Non-Academic Ideas to Boost Your Med School Chances

non-academic ideas

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.

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Confessions of a Former Mediocre Premed Student


By Yoo Jung Kim, MD Candidate, Stanford University

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.

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Getting In: The Undergraduate’s Guide to Research Experience

getting in

Undergraduate students do not need told, again, how important it is to be involved in numerous activities: academics, extracurriculars, employment, research, job shadowing, internships, and social life. Students who are pursuing a career in a science or healthcare field (particularly those with aspirations for graduate school) may find even more intense pressure than their peers. This pressure – to check a box in each “category” above and to succeed at all of them – can be quite overwhelming, especially for students who don’t have any experience in one area or another. One of the most common areas with which students struggle is research. Many prehealth students understand that research should be part of their application, but do not know how to get started, or even what “research experience” means. If this sounds like you, check out Getting In: The Undergraduate’s Guide to Research Experience by David Oppenheimer and Paris Grey.

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How to Have a Successful Premedical Freshman Year

premedical freshman

The transition from high school to college is stressful for many students, and perhaps more so for those who already have their hearts set on attending medical school. For newly-minted premedical students, the first two semesters of college can represent the first steps toward their professional goals, and the prospect of doing less than their anticipated best is daunting. If you are one such new premedical student, you may be asking what steps you can take to maximize your success in your freshman year of college. How will you manage a new kind of social life? Which clubs and outreach activities should you consider? And most of all, how will you navigate your first academic course load as a premedical student? If you’re pondering any of these questions, read on for some tips about how to have a successful first year in college.

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How Do College and Medical School Classes Differ?

As a premedical student, you are likely familiar with some of the subjects that are covered in the standard medical school curriculum. After all, how different could biochemistry in medical school be from undergraduate biochemistry?
While your premedical courses will certainly provide you with a strong background with which to approach medical school, it is imperative that you understand that undergraduate classes differ substantially from medical school courses in both difficulty and breadth of content. Think of your undergraduate science education as preparation for medical school—not as an opportunity to cover all of the material in one of your medical school classes prior to matriculation. Here are four key ways in which medical school courses differ from undergraduate classes, as well as some tips on how to deal with these differences:

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Is a Combined Bachelor’s/MD Program Right For You?

combined bachelor's/md program

By Jessica Friedman

For students who are fully committed to a career in medicine, combined programs – those that grant you acceptance to both undergraduate college and medical school – can be a great option. They allow you to earn a bachelor of arts or science and a medical degree and are called BS/BA-MD programs. Some programs are as long as 8 years (4 years of college and 4 years of medical school), some are 7 years (3 years of college and 4 years of medical school) and a few are 6 years (2 years of college and 4 years of medical school). The more abbreviated programs are especially rigorous since you complete your college degree in a shorter time. Students in these programs often are in school year round.

Before deciding to apply to combined programs, you should understand the plusses and minuses of doing so.

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Scary Smart: The Widespread Use of “Study Drugs” on American Campuses

stimulant use

While the American college experience can be a time of great discovery and learning, the pressure to achieve academically is also great—especially for those bound for medical school, law schools or other highly competitive career tracks. This pressure has led to high levels of stress to perform well in school—and to the increased use of “study drugs” to help students live up to these expectations. However, while there are short-term advantages to be had with the use of stimulants in regards to study, these medications are dangerous when used out of context, and studies have shown that they actually are correlated to lower grade point averages. This article looks at the problem of stimulant use on college campuses, and also at what colleges can do to help mitigate the issue.

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Spring Break: Should You Spend It On The Beach Or At The Bench?

spring break

For most researchers, working in the lab over a holiday break is somewhat different from working in the lab during the rest of the year. For example, if an experiment has flexibly, it can be started or stopped when it’s convenient for the researcher instead of planned around seminars, classes, and campus parking issues. In addition, some researchers take a vacation, adopt unconventional work hours, or hide in their office to work on a manuscript and only visit the lab to search for inspiration, a snack, or a temporary distraction.
I regularly direct several undergrad projects at the same time, work with other members of my lab team, and pursue my own research projects. And even though I enjoy mentoring my students, the researcher in me wants to take full advantage of holiday breaks. For me, a holiday break is an opportunity to set my work schedule as I please or conquer a particularly difficult experiment without being interrupted much. Alternatively, I might start an experiment, or run out to do errands and share a meal with friends, only to return to the lab when it’s convenient for me. I also want to spend some time relaxing—perhaps on my couch playing Halo—because I benefit from taking a break from directing other’s projects and thinking about how to solve a labmate’s bench woe.

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Study Smarter, Not Harder

Occasionally when I am browsing the online forums on SDN, I come across an unfortunate statement like this: “I studied so hard for my chemistry final and did horrible.” I’ve come across this problem for classes other than chemistry as well. A lot of people say they studied hard, but did they really? Until I really understood the other principles of studying, I didn’t realize that there is a lot more than just the act itself.
Some of the variables I’ve been able to come up with that impact studying are sometimes things we don’t analyze. A couple examples are sleep patterns, intrinsic motivation, breaks, contacting your professor, repetitive intervals, studying like it’s your job, remembering the ultimate goal and of course having fun when your not studying. I personally have to constantly remind myself to remain vigilant of everything I do and how it will impact my studying. Just remember that every test counts, so make the best possible outcome for yourself by following some of these tips.

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