October 23, 2014
October 21, 2014
1. They're standardizedYour GPA can vary greatly depending on your school, your schedule, and the difficulty of your classes. That makes it difficult to accurately assess the validity of your GPA and use that to compare students across hundreds of schools. The MCAT, on the other hand, is completely uniform. It's designed to be representative of your ability regardless of undergrad institution. Medical school admissions can use your MCAT score independently to compare you to other students. That's super! If you had a bad semester that pulled down your GPA, that deficit can be partly made up by an awesome score on the MCAT. The same is true of the USMLE; residency programs know what your boards score means. It is completely independent of your school performance and can be used to set you apart from the pack of applicants. Turns out that most medical school students are smart, overachievers. It's nice to have a number to help separate yourself and stand out.
2. You can study for themThere are tons of ways to prepare to take the MCAT and the USMLE, including great options such as Kaplan classes, tutoring, and books. There are practice tests, review materials and hundreds of available passages and questions that cover all the material that you're likely to see on your exam. So unlike your undergrad or medical school classes, where it's up to the professor what questions and material is on the exam, on standardized tests, there are specific topics that have to be covered and in a certain predictable proportion. With the addition of three new subjects to the MCAT 2015 test, Kaplan has created the only course that provides prep specifically for this new material: MCAT Foundations. [embed]http://youtu.be/3TDIrCB49wM[/embed]
3. Your initial score doesn't determine your final scoreDuring your undergrad classes, if you bomb your first exam, it can pull down your grade for the semester. That's not true on the MCAT! While it can be incredibly defeating to take a MCAT practice test or your Kaplan MCAT diagnostic exam and score in the single digits, your initial score does not determine your success on Test Day. The reason that all of these resources exist in the first place is that is definitely possible to study for and increase your score on any standardized test! I have seen students go from a 4 to a 28. I have had students who struggle with Verbal Reasoning email me when they get their scores back to tell me about their 12 on the VR section. You just have to make sure to invest enough time and effort into studying. With the help of the right resources and guidance, you can absolutely increase your score. This is wonderful news for you the test-taker!
4. You have a clearly defined goalSometimes over the course of a semester-long class, you lose sight of your overall learning goals for the class. Instead it becomes a death march to finishing the semester and escaping with best grade you can reasonably achieve. Turns out that this feeling doesn't end when you're in medical school. My class is currently limping towards the end of our Neuro block after a particularly vicious third exam. Every now and then, it's hard to remember why you're learning the material. Having a numbered score to strive for can be very motivating. Each question that you get right moves you towards your 37 (or your 268 on the USMLE). You always have a goal in mind and you can lay out practical steps to achieve that goal.
5. Taking the MCAT prepares you to take the USMLEThe Verbal Reasoning section of the MCAT is the most strongly correlated with your USMLE scores. If you learn the skills needed to succeed on the MCAT, those same skills will be used again when you kick butt on the USMLE! Plus, there are many ways that studying for the MCAT benefits you as a med student. You might as well get started on your medical school success now! With those facts in mind, happy studying! If you took the MCAT right now, how would you score? Find out with a free Kaplan MCAT practice test! You will not only get an idea of how you’d score on the exam, but you’ll also receive a full breakdown of your strongest areas, and those in which you need more practice. ...read more
October 14, 2014
Medical School Interview Tips
Tip #1- Practice makes perfect, but don't overdo itIt's a smart idea to practice your answers to common interview questions beforehand. You can be pretty sure that most interviewers will ask you why you want to be a doctor, and you don't want to be stuck saying, "uuhhh, ummm, because my dad was a doctor?" You want to have an answer ready that's well thought out and sounds intelligent. Practicing in front of a mirror, videotaping yourself, and getting feedback from friends, family, and your pre-med advisor will help ensure that you are ready to give your optimal answer on interview day. The flip-side to this problem is that you don't want to sound too canned. This is actually trickier than preparing your answer in the first place! Especially after a few interviews, it's hard to keep your answer sounding fresh. Again, I suggest running your answers by the people who know you best to make sure that you're not sounding bored while you answer.
Tip #2- Pick three things you want your interviewer to rememberI have given this advice before and I'll give it again. Most pre-meds have the same set of essential information. You've all done volunteer work, research, shadowing; you all have great GPA's and MCAT scores. Your interview is a chance to set yourself apart from the crowd. Pick three characteristics, experiences or assets that you want the interviewer to remember about you. So, what makes you stand out as an applicant? Why are you uniquely qualified to go to medical school and become a doctor? Personally, I emphasized my background in public health and how I work to tie it to medicine, my quality of perseverance and my work with diverse populations. Be careful to make sure that you're not just rehashing your personal statement, since most interviewers will have access to it before your interview.
