How To Save Money During The Medical School Application Process

moneyApplying to medical school is expensive. We pre meds are already staring at astronomical debt when graduating from med school. What follows is an article outlining ideas to save money while applying to med school. The post is divided into how to save money during applications and how to save money during the interview process.

Applications

Cut Schools Out. Wherever you are at in the process you can decide to cut schools out. Do more research on the schools and you may find one you absolutely cannot see yourself at. Cut it from your list and save money on more application fees and potentially the costs of an interview (flight, hotel, food etc).

Fee Assistant and Waiver Programs. Have your application fees reduced or waived by seeing if you qualify for the Fee Assistance Program for AMCAS (MD) or the Fee Waiver Program for AACOMAS (DO).

Interviews

Combine Nearby Interviews. If you have been invited to nearby schools for an interview try hard to make it all one trip. Schools understand you are on a budget. If you explain your situation you may be able to move your interview day. Back to back interview days can be tiring, but considering the time and money involved in a separate trip it is well worth it. I did this combining interviews for Creighton University and Des Moines University into one trip.

Ask For A Student Host. Many schools have programs where current students will host interviewees. You save the money of a hotel and gain an up-close perspective of student life at the school. Be nice and bring your host a gift for their hospitality (I brought coffee and it was a hit).

Save On The Suit. Male or female, you may be tempted to buy expensive interview attire. Why bother? Application committees are unlikely to be impressed (if they can even tell the difference). Find something you’re comfortable in or use something you already have. I bought an awesome suit from Burlington Coat Factory for $160 and I’m looking forward to wearing it for a long time.

Avoid Renting A Car. I spent a few minutes researching a bus route to a hotel near a school. Hotels will often arrange airport pickup as well as a ride to the school. Ask your hotel.

Flexible Travel Dates. I earned two free flight vouchers by giving up seats on overbooked flights. One I used for another interview and the other I will use to fly home to visit the fam during the school year. They are basically as good as cash to me.

Hope these tips are helpful. Do any of you have some money saving tips for the application process?

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Machu Picchu And A Journey In Medicine

I recently finished a three day trek to Machu Picchu. The “Lost City of the Incas” is perched atop an incredible ridge, overlooking the surrounding mountain ranges and a beautiful valley below. It is the definition of impressive.

The trek to Machu Picchu was difficult but exciting. We combined mountain biking, river rafting and a decent amount of hiking (including the final ascent to Machu Picchu at 4AM!). We started on top a 4,300 meter mountain, passed through jungle, hiked old Inca trails, tasted freshly picked coffee beans and swam in an ice cold stream among other adventures. The whole trek, from start to destination was amazing.

I have been thinking about the journey to becoming a physician and what it has to do with my recent trek. I like the concept of a “journey”. It is the reason behind the name of this blog.

Journeys are fun. They take you places you´ve never been before. You see new and wonderful things. And if you make it to the end you are rewarded with the  joy of reaching your destination.

Journeys are also challenging. You may have hardships and setbacks. They may be painful at times. You may have the heartbreak of not reaching your destination.

I wonder if pre med students are enjoying the journey to med school. Is your pre med journey fun? Are you having great experiences and learning? Are you perservering through the hard times and using them as an opportunity for growth?

Or are you just jumping through hoops longing for the destination?

Summer is a great time to explore these questions. There are no right answers. But consider this: if pre med life is constantly miserable for you, what makes you think that will change once you get into medical school?

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How To Find A Mentor

As part of my post on 5 powerful goals for pre med students, I recommended finding a mentor. Mentors can help you develop leadership ability, inspire you or help you become a better student. But how do you find a solid mentor?

Here are a few suggestions to help you brainstorm about where to look for a mentor and how to approach a potential mentor.

Where To Look For A Mentor

Your School Mentoring Program. This one is easy. Many schools have a mentoring program set up that will connect you with local professionals in fields you are interested in. At my college the mentoring program is affiliated with the school of business but they had no problem finding a doctor with tons of global health experience to be my mentor. Look into programs at your school.

Leadership positions. If you have participated in any leadership positions in college you most likely had an advisor or supervisor. If this is someone you look up to and have a positive relationship with they can make a great mentor.

Professors. Hopefully you have had some great professors in college. Why not ask one you respect to be a mentor?

Anyone else you look up to. An older fellow employee. Your family doctor. The only requirements are someone you respect and get along with well.

