Sarah is a Trinity student wrapping up her clinical rotations and headed into the match. Her early story is common of premed students (although she, herself, is exceptional, as you'll soon learn). She has a BS in biology from the University of Illinois and boasted a strong GPA. She had significant and diverse clinical volunteer experience coming into the application cycle, and picked up a number of incredibly inspirational stories about patient interactions that deepened her commitment to medicine. In the middle of all of that, she worked full-time at a neurologist's office and volunteered as a teaching assistant in EMT certification.
She came to Trinity for a couple of reasons, initially interested in our small class approach, as she does her best with conceptual learning in small group discussion. Our curriculum's opportunity for just that obviously appealed to her. She also ended up our way because her MCAT was, in her own words, "Not great, not really competitive."
We have spoken, time and again, about the inflated competitiveness of US medical school admissions and their over-reliance on the MCAT exam, how the MCAT is not an effective predictor of success in medical school. Sarah is a great example of that.
Sarah was admitted to Trinity School of Medicine's MD program on the Individualized Learning Plan (ILP) track. For those who don't know, the ILP program is a reorganization of the early basic sciences that "ramps" the course work up to the standard track's load at the start of term three. ILP students aren't separate in any regard other than scheduling, and given the small size of Trinity's student body, the only real noticeable difference from a social aspect is that they are in St. Vincent for one additional term. Trinity's tuition is also pro-rated for these students. There is no additional tuition cost for ILP students, even though they are on the island for an additional 10 weeks.
Back on topic: Sarah utterly thrived in Trinity's ILP track, taking that "not really competitive" MCAT score that many students feel would keep them out of medical school, and going on to score a 244 on the USMLE Step-1 exam, and a 265 on the USMLE Step-2 CK.
Illustrated a different way, Sarah had an MCAT score that had her anxious about being admitted to medical school at all. Given an opportunity to thrive, and in an environment where she could do so on her own terms, she proved herself to be in the 93rd percentile of not just Trinity students, or Caribbean students, or IMGs in general, but the top 7% of all US and international medical students combined.
This is important for a number of reasons. First, it should send a clear message to students of what they can accomplish in the right envornment, but it's also a major signal to residency directors. Year after year, Step-1 score is the top criteria for matching.
What follows are answers straight from Sarah. How she felt along the way, what worked for her, what didn't, and how she built success in Trinity's ILP program.
How was the MCAT prep process for you?
I did not feel good going into the MCAT. I did a Kaplan classroom course. I was there three times a week for a couple of hours, but even still, I was very stressed. I had a lot on my plate. I had a full time job, I was attending undergrad, and had a lot of extra-curricular activities. I do blame myself, I think my downfall was time management. I felt I knew the information, I was still very anxious, though. To this day, I still think the MCAT was the hardest exam I’ve ever taken. (USMLE) Step-1 and 2 were much easier by comparison.