Ask Away: Pre-Med/Med School Q&A - March Edition

Preparing for Medical School Questions

1. In regards to applying to med school, I’m a bit of an untraditional student in the sense that I’m actually in grad school right now pursuing a Master’s in Arabic and Middle Eastern studies lol. Long story short, I had a bit of a quarter life crisis and started volunteering in the ED and absolutely fell in love. I didn’t follow the premed track in undergrad (one of my biggest regrets haha) so I’ll need to do a post bacc program and then begin the process. I guess my biggest question is, is it too late to pursue medical school? How do I know this isn’t just a phase? And what are the next steps to make this a reality?

A. That’s such a cool/different background! It’s never too late but I will be honest and suggest weighing the pros and cons of becoming a PA (I’m not at all trying to deter you but just remember you have 4 years of med school, residency and maybe a fellowship). If you really want to be a doctor absolutely go for it. I had classmates that were 30 with 2 kids. If you want to start working immediately and want the flexibility to switch specialities then becoming a PA would be a better option.

I would suggest putting yourself in the ED environment more often to really figure out if this is what you want. You can even apply for a job as a medical scribe which would actually be a great way to earn money and be exposed to medical language. The most important question is “even on a bad day am I still happy to be here?” After a couple months of working in the ED, you’ll be out of the honeymoon phase and can tell if you’re still in love with medicine or if you’re like forget this.

2. I will be a junior in the fall & I was wondering when is the right time to start preparing for the MCAT?

A. You should start this summer. A lot of people are starting earlier so I wouldn’t start later than the summer. I started reviewing with Examkrackers and loved it because it explained the basics in each subject . Once you read through that I would suggest a course like Kaplan review because they tell you exactly what to look out for. Those classes are usually offered in each semester so I would study Examkrackers over the summer and enroll in the course in the fall. Also make sure you do a practice exam before the course to get a gauge of your weaker subjects and what areas you’ll need more focus in.

3. How did you study in undergrad? Mainly for Bio , I’m a bio major & i really just do not know how to study for it.

A. Bio is harder to study for because it’s strictly memorization. I’m a big fan of outlining. I read the chapters on the syllabus and outline the main concepts (that’s really important because you don’t want to be bogged down in useless details). Then, I use the professors notes to tell me what details they think are important. Sometimes textbooks come with practice questions. If your test questions are similar to the practice questions do those after each section to confirm you know the material.

Then always ask the professor for a practice exam or practice questions before the exam so you can see how they like to ask their questions. Are they simple multiple choice questions based on the bigger picture or looking for specific detail they mentioned in lecture? That will help direct their focus.

4.    What would you do if your advisor told you to change your major or have a back up plan bc you’re gpa wasn’t a 3.8?

A. Remember 3.8 is the average so they’ll take ppl with a lower gpa. If your gpa is around a 3.5  sophomore or the beginning of junior year you definitely have time to turn things around. If your gpa is lower at that stage, changing your major isn’t necessarily a terrible idea. Medical schools actually value students with other majors because it diversifies their student population. You can change your major and just take the pre med courses if that idea appeals to you. If you don’t want to change your major really take a step back and try to figure out why you aren’t averaging a 3.8.

Figure out to perform better on exams (do you need to start studying earlier or do practice questions) and focus on building relationships with your professors so you feel comfortable going to them for extra help. Study for that MCAT! You just need to make your mcat as strong as possible.

Now let’s not forget everyone with a 4.0 gpa and super high MCAT score doesn’t necessarily get into medical school. Your application explains you as a whole meaning your extracurriculars are really important. Do activities that will set you apart from the other applicants and definitely make sure you have leadership roles.

5. What are the pre-requisites for going into pre med?

A. You don’t really have any. Once you get to the pre-med track you have to do bio I & II, chem I & II, organic chemistry I & II and physics I & II and calc 1. The electives are determined by each school. Most people have done some of the basic level bio, chem and physics in high school. Even if you haven't it doesn’t make that big of a difference because college moves at such a fast pace.

6.    Can you get me into medical school?!?!?!

A. Ha! Sooooo….I cannot 😞! However there might be someone you know who can! Definitely never hesitate to share your goals with everyone because you never know who knows an admissions director or dean at a medical school.

Medical School Questions

1. I'm supposed to be taking Step 1 this summer and I just wanted to know if you had any tips on preparation and what you think may have worked really well and vice versa.

You definitely need to start studying now. What I mean by that is every weekend you should be tackling your worst subject with either flashcards or practice questions. If you wait until the prime study period it’ll be harder to apply the information because you don’t really understand it. For me Micro and Pharm were my worst subjects. I didn’t do this but if I would have started looking over flashcards early it would have saved time later. Also you should definitely have a question bank when studying for exams now you’re also studying for step 1. Make sure you’re doing those practice questions on the question bank now so by the time you sit down for step 1 you’re going throw the question bank a second time. When I went through questions I wrote down answers I got wrong, re-read them on the weekends and right before the test. Keep that list. When you are studying for step and are going through each system go through that list again. If you’re still unsure about certain subjects on the list you need a better understanding so open Robbins or watch some YouTube videos to fill in the gaps.

2. Did you know what you wanted to specialize in right away or did you figure it out along the way?
A. So I ALWAYS wanted to be a pediatrician until I did surgery during my 3rd year and fell in love with surgery. Surgery combined with sports medicine (which I also really enjoyed) led me to orthopedics surgery as my perfect speciality. I would say 75% of everyone who I went to med school with changed their mind about what they wanted to do. If you think you know which specialty you like you should still be flexible to explore other options. If you have no idea that’s great because you have so many options.

3. How are you surviving right now?!?!

Ha! That’s an excellent question. Every day is not easy. I put a white board in my room with my 3 main goals and everyday I look at it as a reminder in order to keep my focus. The most important thing is to acknowledge when I am overwhelmed so I can take a step back and regain my focus. Sometimes that requires taking some time off from practice, getting extra sleep or hanging out with my friends. You definitely can’t perform your best when your mind isn’t right.

Email (teamkamali@gmail.com) or DM (@dr.mali.mallz)  me questions about the pre med track or medical school and you’ll be in next month’s Ask Away!