How To Approach A Potential Mentor

The first step is to consider what you´re looking to get out of a mentoring relationship. Are you looking to learn more about being a physician? Is there a particular area you´re looking to grow in? Do you have a personal goal and want someone to hold you accountable for it?

How you ask someone to be a mentor depends on the current relationship you have with them. Face to face interactions are always best. If you feel comfortable, set up a time to share some coffee or meet in their office. If not, an email will suffice. Either way, choose your words carefully.

Ideally you explain why you are looking for a mentor, what you are looking to get out of a mentoring relationship and why you are choosing this specific person. Keep it to the point.

Finally be sure not to corner someone into making a decision on the spot. Make it clear they have time to make a decision.

Here is a brief example of what you could say in an email or in person:

“I understand you are a very busy person but I have a request for you to think about. I highly respect you as a physician and see you as someone I could learn a lot from about medicine. Would you consider meeting once or a twice a month to talk about life in medicine?”

Final Thoughts

I know this may be hard to do. You have to put yourself out there and it may be awkward. If you ask and they say no, it may create some tension for a little while.

Just remember this: It is worth it.

A little time and effort now could result in a influential relationship for a long time. Go for it.

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10 Great MCAT Study Tips

Are you using the summer to study for the MCAT? Here are 10 MCAT study tips to make things easier:

  1. Start early. 3-6 months is what most people need to study for the MCAT, depending on the amount you plan to study each week.
  2. Have a plan. Make a study schedule and stick to it.
  3. Take practice tests. The best MCAT practice tests are from the AAMC, including one for free. Kaplan and Princeton Review each have free practice tests. I also checked out practice tests from the library, although these are not electronic obviously.
  4. Itentify weak areas and focus on those. The practice tests will give you an idea of what you need to work on. Focus on studying in the areas where you are weak until you see your scores in those areas improve.
  5. Limit study sessions to two hours. As Cal Newport at Study Hacks notes, your productivity drops dramatically after two hours. If you want to study four hours a day, have one session in the morning, take a nice break and relax, and then have the next session in the evening.
  6. Practice problems and reading sets. Much of the physical sciences is doing simple calculations. The only way to study for the verbal section is to practice. Check out these books for practice problems:
  7. Examkrackers MCAT101 Passages in MCAT Verbal Reasoning

    Examkrackers: 1001 Questions in MCAT in Physics

    Examkrackers 1001 Questions in MCAT Chemistry

    Examkrackers: 1001 Questions in MCAT, Organic Chemistry

  8. Quiz yourself. Some parts of the MCAT are basic memorization. Cover up formulas with a piece of paper and practice writing them or saying them out loud.
  9. Check out forums for FAQs about the MCAT. The MCAT forums at SDN are active.
  10. Rise early as the test approaches. Most test times for the MCAT are at 8:00AM. The week before the test wake up at the time you would plan to on the day of the test. Take practice tests starting at 8:00AM.
  11. Stay healthy. Eat well, exercise and get plenty of sleep leading up to the MCAT. The last thing you need is to be battling both the MCAT and a nasty cold or flu.

Hope these tips are  helpful. Good luck studying for the MCAT! If you need to get some study materials, check out my review of the ExamKrackers MCAT Complete Study Package.

Links: Lake Titikaka Edition

Greetings from Lake Titikaka, Peru where the elevation is a cool 12,500 feet. I´m getting out of breath just typing this!

Seriously though, here are some great links related to the Pre Med journey:

-Cal Newport at Study Hacks probes the problems associated with multi-tasking and being hyper-connected. Bottom line: Multi-tasking makes it harder for you to focus on one task, even when you´re not multi-tasking.

-Jae Won Joh writes a compelling argument against using letter writing companies. Basically you´re much better off saving your money.

-Mohammed at Pre Med Hell explores the decision of picking a major as a pre med student. I essentially agree with the premise that you should major in what you´re interested in. However, if that means double majoring to fulfill the pre med requirements, I would be careful.

-Speaking of Pre Med Hell, did you see my guest post over there about the importance of quality sleep? If not, you should check it out. Look forward to more articles where I explore some scientfic research related to student matters here at Pre Med Journey.

That´s all for now. I´ll be back in the states soon, responding to emails and comments will happen more promptly after that!

5 Powerful Summer Goals For Pre Med Students

Congratulations on finishing the school year! Here are some simple yet powerful goals to work on during the summer.

