Yesterday I had the opportunity to talk with a few students about the growth year. No, I don’t mean the gap year. I mean the growth year. To me, “gap year” has a negative tone, and like I told the students last night. time between undergrad and professional school is ANYTHING but negative. It’s a ripe opportunity to rest, rejuvenate, grow and prepare a stellar application. I can tell students this as much as I want to, but nothing beats showing them students just like them who are flourishing in the transition period. Hopefully Lemuel’s experience will help show, that there’s nothing negative about a growth year at all 🙂 Enjoy
HealthOU: When did you graduate from Oakwood?
May 7, 2016
HealthOU: Describe your activities post Oakwood?
From graduation until August 19th, I studied for the MCAT (which consisted of 6 weeks of independent study followed by a 6 week MCAT prep course at UConn Health). Submitted all of my med school secondary applications by September 23rd. 3 days after my MCAT score was released. (I used SDN to pre fill out secondary applications questions before I actually received the secondaries). After that, I joined up with a humanitarian organization called NAPS. The National Association for the Prevention of Starvation. In which we travel the nation full time doing service. With the team, I’ve traveled to Seattle WA, Portland and Medford OR Sacramento, San Diego, and Los Angeles CA, and Phoenix AZ. We then plan to go to Ethiopia and Haiti this summer as well.
HealthOU: When did you take the MCAT? How did you study?
I took the MCAT twice. The first time I took it, (May 2015) I studied during spring semester junior year, in order to take the MCAT early and complete a summer of research at Duke. Which was a mistake. I took the MCAT a second time after my senior year on August 19th. I studied for approximately four months. Two months of content review, reading and studying through all of the Exam Kracker books, then I did two months of practice tests. In which I took the 2AAMC test and 9 Kaplan practice tests. I studied each test after I took it for two, 12 hour days. I re-read through all of the passages, questions and explanations until I understood everything. I practically retool each test in depth. Which is why it took 24 hours over two days to review each practice test.
HealthOU: What things do you think played a role in you not getting the score you wanted on your first attempt at the MCAT?
Everyone that I talked to that scored well on the MCAT from various places all told me the same thing. And it was that they had to dedicate an entire section of time without doing anything else to study for the MCAT. So the mistake came from trying to study in the midst of a heavy load. Another thing that lowered my score was that I only took one practice test. I studied a lot but didn’t practice. The same people that I talked to told me that score increase came from practice. I also took an early MCAT. I took an early MCAT because I wanted to do research. I thought having Duke on my resume was more important than investing more time to study. Professors tried to warn me, but I didn’t listen and a lot of students don’t listen. So a lack of devoted time, and ineffective studying due to a busy schedule, and a lack of practice tests all contributed to my low score.
HealthOU: Did you plan on taking a gap year prior to graduating?
No I did not.
HealthOU: Students often have a timeline in their heads and it can be discouraging to find yourself taking a gap year if you didn’t initially plan do. Did you experience any of these feelings?
Sure did. I wanted to go straight through. It was even tougher knowing that all of my friends made it into medical school the first time and I didn’t. But I also realized that God has a specific plan for everyone and we cannot lean on our own understanding. Proverbs 14:12-There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death.
HealthOU: What did you learn from your growth year experiences?
I learned that a gap year is a BEAUTIFUL thing full of opportunities. I’ve literally been in school for the past 17 years. And having an entire year to find myself, do things I enjoy, travel, minister, and meet new people, is a great thing. Especially since all I ever knew was school. I think everyone should take a gap year. Even if their application is already medical school ready.
HealthOU: What were some of the benefits to taking some time off between undergrad and professional school?
Getting that time to do whatever I wanted to do. I wanted to build a strong foundation in every aspect of life before starting medical school. I could do that. I can grow spiritually without the usual compromise of school. I can work out consistently. I can work and save up. I can travel the nation. I can learn a new language. I can learn the capital of every country in the world. I can spend a lot of time with friends and family. I was able to do everything that I couldn’t do because of school. And lay a strong foundation within myself and develop the characteristics that I wanted going into medical school.
Lemuel Hackshaw was born and raised in the Southside Jamaica Queens in New York City. His favorite scripture is 2 Cor 5:17 because choosing to follow God took him from Central Bookings in Kew Gardens, to Medical School on a full scholarship. He believes in God’s power to make all things new and is thankful that God is using him to fulfill the great commission.
*YOD ( Year of Dedication) is a year long mission commitment organized by the National Association for the Prevention of Starvation.