I get a ton of messages basically asking the same question: How do I make myself the best applicant to medical school I can be?
1. Most imporantly: Do everything in your power to be a well rounded applicant
- Pick a major your interested, does NOT have to be a science major!
– Just because you want to be a doctor or work in healthcare doesn’t mean only science topics interest you! You can be an art major and still take all the courses required for premed. Ex. I did anthropology and Psychology, I have premed friend who were engineering and music majors.
- Volunteer in the community with organizations that you are passionate about, NOT just ones that look good on an application
– These should be diverse but should be things you are passionate about, if you get more out of planting trees than volunteering in a hospital gift shop, thats okay! Volunteer in different groups and organizations, some should be medically related but they don’t all have to be! Showing a commitment to life long service doesn’t just mean in medicine.
- Shadow: different fields of medicine and not just doctors, look into dentistry, nursing, psychology, social work –> figure out what type of healthcare provider you want to be. Contacting people may seem scary but it never hurts to ask, look for positions available, write them an email talking about the strengths and skills you have, maybe you don’t have a lot of experience but you can still be a fast learner and hard worker!
- Research: if this seems boring to you, find someone researching something you’re interested in so you will actually enjoy it! I appreciated the results of research but always thought working in it would be boring and it was just another thing I had to do to put on my application. I was very WRONG! I found something lab researching a topic I was interested and it consumed me, I now have a greater understanding research and how fun it can be exploring a hypothesis!
- Extracurricular: again do what your are passionate about, everything does not have to be about medicine, different life experiences teach you different life lessons. I learned different things from being VP of my Doctor Who club vs. in my medical internship vs. being a ski instructor!
- Study hard: create study groups, find tutors or be a tutor! If you are struggling in a class, study groups are shown to be a very effective way of studying, or spend the money on getting a tutor because it will be worth it in the end. When you are struggling in a class, especially a premed class, it can be a good time to reflect on whether this is a career for you. Being a doctor means a lifetime of learning, school, and tests. Seriously look into other career you might be interested in, its okay to change your mind about medical school, there are other careers in medicine, or other professions you might enjoy more. Everything in life takes hard work, its finding what you can endlessly work hard for. General Chemistry made me seriously look at whether of not this was the right path for me. After some serious self reflection, there was nothing else I could work this hard for.
- Time management: Managing work, school, social life and everything else can be hard, don’t take on too much, figure out your limits, remember to ask for help when you need it and to take care of yourself. If you push yourself too hard you will break, we are not invincible. Its okay to say no, to take time for yourself!
Keep a detailed resume of all your actives, exact dates of when they started and ended, who to contact about them and a detailed summary of what you did and what you learned form your experiences! This will help you immensely when filling out your AMCAS
If your application isn’t perfect or not very well rounded (lacking in areas), I highly recommend taking time off to fill those gaps. The biggest reason people who apply straight out of college don’t get in, even with great applications is maturity level. You may think, I am adult, I am mature! But just because you can act professionally doesn’t mean you are mature. The maturity they are looking for is achieved through life experiences. Many college kids really haven’t had much life experiences other that college, what adversities have you overcome, do you even really know who you are yet outside of your college experience.
I have take two years off, even though I had a pretty good application before, it has only become stronger and I have lived life, I thought I knew who I was before but I really had explored that until I was out of college on my own.
time off before applying (Recommended)
- Gaining more life experiences: Maybe move to a new place or Travel
- Get a Masters Degree: this can help boost your GPA if it is not competitive
- Work: doesn’t have to be in medicine but if you lack hand-on patient experiences than this is great opportunity to chance that! If you have never worked a job, than I highly recommend taking time off and working for a living to experience what its like to pay your own bills
- Learn about who you are: this will help you appear more mature when interviewing and make you more confident
The Process of Applying
- Competitive MCAT Score: you don’t have to pay for a course, do what works best for you. I believe the examkracker books were most helpful, Kaplan tend to have the hardest BS and PS practice test but Examkrackers is the best for VR. If you don’t do well the first time, figure out what went wrong and retake it! Learn from this experience because your future in medicine will require many more standardized tests so figuring out how to best prepare for them now will help you in the future!
