MedSchoolCoach http://www.medschoolcoach.com Helping you achieve your medical school dreams Wed, 24 May 2017 10:27:29 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.7.5 42371106 Medical School Interview Stretegies http://www.medschoolcoach.com/medical-school-interview-stretegies/ Tue, 23 May 2017 08:34:01 +0000 http://www.medschoolcoach.com/?p=8887 Congratulations on acquiring an interview! Although interviews can be intimidating, a few strategies can improve your confidence and how you are perceived. Your overall goal is to project positive traits and a calm demeanor so the interviewer can envision you efficiently adapting to their workplace. Interview preparation will enable you to showcase the best version

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Congratulations on acquiring an interview! Although interviews can be intimidating, a few strategies can improve your confidence and how you are perceived. Your overall goal is to project positive traits and a calm demeanor so the interviewer can envision you efficiently adapting to their workplace. Interview preparation will enable you to showcase the best version of yourself.

Find out who the interviewer is–if you can

Weeks before the interview, consider contacting the coordinator to find out who will be interviewing you. Most schools won’t disclose this information, but it is worth asking because this can give you the opportunity to briefly identify the interviewer’s research interests and see them online. Your familiarity with your interviewer is advantageous for asking pertinent questions and generating interesting talking points. In addition, gaining background information on their program specific details will help you ask informed questions and project your sincere interest.

Know about thyself

During the interview, you will be asked a few standard questions, but the most common is “tell me about yourself.” This open-ended question allows the interviewer to hear what you think is important, and you can begin at any point in your life as long as you are concise and modest. Phrase your answers with the understanding that programs have your CV. Most interviewees briefly cover important undergraduate and/or graduate work, and explain what experiences motivated their career choice.

Don’t talk about hardship

One approach that is discouraged during the interview is hardship stories. Using a wide perspective is critical to evaluate if your story merits mention. Even though the road to medicine is rocky for many, conveying your personal struggle may lead to poorer outcomes. The interviewer may hear you were overwhelmed and wonder if you have developed adequate coping strategies. Your story may divulge personal information that confesses alignment with a victim mentality. Interviewers tend to be older and have often experienced major struggles of their own. Also, consider that competing applicants that emigrate from developing and war-torn nations may have endured life-threatening trauma. If you decide to share, explain the strengths you gained and/or why you valued the experience.

Search for possible questions (or check out this blog)

More than half the interview questions can be predicted by a quick Google search. For these common questions, write 3-sentence answers or less on a cloud document (such as Google Drive) so that you can review strong responses before each interview. Resist the urge to write more as it is better to be concise than deliver a monologue. When practicing, answer the questions out loud and setup mock interviews with peers and colleagues. Solicit and use feedback to improve future mock interview sessions, and practice projecting a calm and friendly demeanor throughout. Stumping question may require you to pause before formulating a response. A brief silence can feel awkward, but remember that conversation pauses are normal.

To generate specific questions, conduct some online research of each program and listen carefully during the interview. A few generic questions are also helpful, for example, you may inquire about first year scheduling or research opportunities. The interview often ends with the question: Is there anything else you would like to let us know? This is your chance to emphasize why you want to go to their school specifically. When possible, give a personal reason and show your investment in the program through geographic and community connections.

End with thanks

To close, thank the interviewer for their time. Afterwards, record the interviewer’s name to send a thank you email and add newly-encountered interview questions to your cloud document. Using these tips to manage your expectations and preparation will improve your performance and confidence in the interview.

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Planning Ahead for Med School: 11th and 12th Grades http://www.medschoolcoach.com/planning-ahead-senior-high-school/ http://www.medschoolcoach.com/planning-ahead-senior-high-school/#comments Wed, 17 May 2017 07:47:28 +0000 http://www.medschoolcoach.com/?p=8374 Following our recommended steps to the medical school of your choice? We hope so. So far, we’ve tackled how to best prepare in 8th and 9th grade, 10th grade, and now we’re going to get into the nitty gritty of how to prepare for medical school when you are in the 11th and 12th grades.

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Following our recommended steps to the medical school of your choice? We hope so. So far, we’ve tackled how to best prepare in 8th and 9th grade, 10th grade, and now we’re going to get into the nitty gritty of how to prepare for medical school when you are in the 11th and 12th grades.

What to do in 11th grade

Finish all standardized tests and narrow down your college list.

Hopefully, by the end of 10th grade, you’ve taken care to ensure both volunteer positions and research opportunities (if not, then keep working at it!). If so, then your focus in junior year should now shift from activities to academics. Some of you may have finished your SAT/ACT in 10th grade, but if not, then that should be your biggest priority coming into junior year (along with stellar grades, of course!). Spend some extra time the summer before your junior year to really prepare for this test so that hopefully you’ll be ready to take it by October or November. It’s best to try and take it during first semester of your junior year for two main reasons: (1) either you’re happy with your score and you can focus second semester on SAT subject tests/AP exams, or (2) you’re not happy with your score but you still have some time left in junior year to retake the test and improve. Having to deal with the SAT/ACT in your first semester of senior year is a huge burden, since it’ll take time away from your college essays and applications, so do all you can to complete it by junior year.

Once you’ve finished the SAT/ACT, the next standardized tests that you should focus on are your subject tests and AP exams. Since the content covered on both subject tests and AP exams is quite similar, most students tend to take both around the same time (in May/June). I would generally recommend taking at least 2 subjects tests: the first being SAT Math Level 2 and the second being SAT Science (usually biology or chemistry for BS/MD programs). Some students choose to take a third subject test in a humanities or social science subject simply do so to showcase their academic well-roundedness, but only do this if you’ve got time for it. Otherwise, math and science are really what the BS/MD programs are looking for.

Quick note: Be sure to do your research and double-check what each program you’re applying to requires in terms of SAT Subject tests. Some want a humanities subject test, while others may want both biology and chemistry subject tests. In general, one science and one math will suffice, but that piece of advice may not hold up for every program. Do your research early (preferably in 10th grade) so that you can accordingly plan when you want to take each separate test. 

What to do in 12th grade

Complete the college application process and prepare for BS/MD interviews

After finishing up all your standardized tests, its time to get really serious about application season (I know… it seems like the workload never ends, but hey, you’re almost there!). In the summer between your junior and senior year, you should try to secure some sort of research or health-related internship. On top of doing all that, though, it’s important to find some time to start working on your essays. As a BS/MD applicant, you are going to be writing nearly twice as many essays as any traditional college applicant, so the best piece of advice I can give to anyone is to start writing early. Hopefully you’ve already got at least a short-list of colleges you’re planning to apply to, but if not, then do that first. Once that is settled, you can really start to focus on the prompts that each individual school asks for.

When first attempting to write college application essays, they may seem daunting and impossible (which is why most students tend to procrastinate so much on them). But in reality, the most daunting part is that blank word document; once you start putting thoughts on paper, all your ideas will start to flow and slowly coalesce into a more structured essay. I’d recommend starting out with your largest prompts, since those are going to be the ones that take the most time. These include the common application, the “Why Medicine” essay, and the “Tell me about a non-health-related passion” essay. I encourage writing multiple prompts (whether that be one big one and a few small ones or multiple big ones) at the same time simply because it minimizes the chances of feeling stuck. There are inevitably going to be days when you can’t seem to coherently express your thoughts on paper; and if you choose to exclusively work on one prompt at a time, then those days are ultimately going to reduce your rate of progress.  If, however, you’re working on multiple prompts at the same time, then you might find yourself feeling particularly motivated to answer one question even though you’re at a loss of words for another. Essay writing has a lot to do with different moods and times, so multitasking and working on several different prompts at once allows you to be flexible with your ideas and emotions.

