Top Tips on Getting into Medical School
When you were applying to college, it’s likely that you heard advice from your family and friends that sounded something similar to “College admissions don’t JUST care about GPA and test scores!” This statement is true about not only college admissions, but also about applying to medical school.
While it is no secret that your GPA and MCAT score are both very important when it comes to your likelihood of gaining acceptance to medical school, there are so many crucial pieces of the puzzle that play a role in getting accepted that students tend to forget about. Below, we have highlighted our top pieces of advice on how to make yourself an all-around competitive medical school applicant.
Choose a major you will both enjoy and do well in
As we have highlighted in our article on choosing a major, it is crucial to pick your major based on what interests you the most, on where you think you will be challenged, and on where you will have the opportunity to excel and show your true colors. Whether that major of interest is in the field of science or not, medical school admissions encourage you to pursue whatever it is you are interested in (while also making sure that you get in those science pre-requisite courses, of course!).
The bottom line is to make sure you choose a major that truly interests you, rather than choosing a major because you think it will look good on your medical school application. Choosing an area of interest will not only make you more likely to do well, but it will also lead to more genuine conversations during interviews if you are asked about why you chose the major you did.
Get medical experience (for yourself and for your resume)
Medical school admissions counselors want to know that you are serious about your desire to pursue a career in the medical field. One way to show that you’re the “real deal” is to get some relevant experience in a medical field. There are many options for this, but some include job shadowing, becoming an EMT, or working in a hospital.
Yes, gaining medical experience is important to show admissions that you are truly dedicated to the career. Additionally, however, this experience can also be crucial in terms of giving you the opportunity to learn more about the various areas of medicine and helping you to decide where your interests lie. Maybe you thought you wanted to be a trauma doctor, but a few months working as an EMT solidified that it probably isn’t the path for you. Regardless of the type of medical experience you obtain, it is likely to open your eyes to all of the opportunities that are out there and help you decide where you want to focus your time.
Volunteer for a cause that you care about
Like your major, this is another area where you are encouraged to focus your time and efforts into a cause which you are truly passionate about. If you are applying to medical school, it is certainly likely that this cause could be related to something in the field. However, it doesn’t have to be.
Medical schools want to see that you care about giving back to your community, seeing as that is essentially a large part of the job once you complete your education. In addition to being able to give back to a cause that you care about, volunteering (along with medical experience) is also great because it gives you the opportunity to form relationships with like-minded people.
If you’re not sure where to look to find volunteering opportunities, a good place to start is talking to your college advisor or doing research on your university’s website to see which organizations and clubs are running locally.
Pick your favorite extracurricular activities and focus on them
One common misconception about being a competitive applicant in any field is that you need to be doing 1,001 things at once to show that you are well-rounded. This is absolutely not the case, and applying to medical school is one of those situations where quality trumps quantity. Sure, you may enjoy playing a sport, playing an instrument, and pursuing other areas of interest, but a key trait that medical school admissions look for in their applicants is commitment. Whatever interests or activities you ultimately decide to hone in on, make sure they are ones that you actually care about and enjoy.
When it comes to your medical school applications, admissions want to see that you have interests and things you enjoy doing outside of your schoolwork. Mentioning these extracurriculars on your application and talking about them in interviews shows that you are not a future doctor-robot, but that you are actually a relatable and committed person!
Work on research projects
Similar to gaining work experience, getting involved in research projects is a great way to learn more about fields of science you might be interested in while also having the opportunity to contribute to making a larger impact and form meaningful relationships or find your future mentor. Regardless of the specifics of what type of work you are doing, you are guaranteed to learn some interesting things along the way and build up crucial skills such as critical reasoning and problem-solving.
Be proactive with your MCAT studying, and make the hours count
You probably could have guessed this tip, but that does not make it any less important than the rest! If you entered college knowing that you want to eventually apply to medical school, make sure to not only stay on top of deadlines related to applications, but also to stay on top of your studying for the MCAT. While every part of your application is crucial to your success, your MCAT score is ultimately one of the most important components that admissions will analyze. Therefore, it is important that you make a plan as early as possible for how and when you are going to study.
As we have highlighted in other articles, the average student studies between 200 and 300 hours for the MCAT. It is important that you not only get those hours in, but that you make sure they are being used wisely to cover all the content, take practice exams, and focus on your areas of weakness.
Prepare for your interviews, be genuine, and tell your story
Finally, we cannot forget the importance of the interview. This point in the process is a critical one because it provides you with the opportunity to show the school that you are a unique, driven and well-rounded person, and not just another name on an application.
To start, you will want to make sure that you are substantially prepared for the interview, which means doing the proper research on the school and the program, while also being prepared to explain to them why you will be a great fit. Once you have made it to the interview, our top piece of advice is to be genuine; schools want to truly get to know you, your interests, and your motivation, so tell it how it is! Avoid providing generic responses to common interview questions and make your unique story clear as you progress through the conversation.