Tip #3- Conversations are more fun than listening to someone talk about how fantastic they areRemember that your interviewer is another human, much like your future patients will be. Most interviewers are looking, on some level, at your communication skills. The communication skills that will make you an effective, empathetic doctor will also make you a strong interviewee. Make sure to listen to the questions, pause and respond accordingly. Don't be afraid to smile or use expressive body language as long as it's appropriate. It's not fun for anyone to listen to someone list off all the reasons that they're soooo wonderful. So, make sure that you're not just bragging and that you're connecting with your interviewer.
Medical School Interview Tricks
Trick #1- Leave early for your interview.Most schools are helpful and provide you with maps and room numbers for your interview, but to reduce stress, you should leave extra early. Being calm and unstressed will help you perform better during the interview itself.
Trick #2- Stay with a current student.Traveling to interviews can be wildly expensive. Make sure to ask if the school has a way for you to stay with a student host. Most schools will offer a student host as an option. In addition to being cheaper than a hotel, staying with a student host is a good way to find out more about the student body and how students really live.
Trick #3- Bring something to write on/with.You should come prepared with your own list of questions for the interviewer to help you evaluate the schools you visit. A week or a month after an interview, especially if you've had several, it can be hard to remember specific details about each school. Taking notes will help you to remember important impressions from your day at the school.
Trick #4- Send thank you notes.This is actually just good manners, but you should send thank you notes to your interviewers and the admissions staff with whom you interact. It won't guarantee your entrance by any means, but it will reinforce the impression that you have solid communication skills. There you have it! I'd love to hear any interview questions that you have. Go ahead and post them in the comments! I'd also love to read the best interview advice that you've gotten! Happy interviewing! ...read more
October 6, 2014
SizeSize is an important factor to examine when you're picking a medical school. You want to examine not only the size of each class, but also the size of the entire school. Class size is important for access to professors and the camaraderie of your class group. However, there's a big difference between having a medical school in the middle of a bustling, 30,000 strong undergraduate crowd and having a medical school that stands unattached or distantly attached from an undergrad base. Overall university size is a factor that I didn't really consider when I was looking at medical schools, but I've really grown to love the fact the University of Colorado medical school is separated from the undergraduate campus. The advantage to the separation is that I'm not constantly fighting for research spots, shadowing spots or opportunities with any undergraduate students. That means that every lab and physician is more than happy to have a medical student. That said, it also means that overall there are fewer researchers with slightly more limited areas of study because there are fewer students overall. You want to make sure your ideal medical school has the right size-balance for you!
LocationI cannot stress this piece enough. Every medical school will give you, more or less, the same amount of information in your first two years of medical school. Yes, there are variations on format and other opportunities which we'll cover, but the content is that same. What that means is, one of the major variable factors to your experience is the location of the school. Do you want to live in a major city? Do you want a smaller location in a more rural situation? There are medical schools in a variety of city sizes. What kinds of activities will help you feel satisfied and happy with your med school choice? How close are these activities? For example if you're into skiing, Iowa might not be the right state for you to move to. Is it important for you to get away from home or be a short flight or car-ride away from your support system? I'm always a little bummed out that I'm out-of-state and away from my family and friends. Fortunately, the flight from Denver to Minneapolis is usually relatively cheap and is less than two hours long. Location is vitally important to your happiness and overall medical school experience, so take time to examine the locations of your potential medical schools.
Student BodyAgain, I'd like to emphasize that the classwork is pretty standard, but the people with whom you share your experience can vary greatly and overall impact your success. Do you want a more collaborative student body? Make sure you ask about whether students study together when you go for your interview day. Are you driven by competition to study hard? Great! Then make sure that competition is highly valued among your potential future classmates. You should also check out the average statistical values for incoming classes. If you’re applying to US allopathic (MD) medical schools, visit the AMCAS website and check out the latest Medical School Admissions Requirements (MSAR) guide. If you’re applying to osteopathic (DO) medical programs, you should visit the AACOM website and check out the Osteopathic Medical College Information Book. Things to look out for would be average class age, different measurements of diversity, whether people commonly took time off, do most students have graduate degrees and whether the majority of students are married. You want to get a feel for the student body and whether it meshes well with your medical school needs.
