressure or vital signs, like, when you go and take those vital signs at a clinic or go abroad and do that, that’s clinical work, right.

When you go work at a hospice and actually talk to a patient, when you work at a nursing home and maybe you take the vitals, or a free clinic and and take the H&P, the history and physical, those are actual clinical opportunities.

Maybe you go scribe and you’re part of the team. These are things that we want to see. I would say 10 years ago, we didn’t really care about this stuff and this wasn’t really all that important. But now it’s actually super important and every single successful applicant has some clinical work on their actual application. And so you guys should definitely be thinking about getting those and I put up 50 to 100 hours as sort of the average that people tend to have of clinical work.

Research. How many of you guys are in a research lab or have done some research work? Good. So, I mean you UT obviously, you guys have a great foundation to get involved in a lot of this stuff and you should absolutely take it. I’m sure some of you guys have asked the question, should I do basic science research? Should I do clinical researc? The answer is it really doesn’t matter which you do. What matters is sort of how far you go with it.

And you know I put this on there as, you know, one of the admissions committees I sat on, we sort of use this as a benchmark, right. We kind of classified applicants in a couple of different ways. Well, at minimum they had to have done some sort of research where they tested a hypothesis, right. If it was in a class, OK. It would be better if it is in a lab. Right. The better one is somebody who’s gone through sustained research two plus years in the lab, contributed to publications, will have to be a first author. Right. It’s hard to get first author publications as you guys have probably found out, but maybe you least present your work at the, you know, UT Austin Science Symposium Day. Right. That’s important.

Get out there and present your work. It could be at a national level. It could be at a regional level. Talk to your P.I. and say “hey, you know I’ve been doing this. I’d really love to put it abstract in. Put a poster in. Talk about this.” Because that stuff is gonna make you a step above.

Obviously if you have actual publications, awesome, like that’s great. But honestly, if you have like publications where you’re the sixth or seventh author, not super impressive. You really need to be a first or second author for me to actually be impressed by that at the end of the day.

Alright. So we talked a little bit of extracurriculars right. And now we get to the MCAT. How many of you guys have taken the MCAT so far? OK. A bunch of you taking it. Who’s in the midst of studying for it? Who’s going to take it in January or so? All right. So we got a bunch of people who are coming up on it. Right. And so you’re starting to get nervous about this test and rightfully so.

Like, this test sucks in a bunch of ways because it kind of determines your future. It’s the test that honestly is probably 50 percent, if not more, of what most schools look at. And every school will give you a whole bunch of hoopla that says we look at applicants holistically and we really want the best applicants. Yeah. Bullshit. Like we want people with good MCAT scores as a starting point. OK. You really need to have a decent MCAT score to get yourself in the door. Right.

I call it an includer not an excluder. Sorry, I call it an excluder not an includer, which is to say that just because you have an MCAT score does not mean you’re into that class. But if you don’t have a certain MCAT score it means you’re probably going to be left out. Your application’s not even going to be looked at in reality.

A school like George Washington gets 15,000 applicants every single year. There is no way that somebody is sitting through 15,000 applicants. I promise you there is a computer filter that sorts by MCAT score and cuts off a whole bunch of people that don’t meet it. Now that’s different for everybody right. So if you’re an underrepresented minority maybe the MCAT score is lower. If you’re in-state versus out-of-state maybe the MCAT score is lower for that particular category. But the reality is the MCAT score does play a really important role in the entire process. Right.

And you guys probably know the MCAT changed a few years ago they called it MCAT 2015. Not very creative, but the the reality is that instead of being scored from 1 to 45 they now score from 472 to 528 ,which if you subtract is the same as 1 to 45, but they changed the scoring scale for whatever reason.

Four sections. You guys know the four sections. What do you want to be aiming for? Well we look back. Remember the average applicants, sorry, the average matriculant had around a 507. I would say that you want to really be, it obviously depends on what your goals are, right. Are you interested in osteopathic schools? Awesome. Are you interested in just MD schools? Are you interested in just Top 20 schools? Well, obviously all your goals are different along those pathways. But the bottom line is, score as high as you can.

And then when you get that MCAT score on the day, this is what it looks like, and you’re either gonna be screaming in joy, or you’re gonna be crying in the library because you’re back studying again. Right. Those are really the two options that people have after they get their MCAT score.

