Ask the Dean: Premed Questions Answered

Dr. Scott Wright and Dr. Ryan Gray answer our Mappd Members' Questions

8 Premed Questions Answered: Lack of Clinical During COVID & Choosing a School

In this episode, we talk about bring up social issues and your political aspirations in an interview. Is it appropriate to do that? We also tackle how to create your school list, interacting with your premed advisor, clinical experience, and more!

Ask the Dean is the first media project from my new company Mappd. It's a technology platform that's going to help premeds understand the process of getting into medical school. 

Joining me are Mappd co-founder Rachel Grubbs and Dr. Scott Wright, our VP of Academic Advising. More than 1,400 students are using it to track their progress to medical school. If this is something you're interested in, check it all out for a free two-week trial. Also, check out

Listen to this podcast episode with the player above, or keep reading for the highlights and takeaway points.

[04:31] Applicant with Political Aspiration

Q: Do medical school executives or ad coms have thoughts on applicants who have political aspirations? Some employers frown upon political affiliation when you represent the company.

A: When you're a medical student, you're not representing anybody, you're not representing that school, you're not representing anything but yourself. And just because you become a medical student, doesn't mean you erase every other part of your life. There are a lot of avenues for students to take advantage of things as opportunities come along. In terms of politics, within the context of medicine, it won't necessarily be a negative for an admissions committee.

When you're a medical student, you're not representing anybody, you're not representing that school, you're not representing anything but yourself.”

[6:03] Students with Advocacies

Q: When students are looking at schools, and they want to be an ally and an advocate, how can they potentially steer clear of schools that may not be okay with their advocacy?

A: You have to understand the school is always going to look out for the school. They’re going to pursue if something is disrupting the curriculum or avenue students have. In terms of the course of their studies, the school is going to be concerned about what is going to reach out to the student affairs people. They will be on top of that, reminding students that their number one focus has to be medical school and what they're doing there.

[9:33] Questions for Interviews 

Q: Can I ask about social issues like diversity or allyship missions in the interview?

A: Not all interviewers are going to be well versed in things like that. The interview has to be realistic about what response you might get. The interviewer may say something that shouldn't necessarily be interpreted as negative or positive.

[13:56] Making a School List

Q: Any advice for nontraditional low GPA students when it comes to making a list of schools to apply to? Should we use the MSAR?

A: The Medical School Admissions Requirements is the service that the AAMC sells to students that aggregates all the MD school information in one place. Students should not make a school list based on looking at the average MCAT, GPA, and median GPA. This question is based on faulty assumptions that having a low GPA means that only some schools will look at you. 

It basically ignores the fact that it's a nontraditional student who's going to bring a lot of intangible traits and skills. It’s going to ignore all of the other experiences and who they are as a person. It’s also going to ignore whether the student has upward trends, which is very important to medical schools.

“Where students go wrong making their school lists is not doing enough research into the school and the mission and the fit and everything else that goes along with how to look at a school.”

And again, the MSAR doesn't address any of the DO schools so that's where you have to sort of cross over. And the AAMC isn't providing any extra information to the students to guide them on how to properly pick schools. At the end of the day, the more schools that you apply to as a student, the more money the AAMC makes.

[19:05] Students with International Credits

Q: What would be your suggestion for a student who has international credits whether to put them in the application, if you can't get a transcript from the school?.

A: There's an upside to putting them on there simply because it shows a history of coursework. And it shows that you haven't been off the map completely, and then all of a sudden, you show up in the U.S.

Every application service is probably going to be a little bit different. But for AMCAS, credits have been transferred into your U.S. school for credit. Then you're going to have to put those on your application and you're going to have to get a transcript for those.

Check out the AMCAS 2021 Handbook and go read all the details about international credits. There are some cases with international undergrad where if you can't get the transcript, you're not required to submit those courses. But again, it's very nuanced. 

[23:53] School List for MD and DO

Q: I'm looking more closely at my school list. I'm applying to both MD and DO in Indiana, and I'm unsure of how many DO versus MD I should put on my list. What are your thoughts on this?

A: Number one, it's an issue of finances. It costs money to apply. Now, again, I'll give a big shout-out to the Texas system who has a flat fee. Regardless, if you're applying to one or all the schools, it's all the same. it doesn't matter. Unfortunately, the other services don't do it that way. But at some point or another, it's going to be about money. How much money do you have to apply?

You also have to consider that not only are their primary fees, but also, many schools have secondary application fees. So if you're going to apply to a school and then not do the secondary, then it's pointless. 

Therefore, consider all nuances of the process in terms of considerations for the financial picture. What is more important is to evaluate what you are looking for in a school. What appeals to you? What are the big issues for you that you really want to focus on, and then identify schools that really fit the context of what you're looking for.

[29:34] Amount of Clinical Experience

Q: Regarding clinical experience, how much clinical experience is too little? 

A: We're not going to have enough vaccines to vaccinate the whole country by at least until the end of 2021. These experiences are not going to be had unless you actually are lucky enough to have a job.

“COVID has interrupted everything and admissions committees are not immune to the things that have affected their own institutions.”

Because of how COVID has affected everyone, don’t let that stop you from necessarily applying next year, particularly, if you continue with the shadowing.

If the amount of clinical experience was too limited, and you don't get in, then obviously you will need to have done some stuff over the course of that cycle to improve on that clinical experience.

Just make sure you have enough experience so that you understand what you're getting yourself into. That way, you can write a compelling personal statement about why you want to be a physician. 

[35:05] Interacting with a Med Advisor

Q: How would you go about dealing with an overly negative or downright mean premed advisor, someone I have to interact with for a committee letter? 

A: There are going to be people who, either you don't get along with, or they don't get along with you. This person has your future in their hands and the power dynamic is not fair to the student at all. And so, you don't have to interact with them. Don't get a committee letter, just go about getting individual letters.

There are going to be people who, either you don't get along with, or they don't get along with you.

[46:40] Thoughts on Pass-Fail

Q: What are your thoughts on the pass-fail during this challenging semester? 

A: A lot of schools in the spring were forcing pass-fail. Some schools had you choose if you wanted to do pass-fail, or if you wanted to stay with grading. And it’s a variety of things now. 

And so, seek out someone at the institution at your university. Discuss this with an academic advisor or premed advisor about how you should move forward. Unless you're in an institution that's pass-fail, then you don't have that option. You just have to move forward with whatever grading system they have. 

“Reaching out to some people you trust in your institution is really important – somebody that knows all the details and can really aid you.”




AMCAS 2021 Handbook

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