Category Archives: Premed Student Advice

Webinar: Getting Into Med School With Low Stats

The website Accepted.com is a great resource for anyone looking to get into a graduate program. As you can see from the medicalminded.com home page, I was featured on their “Accepted Admissions Blog”. They are hosting a greater webinar opportunity for medical school applicants, so be sure to check it out!

 

Can You Get into Med School with Low Stats?

You are invited to attend Accepted.com’s upcoming webinar, How to Get into Medical School with Low Stats, a MUST-ATTEND event if you’re applying to med school with low GPA/MCAT scores!

Date: Wednesday, July 30, 2014
Time: 5:00 PM PT/8:00 PM ET

Register now to learn important strategies that will help you get into med school, even with low test scores or grades.

Don’t let you your low stats keep you from pursuing your medical dreams!

How to Write a Personal Statement

I’ve been asked by a few people for advice in writing a personal statement.

The personal statement of your medical school application…

This is often a daunting process for medical school applicants, and they push it off as long as possible. In my opinion, this can be one of the easier medical school processes if you’ve prepared yourself appropriately.

1) Grab their attention immediatelyIf possible, try to catch the reader’s attention in your very first sentence. Imagine having to sift through pages upon pages of personal statements, many of which seem to elicit feelings of deja vu in the mind of the reader. Don’t be an applicant with “just another personal statement”. Be unique!

Think of the most influential moments that led to your current medical journey. You should have clinical experiences, volunteering opportunities, etc. to draw ideas from. Whatever you find to be most influential is probably going to be the most attention-grabbing as well. Draw the reader in from the very start!

2) Be genuine! Like I said before, schools receive so many applications that are extremely similar. One of the similarities is the applicant’s reasoning for attending that school. Applicants often discuss how great the school is, how great the faculty are, or how that school will make them a better doctor. I definitely recommend a statement or 2 that makes it clear you’ve actually researched the school and aren’t just blindly applying to as many schools as possible. However, don’t be a suck up!

People who write about how great the school is are completely failing to write a “personal statement” since it’s not even about them as an applicant at that point. Be true to yourself and to the school you’re applying to as well. Express genuine ideas, beliefs, etc. and let them see you as a person. If they don’t get an idea of who you are through the personal statement, what reason do they have to give you an interview? Plenty of people want to attend that specific school because “it’s an amazing institution”, but you need get across why you should be at that school.

3) Ease their concerns about any “red flags” on your application. Whether you grades suffered, your clinical hours are low, or you didn’t experience enough research, you want to address any possible concerns with legitimate explanations. Please note that I said “legitimate explanations” and I did not say excuses! You aren’t expected to have a perfect application. I didn’t have a perfect application by any means and most people don’t! However, you should have a brief explanation if there are any causes for concern. Also, be sure to keep this part brief! You want to spend the majority of your personal statement expressing your attributes, not explaining where you messed up.

4) Make everything flow. You don’t want to be jumping around from topic to topic and making it difficult for the reader to keep up. Use transition sentences where appropriate and try to link everything together at the end. Like I said earlier, you want to grab the reader’s attention immediately. You also don’t want to lose their attention! Keeping your thoughts fluent will benefit you dramatically by a) keeping their attention and b) providing an insight into your ability to express yourself and your ideas.

The main idea in writing a personal statement is that you want to stand out in a positive way. Think about the number of people who write that they want to change lives, have always dreamed of being a physician, or any other number of the cliché premedical statements. Your goal should be that even if the reader goes through 100 different personal statements, they still remember reading yours specifically.

I may add to this later but need to get back to studying histology for now. I’ll also be sure to add this to the resources page once I’ve finalized my ideas. Hopefully this helps some of you!

7 Steps to Become a Doctor

7 Steps to Become a Doctor

Obviously, becoming a physician is much more completed than can be expressed in 7 total steps. However, I think generalized overviews serve many people well by expressing overall processes in a concise and understandable way.

This article shows the necessary steps to becoming a physician from high school through fellowship in 7 simple steps. 

 

Become a Doctor

Key Characteristics to Develop for a Successful MCAT Score

Obviously knowledge should be developed to do well on the MCAT, but it doesn’t stop there.  Below you’ll find some characteristics that I personally think are critically important to a successful MCAT score.

