Undergrad: CUNY Queens College
Med School: Rutger's NJ Medical School
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
National Pre-Med Association: Tell us a little about yourself!
Gabriel Shechter: Hey! My name is Gabriel and I’m a 3rd year med student at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School in Newark, NJ. I’m originally from Long Island, NY and I graduated from CUNY Queen College.
NPMA: We hear you had a unique pre-med experience. Wanna talk about that?
GS: When I started college, I had no clue what I wanted to major in. I knew I had an interest in biotech, but flipped-flopped between M.D. and PhD for a while. I only decided to take the medical route with about a year left to undergrad. While medical schools don’t really care when you decided to go become a doctor, my late decision came as a slight disadvantage, because I did not have a standing relationship with my pre-health office.
NPMA: What was the hardest part of pre-med for you? How did you get through it?
GS: Because of my delayed decision to go to med school, I had a difficult time trying to check all the “right” boxes for application: the “right” letters of recommendation, the “right” volunteering, the “right” committee letter. Checking all of these boxes can be daunting, but for me, they appeared downright impossible. Eventually, I had to accept what I had (and didn’t have). Only through acceptance was I able to find other ways of setting myself apart from the rest of the applicants. And thankfully, many med school applications have sections that allow you to explain anything that may be missing from your application - in my case, the committee letter.
NPMA: What was your outlet during pre-med? How do you do it now?
GS: Definitely hanging out with friends and talking about anything but school was my favorite thing to do. For most of my undergrad years, and even during medical school, I took and still take at least one night off per week just to hang out and forget about school.
NPMA: What are some things you did to help build your resume?
GS: During undergrad, I joined a genetics lab to do basic research. I knew that research was something important, whether I wanted to get a PhD or an MD. My long hours [at the lab] paid off, because I was lucky enough to get my name published in a paper. A few months after graduating undergrad, I got to volunteer at a hospital, as well. For the following two summers, while I was applying to and waiting to start medical school, I ended up working for a [non-medical] company. In my opinion, it was this work that set me apart from the rest of the applicant pool.
NPMA: What was your experience like studying for the MCAT?
GS: I was able to study for and take my MCAT after I graduated college, so I didn’t have to worry about that extra workload. I used an online course to help me study. Studying was obviously painstaking, but I made sure to have a consistent study schedule. This way, I could comfortably take a day off once a week. While I didn’t get the most amazing score in the world, I did good enough to get into school, and, in my opinion, that’s all that matters.
NPMA: What piece of advice would you have wanted while you were in undergrad?
GS: While grades are very important to your applications, extracurriculars are crucial. I can tell you with confidence: If you have a 3.9 GPA and a great MCAT score, but you don’t have anything else on your resume that speaks to who you are, you will have a difficult time getting into medical school. I’m not saying that you need to have the most expansive and impressive resume, but that the simple things like volunteering and possibly research are important aspects to your applications.
NPMA: Any more advice for applying?
GS: Yes! A question I always saw on secondary applications was "Why do you want to attend this medical school?" The answer is usually obvious: "I want to attend any med school." But of course, that’s not what schools want to hear. This is an opportunity to show the admissions committee that you are a good fit for their school. Ask yourself (or better, look on the school's website): "What does this school take pride in? What’s their mission statement? Do they have new facilities? What clubs do you think you’d be a part of and contribute to?" Show the committee that you’ll fit right in, and that you love what they love.
NPMA: What’s the best part of medical school?
RS: I like the fact that Rutger's isn't competitive. I’m just your average Joe in medical school, so having an environment where everyone helps each out is very important to me.
Gabriel Schechter is a third-year medical student at Rutger's NJ Medical School and is interested in drug development and innovations in research. He is from Long Island, NY and enjoys hiking and tennis.