After finishing up all your essays and applications, you can finally take a huge sigh of relief. For the next weeks, you can take a bit of breather and relax before interview invitations for BS/MD programs start to come out. Successful applicants will usually be notified anytime from late January to early March about the interview process. If you’ve applied to several BS/MD programs and successfully get interview invitations from many of them, then get ready for a lot of traveling (and a lot of preparation for what you must do before, during, and after your interview, so keep a look out for future blog posts addressing all those topics!). If, on the other hand, you’re not successful in getting interview invitations from some or all of the BS/MD programs that you applied to, then don’t worry too much about it. Remember that these programs are some of the most competitive programs in the country, and by having gone through the entire BS/MD process in the first place, you’ve already got an advantage for four years down the road when you apply to medical school. Everybody hates rejection, but just know that that is part of the college application process. If you are truly passionate about pursuing medicine, then don’t worry because you’ve still got plenty of time to achieve that dream!

This blog posts conclude the three-part topic of “Planning Ahead” (see part 1 and part 2).  As you can tell, a lot of thought goes into figuring out how to maximize your success rate when it comes to BS/MD programs. In the midst of it all, you may find yourself questioning your own potential and ability, but always try to keep perspective. If you mess up here or there, it’s okay! You can make adjustments as you go. As long as you do your best to stick to the plan, chances are that you’ll pass the finish line with positive outcomes!

 

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Planning Ahead for Med School: 10th Grade http://www.medschoolcoach.com/planning-ahead-high-school/ http://www.medschoolcoach.com/planning-ahead-high-school/#comments Wed, 10 May 2017 08:11:30 +0000 http://www.medschoolcoach.com/?p=8367 We’ve talked about how to plan for medical school in 8th and 9th grades, assuming you’ve got an early start. If you’re just getting started now, though, not to worry. Here’s what you need to do now. What to do in 10th grade Plan out the rest of your high school schedule, find research and

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We’ve talked about how to plan for medical school in 8th and 9th grades, assuming you’ve got an early start. If you’re just getting started now, though, not to worry. Here’s what you need to do now.

What to do in 10th grade

Plan out the rest of your high school schedule, find research and volunteer positions, start preparing for SAT/ACT

By the end of freshman year, you should most definitely know whether or not you’re serious about pursuing medicine as a future field of study. If you’re still hesitant about it, then perhaps BS/MD programs are not ideal for you. If, however, you can confidently say that you have health-related interests and want to become a physician in the future, then now’s really going to be the time to buckle down and get serious. Tenth grade is going to be the most telling year in terms of setting yourself up for future BS/MD success. Time management is going to be your greatest asset; with everything that you’re trying to juggle all at once, staying on task is going to require a strong level of discipline and commitment.

Below, I’ve listed the three main things you should start doing in 10th grade:

First, figure out your plans for the rest of high school.

Planning ahead is going to be critical for success. By now, you should know your academic and non-academic interests, so the next step is to really figure out how you’re going to incorporate those interests into the rest of your high school career. The easiest way to start doing so is by planning out your course schedule for the next three years. Below, I’ve listed three potential schedules. Keep in mind, though, that the number and types of courses listed are specific to the high school I went to. Every school has different expectations and options, so make sure to only use these example schedules as templates from which you can build and personalize your own schedule.

9th Grade 10th Grade 11th Grade 12th Grade
Biology Chemistry Honors AP Biology Physics Honors
Geometry Algebra 2/Trigonometry Pre-Calculus AP Calculus AB/BC
World History AP US History Economics AP Government
American Literature World Literature AP Language and Composition AP Literature
French I French II French III French IV
Elective(s) Elective(s) Elective(s) Elective(s)

 

9th Grade 10th Grade 11th Grade 12th Grade
Biology Chemistry Honors AP Biology AP Chemistry
Algebra 2/Trigonometry Pre-Calculus AP Calculus AB/BC AP Statistics
World History AP US History Economics AP Government
American Literature World Literature AP Language and Composition Literature
French II French III French IV Physics Honors
Elective(s) Elective(s) Elective(s) Elective(s)

 

9th Grade 10th Grade 11th Grade 12th Grade
Biology Chemistry Honors AP Chmistry Physics Honors
Pre-Calculus AP Calculus AB/BC AP Statistics Multivariable Calculus
(no social science) World History AP US History AP Government/Economics
American Literature World Literature Language and Composition AP Literature
French II French III French IV Honors AP French
Elective(s) Elective(s) Elective(s) Elective(s)

A few important notes on the above template schedules:

  • Try to take 6-8 AP classes to be a competitive applicant. Taking 3 AP courses in both your junior and senior year is what most students do, but if you’re really willing to take on the challenge (and by this I mean you are sure you can handle the workload without letting your grades slip) then go ahead and take 4 in one year. Sometimes schools even allow students to take AP courses in their freshmen and sophomore year, so figure out what works best for you. Be cautious though, because again, quality matters over quantity! Don’t try overloading AP courses if that means your grades are going to slip.
  • Make sure you take all three sciences: Biology, Chemistry, and Physics. It doesn’t necessarily matter which of the three sciences you choose to take as an AP course, but you must take all three. Medicine requires knowledge of all three science subjects (even though you may think it’s only about biology and chemistry) so it’s necessary that you gain at least some exposure to them all in high school.
  • Try to be strategic with which AP classes you take together. For example, avoid taking AP Biology, AP US History, and AP Language and Composition together since all require a great deal of reading and theory. It’s better to replace one of those with a more applied field, such as AP Calculus.

Secondly, get research experience!

In order to be a competitive applicant for some of the best BS/MD programs in the country, it is absolutely essential for you to have some sort of research experience. The most impressive type of research is that which students conduct at university labs, but of course, it’s not all that easy to get access to them as a high school student. If you’re unable to find research at a lab, then even conducting independent research at your high school is impressive. But with that said, it definitely is not impossible to find research at universities. It will require a great deal of effort and persistence, but that’s exactly why BS/MD programs place so much value on it (again, it’s an indicator of work ethic!).

So how exactly do you find research at a university lab? First off, if you know anyone who works at a university lab, then the best thing you can possibly do is showcase your interest to him or her. Having connections is probably the only shortcut to getting research at a lab. If you don’t have any personal connections, though, then unfortunately you’re stuck having to go about it the old-fashioned way: emailing professors.

The first thing to do when deciding which professors to email is to isolate your own interests. Just generically claiming that you’re interested in, say, biology will ultimately get you nowhere. Instead, you must focus in on a smaller, subtopic of biology (such as neuroscience) and do some research on professors who study that field. Once you’ve found a list of professors interested in the same subject matter as you, it’s time to learn about the specific details of each professor’s projects. What exactly are they studying? Why is it critical to understand that? How do your experiences and interests match up with theirs? These are the questions you should be asking yourself when reading through the professor’s publications and deciding whether or not you want to email them to inquire about a possible position in their lab.

Once you’ve identified which professors you want to contact, you must construct a carefully worded email to show them your interest. What you put in this email is of utmost importance, since it’s the only basis on which professors will either reject or accept you. I’ve shared below the template email I used when contacting professors. Use this email to give yourself a better idea of what to include in your email and how to structure it, but also make the necessary adjustments so that it’s more personal to you.

Dear Professor/Dr. ______,

My name is_____, and I am emailing to inquire about an internship for the summer of (year). I am currently a (grade level) at (high school), and for a few years now, it has been my passion to further pursue (subject) once I leave high school. Just to be clear, I am completely willing to work without pay. I’m looking to further my insights about (subject) and I believe your mentorship will be critical in helping me do so.

