As a physician, I have worked in private practice, academic medicine, research medicine, and community health. I currently work in a non-profit community clinic, where I treat patients, supervise nurse midwives, and train providers on electronic health records. At Accepted, I advise students applying to medical school, residencies, fellowships, PA, NP, MPH, nursing, midwifery, and other healthcare-affiliated programs. I enjoy working with traditional and nontraditional applicants alike and believe that healthcare is at its best when providers come from a wide variety of backgrounds. Continue reading “Q&A with Dr. Suzi Schweikert, Ob-Gyn and Medical School Admissions Expert”
At this point, you are probably already aware of how competitive medical school admissions are. For instance, you may already know that the most competitive med schools boast acceptance rates of nearly 3%—that’s almost half the acceptance rate of Harvard College. Pretty dire, right?
The truth, however, is that while medical school admissions are and will continue to be incredibly competitive, there are a number of steps you can take throughout college to distinguish yourself from the enormous pool of hyper-qualified candidates. Along with doing the typical extracurricular activities for med school like lab research, teaching experience, etc. the best candidates think outside of the box to make their extracurriculars stand out. Continue reading “Non-Academic Ideas to Boost Your Med School Chances”
By You Jung Kim
Many students start college gung-ho about going into medicine, and many end up falling short of their goals. Their reasons are varied. Some discover new careers that better appeal to their interests; others realize that they can’t stomach the long commitment required in medicine. However, the saddest group of people are those who come to believe that they aren’t cut out for becoming a physician because of their performance in science courses. I was very close in becoming one of them. Continue reading “Confessions of a Former Mediocre Premed Student”
I began my first job when I was just 12 years old (don’t worry, I had a work permit from my school!). It was natural for me to want to start earning my own income and save money for eventually purchasing a car. I continued to work through high school and on into college. I worked two jobs to pay for my tuition, housing, and living expenses. It wasn’t always easy, but providing for myself gave me a sense of pride and encouragement that I could achieve whatever I set my mind to. Although I wasn’t fully aware of it at the time, having this sense of determination shaped my personality and defined who I was. Eventually, sharing these experiences with medical school admission committees helped to convey my most desirable qualities as an applicant: responsibility, work ethic, perseverance, and strength. Continue reading “"Personal Branding" as a Premed: How Knowing Who You Are and What You Stand For Can Help You Get In”
The AAMC Premed Team recently conducted a few twitter polls which asked premeds to share what you are looking for in a medical school. We received hundreds of responses, and while a school’s mission statement and scholarship opportunities were both important influences, the results pointed to one factor above all others: location! Continue reading “Location, Location, Location! Should You Apply In-State or Out-of-State? “
Sometimes the requirements aren’t required.
Annie wrote in to [email protected] to ask Kaci McCleary, Erik Kneller, Gabriel Conley, and Marissa Evers if she should give up her 10-year job as a radiology tech so she’d have time to do research before applying to medical school. As is often the case with these kinds of questions, the answer is no! But maybe yes. In some cases. Continue reading “Checking the Boxes: Should You Give Up Your Job To Do Research?”
To say you are busy may be an understatement! You’re balancing a full course load, work obligations, extracurricular activities, friends and family—it’s a lot to juggle. It’s no wonder that when it comes time to take the MCAT exam, students want to know what the best way to prepare is. Continue reading “6 Steps to Create an MCAT Study Plan”
Everyone reading SDN likely knows that gaining admission to medical school is difficult. It not only takes years of preparation, exceptional academic performance, and hours dedicated to extra-curricular activities—the process takes resiliency and tremendous determination. And due to the extreme competitiveness of admissions, many applicants apply, don’t succeed, and have to apply again. I found myself in this position and, as much as I dreaded having to complete the application process again, I did, and received multiple acceptances. I ultimately attended my top choice medical school. In retrospect, I made a lot of mistakes on my first application to medical school. To help others avoid making these same errors, here are some tips to help ensure your application is a success.
1. I underestimated the MCAT
I did very well in college; I studied hard and received good grades. When it came time to take the MCAT, I didn’t think I would have to study THAT much. I thought that since I did well academically, success on this test would come naturally to me. I was completely wrong. I did prepare for the MCAT, but not enough. As a result, my score was sup-par, decreasing my competitiveness amongst other applicants.
My advice to you: Take the MCAT seriously. This test is unlike any test most undergraduate students have taken before. Plan your test preparation, start early, and stick with a study schedule. In addition—I didn’t learn this until taking licensing exams in medical school—do lots of practice tests and questions! Knowing how the questions are asked and how to glean the answer from the prompt is often the key to doing well on these difficult standardized tests.
