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Application Process Lists Medical School Premed

10 Things Vol. 5

10 Things to Think About When Selecting a Medical School
Some of you lucky premeds that are applying this year may have multiple acceptances by now, or will have them by the summer. I just wanted to share some things that you should consider when picking which one you ultimately go to. Having gone through the first semester, some things matter more than you think!
1) The city its in! It’s true, you’ll spend a great deal indoors and won’t have the most interaction with the whole city, but even more than what there is to do there- the city matters for demographics too. The city’s population can largely determine what your school puts an emphasis on. My school is largely geared toward preparing us for primary care because of the needs of the region. For me, this was a good thing. So check that out before you pick!
2) Touring the school. You should get a tour of the school with your interview of course, but I also went to a couple recruitment events and those visits were valuable in my considerations too. What is the environment like? Is it bustling and busy in the school? Are the lecture halls comfortable? You can tell a lot about what the school emphasizes by what kind of environment they foster.
3) What the students are like. Do you get along with the students that are there? What do they emphasize about the school when you interact with them? Think about whats important to you, and ask them about the school’s best and worst attributes. They should give you an honest answer. These will be your best friends in a few short months and your colleagues in the future. So, you gotta like hanging out with them!
4) Resources. Think about how you study. Does the school provide things that would be helpful to you? I especially think about all the things the library provides in the way of resources. Most of them I didn’t know about until I matriculated, but I wish I had thought to ask. Does the school have ebooks? Some classes give you a list of 7 textbooks for one 3 class and you only need to read a chapter from each. That makes ebooks extremely valuable. Are there isolated study rooms? Group study rooms? Is there a place to relax? Think about things like that. Call them and ask them if you don’t know.
5) Support system. This was a big one for me. You’re going to be losing touch with people just by being in medical school. So think about that if you’re going out of state away from family. Maybe you want a break to stand on your own two feet, or maybe you want to stay close to your college friends or family. So think about those things when you’re deciding where to move.
6) Cost. Duh. This can be a big deciding factor in going out of state or not. It’s going to cost a butt-ton of money either way, but really think about the money and where you think you’ll want to practice in the long run. Ultimately, knowing the school I ended up going to, I would have gladly paid the out of state cost to come here. So take it with a grain of salt and go to the right school for you even if it costs more.
7) Belonging. This kind of goes with the above. Do you see yourself going there? Did you feel excited when you were there? Does the environment and the people there make you excited about medicine? Do the students exemplify the kind of medical student you want to be? The kind of doctor you want to be? I can’t really describe the feeling I had or put my finger on what it was but it may be the most important one on this list. There was a sense of belonging for me when it came down to picking a school. I knew I would fit in there, be happiest there, and become my best there. Go with your gut.
8) What’s nearby. Long days spent studying, sometimes I don’t even think about dinner until its 8 o’clock at night and all I feel like doing is calling in a pizza. Look around the area for things to do and eat when you need a break. It matters.
9) Campus amenities. What do they have that other schools don’t? A plush student lounge? An awesome clinical skills practice environment? A buzzing hospital campus complex that keeps your eye on the prize? This is largely personal. So decide what you like.
10) Interview Experience. I went into my interviews panicking about how impressive the other interviewees were, feeling like I didn’t belong at all. By the end of the day though, I realized that we were equals, and I could even see myself among both them and the medical students that took us around the campuses. There was also a big difference between the type of questions I was asked at both of my interviews. You can read about both of them here and here. This one is largely intuitive as well, as I found I just preferred one interview experience over the other just because of my personality.
Hope this helps!
And… Thanks for reading! I never imagined this blog would be what it has become! Keep sharing with your friends! Comment, like, subscribe! Follow on twitter here and instagram here.
P.S. Look for a feature on my blog at http://blog.accepted.com/tag/med-student-blogger/ in the coming days!
 

