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MCAT Doesn't Always Matter
I first met Lindsey my junior year. We had a class together, though I don’t think we talked much. She asked for tutoring help after finding out that I tutored students in the past. What started as purely a business relationship has turned into a mentorship of sorts and, more importantly, a friendship.
I spent a year tutoring her through organic chem I and II. After she blew through those it was time to take her MCAT, which I also tried to help with. More or less I gave insights, feedback and advice from my own experience. Despite our best efforts she was relatively disappointed with her score, which was a 24.
Re-imagining medical education
Two stories out in the past couple of weeks talk about how medical education needs to change in order the meet new health care challenges. I found it interesting that in both of the pieces there was discussion of first identifying health care needs, then working backwards to determine what curricula changes need to be made to address those needs. We definitely need better curricula based on the realities of practicing medicine today.
Currently, medical students spend their first 2 years learning the “basics” of medicine. In reality, much of the time in these first 2 years is wasted because it focuses on well-characterized, but obscure and rare diseases or molecular pathways. A classic example is Kreb’s Cycle. At one time or another, any medical student was able to regurgitate the precise machinations of this pathway. But once they get into their clinical training (Year 3 and beyond) they lose this ability because it has almost zero relation to clinical medicine. Yet the ritual of memorizing Kreb’s Cycle is a persistent component of pre-med and pre-clinical training. The opportunity cost, of course, is less time spent on things like heart disease, diabetes, and cancer; not to mention increasingly important non-clinical skills like evaluating medical evidence or learning about quality improvement and patient safety or interdisciplinary teamwork. There seems to be a lot of good rhetoric out there regarding medical school curricula changes, now let’s see what we could do if we never read Flexner or the subsequent 100 years of medical education history.
After attending a series of university fairs, I noticed that all universities appeared to be saying the same thing, with regards to their medical schools: One does not need to study Life Science in their undergrad years (or complete a BSc. for that matter) in order to be accepted. Most claimed the MCAT score was of more importance. My question is, is this true? Could I study business in my undergraduate years and still get into medical school? How exactly do systems like this work?
Well anonymous, I cannot say with certainty that the MCAT score is more important. That is really the choice of the school to assign that weight. However, the former statement is definitely true. You do not need to study life sciences in order to go into medical school. I have actually two classmates who studied business before going into medical school, one who came from creative writing, and another who came from industrial design.
The way this works is that you must have at least completed their pre-requisite courses. These might include chemistry and biology etc. and would have to be taken as electives. Each university has their own requirements.
eljefedelosreyes adds: “Regarding that anon about undergraduate work, I want to personally say that I came from a Latin American/Caribbean History and Economic Policy Analysis background. Worked out :)”
Tips for Surviving Medical School
Remember when you were a premedical student in college? It seems like a century ago for many of us who have just completed the first year of medical school. It feels that way because our lives have changed dramatically. Normal life seems to have vanished, and suddenly, 24 hours in a day are not enough to get through the enormous volumes of information that we are expected to learn for every exam. It seems virtually impossible. We barely have time to eat or sleep.
Medical school is not the end of the world. Take it from us, students who have been there, when we say that medical school is what you make of it. Do not let medicine define you; instead, you should tailor medicine to your lifestyle. Otherwise, you might become overwhelmed by the demands of your new life and lose the sense of why you chose medicine in the first place.
How do you survive medical school?
The following is an announcement re: The MCAT
My MCAT exam (for medical school admissions) is in seven days. Over the last year and a half I have survived a postbac premed program on the accelerated track, been dumped suddenly via email by the person I thought I might be with forever, and worked my butt off on exams and papers, only to be beaten down by the steep Ivy League curve..
It’s been a crazy several months, but I can say, without a single doubt, that studying for the MCAT is the most miserable thing I’ve ever done in my life. I don’t wish it upon any of my worst enemies. Taking standardized tests has always been a struggle for me (hi SAT and GRE, hate you guys), but the MCAT means SO MUCH for getting into medical school and the pressure is on.
For those who have taken the MCAT and survived, I applaud you and will now think of you as the highest of heroes and overcomers of adversity.
And now I will crawl back into my sad, sad hole and try to continuously remind myself that this is just the means to a very good end.