After reading through some of your publications, it seems your lab is focused on studying (lab objective). Your article (article name) particularly captured my attention. I would like to learn more about (topic of interest). I am currently working on an independent research project involving (subject of research), and I would like to continue to understand (ask any topic-related questions). Being that you are an expert in this field of research, it would be an honor to have you as a mentor to help me understand and answer these, and many other, questions.

I have attached my resume and my current independent research proposal for your perusal. I genuinely believe that your assistance will be of great help to me, so I truly hope you consider me for an internship.

Thank you very much in advance for your time. Hope to hear from you soon,
(name)

A few important notes on the above template email:

  • Always emphasize your interest in an unpaid internship. The professors who run these labs are usually on low-budgets and would most definitely not choose to spend their money on a high school student with no experience. The best way to present yourself is as an intellectually curious student who is looking to gain some lab exposure and is willing to work purely for experience rather than for pay.
  • Make sure you at least attempt to read the professor’s publications. A lot of the content these professors publish is going to be far too complex for you to understand, but you should at least attempt to read and make some sense of it (focus on sections such as the abstract). This is crucial part of the email because it shows your willingness to work hard for the position and that you have at least some idea of what you could potentially be getting involved with.
  • Keep the email short and sweet. Professors are busy people; in between all the grants they’re writing and the projects they’re supervising, they don’t have any time to read lengthy or detailed emails. Keep the content of your email concise (but still informative) by limiting the word count to around 250 words.
  • Don’t be discouraged by the response. When I was going through this exact process, I sent out a near total of 200 emails and got a positive response from only 2. A majority of the professors I contacted simply didn’t respond at all. There were, however, a few that responded saying that they’d love to have me, but either (1) I was too young, or (2) their lab was full. As a 10th grader, there is a high probability that you will get the first response, simply because university policies usually requires a person to be at least 16 years old to work in their lab. If you are under 16 and get a response saying you’re too young, then don’t lose complete hope! You can email back saying you appreciate their response and then follow-up that email one year later when you’re a bit older to see if they’ll take you then. If you encounter the second response, then you should also reply by thanking them for a response and follow-up a few months later to inquire whether or not any spots have opened up. The best months to send out emails are early September-October, after summer students are gone and spots are newly available, or December-February, when summer students are beginning to apply for positions.

Thirdly, start volunteering.

BS/MD programs are really looking for students who have been committed to the field of medicine for a number of years. One of the easiest and most common ways to show this interest is by volunteering at a local hospital, hospice, private practice, or just about any other place where you can get some health-related exposure. These activities are going to be meaningful not only because they’ll give you a glimpse into your future, but also because they’ll help confirm within you whether or not medicine is really the field for you.

Speaking from a personal perspective, I can tell you that volunteering at a children’s hospice was one of the most difficult yet also one of the most valuable experiences of my high school career. It taught me to face arguably the worst part of becoming a doctor: the reality of death. But in learning to deal with that, I also gained a newfound appreciation for life, which only further affirmed within me the thought that waking up and working to better someone’s health every day is something I can envision myself doing for my entire life.

On a day-to-day basis, you may not notice the grand scheme of what it means to be a doctor. But the longer time you spend volunteering, the easier it’ll become to put those daily nuances into a larger picture that will ultimately help you realize what it is about the field of medicine that you find so attractive. And figuring out that “bigger picture” is exactly why it’s best to start such volunteering as early as possible.

Fourth (and finally): Prepare for (and maybe even complete) the SAT/ACT.

One of the best things you can do to open up some free time for yourself in the future is to kick the SAT/ACT out of the way as soon as possible. Most students take these standardized tests in their junior year, but there’s really no logic behind that. Between your sophomore year and junior year, there isn’t going to be any one class that will all of a sudden prepare you to master the SAT/ACT. In fact, there is no such class at all. The secret to mastering these standardized tests is just learning the strategies and practicing them over and over and over again. Some students take more time to internalize the techniques while others take less time. If you’re in the first category, then it’s best to start early so you’ve got more time for practice. If, on the other hand, you’re in the second category, then by all means you should go ahead and take the test in 10th grade itself. That will only open up more time later for you to focus on your grades, activities, and subject SAT tests.

As previously mentioned (and as you can see from the length of this blog post), 10th grade is going to be a tough year. But if you really take the time to plan everything out, you’re going to be right on track for BS/MD success. Stay tuned for the next blog posts that covers tips on what to do during 11th and 12th grade!

Photo Credit: Shutterstock

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Planning Ahead for Med School: 8th and 9th Grade http://www.medschoolcoach.com/planning-ahead-junior-high/ http://www.medschoolcoach.com/planning-ahead-junior-high/#comments Wed, 03 May 2017 07:55:41 +0000 http://www.medschoolcoach.com/?p=8360 One of the best ways to set yourself up for success with regards to BS/MD programs is by planning ahead. People who know from early on (sometimes even as early as middle school!) that medicine is a potential field of interest are the ones who end up sending the most convincing applications to BS/MD committees.

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One of the best ways to set yourself up for success with regards to BS/MD programs is by planning ahead. People who know from early on (sometimes even as early as middle school!) that medicine is a potential field of interest are the ones who end up sending the most convincing applications to BS/MD committees.

Below, I’ve outlined the best way to structure your high school career in order to maximize your chances at BS/MD success.

What to do in 8th grade

Explore both current and potentially long-term interests.

At this point in time, it’s far too early to decide whether or not medicine is your calling; it’s never, however, too early to start exploring the field of science. Most students who end up applying to BS/MD programs (myself included!) know from quite early on that science is a subject that sparks curiosity within them. Specifically, students who gravitate towards subjects such as biology and chemistry are likely to develop aspirations of becoming doctors. There are, however, plenty of exceptions; in fact, some of the most in-demand skills in today’s field of medicine have to do with computer science and engineering. So even if you’re a student who tends to lean more strongly towards math and computer science-related fields, don’t completely rule out medicine as a possible career option, especially if you have even the slightest interest in learning more about the human body.

But how exactly do you decide which subjects interest you? The most foolproof way is to get out and try everything! By the time kids hit middle school, they’ve usually tried out a number of extra-curricular activities and have narrowed it down to two or three that they really enjoy (whether that be dance, music, sports, etc.). But what most students haven’t had the chance to do is test out their academic interests via a trial-and-error method. Of course, most students get a general idea of what subjects they enjoy by simply going to class, but that isn’t usually enough to determine whether you can maintain those same academic interest long-term. The best way to really put it to the test is by participating in extra-curricular activities that are related to those subject areas. For example, a student who likes biology could submit a biology-based project into their local science fair. Or a student who likes math could get involved with Math Olympiad competitions outside of school. The only obstacle you may face is accessibility; it’s slightly difficult to acknowledge your potential interest in a topic that you’ve never experienced (or maybe haven’t even heard of) before. For example, a student may not know whether or not they enjoy computer science if they’ve never taken a class on it (likely because most middle schools don’t offer CS courses). Because of such limitations, try to exhaust all possible options while in middle school, but don’t shut yourself off from subjects you haven’t yet experienced. Ninth grade will provide you with more opportunity to broaden your interests, so stay open-minded!

What to do in 9th grade

Narrow down your interests (both academic & non-academic) and develop a strong work ethic.

Academic Interests: If you’ve already entered high school and are still somewhat scatter-minded about your academic interests, don’t worry – you’ve still got time! In fact, in some ways, it’s actually advantageous to be uncertain of your interests in high school as opposed to middle school. As mentioned above, the biggest obstacle middle school students face when trying to increase their exposure to different subject areas is accessibility. In high school, though, that’s not the case. There’s a plethora of elective courses to choose from that will help you better narrow down your academic interests.

