Friday, March 28, 2014

A college junior wonders if she will get into med school

Over on my "Ask Skeptical Scalpel" blog, a  college junior with a few problems wonders if she will get into medical school. Did I give her the right advice? What do you think?


Anonymous said...

I thought your advice was spot on.

Of course, many factors play into what career path a young person aims for, but I wonder about the second choices of med school applicants.

When I entered med school in the 80's the most popular backup plan was --- law school. I don't know the current Number 2: venture capitalism?

Law school has lost much of its cachet, but my cynical thought back then was that finances and prestige were major considerations for med school applicants.

Skeptical Scalpel said...

Thanks. I have no idea what the second choice of today's med students might be. I'm pretty sure it's not law school. I wouldn't know what to tell someone to go into these days. Nothing seems good to me.

artiger said...

Not bad advice. I have written here earlier that I was accepted to med school as a junior; although I was ready academically, I had some preconceived notions then about not only being a physician, but exactly what kind as well. That changed a great deal in just a couple of years.

I think the advice given was solid. I don't want to rain on the parade of any premed student, but what you really want at 21 can be really different a few years later. I'd say give the MCAT a shot, and if favorable, apply to anywhere to get accepted. If the MCAT ain't so good, go the extender route, or consider grad school in a science field (if med school is still the unwavering goal).

Going forward, from here, I'd avoid health care myself if I knew everything then that I knew now.

Skeptical Scalpel said...

I think you are among the many who would choose a different career.

Libby said...

While I'm not a doctor, I did dream of being one. Also started RN training (wrong season for me to do it) so this is my 2cents worth.
You're young, 21, volunteer in a hospital on an unit/ward/floor where you interact with patients, nurses, doctors and various allied health and non-health care workers. Get a feel of what it is like to be in that environment. Also volunteer in a clinic for vulnerable people (you know, homeless, low-income the such) to get a feel of what it is like in that environment. Do it for a few years. Continue with your studies. Since your GPA is weak consider getting in via a different route...get a Bachleor of Nursing, B. Social Work, Paramedic, Physician's Ass't. type thing. Work a few years and apply to med schools that are known for thinking outside of the "sciences rule, humanities drool"/ "straight from undergrad to us" model. Uof Calgary is known for looking at atypical applicants (life experience, non-hard science degrees/courses/older students). I'm sure that there are some American ones like that. I volunteered with one young lady who went to Ireland for her medical degree. Coming back to Canada to practice isn't hard...just costly for the exams. I don't know how it worked out for her. She had family over there also.
And if you really want to do it then listen to yourself, but be brutially honest with yourself. I had to be...math was my bugaboo, it just isn't logical to me so I looked at what I really wanted to accomplish and how could I do it if nursing and med school weren't in the books? There is more than one way to get to the desired place. And that alternative route might be more rewarding for you. You never know what other options are out there if you don't look hard.
(BTW even knowing what I know about nurses and medicine, if I could do Gr. 12 math, I'd do it. Even with the psycho clinical instructors. I had a short lived social work practicum in a hospital this year with a delusional social worker supervisor and dispite the bad taste she created about hospital social work I'd still work in a hospital...but either in emergency or in the children's hospital not on an unit).

Skeptical Scalpel said...

Libby, you make some good points. I hope the woman who wrote the email asking the question has read your and the other comments. I think some very good suggestions have been offered.

Anonymous said...

As a Canadian grad now practicing in the US, I should point out to American premeds that applying to Canadian med schools is not a viable option in almost all cases, for several reasons.

Canadian med schools are all funded by the government, and the vast majority of places are reserved for residents in their own province.

The acceptance rate is lower than for American med.schools. If grades/MCAT scores are not adequate to get into a US one, it won't get you into a Canadian one.

With the recent increase in both MD and DO spots in the US, it is prob. now easier to get in than in the past 20 years.

Skeptical Scalpel said...

Anon, thanks for your comments. This is useful information.

hope said...

I sat on the med school admissions committee as a student member for two years and with a GPA of 2.8, it's unlikely she will get many interviews at a U.S. allopathic school. If her MCATs and letters of recommendations are really good (i.e. very high percentile), she may get an interview, but even then acceptance will be difficult. I think you gave her sound advice. I went to a very "judge the whole person and not the numbers" type of medical school, but in the end there were still 8 categories on which to rank applicants and the ones with the best numbers (or a special connection, ie three generations had attended the school or parents are faculty) got in. I agree with the points above in that wants and desires at 21, particularly the "free clinic" dream may not be so realistic or long-lasting. She neglects to mention if she has extensive experience with under-served populations or shadowing a doctor dedicated to this patient populations. The 21 year old sounds quite naive in her perception of medicine. Good to have that optimism, bad because she'll likely be disappointed

Skeptical Scalpel said...

Hope, thanks for another reality check. It's great that you were on an admissions committee. I should have sent the question directly to you.

Anonymous said...

Out of curiosity spurred by this post, I looked up the acceptance rates for American allopathic schools based on MCAT and GPA.

The relevant page is table 24, summarizing data from 2011-2013.

The median MCAT score for a successful applicant is around 30.

For those with GPA's 3.0 to 3.19, the median MCAT needed is 38. With the same GPA an MCAT of 22 drops the acceptance rate to 10%.

So, it seems like it is difficult to get in with mediocre marks and MCAT's but not wildly improbable, esp. since some schools are "easier" than others.

I also note that the overall acceptance rate is 44.5% for those 3 years, which I think is higher than a decade ago. It was in 35-40% range when I entered 20+years ago, and it reached 60% during the first dot
com bust (interesting correlation).

Anonymous said...

I meant, of course, the first dot com boom.


Skeptical Scalpel said...

Anon, thanks for the link and the useful information. It doesn't seem quite as bleak for her as many of us thought.

Julia said...

I don't understand why plan B would ever be law school or business. Maybe I have this view because I'll be the new generation of physicians with lower pay and already knowing I'll be in debt for a long time, but I am content with my career choice. I came here because of my love for science and discovery and absolute urge to make people feel better and help them. If medical school doesn't work out, I would absolutely go right into graduate school, get my PhD and cure something. Almost same difference to me, I would miss my patients, but would find other ways to interact in similar ways...

Anonymous said...

People apply to med school for all sort of reasons, which may be inchoate in the typical 21 year old.

I remember the law-as-2nd choice when I was a med student in the 1980's (law was considered an attractive career back then, believe it or not). That data was from the AAMC, though I don't seeing them doing the same survey anymore. I also remember the drastic decrease in absolute numbers of applicants during the booming 90's, with well-paying jobs and possible fortunes awaiting the science/tech literate.

We would like to think that people go into medicine because they love science and serving others. But I think that money and perceived prestige are major factors in any career decision, and med students are not all that different.

Skeptical Scalpel said...

Julia, I hope you don't lose your idealism.

Anon, I agree with you--particularly your last paragraph.

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