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Preparing for med school

paul2752paul2752 Registered User Posts: 5,072 Senior Member
I am currently a freshmen with CHBE major in U of Alabama, and I am aiming for med school.

Why am I asking this? It may be early but because I have heard many things about how long it take to finish app for med school and how I should finish MCAT as soon as possible, it's been making feel nervous a lot. Unlike high school, it's not easy at all to make up for missing homework and stuff, so I would like to have some guidelines from people here who have experiences.

1) How do med school view AP credits in general? for example, I used Calc 1, calc 2, AP Chem to skip intro courses. I am in Calc 3 and Ochem 1 now.Will this affect how the admission office assess my ability?
2) How early should I take MCAT? Which book is the best for the preparation?
3) What can I do during first semester? How do I get engaged in shadowing, volunteering, etc? Internship and Co-op are not possible for me since I don't have grade yet.
4) I was told that Med school doesn't care about what classes i took and how hard they are. Does it mean that if applicant A took just required courses and applicant B who took classes beyond the requirement will be treated same?
5) how important is personal statement? Is it as important as essay for undergraduate admission? What about an interview?
6) anything I should know and do?


Thank you...I know Google is there for me but I want to hear from real people.
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Replies to: Preparing for med school

  • learninginproglearninginprog Registered User Posts: 1,118 Senior Member
    Here is a good start for you. http://talk.collegeconfidential.com/pre-med-topics/1486654-premed-resources-thread-start-here-first.html

    And by the way, the information on google came from real people.
  • WayOutWestMomWayOutWestMom Registered User Posts: 9,668 Senior Member
    edited January 2015
    1) How do med school view AP credits in general? for example, I used Calc 1, calc 2, AP Chem to skip intro courses. I am in Calc 3 and Ochem 1 now.Will this affect how the admission office assess my ability?

    Some med school accept AP credits; some don't. You will need to check policies at specific schools.

    AP credits must be reported on your college transcript as equivalent to specific courses to be acceptable to med schools to those that do accept AP credits.

    If you skipped your intro level classes in math and are taking higher level math--that's perfectly fine.

    Some med schools may expect you to take additional upper level chem classes to fulfill chem requirements if you opted out of 2 semesters of gen chem--see MSAR or admission websites for specifics.
    2) How early should I take MCAT? Which book is the best for the preparation?

    A MCAT score has a limited shelf life. It's only good for 3 years; some med schools (approx 40%) require your score to be no more than 2 years old. Again, you'll need to consult med school admission sites for specifics.

    I certainly would NOT recommend taking the MCAT until you've completed all your pre-reqs.

    tl;dr--Don't take it too soon or your score will expire.

    Preparation is very much personal preference. What works for your roommate won't necessarily work for you. Some people prep on their own; some like the structure a physical classroom course provides; still others like the flexibility and guidelines provided by on-line prep. Person A prefers Kaplan books while person B prefers Princeton Review and person C only uses Gold Standard.

    It's probably best to plan on setting aside a period of time to prep right before you take the exam.
    3) What can I do during first semester? How do I get engaged in shadowing, volunteering, etc? Internship and Co-op are not possible for me since I don't have grade yet.

    Concentrate on making a smooth transition to college and keeping your grades as high as possible. Once you know how well you are able to manage your time, then consider doing some community service activities.

    My daughters found it easier to get shadowing positions after they had some long-term clinical volunteering and the doctors were confident in their reliability, maturity and ability to keep patient confidentiality. But YMMV.

    Other than that, finding shadowing and clinical volunteering is mostly a matter of determination and persistence. Networking can help too--use any contacts you/your family may have to get your foot in the door.

    If your college has pre-health professions office, that office may also be able to provide you with some leads.

    A word of advice--engage in activities that are meaningful to you. Don't do something because "it looks good" on your CV. Adcomms hate box-checkers.
    4) I was told that Med school doesn't care about what classes i took and how hard they are. Does it mean that if applicant A took just required courses and applicant B who took classes beyond the requirement will be treated same?

    Well, med schools care very much that you've taken all pre-reqs. Adcomms are not idiots and know how to read transcripts. (They've collectively read several thousands.) A semester with lots of fluff courses--that's a ding against you. Multiple semesters of underloading--that's a ding. Underloading while prepping for the MCAT-- that's a ding. Now you can get by with one or two dings, but you really want to save those dings for things you can't control.