This is what it looks like. You get the score basically on each and every section that gives you a percentile. You know there’s CARS which is typically, a lot of times, the hardest section for people. Those scores tend to be lower sometimes, the science scores tend to be higher. We do take into account the weighting of these things, which is to say that if one score is way low and another scores way high, that does make some impact in the way that I review an application.

It doesn’t mean that all your scores have to be exactly the same. Obviously some people are stronger in some places than others, but it does mean that you want to be aiming for some kind of consistency. And then if you potentially retake the MCAT, which is totally OK to do by the way. A lot of people retake the MCAT. Twice is totally fine. You want to sort of be aiming to get your scores that were lower a little bit higher and maybe maintain those other scores. I once worked with an applicant who took the MCAT eleven times. That was insanity. Don’t take it 11 times. But, twice, even three times is OK.

In terms of dealing with the MCAT, the very, very, very, very best preparation for the MCAT is the courses that you guys are sitting in during your actual classes, right. So doing well in orgo, doing well in biochem, doing well in bio, that’s going to be the best preparation by far, because if you do all of those courses, then when you actually go study for the MCAT, now it’s the second time you’re seeing the material. And then when you actually go review it now it’s the third time you’re seeing material. Right. So bar none, the best thing to do is do well in those classes.

And then how do you how do you go beyond that, right. Or how much time do you should you take off before you take it?

I usually recommend that if you can take the time off ,that you take six weeks of dedicated study time. Remember this is a really important test. If you can’t carve out six weeks for a test that’s going to get you into med school, like, you’ve got to reprioritize. Right. We got to figure out what to do. Maybe it’s take another gap year or whatever it might be. But taking six weeks of time is definitely at minimum what I would do.

Now obviously there’s going to times we can’t do that so if you’re studying while in class, which a lot of you guys are going to be doing, then start thinking about the MCAT at least three months prior. And that doesn’t mean you study 30 hours a day. It means you at least think about it a couple hours a week as you get closer and closer you ramp up your studying during that time. Right.

Khan Academy. How many of you guys use Khan Academy? It’s awesome. It’s really good resource, right. We’re actually, we made a resource that’s going to be available in the next couple of months, that’s actually…Khan Academy is dedicated to all topics, right. We’re just dedicating it to the MCAT. And so look out for that because it’s it’s gonna be free. It’s gonna be a video course that you guys can watch, and it’s gonna be Khan Academy on steroids for the MCAT, essentially.

AAMC questions, for those you guys who haven’t taken the test or are practicing, AAMC questions are crucial. You should buy the AAMC questions. They’re really the best practice material out there. Every company, Princeton Review, Kaplan, Next Step, all have practice material, we have practice material, but the reality is AAMC should be your starting and ending point for most practice material because it’s really, it’s you know, their the people write the test. They have the best practice material.

And then as you guys are going through the study process, right, you’re going to be seeing a lot of courses and some of them work and some of them don’t work. I can’t tell you how many students we have we take a Kaplan or Princeton Review or Berkeley class and they’re sitting in an audience like this and they’re totally zoned out, right. They’re sleeping. They’re not paying attention. They’re on their phone. They’re studying in the back. That’s what I did. I took a Kaplan course, I went to class, and I sat in the back of the room studying on my own. It was the biggest waste of two thousand dollars I could ever imagine. And that’s what a lot of people end up doing because the teacher’s going a sort of different pace that they might not be good, et cetera, et cetera. So make sure that kind of learning style if you’re going to sign up for that works for you. If not, think of a different kind of learning style for yourself.

I just want to highlight a couple of free resources that we have for the MCAT which you guys, for those you guys are studying now and are going to be studying later, like, just log on to YouTube. We have these videos that are good to listen to. We also have an MCAT Basics podcast which is really awesome. So if you’re walking to class, if you’re at the gym, this is what you want to be listening to because it will be like osmosis. It really will be over time.

You know, when I study for the boards, and the boards are what you take after you go through medical school or during medical school, I literally listen to these bootleg copies of this guy who gave a lecture and those bootleg copies are essentially like infiltrated all across all medical schools across the country and everybody listens to them, but they were gold because you would be at the gym, you would be doing whatever, and you’d just be listening to it, and then you would remember it. You just listen to it over and over and over again. So for those you guys who are sort of audio listeners you definitely want to check out the MCAT Basics podcast. We basically go through a topic every single week and you’ll you’ll get better, and you’ll get better and better at it as you go. So that’s MCAT okay. Right.