Categories
Lists Medical School Premed

How to Study for the MCAT Volume 1

Since I’ll be getting busier and busier, I have begun recruiting some guest posts. Especially for you premeds, which I have been neglecting-since all of my posts have been about medical school. So you’ll see some of my buddies from undergrad posting on different things.
Today is Jenna’s post. She’s about to start her senior year and just submitted AMCAS and AACOMAS this summer! She took the MCAT back in January and she has compiled an awesome list of things to do- and not do- to study for it! Here ya go!
Jenna—————————–
I laughed when Andi asked me to write about the MCAT because she knows how much disdain I have for this test, but I’m happy to do it! No doubt, the MCAT is the worst. Both the studying leading up to it and the test itself are brutal but I think it’s important to not let it consume you in complete misery. If you’re hoping to read about how to totally dominate the MCAT or very detailed study plans, fair warning that this is not either of those things. Instead, here are a few general points that helped me and that I’d do again if I had to start over at the beginning.

  • Carefully consider your test date. I took the MCAT this January so I wouldn’t have to worry about classes at the same time, and also to leave room for a second attempt this summer if necessary (it wasn’t). You want to give yourself a good amount of time to prepare, and make sure that you’ll actually use that time! I made a mistake in blowing off my plan to begin studying in mid-October and didn’t start until Christmas break. Oops! I’d choose January again though.

 

  • Find a routine. I was home in Tulsa for the holidays and then at OBU with a few other MCAT-takers for the last 3 weeks before my test. My studying at school was much more productive than at home because I made a plan and stuck to it. Every day was the same:

–   9-12: review with flashcards.
–   12-1: lunch. Sometimes we stretched this to 1:30 for sanity.
–   1-5: practice problems/tests.
–   5-7: back to the apartment, make dinner, take a break.
–   7-9 (sometimes 10 or 11): more practice.
–   sleep, repeat.
I hope you can sense the immense *joy* I was experiencing during this time. It was hard and boring and exhausting, but it got easier as it became habitual. The same will be true if you space out your studying over 2 or 3 months instead of cramming in a few weeks like I did.

  • Review (duh), but not excessively. Reviewing is obviously a crucial part of studying for the MCAT, unless you never forgot the Henderson-Hasselbach equation and whatnot. The reality is that there’s no way to know everything covered on the MCAT. My strategy was to focus on the basics/broad themes and not worry about the special scenarios that are only true if x, y, and z happen on a Thursday when it’s raining (organic chemistry reactions, anybody??). Everyone I know who’s taken this wretched test has felt underprepared going into it, so if you feel that way, you’re not alone.

 
I was (am) bad at physics. I still joke that the only thing I learned from two semesters of it was F = ma and how to deal with failure. Probably 60% of my review was physics. Starting with the subjects you don’t do well with allows you to go back and review them several times leading up to the test date. Physical sciences was still my worst section despite devoting so much time to it, but that alone is an indicator that it’s what I needed to do. If you don’t particularly struggle in one subject more than another, then of course a more balanced subject review would be beneficial to you to maintain or improve understanding.
 

  • Practice so much that AAMC should hire you to write MCAT questions. Looking back, this was the single best thing I did. MCAT questions are generally written in ways that most people don’t encounter in undergraduate exams. Repetition is your best friend and it really builds confidence that you can figure out exactly what the question is asking because you’ve seen similar ones in the past.

 
I decided to be at OBU for the second half of break because they offer an MCAT “prep course” that’s really just independent study (no teacher instruction involved) with access to a good collection of full-length tests and individual practice sections. Also, Andi offered me her review books, and each of them had a few practice tests (she’s a kind soul, folks). Chances are you have friends in grades ahead of you who no longer need what they used, so ask around! Otherwise, I know that buying prep books from Kaplan, Princeton Review, etc. and practice tests directly from AAMC is expensive, but it’s more expensive to take the MCAT twice because the first time you weren’t very familiar with the question styles.
 