    If you've completed all your pre-reqs and have taken upper level, challenging courses within your major, that's what's important. Adcomms aren't going to give bonus points to a bio major for taking immunology or parasitology and dock a English major for not taking those same bio classes.
    5) how important is personal statement? Is it as important as essay for undergraduate admission? What about an interview?

    Both are extremely important. Your PS is your chance to make a strong first impression and persuade the adcomm to take a more in depth look at your application. And you can't get admitted without an interview. A strong interview improves your chances for admission; a bad interview gets you rejected.
  • paul2752paul2752 Registered User Posts: 5,072 Senior Member
    @WayOutWestMom‌ Thank you for your very detailed answers.

    I think I should reword my first question; Student A has skipped Intro Chem and took higher Chem classes, while student B took intro chem and got A+. Will there be any difference?

    Also, how do students get in contact with doctors for volunteering? Is it knock-and-ask or do schools help locate doctors who want volunteers?

    Thank you
  • WayOutWestMomWayOutWestMom Registered User Posts: 9,668 Senior Member
    I think I should reword my first question; Student A has skipped Intro Chem and took higher Chem classes, while student B took intro chem and got A+. Will there be any difference?

    Nope.
    Also, how do students get in contact with doctors for volunteering? Is it knock-and-ask or do schools help locate doctors who want volunteers?

    You don't do clinical volunteering with doctors, you volunteer with organizations--hospitals, public health offices, nursing homes, hospices, cancer centers, stand-alone "free" clinics.

    You contact the volunteer office of the organization and ask if they have process to apply and if so, how to go about it. Usually there is some sort of minimal screening and training to go thru before you're accepted.

    Schools may be able to suggest places to try, but unless the school offers a formal observership or internship, the school doesn't do actual placement. It's up to you.

    Shadowing usually entails asking lots and lots of doctors. As I said above my daughters found it easier to approach doctors who already knew them and held a good opinion of them from their volunteering. Docs who knew them were more likely to say yes or to given them a referral to another doctor who took them as a personal favor to the original doc.

  • paul2752paul2752 Registered User Posts: 5,072 Senior Member
    Thank you so much :-)
  • MiamiDAPMiamiDAP Registered User Posts: 16,184 Senior Member
    First, enjoy your UG experience. It is 4 years (most fun years) of your life. They will never repeat. The brutal road is ahead. Be prepared by taking advantage of all free time that you have now, you will not have any after you start at Med. School.
    Worry about TODAY. Do not look much ahead. Your TODAY should be as perfect as possible for you personally and for your goals. Do not underestimate opportunities for personal gorwth, do not be afraid to pursue your personal interests, these will all play very positive role in your future.
    After saying that, do not forget that your aim in every class is an A. It may not happen, but you got to put the best effort into it.
    Do not worry about MCAT until it is time to study for it. the time that people spend preparing for the MCAT is different depending on your overall schedule. As an example, since my D. had to do all of her ECs during school year as nothing was available in a summer, she had to spread her preparation over longer period than most others. As far as I know, most people take MCAT after spring finals of junior year. D. started preparing sometime in October of Junior year. This is unusual, as most prepare for several weeks right before taking MCAT. I also heard from one parent here that her S. did not prepare at all. NOT ADVISABLE!!. Aside from few giniuses out there, most people have to prepare for several hours every day. D. said that taking MCAT right after finals was helpful because some material was still fresh in her head.
    In regard to APs, D. used her math and English AP credits, but she checked with Med. Schools adcoms (from her list of schools that she was planning to apply) if it is OK or not. They were very helpful. She took Stats at college, highly recommend (unless you taken it in HS), helpful for Med. Research. Imagine, dealing with the statistician for your project without having any stats background! Not a good idea at all.
    Most people end up taking lots of upper Bio because they are helpful for MCAT. So, if one took only required Bio, he is at disadvantage (again, aside from those in genius category). Bio classes were the hardest for D., but she enjoyed them.
    You can try to find volunteering place now. The rest can wait for semester or 2.
    Relax, enjoy the ride, best wishes!
  • MidwestDad3MidwestDad3 Registered User Posts: 2,186 Senior Member
    If you have not already done so, meet with the pre-med advisor on your campus and get to know him/her personally.

