Finally found this site! And have lots of questions

Hello everyone. My name is Anita and I am 27yo (28 this year.) I have so many questions and am happy to have found a site like this.

A little on my background, I have a BS in mechanical engineering from Purdue and a GPA of around 3.0. (my grades were all A&B’s and then I got super lazy my last semester and ended up with pretty much all C’s. Of course at that point of my life I thought I would never go back to school again. I worked in the field, blah blah blah, the economy crashed and I went back to school to get my certificate in esthetics. I am in the process of opening up a little salon/yoga studio but I know that I’ll get bored with that in a couple of years and I have always wanted to go to med school but didn’t necessarily have an awesome support system (“well you know, medical school is for smart people”.) SO here I am.

If anyone could answer any of my questions, I would appreciate it!!

  1. Do you have to have all your prerequisites completed before applying?

  2. What about MCAT classes? Are they worth paying for and taking?

  3. Here is my current timeline - does it sound good?

    Fall 2012 - bio I, orgo I, sociology

    Spring 2012 - bio II, orgo II, psychology, MCAT, and apply (should I be taking the MCAT’s in the fall and applying before finishing up my classes?)

  4. Are there things I can do to up my chances of getting into school? Volunteer work? Lab work?

    Thank you and I look forward to meeting everyone?

  5. Am I the only one who keeps second guessing themselves?

Hi Anita. I’m new around here too and only a pre-med myself, but I’ll take a stab at some of your questions.

  1. As far as I am aware, you do not have to have all your prereqs completed by the time you apply, but you DO need to have them all done by the time you matriculate.

  2. I’ve heard good and bad about the classes. I’ve heard some good things about the Examkrackers do-it-yourself study materials, but their class is $$ like the others. I’d like to hear some firsthand info about this myself.

  3. Sounds pretty aggressive to me but an engineer should be able to handle it. Except what about physics? You’ll need a year. As a Mech Eng, I’ll assume you’ve had this already.

  4. As I understand it, the 2 best things you can do to increase your chances of getting accepted are: have high science and cumulative GPA’s - like > 3.6 and have a strong MCAT like > 34-35. You should also have some volunteer work and shadowing time especially if you haven’t spent time in healthcare prior to application. But they normally won’t make up for a weak GPA and MCAT.

    Second guessing is part of life not only in the quest for medicine, but in any challenging endeavor. We all do it. You just have to be louder than the other little voice that makes you wonder if you’re doing the right thing.

    Good luck and I’m sure the veterans around here will add more.

Hi Anita - welcome (and Captain Obvious)

I was in your spot about 4 years ago and now I am almost done my first year of med school. This web site and the OPM conference were a fabulous resource and source of support for me along the journey so I am happy to help out where I can for others starting this path.

  1. So as Captain Obvious states, you need to have all your prereqs done before you matriculate, but not necessarily before you apply. That being said, it would probably be best to have the basics (BIO, CHEM, ORGANIC, PHYS) done before you take the MCAT (although I know that test will be undergoing some changes and I’m not sure what those will be exactly). Some schools have other subjects as prereqs that you could do during the year that you are applying (eg. english, genetics etc).

  2. I think for the classes, it depends on you. I took Princeton to prepare for the MCAT because I like structure. I also found it helpful to get tips on how to mentally prepare for the test. So that was more approach vs content and I wouldn’t have gotten that without the course. But others don’t need structure and already have standardized tests figured out so it really depends on what you need.

  3. Your course looks doable if you’re not working fulltime. However, I would think of MCAT prep as a course unto itself. Don’t under estimate the prep time you need for it. Any particular reason you are taking sociology and psychology? If they are just interest you could push those into your application year. As to the timing of the application, ideally, you would want to complete your courses, spend a month or two focused on MCAT prep, take the MCAT (before late June), get your application in no later than early to mid July (you’ll get your MCAT scores a month after you take the test so if you take it in late June you may be applying blind - without knowing how you did on the MCAT - I did this and was sure I had pooched the MCAT royally - I hadn’t but that month was hell!!!). Once the application center gets your scores your application will be verified (they may do some verification prior to getting your scores - I think that happened with me) which takes about 2-4 weeks (depends on MD vs DO and how complicated your application is eg. many schools / degrees especially if in different countries). The schools that you selected will then review your application and decide whether to send you a secondary application (probably looking at August / September timeframe here) - most schools now send secondaries to everyone who applies because there is a fee you have to pay to each school to submit your secondaries (revenue generation for the school). Get those secondaries back ASAP (3-4 weeks tops). The schools then start reviewing the complete applications and deciding who to invite for interviews. Ideally you want to be in the Sept - Dec interview category. The earlier you get into the interview the better your chances of getting a seat. Also, don’t forget that you need leters of reference and you don’t have control over how fast your referees complete them and submit them (so leave lots of time and make the process as idiot proof as possible for them). Hope the timeline helps a bit.

  4. You definitely have to get volunteering in (I would say at least 250 hours by the time you apply). Ideally medically related (esp if you don’t have any medical experience in your past). Most importantly, it has to be something you are passionate about because it may come up in an interview and you need to express how much the experience meant to you. Easier to do when you pick a place you are passionate about to begin with. You also should shadow a doctor or 2. This doesn’t need to be extensive (I shadowed 3 doctors about 8 hours each). They just want to make sure you know what you are getting into. If you are applying to DO schools, make sure that 1 of the docs you shadow is a DO. Most DO schools require a letter from a DO (or an MD if you couldn’t find a DO but a DO is a better option in that situation. Research is good if you are interested in it and can fit it in, but it is not a show stopper (unless you plan on applying to a research focused school).

    I know that my plan was to get everything done in one year and then apply. I had to revise my schedule because it just wasn’t possible for me to do that and maintain the high academic standards that I needed. As many folks on this site say that this is marathon not a sprint. Don’t mess up your application in your haste to apply.

    Anyway, I hope that helps. If you can, I would try to attend the OPM conference in Orlando in June. It will be a fabulous resource for you and there will be lots of people there who have gone through this journey so you will be able to pick their brains in person - much easier and more fun than a bunch of posts (but that is good too). I will be in Orlando so if you do make, make sure you introduce yourself to me.

    All the best.