Just Admit it: What are Medical School Admissions Committees Looking For?
The medical school admissions process has a reputation for being notoriously rigorous. Between preparing for and taking the MCAT and acing secondary applications, there are many steps on an aspiring applicant’s journey to medical school admission.
Given the multi-faceted nature of the process, some students may be curious about what it takes to stand out throughout their application journey. Keep reading to learn what medical school admissions committees are looking for and, for even more information, check out our latest Just Admit It! podcast episode on the same topic.
When medical school admissions committees are reviewing applications, they understand that they are not comparing apples to apples but rather apples to oranges. Admissions officers know that every student’s circumstances and academic backgrounds are unique, and they strive to review their achievements in context with their own unique scenarios. For example, a student who can balance a rigorous academic course load while working a demanding job or internship may be viewed favorably compared to another applicant without as many extracurricular activities. While earning top grades is certainly one of the major deciding factors for medical school admissions outcomes, applicants should also keep in mind that their academic performance won’t be viewed in a vacuum.
Let Your Interests and Passions Shine Through
Medical school admissions committees aren’t looking to admit the same cookie-cutter applicant over and over again. Instead, they will affirm qualified applicants with the requisite grades and MCAT scores who also bring their own unique life experiences and interests to the table. Consequently, students should avoid making decisions simply because they think it will help them win over the admissions committee. For example, some aspiring medical school applicants might mistakenly believe they need to choose biology as a major when it’s actually best to select a major that they are genuinely interested in and passionate about. Much like undergraduate admissions, medical school committees want to build a balanced class filled with students with diverse backgrounds, so don’t be afraid to let your unique interests shine through.
Choose Your Undergraduate Courses Strategically
There are several decisions that aspiring medical school students can make during their undergraduate years to set themselves up for success. One of the most important is selecting courses that will not only fulfill their pre-medical track requirements but also help them build strong relationships with academic faculty. Generally, medical school admissions committees will expect applicants to include at least two to three letters of recommendation, while some students may include as many as six. The most compelling letters are written by professors who have developed strong relationships with the students they are writing about. Students should start to think about specific faculty members that they may wish to ask to write their letters and ensure that they have adequate time to develop strong working relationships with these contacts.
Take Some of the Pressure Off
Some aspiring applicants may think they need to go straight from college to medical school, but this isn’t the case. In fact, it can be beneficial for students to take several years after undergraduate graduation to thoroughly prepare for the MCAT, compile a compelling personal statement, and gain relevant real-life experience through research opportunities or programs like Peace Corps. If a student is planning on transitioning straight from college to medical school, they will need to finish their AMCAS application by the end of their junior year of college. While there’s absolutely nothing wrong with this type of timeline, applicants who will benefit from a few additional months (or years) of preparation shouldn’t be afraid to take this time to compile the strongest version of their application.
While the medical school application process is undoubtedly rigorous, students can feel confident about their admissions odds by preparing in advance and getting a head start on their research. If you are getting ready to apply to medical school and looking for personalized guidance, our team of admissions officers can support you throughout the process through a comprehensive medical school admissions counseling program.