  • Try a few test strategies and pick one to stick with. Do this early in your studying so that you’ve established your preferred method long before test time. I remember reading a ton of ideas on the best way to take the test and it was overwhelming. I settled on answering all stand-alone questions first and then doing the passages in the order presented. I tended to do remarkably better on the stand-alones and I wanted to give myself the best chance to answer them without rushing.

 
For verbal reasoning, I remember trying one method that involved skimming the passages while writing a short summary sentence for each paragraph. Then, the passages are ranked from easiest to hardest and completed in that order. That stressed me out like no other, so I decided to just use the highlight tool occasionally and do the passages in the order presented because it was simple. Whatever you decide to do, make sure you’re good at executing it and that it’s actually helpful to you.
 

  • Do other things. Especially anything physical. I ran a few times and I should’ve done it more often. A couple of us took the night off to play some tennis and we had a blast laughing at our lack of athleticism one night. Other times, we watched trashy TLC shows or saw a movie. Don’t stop your life completely to study for this test. It’s refreshing to spend time with your favorite people, so make them a priority! Even if it’s just an hour here or there.

And a few quick things I would change/improve:

  • Don’t cram. It made the whole thing more stressful than it needed to be. Looking back, I would’ve much rather studied less intensely for a longer time.
  • Minimize complaining. I wasted too much time on negative talk. If you want to be a doctor, you have to take this test. Keep it in perspective that this is a temporary burden.
  • Stay in the loop. This kind of goes with my “doing other things” point, but if you can’t do fun things with family/friends, at least make an effort to talk on the phone or email or whatever floats your boat. Studying = isolation, and that can wear on you. I would do a much better job of this if I had to go back!

 
So there you have it! I know none of these are groundbreaking ideas or anything but that was my experience with the MCAT. Also, I know AAMC is adding biochemistry, statistics, and psychology/sociology effective April 2015. Unsolicited advice for anyone wanting to start medical school in 2016: if you feel like you can prepare well enough for it, take the current version. It’s offered every month from now through January 2015, except December. I took a trial section of the new MCAT, and I don’t really have any comments other than I was already mentally exhausted after just the three scored sections.
Lastly, to be totally transparent with you, I scored a 27 (7 PS/10 VR/10 BS). I realize I might have just lost some credibility to some pre-meds since there’s nothing particularly special about my score, but I am perfectly fine with being average (my GPA is also very middle-of-the-road). Sure, I benefit from living in Oklahoma in this regard since many schools in more populous states require 30+ scores for “competitive” applicants, but your MCAT score is not the only thing considered by admissions no matter where you apply. Since I’m just now applying, I can’t attest to getting into medical school with less than top-of-the-class stats, but Andi has already written a few thoughts on that 🙂
 

Categories
Application Process Lists Medical School

3 Things to Try to Avoid as a PreMed

Not because I think I have all the answers but because simply going through it is a whole-life-encompassing process, I feel like I have learned some things that would have been better for me had I just steered clear of it.
1. Comparing your “application” to others’ applications- by application I mean you as an entire package. Your personality, grades, extracurriculars, work experience, etc. There is more than one way into medical school and you don’t have to fit the proverbial bill to get in. Say somebody has an amazing internship opportunity that you know. Just because you don’t have that, doesn’t mean you don’t have what it takes. Find your path into medical school. Chances are, you’ll have something in your life that no one else will have.
2.Not resting- You need to take a break. Even if it means you say no to a study group. Resting can mean sleeping, playing frisbee, or simply passively studying without freaking out. It’s easy to say now that I’m in but I look back and see that I really could have thrown the book on the floor and gone and played raquetball a little more or fully focused on having family time instead of trying to study and missing out.
3. Having a job-I guess this is a personal preference/need but I tried working a part time job during undergrad a couple times and just never could make it work. I found myself going without brushing my hair and eating regular meals just so I could “maximize my time”. Bad idea. I just ended up gross, tired, and hungry, which isn’t a good state in which to study or live for that matter. So I applaud you if you can have a job and make it work, but I would advise against it.