Extracurriculars while in grad school (and chances)?

Hi there, I’m in a similar boat as some others who have posted on here, but still one year away from getting my PhD in biochemistry at a top 5 institution (I would be 27 when I finish).

My uGPA is 3.1 from MIT, very low I know, but the grades there were severely deflated, and people have told me that some schools will look upon this reasonably if I have a good MCAT. I haven’t taken the MCAT yet, but my main concern is the “volunteering/clinical experience”.

I’m currently shadowing a very good doctor in a large hospital about 10-15 hours a month, but I’m not in a separate volunteer program. There’s just no time for me to study for my MCAT, stay on track in grad school, AND do a ridiculous amount of volunteering that would be comparable to the younger pre-meds in college.

I am a CA resident, but would be open to a wide geographical range. I’d prefer only M.D. programs.

Any advice on my chances or what to do here? I have a lot of other things I could ask about just making this decision to switch (in short, I don’t hate my current job and could see myself doing science- but I want to help people and want to see if medicine would be a good option), but for now I’m going to proceed with the process and see how I feel about it as I go along. Thanks a lot. I’ve gotten a lot of mean, aggressive comments over on SDN, and I like the community on OPM a lot more, so I’m trying my luck here.

Welcome to OPM! I am glad to hear that you like the atmosphere and environment here better than other places - I completely agree with you on that.

So, here are my thoughts. You definitely need volunteer experience. No question. Shadowing is great, but it’s not actually doing anything active with patients.

You wrote in your post that you want to help people. But you need to have experiences to back those words up. ADCOMS want to see good grades, good MCAT, shadowing hours, yes. But they also want to see a commitment to serving people. Another important thing about whatever volunteer work you do is consistency. They want to see that you have volunteered somewhere not over a few days or weeks, but over a period of at least several months, that you are dedicated to whatever service activity you are engaged in.

I wish I could magically add hours to your day so you could fit in everything you need to do, but trust me, I feel your pain. I’m working two jobs and studying for the MCAT myself (in addition to volunteering once a week).

If you’re not completely convinced about medicine (and it sounds like you might be a bit on the fence), my recommendation is to explore the field more so you can make a more definite decision. Take a year. Shadow more physicians (multiple fields, not just one specialty). Volunteer. Spend more time studying for the MCAT. Make a well-informed decision. You’ll only be 27 when you finish your PhD. If you wait a year, you’ll still be a young 28. And a more sure and qualified candidate, if you do decide to go forward.

Hope that helps.

Other OPMers, please weigh in …

I would extend a welcome as well, but I was a complete lurker until a few weeks ago!

I think our situations/backgrounds are very similar. I also was in grad school for a while (but have been out of school for nearly 9 years; I’m 34).

I am finishing up this application cycle (heard back from most schools already) and definitely concur with terra…schools will want evidence that you have face time with some facet of the medical system where you are interacting with pts yourself in addition to watching someone else do so. At all of my interviews I was asked in some way, shape, or form why I was applying for med school now. My volunteer experiences (I worked as an EMT for a large urban fire department) were key in being able to answer those questions because it was that experience that largely convinced me to pursue medicine as a career.

I don’t want to blather away too much but please feel free to PT/PM me if you’d like to discuss this further.

Good luck to you in your discernment process!

First of all, congratulations on getting your PhD! You should be really proud of that accomplishment that’s coming up. Secondly, others have weighed in with good suggestions; this is such a supportive community on OPM. I would highlight the phrase in your post, “…I want to help people and see if medicine would be a good option…” I would take the time you need to do that; don’t rush things. If you take an extra year, it’s OK. Spend time to volunteer (beyond just shadowing) to determine whether you really want to pursue a career in medicine. Doing so will not only give you the info you need to make the decision, it’ll also bolster any future med school application. You may decide, based on your experience, that you want to stick with the path you’re on. Or you may decide you want to go for it and apply to med school. If the latter, you’ll be certain after getting more experience. Good luck!