The MCAT and My College Advising Experience
AdviseMI is an initiative of the Michigan College Access Network that works with AmeriCorps to place recent college graduates in Michigan high schools with low college-going rates. The advisers are trained to help students navigate the complex college exploration process, retake college admissions tests, apply to colleges that are a good match/fit, complete the FAFSA, secure financial aid, and matriculate to college.
I decided to pursue a year of service because I wanted to retake the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) in order to be a competitive medical school applicant. I knew that I could not just take a year off to study; I needed to be doing something else that would help strengthen my application during this time. When I heard about the Advise Michigan program, I knew that this was the perfect option for me. It allowed me to increase my volunteer and community service hours while still allowing me to succeed on the MCAT.
Through my entire first year of service through AmeriCorps, I would wake up by 4:30 am, study until leaving for work at 7 am, do college advising throughout the school day, and returning home to study for another 4+ hours. For those of you that don’t know, the MCAT is required to get into all medical schools in the United States. It is an 8 hour exam, consisting of subjects in the hard sciences, social sciences, reading analysis and comprehension. I had to re-evaluate how I had studied throughout my undergraduate experience, and make a change to retain large amounts of information to succeed in medical school.
This position gave me a very unique perspective into the differing socioeconomic disparities that exist within our small rural communities. Moreover, I have seen the effects of poverty on students and how that can be a barrier to their future collegiate endeavors and/or successes.
For example, a student might have a full ride scholarship to a university, with a living stipend, but they cannot pay for the required enrollment or housing deposits to get themselves there. Or, a student significantly under-matches (ex: attending a local community college instead of taking a full scholarship to University of Michigan) because they know that they would not be able to work to support their family if they move away from home. This position has taught me so much about my privilege going into the healthcare setting, and I know that this experience will help me to remain as unbiased as possible.
In addition, I was able to help educate counselors and educators at each of my service sites about advising students who are on the pre-health professional pathway. When I was in high school, I had no idea of the classes that would be best for me to take, if I should take AP or dual enroll, for example. Many students also say that they want to be a “doctor” or “nurse” because those are the only healthcare fields that they have been exposed to in the past. Getting to help my students make the “right” decisions for them in their future has been very fulfilling.
I think the biggest challenge that a lot of advisers face throughout this program is trying to get ways to engage and involve students effectively. Even though we are based in a near-peer model, things are always changing. Last year, I had a senior class of 300 students, so there were always students coming in to meet with me, but the challenge was getting the students who had not come to meet with me yet, in the door.
This year’s medical school application cycle, which runs from May 2019 to June 2020, has been incredibly successful thus far, and I have received multiple interview invitations as well as an acceptance! Serving with AdviseMI has significantly impacted my medical school application in a positive way. I look forward to taking the lessons I learned throughout my two years of service into my role as a medical professional.
Ashley Timmreck is a second-year adviser who serves at Coleman Jr/Sr High School & Meridian Early College High School.