    The personal statement is really important. Med schools are not just looking for good grades, they are looking for evidence of maturity and seriousness of purpose.

    Be aware that there is a growing trend of med school applicants taking a 5th year of studies, either more science or an MPH for example.

    It's good that you are thinking strategically now. But has MiamiDAP suggests, find time as well to enjoy your undergrad experience.
  • camomof3camomof3 Registered User Posts: 846 Member
    "Be aware that there is a growing trend of med school applicants taking a 5th year of studies, either more science or an MPH for example."

    D didn't really notice this, but found that many applicants are now applying after they graduate from college and are taking gap years. At every interview D went to this year, they asked how many students were college seniors vs. graduates. Less than 20% of interviewees were still in college. At one interview, there were only a couple seniors out of 20-30 interviewees.

    Of course this could be skewed by the schools themselves and may not apply to the other 100+ schools she didn't interview with)
  • Jugulator20Jugulator20 Registered User Posts: 1,423 Senior Member
    "Be aware that there is a growing trend of med school applicants taking a 5th year of studies, either more science or an MPH for example."

    As in S’s case, the reason for waiting until after one graduates or taking a 5th year of courses or more could be because he/she dug themselves into a hole early in college GPA wise and it can take more courses beyond a second/third year of college to move GPA needle up. In addition, when one starts out in a hole, other things (i.e. ECs) can get minimized as the focus becomes GPA centered, and thus one may not able to submit a competitive app at end of third year of college.

    In addition, an 18 year old freshman may simply not have any focus at that time and when they do settle into notion of premed track, they discover they’ll need more time beyond a typical applicant(?) who applies at end of third year.

    No matter the reason, it’s generally better to submit the strongest app possible the first time and if it takes additional time, so be it.

  • paul2752paul2752 Registered User Posts: 5,072 Senior Member
    I am a freshmen but have a sophomore standing due to my AP credits.
    UA requires 127 credits for CHBE, and at the end of this semester, I will have 56 credits(and I am done with more than half of my pre med requirement)

    I really hope that I graduate in 4 years because if I don't, I am utterly screwed
  • i_wanna_be_Browni_wanna_be_Brown Forum Champion Brown Posts: 8,225 Forum Champion
    edited January 2015
    My med school class only had about ~50% come straight from undergrad, but a 5th year of undergrad was extremely rare. Generally people with only one gap year graduated in 4 and were working during the application year. Some of the 2+ folks had a masters or post bacc or something.

    Also, want to add that once you get an interview - the interview itself becomes the most heavily weighted aspect of your application.
  • texaspgtexaspg Forum Champion Pre-Med & Medical Posts: 16,684 Forum Champion
    Have you met @mom2collegekids yet? She can tell you all you need to know about how to get from U of A CHBE to med school. :D
  • paul2752paul2752 Registered User Posts: 5,072 Senior Member
    edited January 2015
    Oh yeah I know her in forum. Our leader in UA forum.
    I was thinking about other med schools as well, though like Alpert med school in Brown U.(my first undergraduate choice, too bad I got rejected :-( )
  • Jugulator20Jugulator20 Registered User Posts: 1,423 Senior Member
    "I really hope that I graduate in 4 years because if I don't, I am utterly screwed"

    "Also, want to add that once you get an interview - the interview itself becomes the most heavily weighted aspect of your application."

    Keep in mind that in last reported application cycle almost 3 out of every 5 applicants did NOT get accepted anywhere. Every part of med school app is critical. You can have an incredibly strong app, but if offered an interview, you can’t hold a conversation or you come across as arrogant, entitled, or just come across as a jerk, you easily could find yourself on the outside looking in. One of my favorites is from link below (post #12 LizzyM), but also read post 10.

    http://****/threads/adcoms-demystifying-the-admissions-process.1112104/#post-15995094

    Although the reasons why you’ll be utterly screwed if you don’t graduate in 4 years are none of my business, again, it’s simply better to do it right the first time by submitting the strongest possible app in all aspects (i.e, GPAs, MCATS, ECs, LORs PS, Interview). Good luck.
  • texaspgtexaspg Forum Champion Pre-Med & Medical Posts: 16,684 Forum Champion
    Our leader in UA forum.

    I meant her son followed similar pathway to get to med school (UA ChemE to med school). So she knows exactly what you need to do in your specific environment.
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