Senior diver Joe Stegeman proves you can have it all by snagging both a near perfect score on the MCAT and a position as Big 12 finalist on the TCU diving team.
Recently, Stegeman made a near perfect 44 out of 45 on the MCAT, the highest score of any student in the history of TCU.
MCAT stands for Medical College Admissions Test and is required for admission into all medical schools.
According to the Association of American Medical Colleges, the average score on the MCAT was 25.3 in 2013.
“When I found out I got a 44, I was actually on shift in the E.R. I was pretty much in shock,” said Stegeman. “But, the doc I was working with saw my score and announced it over the intercom to the whole emergency department.”
Stegeman isn’t one to brag about himself.
“We knew he was smart when we found out he was a Chancellor’s Scholar, but there is so much we would [never] know about Joe if we didn’t hear from the grapevine,” said senior diver and best friend Curtis Muller. “We had no idea he’d [been high school] valedictorian until we were sophomores here. Then, when he scored an outstanding 44 on his MCAT, no one knew until a month later when our swim coach accidentally let it slip.”
Stegeman only took the test once.
“I took a prep course through Kaplan and then I spent about three weeks studying four to five hours per day before the test,” Stegeman said.
In addition to 5 a.m. practices, giving at least 15 hours a week for the diving team and the Pre-Med track, Stegeman was also working 40 hours a week at the Baylor College of Medicine scribe program.
Stegeman recalled many nights that he would be working at the hospital until one or two in the morning and then would have to get up for 5 a.m. dive practice. Sleep was a foreign concept, he said.
“To be honest, I have no idea how Joe balanced athletics, pre-med, work, and all his friendships at the same time,” Muller said. “He is like a machine. I have seen him go four days with only two hours of sleep…and still look good.”
Stegeman said he wants to be a doctor for two reasons.
“When I was growing up my [physician] dad always seemed to be the smartest person I knew,” he said. “He was always able to diagnose his kids’ illnesses and took care of his family on his own.”
“I love the challenge of medicine, the puzzle of diagnosing patients, the balancing act of treating conditions appropriately, the adrenaline rush from running a code. It’s one of the few professions where you can go home every day knowing you made a difference in someone’s life.”
Stegeman will be attending UT Southwestern Medical School next fall, where he was awarded what he will only admit is a very generous scholarship.
Stegeman hasn’t always had it easy though. His sophomore year, he broke his back in eight places after hyperextending it in a diving accident.
For many athletes, an injury of that magnitude would mark the end of a career.
But not for Stegeman.
He said he worked hard to regain his strength and was able to get back into the pool only four months later.
TCU senior diver, Evan Folan, relates still another experience with the aspiring doctor.
“I walked onto the team last year with no experience,” Folan said. “Stegeman was injured at the time, but was still showing up to practice. From the beginning, Joe took the reins and volunteered to help coach me. He was so patient and taught me little tricks to better my diving. The guy is one of a kind.”
His sophomore year, Stegeman made Second-Team All-Big 12 in platform diving. After the 2013-2014 season, he made First-Team Academic All-Big 12, and Second Team All-Big 12 in 2013-2014.
Stegeman finished his senior year with his strongest season yet, making it to the Big12 finals and placing seventh in all three events: 1-meter, 3-meter, and platform.
When asked what he does to relax, Stegeman said, “I’m a Netflix binge watcher. In fact, [the TV show] House might have something to do with my success on the MCAT.”
His favorite hobby, though, is water skiing, particularly slalom skiing. Now that the swim season is over and he isn’t diving anymore, Stegeman said he fills up his free time with boating. After Easter break, he and his two best friends brought his boat down from his home in Illinois.
“It doesn’t even have to be on the weekend,” Stegeman said. “Last week we went skiing five days out of the week.”
Senior swimmer Ricky Bradley gave insight into another of Stegeman’s list of talents.
“Joe is a secret karaoke super star,” Bradley said. “He goes to Karaoke night at least once a week and keeps a list of songs he wants to sing in a file on his computer. It is always fun to watch him on stage singing.”
For those interested in catching Stegeman on stage, he has been known to make regular Wednesday night appearances at the Poop Deck on Seminary Drive.
The genius, star student-athlete, and killer karaoke singer, Stegeman has proved to be a daunting triple-threat.