In this series of articles, I will be sharing excerpts of case studies on several of my former students (with their permission, of course). Names and other identifying information have been changed, but the material facts — MCAT score, GPA, etc. — are unchanged. The full case studies are published in my book, Pre-Med Success Stories.
I’ll present each case study in three parts — an introduction of the student, followed by an in-depth assessment of the student’s profile and chances for admission to medical school, and then finally I’ll explain what happened to the student once s/he applied.
In this article, I will be sharing admissions advice I gave to my client, Jeremy.
Part One — Getting to Know Jeremy
Jeremy is a 21 year-old Mexican-American male and what I noticed first about him was his confrontational attitude. Not in a bad way, of course — he was confrontational against disease, and saw himself as a protector against hostile forces. He had the qualities of an inspirational leader, no doubt, and he desperately wanted to fight so that people could live better, healthier lives. He was a vocal person, and vehemently against boredom; he certainly knew how to keep things interesting. However, I also noticed he was a bit loose with his language. This was fine, I didn’t mind, but he was being so casual without even knowing me, I wondered how he might do in a formal interview setting. I liked his charisma and determination, but he needed some discipline if he was going to be accepted to medical school. He also didn’t seem to leave much room for self-critique, even shied away from it, and I figured this was another aspect we needed to work on. He was confident, and he saw himself as a good leader, but I couldn’t let that get the best of him — even a good leader needs to be constantly vigilant and be checking himself. I hoped I could instill that attitude in him.
Jeremy’s academic record was average and I could immediately tell he would need to shine in other ways through his application.
- He was pursuing undergraduate studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill with a current GPA of 3.025 and a major in molecular biology.
- His MCAT score was a 29 total.
He had some volunteer work and extracurriculars under his belt, but not many.
- Volunteered at the UNC Hospital at the critical care unit for 50 hours.
- Was involved for 55 hours total in a Student Research Project in molecular biology and biotechnology where he was assisting in computer-based design of an enzyme inhibitor.
Aside from his volunteer work, he was also the coxswain of the men’s crew team for two years, which was impressive. Jeremy had a lot of work to do.
After a quick glance at his application, I think Jeremy and I both knew what the main issue would be: his low GPA. Jeremy was frank with me and told me that he was unmotivated and that he couldn’t stay as focused on academics as he could on other things. This proved to be a serious problem because other students can point to a certain semester or personal problem that weighed them down, Jeremy was an average student across the board. He told me that he was a star student in high school, but then once he got to college, everything seemed to change.
Jeremy became incredibly nervous and confessional once the MCAT scores came out — I told him bluntly that he needed to own up to the fact that his confidence was overcompensating for his poor performance. He then started to realize more and more that his self-worth was tied to him becoming a doctor.
The Strategy Going Forward
I first focused on addressing his GPA. He was a fifth-year senior and had two semesters left. He promised to achieve a 3.7 GPA and delay his graduation by a few months to retake General Chemistry and Molecular Biology. In the fall, he would apply to a few post-baccalaureate programs. We listed a few possible post-baccalaureate programs and graduate schools that were options towards improving his grades; as an added bonus, I also advised him to submit his AACOMAS application to all osteopathic schools and his AMCAS application to some allopathic safety schools when June came around. I also suggested he fix his lackluster volunteer work by offering his time at a free clinic or hospice, and perhaps get certified as an EMT.
Jeremy had a lot of work to do and I told him that outright. We needed to assemble a few core stories which showed Jeremý’s dedication — we also needed to make him a more serious candidate and work on his habits until he was approachable in an interview setting.
How did Jeremy deal with all this added work? How did his personal statement turn out? Click here for the second part of this three-part series.