2. I didn’t apply to schools strategically.
At the time of my first application, I didn’t understand the significance of picking schools based on my competitiveness, my desire to go there, and demographics. Instead, I cast my net wide and applied to upwards of 30 schools. We all know the result: I didn’t get accepted.
My advice to you: There are about 160 allopathic medical schools and getting accepted to any one would be great. However, when you designate a school list, look through multiple factors—the most important being your competitiveness based on your GPA, MCAT, and extra-curricular activities. Be realistic too. You can apply to a few ‘reach’ schools, but the majority be schools whose average GPA and MCAT ranges line up with yours. Also, be careful about selecting schools that are way below your stats, as schools may think you view them as a ‘safety school’ and don’t really want to go there.
In addition to considering your personal preferences, also make sure you fit the demographic parameters that the school is looking for in its students. For instance, is it worth applying to a school that only accepts 10% out-of-state residents if this is not your home state? Probably not.
The bottom line is that a strategic school list can open up the doors to an acceptance, so it is important to take your time in selecting schools and apply to those schools where you are most competitive.
3. I applied late.
Although I submitted my application in July, my timing likely significantly impacted my chances, as I was not an overly-competitive applicant to begin with. I didn’t completely appreciate the importance of submitting early, and let a lack of planning result in a delayed submission.
My advice to you: Apply as soon as possible. The application opens for completion in May, and you can submit it in early June. The best way to ensure an early submission is to plan ahead: get your letters of recommendation submitted, request transcripts, write your personal statement, and list your activities. Some tasks may seem easy but they can be time consuming and you are likely to encounter delays for one reason or another. Starting early gives you cushion time in case of a mishap with a transcript request or a bad case of writer’s block. As one of the first applicants to submit an application, you will take advantage of medical school’s ‘rolling admissions’, where schools offer acceptances to the first, most competitive applicants they review.
4. I didn’t prepare for my interview.
I worked multiple jobs to put myself through college. I thought that I had enough ‘real-world’ experience from interviewing for jobs to ace my medical school interview. Again, my naïve understanding of the process got the better of me. I didn’t realize that medical school interviews are tough, and I was often caught off guard by the questions.
My advice to you: Prepare, prepare, and then prepare some more. Sit down with someone who is familiar with medical school interviews—an advisor, physician, or peer—and have them ask you as many questions as possible of the sort you will hear on the actual interview day. If you have a Multiple Mini Interview (MMI), run through several prep sessions to practice different scenarios with someone who can give you constructive feedback. Many applicants dread the medical school interview, but with ample practice and preparation, it can be a great experience!
5. I was not mature enough.
Although I followed the schedule of most premedical students, I didn’t appreciate the depth and intensity of applying to medical school. I thought that I could just wing it and everything would fall into place. I couldn’t have been more wrong. Ultimately, I had to reassess my goals and my priorities to put together a stronger application on my second try.
My advice to you: Make sure you are ready for the commitment of applying. You won’t actually matriculate to medical school until over a year after you submit your application, so the entire process takes a lot of time and effort. You need to be sure that you are financially ready as well, as secondary applications and interview trips can be quite costly. It is crucial to ask yourself if you are completely ready for the next step of applying. If you have any doubt about applying, talk to someone about it, and think about what you can do to make yourself feel more confident.
The most valuable lesson from my failed application attempt is that no matter what, if becoming a physician is what you truly want to do, then you can do it. Resiliency and determination are critical strengths that every doctor should possess, and triumphing after failure will only help you build those characteristics. However, as I have learned through my own experience and through the experience of helping others apply, it is always better to thoroughly prepare an exceptional application once than to have to go through the process multiple times. My greatest advice for someone considering applying to medical school is to ensure that you are confident and prepared to take on this next step in becoming a physician.
About the Author
Renee Marinelli, MD, is a primary care physician and serves as the Director of Advising with MedSchoolCoach. Renee has extensive experience mentoring pre-medical students and shares her knowledge of the admission process through individual advising, webinars, pre-health conferences, and blogs. She currently lives in Colorado with her husband and son, and enjoys traveling, hiking and running.
Receiving multiple admissions offers to medical school can be both thrilling and daunting for prospective medical students. For many applicants, the simple goal is to get into medical school; a scenario in which one has to choose between multiple programs is simply not considered. But for a fraction of admitted medical students, juggling the pros and cons of several schools becomes a difficult and important task. Continue reading “How Do I Know Which Medical School is Right for Me?”
Overcoming a low MCAT score on your AMCAS application can feel daunting. Can they really judge my whole application by my performance on one 8 hour block of life!!? Sadly, most schools do put extensive emphasis on MCAT scores. However, a low score is not the end of the world if you are within the range of applicants to a particular school. Ask yourself: What do medical schools look for? The answer is more dynamic than just a good MCAT score… Continue reading “4 Ways to Address a Low MCAT Score on Your AMCAS Application”