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Getting a Med School Applicant Back on Track

The road to an M.D. is long and hard. Even the most gifted and well-intentioned pre-meds sometimes get off on the wrong path. One of the things I do as a consultant is to help students in that situation get back on track again.

I once worked with a great medical school applicant who had lost his way. He had been enrolled in the undergraduate portion of the combined B.S./M.D. program at a good university. Obviously, he had a lot going for him to have been accepted to the program in the first place. He maintained a good GPA and had pretty good extracurricular activities.

But then he got killed by the MCAT. He got something like a 26, which was a point or two below what the university required to stay in the program. And so he was kicked out.

He was something of a broken spirit when he came to us – a free-flying pre-med with real doubts about his ability to get into medical school in the U.S. He was thinking seriously about trying his luck at foreign schools.

Of course he asked about re-taking the MCAT. I didn't think that was necessary. His score clearly didn't reflect his abilities. He had maintained a quite respectable science GPA of 3.5 or so. I think he just lost his touch when he took the test.

I've seen a lot of people run into that problem. They seem to assume that if they did well on the SAT, they're bound to do well on the MCAT, but the two tests are entirely different. The SAT is about reasoning, but the MCAT is about content. You either know the stuff on test day, and can pull it together under test pressure, or you can't. I think this client simply stumbled on that.

I advised him not to put himself through the ordeal and expense of re-taking the MCAT. I knew an admissions committee would be able to see that he was smart enough for medical school, if he presented himself the right way.

He had neglected a lot of things when he first prepared his medical school application, I think because he was so dispirited. I worked with him to bring out all of the things that mitigated his MCAT score. We didn't sweep the MCAT under the rug, but we did use the rest of the application to highlight his many strengths.

It worked. He was admitted to every one of the three in-state schools he had hoped for, including his target school. He'll make a great doctor, and I'm happy to have been able to help him get things back on track.

– Contributed by Senior Consultant Tim Wu, M.D. Tim served on the SUNY Downstate College of Medicine admissions committee.

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