Now what about the actual application. So we have one person in the audience who I think is going through the application process, but a bunch of you will be. Here’s the general timeline, right. Somewhere between January and April before you apply, you want to be asking for letters of recommendation. You want to be getting your personal statement ready. You want to be studying for the MCAT and potentially taking it if you haven’t taken it already.

Then in May and June, the applications open up. Right. And a lot of you guys may be applying to three different applications, right. There’s a Texas application which is the TMDSAS. Guess what. You guys have two extra essays compared to everybody else. Yay. There’s the MCAS application which goes to the rest of the MD schools around the country. And then there’s the AACOMAS which is the osteopathic application.

So you guys may be filling out three applications which are all relatively similar to each other, so it’s not the end of the world, but that’s the amount of work that you might be putting in. And then once you actually submit that application, you get secondary applications.

What are secondary applications? They’re a moneymaker for medical schools because you’ve got to pay another hundred fifty bucks for every single school you apply to to submit a secondary application, but unfortunately they won’t look at your application until you submit it. So those secondary applications consist of even more essays. You’re gonna be writing essays up the wazoo. You’re gonna be so sick of essays by the end of this whole thing that you’re going to never want to write again, but you’re gonna have to for residency and fellowship, but different story. You’re gonna write these secondary applications. They’re gonna be more essays.

And then finally you get to the interview stage where you actually sit down. There’s two different types of interviews you guys may have heard of. The regular interview and the MMI interview. How many of you guys have heard of the MMI interview? A few of.

So it’s called a multiple mini interview. It’s basically interviews where you go in simulated sessions. So you go and you sit down next to an actor and you basically simulate either a patient encounter or an awkward situation or something along those lines. So it might be something like,” you read the prompt which says walk into this room, the person in the room is a co-worker who you’ve never met, but you’re driving to the airport.”

And that’s the prompt. And so you got to walk into the room, and you gotta stand next to that awkward guy, and you got to start acting like you’re a co-worker of his driving him to the airport. And so what are we evaluating there, right. We’re evaluating your skills of communication. We’re evaluating your ability to think critically. We’re evaluating your ability to sort of interact with people at all thing, by the way, which are tremendously important for when you interact with patients. And that’s why the MMI interview has taken off and a lot of schools are using it.

If all goes well, you get an acceptance, right, and that you start med school in August of the following year. So look at that process right. It takes at least 16 months or so between when you say OK I’m going to start applying to medical school to actually get in. So more length in the process.

Why do you need to be proactive in this situation? Right. You need to be proactive in this situation because there’s a lot of steps, right. I just put up five up there. The pre-med curriculum. The MCAT. Your extracurriculars. The actual application. And then once you actually submit your application navigating the interview process and everything else. So there’s there’s just a lot of steps in this whole thing. For those you guys who are a young, freshman, sophomores, juniors, even people who are seniors and not applying yet, as long as you’ve planned ahead, you can tackle all this. It’s those people who don’t plan ahead who wait to the last minute that really can’t tackle it and that’s when that’s when bad situations happen.

So. That’s that’s a little bit of info. Now, I know I just gave you a lot of info, right. And a lot of a lot of people ask me when I give this “Hey can I get copies of these slides,” et cetera, et cetera. So what we’ve done is actually put this all together in a book for you. And so if you guys want to take a second and just text that if you guys want to use our cell phones they’re cool.

(Text ‘UTA’ to 833-201-7007 to receive the free Guide to Becoming a Physician guidebook.)

OK. I heard the no cell phone and no laptop rule which was actually really cool. But if you text that if you text that number you should get a link back from us that will allow you to download this book and that book is basically a great little resource to look at. It goes through everything I just talked about in more detail as well. It’s got a section on the personal statement, the interview, so no matter where you are, hopefully it’ll help you figure out what med school admissions committees are looking for. It’ll really give you some idea of the number of hours you need for those of you who are younger in the process, et cetera. So take a second and do that and hopefully you can let me know if it works you should get a little text back that says with a link. OK. Cool.