But what if there’s a subject you want to further explore and your high school doesn’t offer any classes on it? Try checking out your local community college! The benefit of being a high school student is that, given the proper permission, you can usually take classes at your local community college (oftentimes for free!). And just like high school has more course diversity than middle school, college so too has more course diversity than high school. So the likelihood of you not finding a course related to your interests is rather unlikely. If you do choose to go down this route, there may be some applications and forms needed to be filled out, so the best way to get started is simply by approaching your guidance counselor and asking about the process. (Also, keep in mind that 3 years down the road, your counselors will be filling out some of your recommendation letters, so the earlier you go talk to them and try to build a relationship, the better your chances are at avoiding the cliché, impersonal letters that colleges hate!)

Below, I’ve noted some courses I suggest you at least try out when looking to narrow down your academic interests (not all of them will be offered at your high school, so check your local community college as suggested above!). Some of these might seem completely unrelated to medicine, but remember that there is no problem with wanting to combine two academic interests into one interdisciplinary subject. In fact, that’s extremely appealing to some BS/MD programs because medicine itself is inherently an interdisciplinary field.

Suggested Additional Courses:

  • Computer Science
  • Economics
  • Government
  • App Design
  • Philosophy/Medical Ethics
  • Public Health
  • Business

Non-academic InterestsIn addition to identifying your academic interests, it is equally important to use freshman year to narrow down your extra-curricular interests. The first few months of the year might seem a bit overwhelming, with every club trying to shove a flyer in your face and trying oh-so-hard to get you to come to their new member meeting. But don’t let that pressure get to you; in fact, embrace it! The best way to deal with this situation is, in my opinion, to welcome it with open arms. When each club stops you and asks you to sign up for their email list, go ahead and do it. This is the time for you to exhaust all your potential extra-curricular options and to really figure out which activities you want to fully commit to. So go to all those introductory meetings and, better yet, stick with the club for at least one semester. Staying with the cub even when all the new-member excitement dies down will allow you to get a real feel for what the club is like.  You’ll see that some clubs aren’t as exciting, structured, or worth your time as you’d thought they’d be, while others that you had expected to be boring are surprisingly quite thought-provoking. But the only way to really weed out which clubs are well-suited for you and which ones aren’t is by maintaining a certain level of commitment to all of them throughout your first semester. After that, you’ll have the personal experience needed to make a knowledgeable decision.

Students who have already been dedicated to certain activities (such as sports or music) for their entire life may ask what is the point of joining clubs at all. If you love what you do and are ready to commit another four years to it, then by all means, go ahead! There will likely be some way for you to continue your passions in high school (ex: join band or playing for your high school sports teams). If, however, you are somewhat hesitant about whether or not you can see yourself continuing that same activity for another number of years, then perhaps consider joining some clubs. Just because you’ve been involved with something for so long doesn’t mean you have to continue it, especially if you’re only going to be a passive participant. In fact, that holds true for just about anything you decide to pursue in high school. One of the most common misconceptions student have about being a competitive college applicant is having a to join every single possible club on campus. But in reality, colleges are looking for quality over quantity. If you’ve got 2 or 3 main activities that you’re heavily involved with and have the experiences, awards, and leadership positions to back that up, then you’re in a much better position than another student who simply has a laundry list of activities written down on their resume. Students who take note of this early on and decide to fully commit their passion and energy into a few, selective activities are really the ones who find the most success with colleges.

In addition to identifying your academic interests, it is equally important to use freshman year to narrow down your extra-curricular interests. The first few months of the year might seem a bit overwhelming, with every club trying to shove a flyer in your face and trying oh-so-hard to get you to come to their new member meeting. But don’t let that pressure get to you; in fact, embrace it! The best way to deal with this situation is, in my opinion, to welcome it with open arms. When each club stops you and asks you to sign up for their email list, go ahead and do it. This is the time for you to exhaust all your potential extra-curricular options and to really figure out which activities you want to fully commit to. So go to all those introductory meetings and, better yet, stick with the club for at least one semester. Staying with the cub even when all the new-member excitement dies down will allow you to get a real feel for what the club is like.  You’ll see that some clubs aren’t as exciting, structured, or worth your time as you’d thought they’d be, while others that you had expected to be boring are surprisingly quite thought-provoking. But the only way to really weed out which clubs are well-suited for you and which ones aren’t is by maintaining a certain level of commitment to all of them throughout your first semester. After that, you’ll have the personal experience needed to make a knowledgeable decision.

diverse-students

Students who have already been dedicated to certain activities (such as sports or music) for their entire life may ask what is the point of joining clubs at all. If you love what you do and are ready to commit another four years to it, then by all means, go ahead! There will likely be some way for you to continue your passions in high school (ex: join band or playing for your high school sports teams). If, however, you are somewhat hesitant about whether or not you can see yourself continuing that same activity for another number of years, then perhaps consider joining some clubs. Just because you’ve been involved with something for so long doesn’t mean you have to continue it, especially if you’re only going to be a passive participant. In fact, that holds true for just about anything you decide to pursue in high school. One of the most common misconceptions student have about being a competitive college applicant is having a to join every single possible club on campus. But in reality, colleges are looking for quality over quantity. If you’ve got 2 or 3 main activities that you’re heavily involved with and have the experiences, awards, and leadership positions to back that up, then you’re in a much better position than another student who simply has a laundry list of activities written down on their resume. Students who take note of this early on and decide to fully commit their passion and energy into a few, selective activities are really the ones who find the most success with colleges.

Grades: The final but perhaps the most important note to make about freshmen year is about your GPA: do not let your grades slip! Your grades are going to be one of most important factors of consideration by BS/MD selection committees, so do everything in your power to maintain a high GPA. Classes are only going to get tougher and your schedule is only going to get more hectic, so the best way to set yourself up for academic success in the future is by laying down a strong foundation in freshmen year with a high GPA.

But why does your GPA even matter that much? Most students know that colleges place a lot of importance on grade point averages, but not all of them really know why. It’s not because your GPA displays your intelligence, but rather because it displays your work ethic. No student will ever tell you that a 4.0 comes easily. Sure, some classes might be an easy A, but on the flip side, some classes will require you to put in endless hours of work to just barely scrape that A. No matter what, every student will at some point face a subject that they really struggle with. But what differentiates a high GPA student from a low GPA student is their willingness to work hard and improve on their weaknesses. Colleges are looking for students who’ve got the intrinsic motivation to overcome challenges, and your GPA is a perfect representation of that.

Lastly, make sure to enjoy 9th grade! It may seem like a whole new, scary world, but you’ll look back and reminisce about those easier times. Ninth grade is a time for exploration and discovery, so don’t let the stresses of a heavy workload make you miss out on all the social experiences. Sure, there will be some sacrifices you have to make, but in the end, it’s all about balance. If you take the necessary actions at the right time, then by all means it is possible to be a competitive applicant and still have fun. Tenth grade is going to get tougher (about which there will be a blog post next!) so enjoy the freedoms of 9th grade while they last!

For more on this series, click onto Planning Ahead for Medical School: 10th Grade and Planning Ahead for Medical School: 11th and 12th Grades.

Photo Credit: Shutterstock

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MedSchoolCoach Scholarship Program http://www.medschoolcoach.com/scholarship-program/ http://www.medschoolcoach.com/scholarship-program/#comments Thu, 27 Apr 2017 20:22:26 +0000 http://www.medschoolcoach.com/?p=8881 The post MedSchoolCoach Scholarship Program appeared first on MedSchoolCoach.

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Scholarship Program for Students Interested in Advancing Health Care (Medical School Path Not Required)

MedSchoolCoach is pleased to announce a $1,000 USD academic scholarship for the 2017-2018 academic year. Winners will be selected on April 30th, 2018.

Submission Deadline: April 15, 2018
Date of Award: April 30, 2018
Open to Undergraduate, Graduate and Incoming Medical Students
Open to legal residents of the United States and Canada
Minimum GPA: 2.5

Proof of GPA will be required before scholarship is awarded.