OpportunitiesYes, you'll spend a lot of time during medical school in class, but don't forget about other opportunities! If working abroad is important to you, make sure that you ask about established study abroad programs at your school. Can you do any rotations or projects abroad? If you're into volunteering or extracurriculars, make sure to ask how easy it is to get involved and talk to current students about their lives outside of school. Opportunities also include topics like scholarships, foci or areas of emphasis for students, potential for getting a dual degree like an MD/MPH or MD/MBA, and where students from the school are commonly matched for residency. It may seem right now that getting into any medical school that will take you is your priority and trust me, I get that. You do want to spend some time thinking about how a particular medical school will suit you. Choosing the right medical school goes far beyond the rankings. You're going to spend a fair amount of money investing into your education and working in pursuit of your “good life,” so make sure to think about how you're drafting your fantasy medical school (at least for as long as you think about your fantasy football team each week)! Happy studying! Want to browse through different careers in your area of interest, see what test scores will get you into the top schools, and read interviews from people like you who have succeeded in pursuing their dreams? All this and more is available at kaptest.com/unlock. Just by visiting and filling out your info, you’ll be entered to win $10,000. The good life is closer than you think. ...read more
September 29, 2014
Why should I take a Kaplan MCAT class?I've been teaching for 6+ years at this point, so clearly I believe in the benefits of the Kaplan MCAT program. I took a Kaplan MCAT class in 2006 and did well enough on the actual test to score-qualify to teach the class. If you aren't sold by that fact alone though, I have some four great reasons for you!
1. FlexibilityOne of the best features of the Kaplan MCAT program is the class schedule flexibility. You can take an On-Site class with an in-person teacher that runs 1, 2 or 3 times per week. If you live farther from a big city, have a different work schedule or learn best online, there are two online class options: Classroom Anywhere (live, online classes with varying scedules) and On Demand (self-study via previously recorded lessons and 24/7 access to an online syllabus). One of the advantages of the Classroom Anywhere online option is the ability to learn in your bed with your PJs, while still receiving the same high-quality instruction you would in a traditional On-Site class! Finally, if you learn best in a one-on-one, face-to-face setting, Private Tutoring allows you to set your own schedule. All of our live options (On Site, Classroom Anywhere, and Private Tutoring) also include access to Live Flex Sessions: these optional, online sessions cover key science topics that appear frequently on the MCAT and they run on weekends, weeknights and at varying times throughout the day. My students are frequently blown away by how often they can log-on to their syllabi, hop into a live flex session, and work on some content with a Kaplan teacher. Speaking of teachers, that brings me to reason number 2!
2. Dedicated TeachersI have had the opportunity to work with and mentor hundreds of Kaplan instructors. I honestly have never met a Kaplan teacher that I didn't like. Every instructor is a top performer on the exam (90th percentile or higher), undergoes a rigorous training program, and is constantly evaluated by students to ensure that you have a truly exceptional experience. They tend to be a great combination of smart, engaging and committed to student success. In fact, we had a panel discussion a few weeks ago in which brand new teachers could ask veteran teachers their questions. I was blown away by how thoughtful the questions were and how concerned the entire group was with making each class session successful and making sure each student gets the help they need to reach their best score.
3. Tailored for your needsI've already touched on the flexibility of the schedule, but there are other aspects that ensure you get an experience that's tailored to your individual study needs. One of the best aspects to Kaplan's technology is the Smart Reports that are generated after each practice test you take. They help you focus your studying on specific content areas, question types and passage types. That way you can study smarter, not harder. There are also different aspects of your syllabus that allow you to practice timing, content, strategy, or full-length exams. Basically, I'm getting at my next reason- the abundance of resources!
