Question of the Week: Study Abroad & Applying Direct Entry

Friday, May 4, 2018

Question: I want to study abroad in junior spring but I’ve heard it’s hard to apply direct entry to medical school if I do. Have any students done this successfully? What do I need to keep in mind?
Answer: It is uncommon, but where there’s a will, there’s a way! Here are some of the complications and ways you might address them:

  • Application prep: If you’re applying direct, you’ll want to submit your application by mid-June after junior year. HPA’s committee letter process has you working on pieces of your application throughout the year, so if you keep up with that, this timeline will be manageable. Even so, choosing a study abroad program that gets back earlier than later may give you more time to focus on your application before June.
  • MCAT: If you’re applying direct and you want to know your MCAT score before you submit your application, you should take the exam no later than May of your junior year. You’d want to focus on a September 2018, January 2019, or May 2019 MCAT date. From past students’ experiences, you’ll likely find it very difficult to focus on MCAT during your time abroad, so September or January may be better. More MCAT advice here and here.
  • Classwork for MCAT prep: Taking Biochem and PHY 101 in fall and the MCAT in January is the most likely timeline, but we can talk with you about what courses you’ve taken and how you might finish everything you need in order to take MCAT. You’ll need to self-study some Physics content, but with a prep course or self-study with MCAT prep materials, it’s possible to do this. Treat MCAT study like an extra course in your fall schedule and adjust your course choices accordingly.
  • Requirements: You need to have your premed pre-requisite courses completed by the time you start med school, not by the time you apply, so if there are a couple courses you stlil need during senior year, that’s okay.
  • Clinical experience: This is where many of our juniors end up falling short, whether they study abroad or not. If you don’t have much clinical experience yet, prioritize it this summer. Shadow physicians, volunteer in a hospital or clinic alongside whatever else you’re doing this summer. Prioritize clinical experience for the junior summer, as well – even if you haven’t done it by the time you submit your application, you’ll be able to talk about it on your interviews that’ll happen during senior year.

Pre-health students who study abroad never regret it. The personal growth you’ll experience, the cultural competence, resilience, adaptability, time for reflection, grounding that you experience by stepping away from the Bubble for a bit—we know it sounds intangible, but study abroad really is a transformative experience. If you’re thinking about study abroad in the spring of next year, it may help to come to our Sophomore Application Preview on Monday to get a better sense of the application process, and don’t hesitate to make an appointment so we can help you evaluate your candidacy holistically and give you a sense of what you might want to focus on if you do decide to apply direct entry.

QOTW in 2017: What Does HPA Tell Schools in a Committee Letter?
QOTW in 2016: The "Why Medicine?" Answer