Each of you guys is going to take a different pathway to this, right. Every single person’s pathways can be different and that’s actually good because no medical school applicant should be the same as the next medical school applicant, and no medical school is looking for the same thing. Right. So I always get the question well what is Dell Medical School looking for? Right. Or what is Harvard looking for?

And the reality is every med school is looking for a spectrum of people. If I pick all of the same exact people at my medical school, that would be terrible. That would make for a really boring 150 person class, right. While looking for a spectrum of people, and everything I mentioned so far is sort of the what I would say is the foundations of making a good applicant. What you have to decide, as you guys are going through this, is what’s my theme? Right. Who am I? How am I gonna be different? Why should a medical school accept me?

I want you to think about that. Think about that question: Why should a medical school accept me? And if your answer is, well it’s because I shadowed three people, not good, because the person next to you shadowed three people as well. Think about how you’re going to separate yourself as you go along and shape your extracurriculars along those ways. Shape your, essentially your story, along that way. And if you do that, that’s how you’re gonna make a successful applicant. That’s how you’re going to make yourself in that 50 percent of people with a certain MCAT and certain GPA that actually get in versus those that don’t. Right.

Alright. So quickly, what we do at MedSchoolCoach is we help with all these things right. So we help with MCAT. We have an MCAT course. We have MCAT tutoring. We have, basically physician advisors who can help you through the process. We act as, we basically we have about 75 physicians on staff all of whom have served on admissions committees to act as your guidance counselors or your pre-health counselors for those of you who don’t have good ones. If you have good ones, go for it. That’s an awesome start.

But we added essays. We help you to schools. We help you plan your path. We help you figure out what it is that you’re going to do when it’s actually time for interview prep. We sit down and mock interview with you. For those you guys you’re studying for the MCAT, we go through the MCAT as well as tutoring for that and it’s really, really effective when you can sit down one-on-one with somebody as opposed to you know in a big, I would say.

So that’s that. That’s what I got for you. Hopefully that gives you some basis. Now there’s typically a bunch of questions after this that are very individualized and that’s totally fine. I’m happy to stay and answer some questions. Happy to answer some group questions as well. But hopefully it gives you a little bit of the overview of the process. I know some of it’s scary, right. Particularly when there’s, when I said raise your hands and there’s ten of you and only one of you or two of you will make it through, but the reality is that if you really plan well, if you do well in class, then more of you can make it through.

Like coming to lectures like this. By getting help. By being part of organizations. That’s how you’re going to actually make yourself a successful applicant at the end of the day. So don’t get too scared if this is what you want to do, you can get there, even if you fail a bunch of classes, you can get there. It’s can take a couple of years. You gonna to do post bacc program and a special masters program and a whole bunch of other stuff. But if being a doctor is really what you want to do, you can eventually get there OK. And it’s worth it at the end of the day because it’s cool right.

I love what I do. I love what I do on an everyday basis. I take care of patients who are literally dying in front of me and could die on my table and we save them and I put a Band-Aid on their neck at the end of it. And I think that’s pretty cool. And they’re good. And other people love what they do. They love talking to their patients and watching families grow and being a pediatrician and watching a kid go from literally a baby all the way to 18. Like how cool is that. You’ve seen their entire spectrum and you’ve been their doctor their entire time

So there’s so many cool things you could do in medicine. It’s really an awesome field for those of you guys who are going to go into it, and it’s it’s an honor to be in this. Right. Because you’re going to have the lives of other people in your hands. So as you’re going through and studying for orgo and thinking about isomers or whatever it is that you think about in orgo (I literally haven’t thought about orgo in 15-20 years), whatever you think about, think about at the end of the day, the light at that end of that tunnel. It’s a long tunnel. But there is light at the end of it. And it’s worth it for those you guys who are going to make it. Alright. So thank you again for me. I appreciate it.

Sahil Mehta

Sahil Mehta M.D. is an attending physician in the Department of Radiology at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and the Founder of MedSchoolCoach. Dr Mehta is one of the world’s experts on medical school admissions having founded MedSchoolCoach in 2007. MedSchoolCoach provides admissions consulting to premedical students in the form of interview preparation, essay editing and general advising. In the past 10 years, he has had a hand in over a thousand acceptances to medical school.

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