4. Tons of resourcesWe have the most available official AAMC practice, including the newly released Self-Assessment Package as well as all eight officially released full-length exams. From AAMC and Kaplan full-length practice MCATs (19 full-length exams in total) to 11,000+ practice questions, in addition to MCAT Qbank custom quizzes, the resources in your Kaplan syllabus are set up to help you increase your score and destroy the MCAT on Test Day! The Topical Tests will help you battle through tough content. Section tests make practicing your timing a breeze. Beyond your online syllabus, you also get a Review Notes book for each content area: Biology, Organic Chemistry, General Chemistry, Physics and Verbal Reasoning. These books are also available on your online syllabus if you don't want to haul around actual books. The Review Notes are essential because they are a focused review of MCAT-pertinent material. Each section is rated based on the difficulty of the content and the frequency it appears on the actual MCAT. That way you don't spend too much time stressing about an infrequently tested, hard to understand topic! So, what are you waiting for? There are so many great reasons to sign up for a Kaplan MCAT class today! I'd love to hear why you chose Kaplan in the comments. Let me know! Happy studying, Emily ...read more
September 17, 2014
There will be challengesThe nice thing about being a pre-med student is that you can major in pretty much anything. I have classmates that majored in engineering, art, music, business, Spanish, English and pretty much every other major you can think of. Regardless of your major, however, you'll need to take pre-med prerequisite classes such as Organic Chemistry, Upper level Biology, Physics, and for the upcoming 2015 MCAT changes, Biochemistry, Psychology and Sociology. The diversity of required classes means that eventually you're going to run into a topic that will challenge you academically. The key is how you respond to the struggle. For me personally, it was Organic Chemistry. Every test in that class was a battle. Nothing came easily and I absolutely dreaded O Chem lab. That said, I learned a lot from truly struggling with material and it better prepared me for some of the challenges I have faced in medical school. There will also be the challenge of balancing your school life, social life and work life. Pre-med schedules are notoriously difficult with lots of lab classes, extracurriculars, volunteering as well as physician shadowing. It can be difficult to avoid feeling crunched for time and overwhelmed. Finding balance is, unfortunately, a struggle that you will carry with you to medical school. However, if you work on good work-life balance struggles now, you'll be practiced and ready to face the same challenge head-on in medical school. You may also be worried already about the MCAT on the horizon your junior or senior year. Fortunately as freshman, your focus is on building a strong science and overall GPA for your med school application a few years from now!
There will be opportunitiesGoing through college as a pre-med doesn't mean you have to study all the time. There are lots of really neat medical-related opportunities, such as shadowing a physician or volunteering in a hospital. Additionally, there are tons of non-medical opportunities. You can study abroad! You can join an obscure club. You can use this time to explore all of your interests and make some great friends in the process. The bonus here is that your quirky hobby could make your medical school application that much more memorable! Everyone who applies has shadowing experience and has volunteered throughout their college experience, but not many were concert pianists or the president of the unicycle club. Interviewers love to talk about your passions and will remember you better because of them. Don't be afraid to try something new!
You can have fun and make life-long friendsI know that it's intimidating to go to college and make an entirely new group of friends, especially when you're in a competitive program as many pre-med programs tend to be. That said, some of my best friends from college were other pre-med students. Now, we're all in different stages of our journey to become healthcare providers! My best friends when I was 18 have grown into colleagues that I respect and adore. How does that happen? You end up spending lots of late nights studying and working on projects together. You struggle through the same classes with difficult professors. They grow to be your support system as well as the people with whom you have many wonderful memories. Being pre-meds brings people together! So, get excited for your next four years! You're in for some struggles, new friends and tons of fun, in-between all of your studying that is. What are you most excited about as a pre-med? Visit our Unlock the Good Life site and find out more about a career in medicine. Learn about salaries, read profiles of people just like you who followed their dreams, and see how far a higher MCAT score can take you. Happy studying! ...read more
September 10, 2014
Picking a Medical SpecialtyToday, I would like to elaborate on the fact that there are a few stereotypical types of medical students when it comes to thinking about what “kind” of doctor they’re going to be. Type 1: Certain Sally When you ask a Certain Sally which medical specialty they’re considering, they answer without hesitation. Derm! Surgery! Ortho! They’re generally going to commit to the more competitive specialties and the more highly paid specialties. They’ve have been waiting their whole lives to say, not only that they’re a doctor, but that they’re a dermatologist. To them, it’s painfully obvious which career they should have. For these folks, hanging around in a primary care clinic, as we’re all required to do during our first year, is a waste since they plan to avoid doing a complete physical exam for the entirety of their professional career. For the record, you can also get Certain Sally’s who choose more accessible specialties, but they’re less common. Type 2: Waffling Walter Whereas a Certain Sally knows exactly which medical specialty they want to go into, a Waffling Walter will oscillate between a few specialties. They may like family medicine this week, then surgery the next. Any time they go into a clinic, they immediately love the new specialty and cultivate a passion for that career path. Generally Walter’s preferences will tend toward whatever you happen to be studying that week. We’ve been studying dermatology and rheumatology over the past few weeks and I know