Decisions On Applying

04 Mar

So with my MCAT scores in now there’s nothing “technically” stopping me from going ahead and applying to med schools this summer. However, I’ve gotten a lot of advice in the last few days since my last post announcing my MCAT results. I want to take the time to show what kind of advice I’m taking into consideration and the final decision I’ve made. Let’s go on a journey together. That’s the signpost up ahead – your next stop, the Deliberation Zone! *cue Twilight Zone music*

Rishi is a med student whose blog, is linked in the blogroll on the left, kids. He wrote about the importance of applying at your best, and how re-applicants, statistically speaking, fight an uphill battle to gain admittance. I read this post many months back, stored that information under the “good to know section”. However, now that my MCATs are in I have an itch to throw what I have at med schools and be done with it. It’s like a kid who’s gotten an allowance and it’s burning a hole in their pocket. I’m very glad that Rishi took the time to comment on my last post and remind me of the words I’d read, but the message had faded. One point to applying later.

Another person I spoke with was my advisor at grad school. She gave me some insight into the school’s selection and ranking procedure for the med school. For one, they highly favor students that have completed the majority of their MS program prior to applying. This would mean that I would need about two more semesters worth first. Perfect for applying next summer. My grad school GPA would be favored by the committee over my undergrad GPA in that case. A good thing if I can keep up the exam grades I got for my first round of exams. And that’s one point towards applying later. Applying later would allow me the time to build up my application and fix weak points(MCAT and GPA). I had the chance to talk with a surgeon in the OR today. He really urged me to fix my MCAT score BEFORE applying. Yet another point towards applying later. 😛 I can’t help but think that he was thinking of MD schools only though in his assessment.

To provide a counter balance, however, I have several real worries about applying this summer. My fears of applying late are these:
1. Retaking the MCAT does not guarantee a higher score, even if one does study their tush off. 😛 This worries me. I’ve bought an Organic Chem textbook in preparation for re-studying this summer, but I reeeallly don’t want to drag myself though all that again.
2. Waiting to apply after taking the MCAT again, when it’s not guaranteed to get a higher score, will put me at a disadvantage since competition goes up each year. I’ll especially be at a disadvantage if my MCATs don’t improve significantly. It’s like fighting inflation with your money in a low yield saving account. You can keep throwing more money in there, but the low APY% will lose every time. This is what makes the stock market attractive…well up until the last few years that is. 😀

What would you do in this predicament? Were you in a similar/different situation when you applied to med school? I would love to hear your comments, advice, criticisms about my lunacy, etc. Any and all advice via these comments, private emails, etc are more than welcome!


Posted by on March 4, 2011 in Applications, MCAT, Med School


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17 responses to “Decisions On Applying

  1. schorrmore

    March 5, 2011 at 2:03 am

    Tough call. I might be in a similar predicament. I’m an undergrad senior, unsure of how competitive my GPA/extracurrics are (my MCAT is in two months! ah!) If my MCATs are okay, I think I will just try applying this year. A med student friend of mine said that just getting the hang of the applying process was difficult enough that she was glad she “had a practice round.”

    • Flustered Grad

      March 5, 2011 at 9:51 pm

      Thanks for commenting! Talk to your advisor, or someone whose advice you value, about your grades/MCAT scores. If you can get a solid assessment it can take a little bit of the mystery out of things. Best of luck to you!

  2. PGYx

    March 5, 2011 at 8:29 am

    See my comment on your last post. 🙂 Average MCAT scores at DO schools increase each year. Their were many students in my school with scores in the mid-30s-40 range (yes, 40!). If you want to change your MCAT score it may require you to revamp how you studied so that you can learn ways to think about material that will allow you to do better.

    As I recall, the BioSci section included a lot of molecular bio-related critical thinking, which can be learned and practiced unless the MCAT has changed a lot in the past several years. Would a tutor help? I think the Physical Sciences section also can be improved upon with study. Can you discuss strategy with others who have successfully improved their scores after the first try? Perhaps Rishi can offer some good advice.

    • Flustered Grad

      March 5, 2011 at 9:48 pm

      The idea of the MCAT scores getting higher every year is the biggest concern of mine really. I’m trying to get some kind of plan together at the moment for re-studying. I have to beat this test if I want to be a doctor, and seeing that I do very much want to be a doctor something has gotta give with the way I tackle the test this time around. The surgeon in the OR recommended taking a prep course. I would do it in a heartbeat(less planning needed on my part), but money is tight and those courses are a grand easy I think. We’ll see when it gets closer to May when I’ll start studying. If I take the MCAT in late August(assuming I feel ready), I can send the new scores to the schools I applied to in late September right? Is that kinda late, would it make a difference you think?

