What else do I need?

I have been struggling for years to get in, but still cannot figure out what else I need, other than improving my MCAT score.

So here’s my story.

I was pre-med in college, but did not do stellar in my pre-med courses. After college, I went to do my MPH at Berkeley, concentrating on infectious diseases, so I took higher level biology courses and had an overall 3.5 and then also got another masters in healthcare policy and management from Carnegie Mellon University with a 3.5.

In the last ten years (graduated college in 2000), I have volunteered in many healthcare-related activities (free-clinic, research, hospitals, etc.), and also just took 3 months off to conduct an outbreak investigation in a rural hospital in central India. I also have worked as a science researcher at Cornell Medical School, Berkeley, Univ. of Pittsburgh Medical School, Case Western Reserve Univ, and the National Institutes of Health. Some of my work has also been published. And finally, I now work as a health policy analyst to health government agencies.

My MCAT score needs to be increased and I’m working on that. I guess my question is, do you think after all of this, that I should enroll in a post-bac program to increase my grades from college, or just hope that my MCAT score increases? So far in the application process, I can’t get past the secondary. Plus, I am not sure that I am financially able to afford a post-bac program.

Also, I considered doing another masters, but I was told by my mentor (who is on an admissions committee) that getting too many masters degrees does not look good.

I need some advice on what my next steps should be.

Please help!

Padma, how recent are your advance biology courses? How old is your pre-med coursework altogether?

Have you contacted any colleges where you did not get past the secondary to ask the admissions officers there what you could do to improve your application? Some of them will tell you.

Finally, how confident are you of raising your MCAT score? Do you feel that you have weaknesses in subject matter, trouble getting behind the tricky questions? YOu need to have a very good understanding of your weak points in order to have a good, solid plan for addressing them.

In other words, I’m not sure exactly what’s missing here, so I can’t advise you very well at this point. But I think you can find out what’s missing and then work on fixing it.

I think knowing what your MCAT score is will help us better answer your question.

Actually, I disagree. Padma’s overall application credentials sound pretty solid academically, so a low MCAT is almost certainly part of the picture. Or at least it wouldn’t help ME to know the actual number.

Padma, I want to be sure I’m understanding correctly: you have taken the MCAT and applied, at least once, to medical school, is that correct? And you submitted secondaries to those schools who sent them out, is that also correct? But you never got invited for interviews?

Here are my questions:

– How many times have you applied to med school?

– How many times have you taken the MCAT? If more than once, have you made big improvements each time?

– What do you know about your letters of recommendation that should have been part of your application portfolio at the secondary stage? Did everyone send them in? Are you confident that they were strong recommendations?

– Where did you apply? How did you choose the schools to which you applied?

– Your resume certainly demonstrates a person who is dedicated to medicine - has someone read your personal statement to see if it represents you well?

– What are your grades in the all-important prerequisites? And then in the BCPM upper-level courses?

I agree with your mentor’s advice: another master’s degree is a waste of everyone’s time and your money. I don’t think a post-bacc is the best choice either. Unless ALL your relevant coursework is pretty old, I don’t get the impression that you need academic remediation. It sounds more like a low MCAT and maybe less-than-optimal “packaging.”

Something to consider: consulting with an independent pre-med advisor. (Judy Colwell, who advertises on our website and speaks at our conferences, is excellent, and there are many others.) It isn’t cheap to engage the services of a consultant but neither is a post-bacc cheap, and the application process isn’t cheap, either. I think it might be especially well worth it in your case.

Best wishes to you!


Oh, and shameless plug: come to the OPM 2008 conference in Washington this June! You’ll have the chance to network with dozens of other folks at various stages in the process, learn from speakers who’ve gone through it, and talk to exhibitors representing med schools, test prep companies, pre-med advisors, etc. etc. It will definitely be worth your time and $$.