Introduction - Am I doing enough?

First of all I just want to say how grateful I am that this community exists. Thank you all. Reading your stories has given me a lot of inspiration.

My question: I wonder if I’m doing enough to guarantee (as much as possible) admission to a US MD school when I apply later this year. I’ll provide some background, I’ll try to keep it as short as possible, but there’s a lot to get across that (I think) matters.

I am newly 30 years old. I got a BS in Bio in 2004 from a small commuter school in MI called Oakland University. I had a cumulative GPA of 3.42 and a BCMP of 3.22. I was very unstable then, so I got some high grades and some very low grades- from 3.8’s in Genetics and Orgo II to a 3.1 in physiology and even a 0.0 retaken to be a still bad 2.9 in Field Biology. I took the MCAT in August 2003, got a 34, and applied very sloppily to MSU and Wayne State. Interviewed (again, lazily) at Wayne, got waitlisted and then denied, which I was okay with because I didn’t think I wanted to go to med school anymore anyway.

Spent the next 5 or so years working without much distinction in cosmetics and fragrance chemistry, then biotech. An interest in meditation that I developed in my early 20s really took over in me around Feb of 2009. I started meditating a lot, quit my biotech job in June 2009 and devoted myself full time to meditation. I was a live-in volunteer at a meditation center in GA from Jan-Oct of this year. Contrary to what one might expect, this position was very demanding, requiring 10-11 hour workdays consecutively for 11 of every 14 days. The remaining 3 days still had work, but with a lighter schedule. This experience showed me how much I loved service, and it got me thinking about what career I would find satisfying in that way, that would also be interesting and challenging. Medicine won by a lot, so here I am. I moved to Chapel Hill with the hope of getting into UNC as an in-state.

As of a few weeks ago, I’ve been volunteering 4 hours a week at an assisted living center and 2 hours a week at a Burn Unit at UNC hospital. On January 3rd, I’ll add 12 hours a week volunteering on some clinical MS research, again at UNC hospital. I’ll also be taking an MCAT prep course that meets 4 times a week. Given enough time to study, I am pretty confident that I can at least match my earlier MCAT score. After I take the MCAT in April, I’ll start working as the neurology clerkship coordinator at UNC med school. Up until then, I will be unemployed.

That was still really long. My apologies. Any input would be really appreciated. Thank you.

You’ve clearly got plenty of volunteerwork that you’re doing at the moment. And if you can repeat a 34 on the MCAT, that’s great. Your GPA is OK. But I think there are going to be some challenges for you – and I think you need to be prepared to answer some probing questions about your background.

One issue is that this is your second time around in terms of applying to medical school, and so the schools are going to want to see some significant changes in your application since the first time you applied and were denied. (At least, I know this is the case when you apply more than once to the same school – I would think it would be the same when you apply a second time to new schools, too, but if that’s not the case someone please correct me!) It’s true that you have worked in the interim, but you haven’t done a lot in the last six years to better prepare yourself for admission to medical school (i.e., taken some more advanced courses, volunteered on a regular basis at a hospital during that time, done medical research, etc.). So I would just be prepared to respond to that question.

I would also encourage you to think about how you would answer questions about the variability in your grades when you did your degree. Especially that 0.0 and 2.9 in Field Bio. Why you got a 0.0, why you repeated the course, and why you still did so poorly. And then why you are NOT going to repeat that pattern now.

Lastly, you need to be able to explain with CRYSTAL clarity why you want to go into medicine. Why medicine, and why now. Both of these aspects are important.l Because you were headed there once, and backed off. That will raise some eyebrows as to your dedication to the field. (Please note that I am not saying you’re not dedicated, just that the adcoms are likely to question you on this.)

You might also want to check with the schools where you want to apply and see whether the age of your med school pre-requisites (which will be 7-10 years old by the time you apply, assuming you took them throughout your college career) are OK. Some med schools want more recent bio credits than that. Just a suggestion.

Best wishes to you! Let us know how things progress.

Thank you so much for your response. I was beginning to question the wisdom of posting a question this long during the holidays. Thanks also for guiding me about the interview questions I should prepare for, I’ll definitely start thinking about how to best answer them. As for my application, it will have to be better this time around, because now I’ll put more than zero effort into it…