Last Updated on January 31, 2024 by Laura Turner
The Student Doctor Network recently spoke to Apply Point about their new book, Apply Point’s Guide to Medical School Applications.
Disclosure: Apply Point is a sponsor of the Student Doctor Network forums, but no additional compensation was provided for the publication of this article.
Tell us a little bit about Apply Point. How would you describe this guide?
Apply Point is a graduate admissions consulting firm. We help medical school applicants with school selection strategy, recommendation management, essay content development, interview preparation, and more. And we cover these crucial topics in the guide. Multiple Apply Point consultants contributed to this guide, so a reader will have a similar experience as the applicants we work with directly, who always have their written materials reviewed by two consultants.
What do you think is the most misunderstood aspect of the admissions process?
That a school wants the Personal Statement to read like a fancy academic paper; instead, it should read more like a short-form memoir. An applicant should show themselves in action, provide thorough details, and highlight some kind of evolution in their perspective. Be formal if that is your natural style of writing and speaking. But you shouldn’t be referencing a thesaurus every third word.
What’s the number one thing an applicant should know about developing and writing a personal statement?
Perhaps the most important thing an applicant should know about the essay writing process is how to build a strong brainstorm. We have a unique brainstorming system that prepares an applicant for every essay they’ll write, as well as the interview process. We often develop multiple drafts of brainstorms with applicants—that sounds like a lot of work in addition to the essay writing, but it actually speeds up the essay writing process a great deal, saving the applicant time. Our guide gives a breakdown of our brainstorm system, which has helped so many applicants get into their dream programs.
We have a lot of rules for writing a strong Personal Statement, but one of the top ones is that you should always be showing more than telling. An applicant can’t list off qualities without backing them up with in-depth examples of how they’ve displayed them. We also have much more to share about the essay writing process in the guide, including the top mistakes we see candidates make in their first drafts.
What’s the number one thing they should know about the interview process?
Interview days can look very different from school to school, even now when so many schools do them through video chat. We give a rundown of the different types of interviews and some sample prompts in the guide. Some of the interview questions will be like the ones in the application, so an applicant should review their application before interview day to stay on message.
As far as during the interview, speaking directly to the applicants, the most important thing to remember is that every answer you give should include a story about one of your experiences or something you’ve learned, even if the question doesn’t outwardly demand a story. For example, for “Why medicine?”, you’d share a story about a time that deepened your commitment to the study and practice of medicine.
What makes your book stand out from other advice books that are currently available? What are the most critical points your book makes?
Our top goals were to make the guide comprehensive but concise and to write in clear, truly colloquial language. The application process is intense and time-consuming. Applicants don’t have time to read through a 400-page tome. We also spend more time sharing how an applicant can tell THEIR story rather than providing a slew of sample personal statements that don’t help with that and are a time-suck to read.
Oh, and we have a short chapter about protecting your mental health during your application process and beyond. That’s not something I’ve seen elsewhere. We don’t share any simplistic Instagram #selfcare adages—but if you’re going to dedicate your life to healthcare, start at home. All the info in that short chapter is backed by science, most points cite studies on medical students.
The most important points we make in the book are too many to list here. But they all come back to how to make the school imagine you as a special part of their community.
How should applicants schedule their time to complete secondary applications and essays promptly?
In a perfect world, we tell applicants to start their Personal Statement and Work and Activities sometime between February and May before their application deadlines. As soon as they’ve polished those, they should start on Secondary Essays—yes, even without having the prompts yet. Certain themes always come up, and if an applicant has some stuff thought out or, better yet, drafted, they can quickly tailor their answers to various schools’ questions once the schools send them along. An applicant should return Secondary apps within two weeks of getting them. If an applicant falls behind this ideal start time, there are ways to catch up without turning in sloppy work at the buzzer of the deadline. Apply Point advisors specialize in the last-minute “Ack!”
What is your advice about letters of intent or letters of interest?
We know of one admissions director whom an applicant emailed EVERY DAY after their interview to express their continued interest in the school. Yikes. She gets it. (Incidentally, this was not one of our clients.)
An applicant should send a maximum of two Update Letters per school over a six to 10-week period that reiterate their interest in each school with program-specific details. It should include that if admitted, they will likely attend. And they should only send letters that include a fresh, substantive accomplishment. Note to the applicants reading this: If you don’t think you have one—you do! An Apply Point advisor will help you find it.
If a school is a top contender for an applicant, they should send a Letter of Intent one or two weeks after their interview or the instant they have been waitlisted. They should keep it tight. No more than one page. Three paragraphs, max. This letter should include relevant updates like those an applicant would put in an Update Letter. Plus, a reiteration of their interest in the program with shoutouts to favorite offerings. An applicant should be specific about why they are interested in the medical school and try to relate those interests to their background, accomplishments, and goals. To the applicants reading this: Meaningfully connecting yourself to the school is more impactful than just saying how great you are (or just gushing about how great the school is, that’s cheesy).
Finally, what makes a Letter of Intent different from an Update Letter is the yield protection statement: “If admitted I will attend.” This is a must.
What is your advice on securing the best letters of recommendation? Or in getting the best possible recommendation from a pre-health committee?
To speak to the applicants directly again: You want these letters to be personal, so it’s better to choose someone who was a true mentor and/or saw you in action over a chief of surgery or research lead who barely knows you. Personal beats prestige here. You want someone who can really speak to your achievements and character. Moreover, you’re going to remind them of those things after they’ve agreed to write you a recommendation. You’re not telling them what to write, but rather saying, “Here are some things I’m proud of accomplishing in this role.” We have more to say about the “After the Ask”-process in the guide.
To get the best possible pre-health committee letter, know what the drill is at your school. Some schools will automatically support all candidates interested in pursuing medicine. Others will decide whether they support your decision to apply. They’ll look at your GPA and other criteria—typically a list of your Work and Activities, some short, written answers to a few questions, etc.—to predict your success in being admitted to medical school before gifting you a letter. Emphasizing your uniqueness whenever possible is key because most letters summarize your background and candidacy and rank you relative to other premedical students at the school. Standing out among others will make your letter more personal.
Apply Point Admissions Consulting advises applicants to graduate programs in medicine, law, and business. We have services in school selection strategy, recommendation management, essay con- tent development and editing, resume construction, and interview preparation. In the last 12 years, we’ve helped thousands of applicants achieve their goals.
We’ve been on the Internet for over 20 years doing just one thing: providing health career information for free or at cost. We do this because we believe that the health education process is too expensive and too competitive. Many people and organizations have built their businesses making money on students who are desperate for any opportunity to become a doctor.
We believe that all students deserve the same access to high-quality information. We believe that providing high-quality career advice and information ensures that everyone, regardless of income or privilege, has a chance to achieve their dream of being a doctor.
SDN is published by the Health Professional Student Association, a nonprofit educational organization.