Dr. Ryan Gray, host of Medical School HQ Podcast, shares how to best prepare for and succeed in medical school:
- Initially wanted to become a physical therapist.
- Been a practicing physician in the Air Force for over 5 years.
- Created a website and podcast to give accurate information to students.
- Covers a range of topics on the path to becoming a physician.
Where to Start On the Path to Medical School
“People need to experience what being a physician is like,” states Dr. Gray. Being a physician is not the same as being a patient.
Some steps Dr. Gray suggests are:
- Find a physician to shadow. Usually the best is your own physician.
- Be aware of the HIPPA law.
- You can take an online course for HIPPA training to protect yourself.
- As a high school student, you will want to build relationships with physicians.
- Spend as much time as you can doing as much as you can such as clinic hours, shadowing in the operating room, volunteering at a hospital, etc.
Make yourself available as much as possible. “The more you can get that exposure the better. An afternoon isn’t going to cut it,” notes Dr. Gray.
Deciding to Become a Physician
Once you know where you are at, figure out how to get to medical school. There is no way to look at a student now and decide they won’t be able to handle medical school.
“Pre-Med” is only a major at a handful of undergraduate schools. “It doesn’t really matter what you major in, there are a core set of classes that are required by most medical schools. Besides that, major in whatever you want to major in or whatever you will like,” Dr. Gray stresses.
Every medical school is a little bit different in what they require. Some typical pre-requisites of medical school are:
- English classes
- Basic Chemistry
- Basic Biology
- Organic Chemistry
- Bio Chemistry
- MCAT exam
- This has changed for the first time in 20 years. They have added Psychology and Sociology.
These requirements might be changing and you should keep up to date of what is required. Extracurriculars, such as a pre-med club or leadership opportunities, are also heavily looked at in addition to volunteer hours shadowing physicians. Plan ahead and take courses to prepare for the MCAT which is usually taken at the end of the junior year of college.
Choosing an Undergraduate or Medical School
Dr. Gray emphasizes, “There isn’t one undergraduate institution that you need to send your kid to. You don’t need to go to a great school; you need to go to a school that will make you great.” Look at all the other factors at a school that will be important, such as sports or location, and choose that way.
The acceptance rate for medical school is 44%. That includes people without extracurricular activities or who have very low test scores/GPA. Without those people, the acceptance rate jumps up to about 60%. “The admissions process is brutal, so you should be very prepared. It is an open book test,” says Dr. Gray. Some things that are common for applications are:
- Personal statement
- Extracurricular activities
- Letters of recommendation
Submit your application within the first month that it becomes available. It can cost several thousand dollars to go through the interview and application process.
Paying for Medical School
Majority of students use loans to go through medical school. 80-90% of students will graduate with upwards of $200,000 in loans. The stages of medical school are usually:
- 4 years of undergraduate study
- 4 years of medical school
- 3-7 years of residency
- 1-3 years of fellowship
- Fellowships help you with a subspecialty if you choose to have one.
There are lots of repayment options, scholarships, and stipends available. All branches of the military are offering a $20,000 signing bonus and have scholarships available. Dr. Gray was given a full scholarship by the Air Force. In return for this, Dr Gray gave, “4 years of active service and 4 years of ready reserve where you are on a list in case you are absolutely needed, but then you come out debt free.”
Experience is Critical for Applications
“You have to be close enough to smell the patient,” jokes Dr. Gray.
You have to work closely with patients and other physicians. It is critical. “Medical schools want to know that you truly understand what life is like as a physician,” adds Dr. Gray.
Biggest Mistakes Students Make
Taking on too much too fast is often a struggle for students. College is very different from high school, even for the students that are strong achievers. This causes students to burn out very quickly. Learn how to be a student and get used to college before you add too many extracurricular activities or difficult classes.
Dr. Gray recommends these quick tips:
- Understand where you are right now, and do constant check-ins with yourself to understand if you need to course correct to get to where you want to be.
- Always seek the help and guidance of those around you. Look for collaboration, not competition.
- Seek guidance counselors at your university.
- Ask questions now so you aren’t missing anything for later.
- It is a long and hard journey, but if being a physician is truly what you want to be, keep that goal in mind because it is worth it.
LINKS AND RESOURCES
- Podcast is available through your smartphone, tablet, or other podcast source.
- Can follow Dr. Gray on Twitter: @medicalschoolHQ
SCHOLARSHIP GUIDE FOR BUSY PARENTS
A video series available to help families understand scholarships and help you build a plan how to pursue and win scholarships. There are 4 videos that will discuss types of scholarships, basics of a scholarship, and how to build a plan or team to more successfully pursue scholarships.
THANKS FOR JOINING US!
We are starting a new video series called, “The Scholarship Guide for Busy Parents.” It is going to be 4 videos that are 12 minutes or less complete with cheat sheets and other resources to help you find and win scholarships. If you are interested in learning more about scholarships please visit:
We’d like to extend an invitation to our listeners to share their feedback and questions. Our website offers a couple of ways for you to share your questions with us, and we’d love to hear from you.
If you find our podcasts helpful, please share us on social media and tell your friends.
The bottom line is that we care what you think and want to help you out, so we’d appreciate you reviewing us on iTunes or on Stitcher. And even better, receive automatic updates by subscribing to the show on iTunes or Stitcher.
Brad is not affiliated with Dr. Ryan Gray or MedicalSchoolHQ.