- Picking Medical Schools: pick 15 schools, have a few reach schools and a few back up school and then the rest ones you can reasonably get into. Take into account their curriculums, locations and if you are thinking about a competitive speciality look at the what residencies their students are matching! If you are interested in research, or rural care, looks at schools that over special programs for these paths.
- Letters of Rec/Committee Letter: hopefully in college you made meaningful relationships with professors you had (you should definitely do this!), you will need a science class professor letter of rec, if you did research you will need one from your PI, if you worked with a doctor for an extended period ask them to write you one or if you worked with a volunteer organization for a long period. Write them a nice letter in why you are asking them, provide them with your resume and all the information they need to know as well as where to send it to. Its okay to send emails reminding them to write it, they are busy people and reminding them shows it is important to you. Also figure out if your school offers a committee letter and be diligent about keeping up on every thing you need to do for it.
Primary Application AMCAS
- Personal statement- make it personal, talk about experiences that have lead you hear today, but most importantly what you learned from them. This is about you, WHY YOU? vs. everybody else who is applying. This is a Persuasive essay!
- Academic Record- make sure to request you transcripts to be sent as soon as possible so AMCAS can verify them quickly
- 15 Activities - out of everything you have done you have to pick the 15 most important activities you have done and briefly talk about them. Then you get to pick three that were most important
- Strong Essays- These are your chance to show again why you!? highlight your strengths when you can, make sure they are concise and well written free of grammatical errors. Ask friends to read them over for you.
- Resume - Remember that detailed resume I told you to about keeping! Many schools allow you to upload addition documents like a resume! Now beyond your 15 they have a list of all the actives you have ever done and what you have learned from them!
- Headshot- passport photo size, 2 x 2 inches. Dress profession, SMILE, only should show show just below the shoulder and up. Remember this is their first glimpse of you, putting the face together with your application!
- Research abstract - if you did research, make sure to have a document with just your abstract to upload if the offer additional documents area.
1. Practice - Practice answering interview questions, use examples, highlight your strengths! Try limiting your answer to two to 3 minute: look up “Elevator Speech” - pitch to the ceo a great idea on an elevator ride of only 4 floors!
2. Reading - the more you read the smarter you are! Reads books about doctors and their experiences, how to apply to medical school, affordable healthcare act, current events, current events in medicine, NIH, read papers on tough ethical topics, read papers published by people from that school, read everything you can on their schools website! Schedule a mock interview, video record yourself answering questions.
to wear -
Females - professional fitted pants suit or suit with skirt no more than an inch about knees with skin tone matching stockings. flats or heels no more than 2 inches high, make sure you can walk all day in them. simple jewelry, studs and a necklace, no more than one ring on each hang. nothing big and distracting. suite should be black, navy, or gray. Blouse or profession top not showing cleavage. If you hair is long wear it back. Make up, light. You don’t want anything distracting from what you’re saying!
Males- Well fitted suit, tie (safer) or bow-tie, pick a professional one that is not busy looking or distracting. Suit color: black, navy or gray. business professional shoes. Belt and shoe color must match.
Don’t wear fragrances (but wear deodorant!), bring a briefcase or similar size professional purse or professional folder (just need something to hold business cards and papers). Look well manicured make sure nails are trimmed and neutral colors only.
Remember to be professional, have a firm handshake, ask them for their business card at the end to write them a handwritten thank you letter. Sit up straight, smile, be you, and don’t forget its a conversation so don’t be over rehearse your answers. If you don’t know the answer to a question, say “I honestly don’t know the answer to that”. Come up with a list of your 3 strengths and weakness and examples of each as well as what you are doing to work on your weaknesses.
Good luck! One day your hard work will pay off, there will be bumps along the way but each one will teach you something and bring you closer to your dream of going to medical school!