This is a long post (3 pages). I wanted to provide a lot of detail in hopes of providing as much useful advice as possible. The post is organized into sections. Feel free to read it in snippets or digest it all. Up to you!
Getting into medical school is no easy feat, and it definitely is not it an “overnight” success. It is a daily grind that requires hard work, dedication, time management, mental toughness, and of course a beautifully polished application strategically decorated with academic achievements, multiple extracurricular activities, and letters of recommendation that praise your existence. So, how in the world do you get to this point? Well, the good news is that you don’t…entirely. Let me explain.
There are certain components of the application that essentially are “non-negotiables”:
Your MCAT score(s)
Medical schools put a lot of weight on your academic achievements. I mean let’s face it, they want to know that you can (and are ready to) withstand the rigors of medical school where you will be THROWN more information then you ever wanted to know. And oh, by the way, you need to learn it by tomorrow before you have four more lectures, spend three hours in the anatomy lab, and have to study for your exam on Friday. Sounds like fun? Not really. But it’s the reality of medical school that every medical student just has to endure and get through. So I fully understand why your academics play a key role in your acceptance into medical school.
The GPA and MCAT are used as a filter. If you score above this number, you move onto the “second round”. If not, it’s try again next year.
So what do you do if either of these two components are average or below average? Well, this is where strategy, creativity, and determination play a key role. If you talk to five medical students and ask them what their strengths were and what stood out on their application, you will likely get five different answers. Most will probably say that they were were good students but that their niche was “I did research for three years and had multiple research publications” or “I tutored physics and chemistry for two years” or in my case “I was a college athlete double-major”. I strongly believe that every applicant has a niche that makes them unique and helps them to standout from the other thousands of students who apply to medical school every year. So, when it came time for me to apply to medical school, I had to determine what my niche was. Luckily it was clear…
How I Became “Dr. Trot”
As I mentioned in my post Is Medicine the Right Field for Me? I spent my youth dreaming of dribbling a basketball. I couldn’t fathom the idea of spending so many years in school to become someone who worked long hours and carried annoying beeper that went off at the most convenient times. No thanks! And here I am, moments away from graduating medical school. Isn’t life ironic! To read more about why I decided on becoming a doctor check out Is Medicine the Right Field for Me? (even though I have doctors in my family, it was actually a difficult and unexpected decision for me to pursue medicine). Here, I want to talk about how I got into medical school. Isn’t that what you really want to know?
Ever since I was “baby trot”, I dreamt of playing basketball at the collegiate level. I loved the idea that it was ike an “exclusive club” where the best of the best are selected to play and compete against each other. To me, getting a scholarship to play college basketball meant that I made it–I was officially a talented athlete. And that’s what I strived for…to be the best! By my high school graduation, I decided that I wanted to pursue medicine and become the third generation doctor but that presented a dilemma. I knew playing a college sport would be demanding, tiring, and would greatly limit any time outside of the gym.
Interestingly, I never considered if I would become a pre-medicine student-athlete; rather, I wanted to know how I could successfully pursue both without jeopardizing the other. I knew medical school required good grades, so I strived to get as many “As” as possible. I knew college basketball would be a completely different ball game compared to high school (pun intended) and that it would require daily focus, precision, and determination to get better every single day; for the first time in my life, I had to actually compete for playing time. Everyone on my team was a “super star” in high school; all of a sudden I was “average”.
I fully understood that being a pre-medicine student-athlete with two majors would be quite the juggling act but it wasn’t impossible. And that is what kept me going.
I had to invest a significant amount of time into both basketball and school in order to succeed at both. Unfortunately, this really did limit my free time, but I had two big dreams that I was very passionate about. So I worked my tail off:
I woke up early to get some studying in before my morning lectures.
I stayed up late to finish any “to-dos” of the day so I wouldn’t get behind.
I always had study materials with me in the locker room in case I had some free time to get some studying in before practice or during rehab (bad knees).
I studied pretty much every day. In fact, the only days I can remember that I didn’t study was right after final exams. But then I had summer school shortly after!
Basketball generally took up half of my day, which it difficult to schedule the required pre-medicine courses and labs. If it conflicted with practice, I couldn’t take the course. (Wait, I thought I was a STUDENT-athlete?) In order to stay on track, I took one of the required pre-medicine courses every summer that way I could also take the lab component since my team wasn’t traveling. In fact, I didn’t have a summer break before starting college. After I graduated from high school, I had one week “off” (I was training) and then I had to report for summer training. Talk about a hustle game!
I remember one time sitting in the locker room reading one of my review books after practice waiting for the cold tub to free up (cold tub: a big mama tub that was beyond cold that helped with muscle soreness) and a teammate walked in and said, “Who wants to go watch the sunset?” If you could have seen my face. I asked her, “Don’t you have class or have to study?” She said, “Trot, I rarely study. Plus, you do enough studying for the both of us.” I guess I was so caught up in my crazy schedules that it didn’t cross my mind that people actually have a lot of time to chill and go “watch a sunset”.
Disclaimer: Medical school taught me a very important lesson…balance is key to success and true happiness! In college, I had two very demanding schedules, and any free time I had was spent studying. In medical school, studying is your one and only job. That has allowed me to find a balance and have some free time to do what I want, including watching a sunset, which I highly recommend. (Picture taken by Mama T.)
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