  • Familiarity
    • In my opinion, this is one of the most important characteristics to develop before taking the MCAT.  Familiarity is directly correlated with knowledge. The more you study the material and learn, the more familiar you become with facts, vocabulary, questions types, meaningful information, etc. Familiarize yourself with the subject-matter and with the structure of the exam itself. Research shows that familiarity with something will increase your intuitive nature to answer correctly. In other words, even if you don’t know the answer, you’re more likely to answer correctly with an educated guess if you’re familiar with the information presented.
  • Confidence
    • This characteristic is strongly correlated with familiarity since the more familiar you are with the concepts, the more confidence you’ll have. However, you should also develop confidence with regular undertaking of practice questions, practice exams, flashcards, etc. When you find yourself getting most of the answers right, your confidence will increase as well. For this reason, people who are prone to anxiousness before tests should avoid going over material immediately before the exam to prevent psyching themselves out!
  • Stamina
    • The MCAT is a marathon, not a sprint! In order to study in the most effective way possible, you should study in blocks (i.e. 45 minutes of studying, 15 min break). However, you should also gradually increase you cognitive stamina by taking practice MCAT exams. In my opinion, the “best” way of doing this is to start by taking only sections of the exam in a single sitting. Eventually begin taking 2 sections in a sitting and work up to taking the entire practice exam in a single sitting.

Note: These characteristics would be beneficial to any form of exam preparation so feel free to apply them to other tests as well! 

5 Tips to Study the RIGHT way!

Studying…. obviously this is a must for any premed or medical student and essentially a lifelong requirement of anyone involved in the ever-changing world of medicine. The thing that most students fail to do however, is study how they study!

More often than not, a typical student will study for hours at a time, often only taking a break to use the restroom.  On the other hand, some students take so many breaks that they might as well not be studying at all!  In order to study in the most efficient way possible, the goal is to find a happy medium between these 2 extremes. Not only will you study more efficiently, but you’ll be more likely to retain the information and recall it in the future. Below you’ll find 5 helpful tips on how to study properly.

Nap Time!

Did you know that some of the most famous intellectuals in history took naps on a regular basis? Just do a quick online search and you’ll find that regular naps were common among numerous great minds including Albert Einstein, Thomas Edison, Winston Churchill, Lyndon B Johnson, and many more!  Research shows that naps have a profound effect on “refreshing” the brain so that it’s able to function more efficiently. A nap is essentially a booster for your brain’s ability to learn new information.  The key concept to take away from this is that you should not be studying for hours and hours and hours.  Those all night study sessions will not only hinder your ability to actually learn the information in the first place, but it will also make it much more difficult to recall it later when your brain is completely fatigued. I have done my share of all nighters and trust me, I wish I’d have managed my time and studied the correct way instead.

Blocks Aren’t Just for Toddlers

Studying in blocks is shown to be more efficient than forcing yourself to study for 2 – 3+ hours at a time.  Our minds and bodies need a break in order to recover from the information we just went over.  Study for about 45 – 50 minutes and take a 10 – 15 min break.  Make sure that during your break you stand up to stretch as well in order to rejuvenate the body.  You should never sit for more than 1 hour straight! Furthermore, try to plan an extended break every few hours or so.  The mind and body can only handle so much without taking a 30 min to 1 hour rest.  Go hang with friends, have dinner, see family, or whatever else may interest you.

Turn the Phone OFF

I know this is a challenge for many people, myself included, but to study in the most efficient way possible, you should turn your cell phone completely off before you even start.  While it may seem completely innocent to send a text here and there, it’s actually taking your mind away from the topics and causing you to lose focus.  Turn the phone back on during your study breaks in order to respond to friends & family or to check out the latest on social media.  In reality, you should be studying in blocks anyway so being without your phone for 45 minutes at a time isn’t going to be the end of the world!

Summarize to Succeed

So you’re reading your textbook and simultaneously taking notes so you can go over the key concepts later.  Notes are always a great idea.  Sounds like a good plan right? WRONG! Evidence shows that taking notes while reading the material is much less beneficial than reading the material all the way through and summarizing what you read at the end.  I’m not saying you need to read an entire book or even an entire chapter and summarize it.  However, you should break the text into segments big enough that it requires you to really think about the information you just read.  By summarizing the information after you’ve finished the entire section, your mind is forced to critically evaluate the information and is much more likely to retain it.  Taking notes while reading may seem like a good idea, but in reality, your mind isn’t doing much thinking at all when you copy something straight from the original text.  Force yourself to think critically after reading the material and summarize the key points without looking back at the text.  You will be much more likely to retain that information for use in the future!

Time to UNDERSTAND NOT MEMORIZE

Some people fail to realize that understanding something is much different than memorizing facts. Although there are times when you’ll have information that requires rote memorization, if it’s possible to actually develop an understanding of a concept, you should do it.

The easiest example to use here is an equation.  Most students see an equation they should know and immediately think they must memorize the equation.  But the better idea is to understand why the equation exists in the form that it does! Why is the area of a triangle A = (1/2)(base)(height).  Well quite simply, the area of a triangle is half the area of a square of equal dimensions.  This is a very simple example and obviously, other equations can become much more challenging to develop an understanding.  However, by developing an understanding of why the equation exists, you don’t need to memorize the equation. Instead, you can simply derive the equation from your understanding of it!