The scholarship award will be sent directly to the College or University being attended instead of directly to the winning student.

NOTE: Submissions are used for the sole purpose of awarding a scholarship. Applicants will never receive solicitation from MedSchoolCoach or any other party and no purchase is necessary to apply. Applicant information is never shared or sold.

Scholarship Title: The MedSchoolCoach Scholarship

Students are required to submit a 500-750 word essay titled “The Future of Medicine In Our Culture”

Medicine is a constantly evolving industry. From the advent of penicillin to today’s growing electroceuticals industry it seems that the possibilities for healing truly are limitless. We’d love to hear your ideas about the direction that medicine is going and how doctors are going to have to adapt to stay on the cutting edge. Entrants will be judged on originality, persuasiveness, and evidence-based proof.

 

Learn More About MedSchoolCoach

Since 2007, MedSchoolCoach LLC has provided medical school application consulting services to hundreds of premedical students. We started this company after successfully going through the process ourselves. Dozens of people instantly wanted advice on how to do the same. We found that the advice people were getting from other sources was outdated or incorrect, and often lead them down the wrong path. We saw firsthand the many different places one can falter in the medical school application process. That is why we thought it would be helpful to offer structured tutoring services.

In combining our experience as premeds, applicants, medical students, admission committee members and physicians, we were able to give better, more sound advice than almost any other advisor you can find. Together, our advisors have the experience and credentials to help you get into a great medical school.

Ready to apply?

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Spotlight on: Different Types of BS/MD Programs http://www.medschoolcoach.com/types-bsmd-programs/ http://www.medschoolcoach.com/types-bsmd-programs/#comments Thu, 27 Apr 2017 08:26:13 +0000 http://www.medschoolcoach.com/?p=8356 When narrowing down your potential list of colleges, one of the most important factors to consider is the number of schools you’re applying to. Most guidance counselors recommend applying to anywhere from 8-12 colleges. Any number beyond that, they warn, can cause unnecessary stress and anxiety for students. And while this may be a valid

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When narrowing down your potential list of colleges, one of the most important factors to consider is the number of schools you’re applying to. Most guidance counselors recommend applying to anywhere from 8-12 colleges. Any number beyond that, they warn, can cause unnecessary stress and anxiety for students. And while this may be a valid point for any normal high school senior, any student looking to apply to BS/MD programs has to be cautious of such advice.

When I was first considering which schools to apply to, I had originally short-listed about 25 colleges. And while I was well aware and ready to dedicate all the time, effort, and money required into these applications, my guidance counselor did not have that same confidence. She warned me multiple times that this many applications were unnecessary, and that I needed to narrow the focus of my list a bit more. But what she didn’t understand was that when you’re applying to BS/MD programs, application season is a little different.

First, you have to note down a list of regular undergraduate schools that you’d like to apply to. This takes into account your safety schools, target schools, and reach schools. But in addition to that, you have to make another list of all the BS/MD programs that you want to apply to. Now the unfortunate part of BS/MD schools is that even if you’re only interested in the school for their program (which is a debatable topic that’s further discussed below!) you still have to complete their entire regular undergraduate application. The upside, however, is that if you’re interested in both the undergraduate school on its own as well as with the program, then there is only slightly extra effort you have to put in to apply to the program. This sort of overlap is extremely convenient and is the best way to get your total number of colleges down.

But before narrowing down your college list, you’ve got to decide what you’re looking for in a potential college. With regards to regular undergraduate schools, the normal conditions apply: how big is the school, what subjects is it known for, what types of extracurricular activities are available, etc. When it comes down to BS/MD programs, however, there are additional details that need to be considered. Below, I’ve listed some of the most important questions to ask when deciding which programs are best suited for you.

How long do you want your undergraduate career to last?

BS/MD programs can last anywhere from 6-8 years, with 6 year programs being slightly less common than 7 or 8 year programs. The benefit of 6 or 7-year programs is that they allow you to accelerate your study of medicine by a few years. It’s no secret that becoming a doctor takes near 12-years of study, and for some people, minimizing that time is of utmost importance. Not only that, but by cutting your undergraduate education short, you get to save up some extra money that you can later use to fund medical school. The only downside to these accelerated programs is the quicker pace of study. 6-year programs will almost always require you to take summer classes while 7-year programs may at least recommend doing so (especially if that 7-year program requires taking the MCAT).

The best way to find out if an accelerated program is right for you is to determine how organized and confident you are what you want to study/how you want to pursue your interests during your undergraduate years. Any accelerated program requires that their students be extremely proactive in terms of planning. It’s difficult to switch around majors and incorporate things such as study abroad (though it has been done before!) due to the limited time available. Depending on the program, though, there is some freedom given to you for extending your undergraduate times if you wish to do so.

8-year programs, on the other hand, have a completely different goal in mind. The purpose of these programs is to enrich your undergraduate education rather than accelerate it. Many of them, in fact, do not even allow students to enter medical school prior to four years of undergraduate education. Now that doesn’t mean you need to spend all those 4 years in school. Some people choose to graduate in 3 years and use the fourth year to take advantage of fellowship offers, study abroad programs, or pursue a graduate degree in some other subject. And if four years still isn’t enough time to accomplish all of your goals before medical school, then go ahead and take some gap years in between. In general, these programs tend to be flexible with increasing your education time before medical school but strictly enforce at least a four-year minimum. And that’s simply because they don’t any student to come into this program with the goal of accelerating their education; the goal is always enrichment.

In my opinion, one of the greatest advantages of an 8-year program over an accelerated program is the acceptance of uncertainty. On average, the typical undergraduate college student changes his or her majors 3-4 times, and having the freedom to do so is one that should not be taken for granted. I can speak from personal experience on this; coming into college, I thought I knew exactly what I wanted to study and had a full 4-year plan sketched out of every class I was going to take. But by the end of my first semester freshmen year, I was doubting my major choice simply because I had heard from older students that my academic department of interest wasn’t as strong as I’d hoped for. So at that point, I had to opt for a new major and completely change up my entire 4-year plan. But again, by the end of my second semester of freshmen year, I was doubting my new major choice because I didn’t love it as much as I thought I would, so I ended up keeping it as just a minor. At this point, I was back to square one with no major in mind even though one year of college had already gone by. But the point is, its okay to be unsure. In fact, it’s quite natural for your interests to change in college. No matter how confident you are in your choice of study or extracurriculars prior to entering college, something or another is going to change, and you are going to have to make adjustments in order to accommodate for those changes. In an 8-year program, its far easier to make adjustments than it is in an accelerated program, and it’s a freedom that I personally value quite highly.

What interests are you planning to pursue in college?

This is an extremely important question when deciding which BS/MD program is best suited for you. While some programs strongly encourage (perhaps even require) research and clinical experience during your undergraduate years, others want their students to focus more time on liberal arts activities and get a more holistic understanding of medicine. With some research of the undergraduate university, it is quite easy to determine the program’s focus (since most programs endorse the whatever philosophy holds true to the undergraduate school). There are, however, also schools that completely leave it up to you by minimizing requirements and maximizing opportunities. Take, for example, the BS/MD program that I am currently enrolled in: REMS at the University of Rochester. Though the undergraduate school is known for their strong research facilities, they also require students to take courses in all three-subject areas of Social Sciences, Humanities, and Natural Sciences. Due to the dual focus of the university, it is very easy to get involved with whatever you want, whether that be more research-oriented interests or liberal-arts oriented interests. And on top of that, the REMS program puts no requirement on you for any specific extracurriculars. As a result, the amount of diversity present amongst REMS students is large; about 50% of students are natural science majors and the other 50% are social science or humanities majors. Not everyone gets involved in research, and even if they do, it might not be the traditional lab-research that everyone associates with pre-meds. A large part of my college application was explaining how I’ve balanced science and art my entire life; with Rochester though, I didn’t have to choose. Some people may be more drawn to one area of study, and if that’s the case, then there is no point in going to a program that encourages an alternative area of study. It’s all about finding what program aligns with your interests, and the only way to determine that is through research.

