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For Phillip Thomas, a gap year paid off. After getting a pile of rejection letters in his first cycle, he took the time to work in a lab, volunteer at a children’s hospital and relentlessly study for the MCAT. He did so well on the test the second time that Kaplan Test Prep hired him to teach classes.
Thomas is now a third-year medical student at the U who got a spot on the admissions committee so he can review applications and help other students like him. Applicants, he said, need to convince a med school that medicine is the right career for them.
“I wanted to make sure that my application reflects my desire to be here and my goal that I want to be a physician,” he said. “This is what I want to do with the rest of my life.”
Finding a different dream
When Todd recognizes a student who may not have what it takes or be the right fit, she sits down with them to have a “courageous conversation.”
“Medicine isn’t the right place for you,” she said she tells students, “or if you’re going to go into medicine you’re going to have to change your portfolio and it’s going to have to look a lot stronger than it does now.”
She finds that many students are on the right track; for others, she tries to help them find another career in the field — public health at a state agency, for example, or physician assistant.
For Kiera Berger, becoming a doctor used to be her only dream. Everything else, she said, felt like settling for less.
To explore other career options and build research experience, she got an entry-level position at a genetic testing company in Wisconsin. She’ll work there for at least two years before applying to medical school again.
“It’s still probably at the top of my list,” she said, “but it used to be the only thing on my list.”
Rebecca Harrington is a University of Minnesota student reporter on assignment for the Star Tribune.