Understanding extends beyond equations, but it seems to be the easiest way to explain the idea.  The same could be said of a variety of subjects, and although I don’t want to describe numerous scenarios here, I hope the main point got across.  Don’t just memorize facts and information.  Instead, develop an understanding of it piece by piece.  Build the foundation, then the framework, and then the roof.  By building on previous knowledge and understanding how everything connects, you will be much more likely to retain it and recall it later.  Always ask the question, WHY?! Try to find the answers in the details and fully reinforce your understanding of the material.

The Importance of Clinical Volunteering

This post can also be found on the Premed Advice page.

The real benefit of volunteering in a clinic, hospital, nursing home, etc. is more than just clinical experience.  To be honest, many volunteer opportunities don’t provide the immersion into medicine that people tend to think they’re going to get.  However, I highly recommend volunteering for several reasons:

a) If you’ve never experienced a clinical setting, this is a good starting point to “get your feet wet”.  Usually, you won’t be exposed to anything terribly unsettling.  If you find situations that are uncomfortable or make you queasy from volunteer work, you should probably consider a career other than medicine.

b) Volunteering opens the door to more interactive opportunities, and better yet, opportunities that you can get paid for!  By no means do I advocate taking an opportunity based strictly on financial gain, but most premed students will be less than financially stable for several years, so it definitely helps to have an income.  There are several jobs in hospital settings that require little to no education, but a big selling point on obtaining a position is your clinical experiences.  By completing volunteer activities, you’ll have the clinical experience that employers are looking for from interviewees.  My very first clinical experience was volunteering in a hospital twice a week with very little responsibility.  However, my next accomplishment less than a year later was a job as a patient sitter where I was able to interact with patients and observe the nurses and physicians in action.

c) You might meet someone who opens the door to better opportunities and/or is able to answer any questions you may have about medicine.  From my experience, doctors and nurses are generally happy to talk with students interested in the field of medicine so take advantage of an opportunity to talk with them!  Volunteer opportunities that provide you with chances to talk to medical personal are highly encouraged.  You could create lasting relationships with nurses and physicians, and you may even see them years down the road when you’re in the medical field yourself.

d) The most obvious and simple reason to volunteer is you make a difference! I would hope anyone aspiring to be a physician has an innate desire to help others.  Volunteering is an opportunity to do just that!  Even if you get stuck with mundane tasks that don’t seem like you’re doing much, trust me when I saw that you are, even if indirectly.  Each task in a clinical setting has a specific purpose and every employee and volunteer makes a difference.  Just a few examples include: a patient greet can ease patient anxiety, cleaning leads to a more presentable establishment that patients can trust, stocking supplies saves the nurses’ time so they can treat patients more efficiently, and many more.  Not only do you get more clinical exposure for your resume, but you help others along the way.

Look Out Medicine, Here I Come

I will officially be attending medical school in the fall! I received my acceptance to my #1 choice on March 19 and could not be more excited.  It’s a huge weight off of my shoulders for sure.  Obviously I’ve been neglecting this blog the last couple months, but I intend to update more frequently from now on.

For any premedical students who go through the late application process like I did, there is still hope of getting in with a late application!! However, I do highly recommend sending in your application as soon as possible.  I’m sure it is a lot less stressful to be part of the first few batches of students who get accepted rather than hearing others get accepted while you sit around waiting for months on end.

How Medicine Is Learned: Becoming A Physician

It is extremely important to remember that medicine isn’t something you learn from reading a book, attending a lecture, or watching a video.  This isn’t to detract from the obvious benefits of doing so or to dissuade someone from attending medical school lectures. These are indeed the first stepping stones to a full comprehension of medicine.  But to truly learn how to be a physician, one must dive headfirst into the pool of medical knowledge. To learn medicine, you must surround yourself with the intricate procedures, medical treatments, and ailing patients. Medicine is truly learned by experiencing and participating in it.  Medicine is learned by living it.

When to Apply to Medical School…

AS SOON AS POSSIBLE!

I am currently undergoing the application process and let me tell you that I wish I had applied as soon as applications were being accepted.  I know it seems like it shouldn’t matter that much and that many people like to think everyone gets an equal chance at acceptance, despite when you submit an application.  The fact of the matter is that the sooner you apply, the more likely you will get admitted to medical school.  Even if you have a excellent application and ‘know’ you’re going to get in somewhere, trust me when I say that the waiting game is excruciating.  Seeing others receive acceptances when you have yet to attend your interview (or even receive an interview invitation) is very effective for increasing your blood pressure! 

So remember, apply EARLY!

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