Are you willing to stay in the same location for an extended period of time?

When I had finally decided to commit to U of R for REMS and starting informing friends and teachers of my decision, the most common reaction I got back was “Wow, congrats! But you’re really willing to stay in one place for 8 years?” This question confused me, since most of the people who asked it had been living in the same city (or at least nearby) for a good majority of their lives. But I guess what most people assume is that they’ll go to college in one city for 4-years and then hopefully relocate for graduate school or job purposes. To some people, location may be a factor of great importance (especially if you get there and find out you hate the area), and it is definitely something to consider when applying to BS/MD programs. Not all programs have the undergraduate school in the same city as the medical school (for example, the Baylor/Baylor program has Baylor University in Waco, Texas but Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, Texas), but many of them do. So just to be safe, it’s best to do some research on it beforehand and make sure you’re really ready to commit to one general area for the next few years.

How important is avoiding the MCAT?

According to older pre-med students, taking the MCATs is one of the most dreaded parts of being a pre-med. It’s an 8-hour test that requires extensive knowledge and commitment because it cumulatively tests everything you’ve learned since day one of freshmen year. The MCAT, in fact, is one of the biggest roadblocks that prevents pre-med students from pursuing interests such as studying abroad. And that’s exactly why many BS/MD programs allow for their students to opt out of taking it, so that they can use that time they would spend studying on other, more enriching experiences.

Unfortunately, not all programs exempt you from taking the MCAT. Instead, they require that you get a minimum score (usually slightly lower than that medical school’s average MCAT score) to be guaranteed admission into the medical school. Of course, no MCAT is usually preferable to a lower score on the MCAT, but that doesn’t mean you should automatically cross out any program that requires the MCAT off your list. In fact, there can be several benefits to taking the MCAT.

One of the most critiqued aspects of BS/MD programs without the MCAT is that their students will be disadvantaged when it comes time to take their USMLE (another standardized test) in medical school. Though I have several friends who have debunked this theory with their own education, it is still a point of valid concern for many students. In that case, perhaps a program that requires you to only achieve a minimum score is ideal. That way, you get the experience of taking a large, standardized test but get to do so without having to overstress about getting the highest score possible. Alternatively, some students might prefer to avoid the MCAT altogether simply because they do not perform their best under standardized testing conditions, in which case a program without MCAT requirements is optimal. It all comes down to personal preference, but this is definitely a question that should be addressed when deciding which programs to apply to.

How prestigious does the undergraduate school need to be?

Disclaimer: By no means am I trying to talk down to any undergraduate school in this section below. Instead, I am simply trying to shed light on a controversial topic that students entering BS/MD programs deal with all the time.

One of the biggest dilemmas that BS/MD applicants face when it comes time to commit to college is how much weight they should put on the “prestige factor” of their undergraduate university. Even though acceptance rates for several BS/MD programs are much lower than those of even the most competitive ivy-league schools, that doesn’t take away from the fact that most of the undergraduate universities part of these BS/MD programs are ranked lower (sometimes substantially so) than those ivy-league schools. Deciding where to commit to is an extremely personal decision, and with options as great as these, you really can’t go wrong. I have friends who have turned down renowned universities including Stanford, Harvard, and MIT simply for a slot in one of these programs. On the flip side, though, I also have friends that have turned down some of the most competitive BS/MD programs to instead attend ivy-league standard schools including Yale, UC Berkeley, and Princeton.

My strongest piece of advice for students leaning towards accepting a BS/MD offer is to make sure you are truly happy with the undergraduate school, even if it is not as highly ranked as some of your other university options. I can remember back to the fall of my senior year when I was so desperately hoping to get into any BS/MD program, regardless of how good or bad the undergraduate university was. Of course, my aspirations were towards programs like Brown University’s PLME, which combined both an excellent undergraduate school with a well-ranked medical school. But when you’re in that deep into application season and are questioning how you could ever go through this entire process all over again, just about any BS/MD program looks promising.

Now, however, having just completed my freshmen year of college and reflecting back to those days, I can’t imagine what I was thinking. I know for a fact that if I had decided to go to a undergraduate university that I didn’t like simply because of the conditional medical school acceptance it was offering, I would have hated it. So much so that I might have even transferred schools. Your undergraduate career is a time to challenge yourself, both intellectually and socially; it’s an exciting part of your life where you get to grow and push yourself to be better. If, however, you choose to go to an undergraduate school that doesn’t excite you or challenge you in any way, then you will never have the motivation needed to reach your full potential.

Previously, I had categorized BS/MD applicants into two different types: those who had turned down BS/MD programs for ivy-league schools and those who had turned down ivy-league schools for BS/MD programs. But I omitted perhaps the most important category of all: those who had regretted the decision they made. These are the students who’s perspective you should really try to understand and ask yourself if you could possibly see yourself having some of the same regrets in the future. Students who regretted choosing a BS/MD program felt so most likely because either (1) they didn’t feel challenged by their peers and professors or (2) they ended up deciding that medicine wasn’t for them and had wished their resume now had a slightly more prestigious undergraduate university on it. Students who regretted choosing an ivy-league type school over a BS/MD program, on the other hand, likely felt so because (1) they felt the stresses and time commitment required to be a successful pre-med was not worth the extra “prestige” factor, or (2) the competition was so fierce that they eventually had to consider an alternative career route because their GPA and MCAT scores were not high enough for medical school.

It is, of course, impossible to predict what obstacles you are going to face in the future. And no matter what you decide, there will always be some “what if” questions still lingering in your mind. The goal isn’t to avoid those questions, though; instead, it’s to avoid regretting your decision in its entirety. The best way to come to a decision, then, is to make sure you’re committing to a university truly because you believe you will be happy there, not simply because it’ll provide you with an “easier” route to medical school or because it’s a more “prestigious” university. Of course those should be points of consideration, but they should not be the only reason for your decision. If medicine is truly your calling, then one way or another, you will get there. And if somewhere along the way you decide medicine isn’t for you, then you should still be happy with the undergraduate university you chose.

Can you afford it?

The final point to consider when applying to a BS/MD program is financial restrictions. Though most people don’t look into this matter too heavily until they’re strongly considering committing to a university, it is a topic to keep in the back of your mind when applying to BS/MD programs. A good majority of these programs have two stages to their application process: (1) an essay portion that is included in addition to your regular undergraduate application, and (2) an on-campus interview with the medical faculty. Of course it’s always exciting to get an interview offer, but the downside to that is that you often have to spend money buying plane tickets/taking long road-trips and book hotels. Unfortunately, these interviews are a non-negotiable part of the application process, so there is no way you can convince the selection committee to offer you acceptance even though you could not make the interview due to financial restraints. The only way to minimize monetary costs, then, is by being very selective with which schools you travel to for an interview. If you apply to a program that’s perhaps you’re not 100% interested in attending but still end of getting an interview, do not waste your time and money traveling to campus unless you are serious about accepting a potential offer from them.

The other downside to BS/MD programs is that once you have been accepted into the program, not all of them offer great financial assistance to their students. And they do so strategically. These programs know that a conditional acceptance to medical school is of great value, and they try to use that as leverage when determining how much scholarship money to give you. As a result, don’t be too surprised if a university with a BS/MD program doesn’t match scholarship offers you’ve received from other, regular undergraduate universities (no matter how prestigious they may be). And don’t at all be surprised if these schools provide you with no money towards medical school. For people with financial restraints, the best programs to apply to are those at public, instate universities. They often provide a bit more scholarship money, and even if they don’t, their tuition prices are already significantly lower than those of private schools.