that several several of my classmates who were previously gung-ho about infectious diseases like TB and the flu three weeks ago are now considering looking at rashes and moles or hanging out with lupus patients. Type 3: Negative Nancy Negative Nancy will generally have some idea of which specialty they’d like to choose, but more importantly they know what they do not want. Things like- OB/Gyn: too many pregnant women and babies, Surgery: no awake patient interaction, Radiology: too much potential for napping while you’re supposed to be working- quickly get crossed off the list as soon as they’re considered. They will keep a running list of previously rejected specialties. For a Negative Nancy, the medical specialty selection process is basically composed of the five or so specialties that don’t get immediately rejected and deciding which of those five is the most acceptable career in medicine. So, I’ve made it to the end of this column and haven’t yet alluded to what “kind” of doctor I’d like to be. I’d love to do something in pediatrics. The common response after I say that is, “Oh, I can see that” or “That makes sense” which I suppose means that other people think peds is a good place for me too. Until recently, I thought that I wanted to do general peds, but somewhat like a Waffling Walter, I am intrigued by rheumatology and am toying with the idea of combining the two specialties and becoming a pediatric rheumatologist. Also, like a Negative Nancy, I have a good list of specialties that are populating the “no, thank you” bin. If you see me talking about becoming a surgeon, dermatologist, radiologist, oncologist, urologist or psychiatrist, I’m clearly joking as those have been summarily crossed off my list. We want to hear from you! Have you already started thinking about the kind of doctor that will lead you to living your version of the “good life”...besides a good one of course? Tell us in the comments. One way pre-meds can start getting a feel for possible areas of interest is through medical extracurricular activities. This will also help you in the medical school application process, as medical schools want to be assured that you really know what medicine is all about. Visit our Unlock the Good Life site to find out more about a career in medicine. Learn about salaries, read profiles of successful people, and see how far a higher MCAT score can take you. Happy studying, Emily ...read more
September 8, 2014
Resolution #1- Spend less time on Social Media/the internet in generalThe day before I test, I guarantee that I know everyone's Facebook status and have thoroughly stalked any pictures that have been posted in the last month. Unfortunately, the fact that my cousin ate a really great slice of pizza during her New York vacation last week is not information that will be on my test the next day. Now, you don't have to go as radical as deactivating your Facebook account, but you should definitely limit your time on social media: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or whatever your time-wasting site of choice may be. Set a timer or have a friend remind you to hop off! I find that I am most productive if I print my notes and close my computer when I study. Hard on the trees, but much better for my studies.
Resolution #2- Plan Your FunLots of people might tell you that school should be focused solely on studying and that fun should be a secondary concern. However, since the majority of medical school students and physicians will at some point struggle with burn-out, I suggest learning how to plan in time for your fun now. It will help you keep your sanity and make your study-time more effective since you've been able to blow off steam. Practically speaking, if there's a football game on Saturday and you plan to tailgate and spend the day at the stadium, also plan to stay in and study on Friday night. It may seem horrifically lame, but in the long run you'll enjoy your time at the game more if you know that you put in some good study time the night before.
Resolution #3- Get Some SleepResearch continues to illustrate the benefits of getting a good night of sleep (we're talking eight hours here people). Getting insufficient amounts of sleep has been linked to negative consequences such as poor academic performance, increased obesity and a greater number of car accidents. I can hear you protesting already. "But Emily," you say, "I'm just so busy! There aren't enough hours in the day!" I agree that with a packed pre-med schedule, prioritizing sleep is extremely difficult. That said, I am in a class with 159 other medical students and nearly every single one of them will attest to the fact that they make sure to get a good night's sleep as often as possible and especially the night before an exam. If a bunch of medical students who are involved in student council, clinic, volunteering, research, sports/athletic pursuits, and a million other things can make sure to get eight hours of sleep, so can you!
Resolution #4- Prep for the MCATIf you haven’t already signed up for your Kaplan MCAT class, now is a great time to do so! There is still time to take the MCAT before the test changes go into effect in 2015. We’ve already talked about the fact that the MCAT is an important factor in boosting your application even after your GPA is pretty much solidified. So, why wait? Get started prepping for the MCAT today! We want to hear from you! What are your New School Year’s Pre-Med Resolutions? What bad habits are you trying to kick to help you rock your GPA, destroy the MCAT, and move closer towards your “good life”? Visit our Unlock the Good Life site and find out more about a career in medicine. Learn about salaries, read profiles of successful people, and see how far a higher MCAT score can take you. Happy studying! ...read more
September 4, 2014
Medical School by the NumbersAccording to the AAMC, in 2013, over 48,000 people applied to medical school in the U.S., which was a record number! Of those nearly fifty thousand applicants, just over 20,000 (20,055) of them matriculated into their first year of medical school. This is the first year that medical school matriculations topped 20,000! Fortunately for you hopeful applicants, medical schools continue to add spots to meet demand for future physicians. Fun Medical School Application Facts:
- The application pool is nearly evenly split between males (53%) and females (47%).
- Most applicants report backgrounds with research and/or community service, which is pretty typical.
- In the past twenty or so years, medical school first-year enrollments have increased by almost 22%!