After navigating the undergraduate admissions process, many students might mistakenly assume that applying to medical school is more or less the same. While there are some familiar components, such as essays and standardized testing scores, the medical school admissions process is unique and requires considerable planning in order to gain admission to your top-choice medical schools.
There are many steps on the road to becoming a doctor and gaining admission to a medical school that aligns with your goals is a major piece of the puzzle. To thrive in the admissions process, applicants must distinguish themselves as exceptional scholars, well-rounded students, and compassionate young adults with a desire to help others.
A compelling medical school application requires ample research, preparation, and self reflection, so it’s essential for students to lay the foundation well in advance. IvyWise Medical School Admissions Counselor McGreggor has some tips to help you make the most of your med school application process and ensure that you stand out to medical school admissions committees.
Understand Your Odds
Students need to have a realistic idea of what it takes to gain admission to medical school in order to set appropriate benchmarks and prepare accordingly. Instead of stressing out about what their classmates may or may not be doing, students should do their research and seek out on concrete facts regarding the admissions process. The Association of American Medical Colleges is an excellent resource for prospective applicants. Prospective medical school applicants should examine data published by the organization that shows overall admissibility to medical school based on GPA and MCAT scores. Through this information, students can see in a very population-based manner their overall competitiveness in the application pool. Some colleges also publish internal databases that can help premedical students see the historic success of other students with similar academic and MCAT profiles.
Choose Undergraduate Courses Strategically
Course rigor counts during the medical school application process, much as it does during undergraduate admissions. Medical school admissions officers are quite familiar with interpreting college transcripts and can easily gauge the level of difficulty of a particular course load. Course rigor can be of particular importance for students who are eager to gain admission to top ranking medical schools. Students should strive to take advanced classes throughout their undergraduate careers to showcase their aptitude for taking on challenges as well as their academic excellence.
Prepare for the MCAT Holistically
The MCAT is a marathon – not a sprint – and applicants need to prepare accordingly. The exam is inter-disciplinary by nature and evaluates students’ knowledge in a multitude of fields including biology, social systems, statistics, analysis of experimental results, and pharmacology. Consequently, the MCAT is not an exam that students can prepare for overnight but rather one that requires years of preparation and proper study habits. Students should take multiple practice exams, review both old and new material, and use question banks to buff up their knowledge and speed in answering queries. It’s also beneficial to choose undergraduate courses strategically by working your college’s premedical advising office to ensure your classes will help provide foundational knowledge for the exam.
Keep Your Blinders On
While it’s important to do your research and be realistic about your admissions odds, students should avoid fixating on what their peers are doing and attempting to measure up. This “gunner” mentality places unnecessary stress on students and doesn’t provide any advantages throughout the admissions process. Instead of trying to directly compete with their classmates by comparing exam scores or resumes, students should turn their attention inwards and strive to do their personal best. At the end of the day, prospective applicants aren’t competing solely with their undergraduate peers and having the requisite grades, scores, and additional application components is what really counts.
Ensure Your Secondaries Aren’t Second-Rate
Secondaries, or applications to specific medical schools that are separate from the AMCAS application, are unique to the medical school admissions process and require applicant’s specialized attention. This follow-up round of questions is particularly important, as the queries are school-specific and offer students the opportunity to articulate their interest in a specific institution. The best secondary applications are tailored to the academic program you are considering and mention specific research labs, courses, and professors. Medical schools are eager to admit students who will hit the ground running, so don’t be afraid to craft responses that are actionable and creative. While it might be tempting to try to repurpose secondary responses to reduce your workload, this cookie-cutter technique should be avoided at all costs. Instead, begin secondary applications as soon as possible and put your best effort towards each response.
Applying to medical school is a considerable undertaking, but by starting early, doing proper research, and thinking strategically, students can set themselves up for success. At IvyWise, our admissions counselors have specific experience working with prospective medical school applicants and can help these candidates prepare accordingly. Contact us today for more information about our medical school counseling services.