So to recap, the six questions you should ask yourself when applying to BS/MD programs are:

  1. How long do you want your undergraduate career to last?
  2. What interests are you planning to pursue in college?
  3. Are you willing to stay in the same location for an extended period of time?
  4. How important is avoiding the MCAT?
  5. How prestigious does the undergraduate school need to be?
  6. Can you afford it?

Applying to BS/MD programs is no joke; it takes a large amount of planning to be successful at it. But if you start early enough and do enough research before sending in your application, then you’ll maximize your chances of finding a program that best fits you.

Photo credit: Shutterstock

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Preparing for the Medical School Interview http://www.medschoolcoach.com/preparing-medical-school-interview/ Mon, 24 Apr 2017 08:16:20 +0000 http://www.medschoolcoach.com/?p=8831 Whether you are excited for interview season, or view it at as yet another daunting aspect of the application cycle, a bit of preparation can go a long way in terms of providing you with the tools and confidence needed to shine–as you should :)–on interview day. A little anxiety is normal and expected, but

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Whether you are excited for interview season, or view it at as yet another daunting aspect of the application cycle, a bit of preparation can go a long way in terms of providing you with the tools and confidence needed to shine–as you should :)–on interview day.

A little anxiety is normal and expected, but don’t stress out too much. Remember, you were invited for a reason. So relax–believe that you belong at the interview–because you do.

So if everyone is qualified, how do you stand out?

Below, I’ve shared a few tips that helped me prepare for interview season. I hope you too will find them to be just as useful as you embark on this next (and last!) segment of the application season:

Learn as much about the program as possible beforehand.

  • Do you know anyone who has interviewed at the same program? Do you know a student currently in the program? If so, reach out to express your interest and seek their insight on the interview experience and the program itself. If you don’t know anyone, do a quick internet search to see if there is any information on the interview structure available.
  • Some questions to consider asking:
    • Will you have individual and/or a group interview?
    • Who will interview you? Have the interviewers already seen your application, or are they blinded to your application when they meet you?

Of course, it is 100% okay if you do not have the info above, but if possible, the more insight you have on the structure of interview day, the more tailored your preparation can be.

Do your prep work.

  • Do a quick Google search, or ask friends/mentors/advisors about commonly encountered questions that you may be asked.
    • Group similar questions together and make your life easier. 🙂
    • Make a master list of interview questions. At first, this may be overwhelming, but soon you will notice that many questions are similar but slightly different ways of asking the exact same thing.
  • Go through this list, and come up with concise answers that directly address the question at hand. When doing so, try to:
    • Use examples. Anyone can make any claim. Real world, personal examples enhance your credibility by substantiating your claims.
    • When using examples, implement the STAR method: Briefly describe the situation or task, the action you took, and the results you achieved. For example:

“I think my biggest strength is resilience. Last year, I was asked to [insert task]. It was difficult because of [insert challenge]. I approached it by [insert your tactic that demonstrates resilience]. With this approach, I was able to [insert how you accomplished task A]. I believe that this quality will enable me to contribute to your program in a meaningful way by [insert why you would be valuable/add to their program]”.

You don’t need to literally write out each response word for word. In fact, it is important to avoid sounding over-prepared or robotic–even a few bullet points would be just perfect!

  • Diversify your examples. For each practice question, come up with one example related to medicine, and a 2nd, more personal (non-academic) example. Try not to repeat any examples. This exercise will likely be harder and more time intensive than anticipated, but well worth it (at least in my experience). You will learn a lot about yourself and create a plethora of invaluable examples that you can have at your fingertips throughout interview season.

If you have multiple examples for any one question, identify which example is best. Remember, it’s not about giving an example–almost anyone will be able to do that–it’s about providing the best example, so do your best to identify your best example, and then be ready to share it on interview day. 🙂

Practice (literally)

  • To anyone and everyone who will listen.
  • Much communication is nonverbal. Even when content is ideal, do not underestimate the power of your delivery. How you share your example will likely be at least as important (if not more) than the actual words you use
  • As you go through interview season and hear feedback from interviewers, you will get a good sense of which examples are best received–which ones you might continue to use in the future. Edit and revise your master list of questions/examples accordingly.

The day before your interview: relax!

  • Get a good night’s rest, stick to your evening and morning routine, and be excited.
  • If you tend to be an anxious person, sometimes driving by the location the night before can minimize anxiety.

The day of your interview–have fun!

  • Befriend fellow applicants; it will make the day more fun, less stressful, and you may make a lifelong friend (whether or not you end up in the same medical school class together)
  • Be courteous and respectful to everyone. Hopefully you do this already even when you are not in an interview setting. 🙂
  • Don’t let the interview setting detract from your personality
    • For example, if you are a funny person, feel free to insert some humor (in good taste), as you address the interview questions
    • After all, you are at the interview- your application already demonstrates that you possess skills to succeed in that particular program…so much of the interview is actually about finding a good personality fit. Do not underestimate the power of your personality. 🙂
  • Smile, relax, and enjoy your moment!

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What’s the purpose of a BS/MD Program? http://www.medschoolcoach.com/whats-purpose-bsmd-program/ http://www.medschoolcoach.com/whats-purpose-bsmd-program/#comments Wed, 19 Apr 2017 08:08:11 +0000 http://www.medschoolcoach.com/?p=8352 For anyone familiar with what a BS/MD program is, it seems that their goal is quite obvious: to give a select few high school seniors early, conditional acceptance into medical school. But why? If these students really are as exceptional as the programs advertise, then why do they even need that early acceptance? Shouldn’t they

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For anyone familiar with what a BS/MD program is, it seems that their goal is quite obvious: to give a select few high school seniors early, conditional acceptance into medical school. But why? If these students really are as exceptional as the programs advertise, then why do they even need that early acceptance? Shouldn’t they easily be able to get into medical school four years down the road, through the traditional route?

Indeed, most of the students who get selected into these programs have already developed the study habits and strong work ethic required to be successful as traditional pre-med students. But that just means that by offering these students early acceptance into medical school, the BS/MD programs are aiming to achieve some other goal. This “true purpose” is something few applicants are aware of, but it is something that can give any student a huge advantage, whether that’s at the essay stage or the interview stage of the application process.

Too many students apply to these programs simply because they’re looking for the easy way into medical school. And if we’re being realistic, then of course having an “easy route” into medical school is a strong motivation for anybody (including me!) to apply. But what I’ll try to emphasize throughout the rest of this post is that that shouldn’t be your only reason. If it is, then perhaps you should reconsider applying, because any experienced BS/MD professional will be able to easily see through that.

So I’ll just cut straight to the chase: the purpose of BS/MD programs is to provide intellectually curious students with an opportunity to use their time to explore their interests and enhance their education rather than waste an unnecessary number of hours being burdened by traditional pre-med hurdles. Sounds like a mouthful, right? Well, let’s try and break that down a little.

Intellectual curiosity

The first, and possibly the most important, part of the underlined statement above has to do with regards to a specific type of student: an intellectually curious student. From my personal experience of BS/MD interviews, I can tell you that the students I always found most interesting (and the one’s who I’d categorize as the “Oh yea, they’re definitely getting in”) were those who could not only talk about their previous accomplishments, but also are able to effectively communicate their future undergraduate goals. Whether those goals were or were not academically related was largely irrelevant. The point of focus, rather, was that these students had a plan of action. They knew what there interests were, and they knew what they wanted to spend their time pursuing in the future. Students like this are less likely to waste the precious free time that a BS/MD program grants to its students, and ultimately that is what the selection committee is looking for. Most of your competitors for these programs are going to be just as, if not more, qualified as you. The best way to convince the selection committee that you are the best pick for this program is to show them that you are a proactive student who will use your time wisely to pursue whatever intellectual curiosity you may have.