      • PGYx

        March 5, 2011 at 11:31 pm

        The average MCAT score shouldn’t go up by much in a given year. Over time, it adds up.

        I did not realize that you hadn’t taken a prep course, which would almost certainly help you to raise your score if you can devote some serious time to it! You can ask those who know more, but I would think it would be very odd for your score to not improve with a seriously undertaken prep course. It would alert you to your weaknesses and help you see new ways to approach the problems. Might be harder and/or less effective squeezed in between grad school coursework, so I recommend doing it when you can make time. Does your program include any signficant time off over the summer? It would be awesome if you could devote a couple of months.

        Could you possibly ask one or more family members for a loan/gift? I will say that studying medicine is incredibly expensive. In addition to tuition you will find yourself paying tons of money for books, at least 4 board exams (more if you take the USMLE, too), sometimes-mandatory boards prep courses, and residency interview costs.

        In the mean time, consider reading weightier articles like those found in the New Yorker Magazine or maybe even The Atlantic for “fun.” The NYM articles are involved and manage to make any topic fascinating. You can find many online. This may help boost your verbal score by a point or two. It will also help you as you read for grad and med school.

        • Flustered Grad

          March 6, 2011 at 1:55 pm

          I think the prep course would be beneficial due to the support net you get from fellow students and teachers as well as the structured nature of the learning that might not be present in self-study. It *would* be a lot harder to get the course to fit my schedule than self-study. I am lucky to have off of classes for the summer(June-August). I’ve got some time to think about how to structure the MCAT study.

          Thanks for the recommendation of the New Yorker and The Atlantic. I’ll look into working that into my daily routine. Thank you for the solid advice and words of wisdom you’ve provided thus far. It is greatly appreciated! 😀

  3. PGYx

    March 5, 2011 at 1:30 pm

    @schorrmore: I disagree with your friend. The application process is not so complicated that you need two times to practice. It’s a tremendous waste of time, energy, & money to unnecessarily do it twice! It’s also a thousand times easier than the rest of med school. Do your best to get the MCAT score where you need it to be (Kaplan practice tests were relatively good score predictors back in my day) and give your application everything you’ve got as though it is the only one you’ll ever submit.

    You can get answers to your application questions through your advisor and SDN (beware: some say reading SDN provokes anxiety so I advise against becoming a routine SDN stalker).

    • Flustered Grad

      March 5, 2011 at 9:41 pm

      I just did a rough estimate on the costs of applying. For primary and secondaries for every school(15 schools total) would put it around $1500. Yikes! This figure doesn’t take into account travel costs for interviews either. Not something you do just to do it.

      I also agree that SDN is prone to making my very anxious and nervous. I try to limit my visits, and while there only read things that directly relate to the question at hand.

      • PGYx

        March 6, 2011 at 11:02 am

        From an intern’s perspective, I’d also argue that the monetary cost of applying before you’re ready is dwarfed by the time & energy expenditure. You could use the same incredibly valuable time to maintain high grades, boost your MCAT score, earn money, sleep, and give yourself some well-deserved time to relax & have fun!

        • Flustered Grad

          March 6, 2011 at 1:47 pm

          Hmm…fun? What is this fun you speak of? 😛 I see your point though.

  4. PGYx

    March 6, 2011 at 5:12 pm

    Re: prep course. Did you have access to tons of practice exams during your self-study? This was the biggest selling point of Kaplan and made a huge difference for me as it allowed me to work with the concepts as the MCAT-writers expect. Realistic practice is critical — studying material is not enough to close the loop.

    I agree that simply doing more of the same self-study is unlikely to significantly raise your score and hope you find the changes that work well for you if you choose to take the MCAT again.

    Regarding fun, it’s critical, too! Might not be what other people view as fun, but if it brings you joy then it counts. It’s definitely worthwhile to cultivate the fun-having skill b/c medical training will attempt to beat it out of you. Funny b/c it’s true…

    • Flustered Grad

      March 6, 2011 at 7:41 pm

      I did not have a lot of practice exams. I took a full length diagnostic test about half way though and had lots of practice passages for the rest of the time. Next time I think I’d be sure to get lots of FLs from AAMC and other sources.

  5. PA Supertammy

    April 2, 2011 at 11:40 pm

    I taught the Kaplan MCAT prep course for a couple years and it really does help people, but it is very expensive. You might be able to find MCAT prep books at the library for free, even if you don’t get the full benefit of a course you can pick up some helpful test taking strategies.

    • Flustered Grad

      April 2, 2011 at 11:57 pm

      Thank you for taking the time to leave a comment and for the advise. I’ll have to look into seeing if my library has the Kaplan books. Being so wired to the internet and all, I tend to forget about libraries. It’ll be a good way to spend a Sunday. 🙂


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