    Relax
    While it’s natural to want to avoid boredom during the summer, being just as busy as during the school year defeats the purpose of a break. The summer between my sophomore and junior year of college I worked 20 hours a week and took a full year of Anatomy and Physiology. It was terrible. At the end of my Junior year I was burnt out. Do not do this. Find time to relax, read some good books, go on a vacation and give that brain a little well deserved rest.
    Get Medical Experience.
    Volunteer at a non-profit clinic, clean rooms in a hospital, shadow your family physician or try to find a job as an ER Scribe. The point is not to bolster your application but rather to better understand medicine and to be sure it is the right path for you.
    Find A Mentor.
    I wrote about this a while back. Mentors can challenge and inspire you. One mentor I met with has gone on over 30 medical mission trips (recently returning from Haiti). Talking with him always reminded me why I wanted to go into medicine. Take the summer to think about who might best mentor you and respectfully ask them.
    Read Medical Blogs.
    There are excellent physician and medical student blogs out there. It’s a great way to get an unfiltered perspective on medicine from the eyes of those actually practicing it. A few of my favorite are ER Stories, Vitum Medicinus, KevinMD, Med School Memoir, Agraphia and Jae Won Joh.
    Reflect.
    Take some time to think about the past school year. What study habits worked for you? Is there a subject that particularly interested you that you may want to do some research on? What were the highs and lows of the year?
    After reflecting on the past year, take some time to consider the coming school year. If you want to bump up your GPA, what grades will you have to get in your classes to meet your goal? If you’re going to take the MCAT, what is your ideal score? How can you simplify your life to reduce stress?

Working on these simple goals over the summer will help you have a great start to the next year. Do you have any other goals for the summer?

Hello, My Name Is Steve

My name is Steve Krager and I write for MD Journey. Here’s a picture of me climbing a big mountain in Peru a few weeks ago:
steve

I thought writing anonymously would give me more freedom but I am only feeling more restricted. So from now on I’ll be writing as me, Steve. Nice to meet you.

My Pre Med Journey

I grew up outside of Portland, Oregon and went to college at Seattle Pacific University. I graduated in 2008 with a degree in Biology and minors in Chemistry and Spanish. I loved SPU.

I went to college with the vague idea of doing missionary or international development work. I changed my sophomore year to pre med. It sucked at first. I was a valedictorian in high school but my first quarter of college Biology I barely scraped by with a B-. My first General Chemistry exam I scored a 64%.

Ugh. Do I really want to do this pre med thing? I pushed through, found a tutor in chemistry, discovered more effective study methods and started to improve. I pulled out a B in Gen Chem I. Gen Chem II, an A-. I made strides in Biology, slowly.

I graduated with a 3.65 overall GPA with a science GPA of about 3.4. In January of 2009 I took the MCAT and scored a 32M. The last two years I have worked as an ER Scribe.

Last summer I started the medical school application process. After 12 secondary applications and 8 interviews I was accepted at 6 medical schools and waitlisted at 2. I will be attending Creighton University School of Medicine in August. I’ve been in Peru the last two months watching births and dressing newborns in a public health clinic. It’s been amazing.

I’m passionate about global health and living a remarkable life. My faith is a huge part of why I want to be a physician. I am also passionate about helping pre med students navigate the journey to medical school. I believe deeply that you can be a great pre med student and have an awesome life at the same time.

I’m hoping to be a great medical student and have an awesome life too.

So that’s my story. Any questions?

Keep up with the blog and I’ll be sharing more personal stories about my pre med journey, research on how to study and take tests effectively and other useful pre med content.

What’s your pre med story?

Help Me Make Pre Med Journey Awesome

I started this blog almost two years ago. While I am proud of what I’ve done, I see a lot of room for growth.

Ultimately, I want this blog to be one of the top resources on the internet for pre med students. To this I’m going to need some help from you, my readers.

I need feedback. What can I do to improve the site? What kinds of articles would you like to see more of? Would you find a more consistent posting schedule useful? Use my contact form, email (sam(at)premedjourney.com) or leave some comments on this post.

If you have your own blog, how about trading guest posts with Pre Med Journey? Collaboration is important in medicine (so I hear) why not start on the internet?

Finally, if you find the site useful, tell your friends. More people here will generate more lively discussion and Pre Med Journey will improve.

Thanks for your help.

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