Academic and extra-curricular pursuits

The second part of a BS/MD program’s purpose is to find a student that wants to “explore their interests and enhance their education.” Depending on the length of your program, your undergraduate career can last anywhere for 2-4 years. And what you get out of those 2-4 years is entirely dependent on yourself. The problem for most traditional pre-meds is that they have to spend so much time securing the highest GPA possible while simultaneously building a resume and acing their MCATs that they are left with no time to pursue outside interests. And while getting good grades and developing a strong work ethic are both essential, they don’t do much to enhance your overall college experience.

Something as simple as studying abroad or getting a major in a non-science related subject sounds like it’s easy enough to incorporate into your college timeline. But it’s not always that easy for pre-med students. Studying abroad requires extensive planning to make sure you’ve got enough time to study for MCATs, write medical school applications, and preparing for interviews. Pursuing a non-science major, on the other hand, means taking extra coursework on top of your required pre-med classes (which coincidentally happen to overlap quite a bit with biology-related majors) and a possible disadvantage when it comes to taking your MCATs. It thus comes as no surprise that most pre-meds choose to forgo such experiences in hopes of maximizing their chances of getting into medical school. But such experiences are just as, perhaps even more, important as studying. Studying abroad, for example, helps students better understand medicine on an international level, and non-science majors, such as economics or philosophy, help students understand medicine from a more liberal arts perspective. Both such experiences can be extremely valuable when it comes to working with patients or running a private practice, but unfortunately, most pre-meds lack these unique perspectives. Therefore, what BS/MD programs are looking to do is grow the best possible future doctors by encouraging them to invest their time in experiences that provide them with a more well-rounded education.

Knowledge

The final part of a BS/MD program’s purpose has to do with knowledge; understanding the difficulties of being a pre-med student is essential for you to understand why these programs were created in the first place. Being a pre-med student is hard. Regardless of whether or not you’re selected for a BS/MD program, that’s a fact you cannot get around. Professors challenge you like no other, and the amount of time and dedication it requires to be a successful pre-med student is no joke. With that being said, though, there are a number of hurdles that can be minimized, and that’s why so many people support BS/MD programs.

Back in April of 2015, when I was deciding which university I wanted to commit to, I consulted a number of my mentors who had themselves gone through the traditional pre-med to medical school route. I informed them of all my options, including the REMS program at the University of Rochester, and nearly all of them told me to accept the offer at U of R without hesitation. But why? These people were some of the most successful physicians (or soon-to-be physicians!) that I knew, and all of them had gone through the traditional route. One had graduated from Princeton University and later from David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, another had graduated from the University of Pennsylvania and had also gone onto attend UCLA’s medical school, and the last one had graduated from Ohio State University with a full-ride (though she’d rejected a number of other prestigious college, including Columbia University) and was soon to be a MD/PhD student at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine. So if all these ex-premed’s had successfully fulfilled their traditional pre-med duties, then why were they all so strongly pushing for me to accept the BS/MD offer?

Because there is only a finite amount of time available to us in our undergraduate career. And even though any hardworking, dedicated student could use that time towards studying and applying for medical school, why do so if you don’t have to? Instead, use that time and energy to do something that will enrich your life and college experience. Medical school is stressful as is, and there is no point in having to cope with such stresses earlier in life if it can be avoided. Even the most successful pre-med students will tell you that if they could, they would go back in time and try to strengthen their chances at being a strong BS/MD applicant. It’s a prestigious offer that everyone wants, one that could completely change the course of your undergraduate career.

So when deciding whether or not a BS/MD program is right for you, ask yourself three questions:

  • Why do you really want this?
  • What would you do with your free time in college?
  • Do you understand and feel prepared to take on the challenges of being a pre-med student?

If you can confidently answer all the above questions, then you’re most likely on the right track. Keep it up and good luck with the rest of your application process!

Photo Credit: Shutterstock

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How your medical school personal statement reflects on your admission chances http://www.medschoolcoach.com/personal-statement-admission/ http://www.medschoolcoach.com/personal-statement-admission/#comments Fri, 14 Apr 2017 08:03:26 +0000 http://www.medschoolcoach.com/?p=8650 Since most medical school applicants have strong GPAs and MCAT scores, applicants must find a way to distinguish themselves from the hundreds of applications reviewed by admissions committees. The personal statement, or essay, is the place to make this happen. Writing a personal statement is often the most difficult part of the application process and

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Since most medical school applicants have strong GPAs and MCAT scores, applicants must find a way to distinguish themselves from the hundreds of applications reviewed by admissions committees. The personal statement, or essay, is the place to make this happen.

Writing a personal statement is often the most difficult part of the application process and you must give it the attention it deserves. The impression it makes can be an “accept” or “reject” factor by admissions committees. Drafting your essay should begin weeks before filing out the application.

It is not enough to say, “I volunteered at my local hospital”. You must explain what the experience says about you as a potential physician and as a person. The personal essay is the place to share with the admissions committee to help them understand your character, your attitudes, your values, your motivation, and your knowledge.

In addition to a strong background in science, medical schools want students who show compassion. This includes empathy, concern, kindness and benevolence.

Remember, to move from the application pile to the accepted pile, you must describe why you would be an ideal medical student, keeping in mind that compassionate people make excellent doctors.

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MCAT scheduling: what factors to consider before signing up for your test date http://www.medschoolcoach.com/mcat-scheduling-factors-consider-signing-test-date/ Mon, 10 Apr 2017 18:46:46 +0000 http://www.medschoolcoach.com/?p=8033 We all know that the MCAT is one of the most important factors in your entire medical school application. Doing well on this test is of paramount importance to making a competitive application. Maximizing your test score is going to require a lot of studying, but also planning. With your heavy pre-med course load or

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We all know that the MCAT is one of the most important factors in your entire medical school application. Doing well on this test is of paramount importance to making a competitive application. Maximizing your test score is going to require a lot of studying, but also planning. With your heavy pre-med course load or hectic work schedule, it may seem as if there is never an ideal time to take the MCAT. In order to schedule your MCAT at the best possible time, check out these tips to ensure that you have adequate time and peace of mind to study:

1)      Plan out courses prior to scheduling your test date: If you are taking the MCAT while school is still in session, make sure you spend some time scheduling your courses prior to reserving your MCAT date. This will help to avoid stressful conflicts with finals or big deadlines.

2)      Check in with family and friends: If you anticipate a big life event that would be important for you to attend (wedding, religious function or season, etc.) make sure you plan for this in advance. There are ways to arrange your study schedule around these important events, but conflicts around Test Day could leave you disappointed and distracted when you are trying to focus for the exam.

3)      Free up weekends: One of the biggest score-boosting activities you can do to prepare for the MCAT is to take and then review MCAT practice tests. This can often consume the majority of a day, and the best time to do this is on an undisturbed weekend. Taking several practice tests is recommended, so be kind to yourself and do not over commit your weekends for the 4-6 weeks leading up to Test Day.

4)     Anticipate AMCAS timelines: Scores typically take 4-5 weeks to result after Test Day. For medical school applications, you can access the AMCAS application as early as the first few weeks in May to be ready to submit as early as the first few weeks in June. If your schedule is otherwise permitting, consider taking a test that allows you to have your score back by the end of May or early June. That way, you can hit “submit” and get a jump start on the application process right as it begins. Many schools have a rolling acceptance, and the earlier your application is complete, the increased chance of acceptance you may have at certain programs.

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