Tips for Would-Be Med Students
There are a lot of things to keep track of when applying to
medical school. Here are some tips (or things to consider) for
prospective medical students
Exposure: Take a peek into the world of a physician
either in private practice or in a hospital setting, or
both. This provides affirmation for your decision to
pursue medicine as well as provide a realistic view of what
a doctor does. Opportunities are many and include
volunteering in a hospital, participating in clinical
research, or shadowing a physician. Ask the doctors
you work with all your questions, find out how they got to
where they are, pick their brains about different medical
schools, how they balance family and work, etc.
Pre-requisite courses: Researching and planning is
crucial. Talk with pre-med counselors or career
counselors. Visit medical school websites and find
out what courses are pre-requisites. Usually these
include English, calculus, general chemistry, organic
chemistry, biology, and physics. The actual number of
credits may vary from institution to institution. Try
your best in all courses you take whether or not
it is required because your overall GPA is sometimes broken
down to science GPA and non-science GPA.
Hobbies and Interests: Stay active in the things
that interest you. If you've always been a part of
student government, don't stop! If music keeps you going,
keep it up. Your hobbies and interests make you
unique and this may be useful during the interviews.
I listed knitting as a favorite activity (I was part of a
knitting group at a local yarn store in El Cerrito) and my
interviewer at UT Southwestern asked me about it. We
spent the rest of the 30-minute session talking about our
knitting creations. She later emailed me a pattern
for some booties she had knit her grandson.
Service and Leadership: Build up your resume with
contributions to the school or community. Volunteer
regularly at a clinic, hospital, local school, or with an
organization through campus. Be a part of
school-affiliated associations and take on a leadership
role in them. Participate in research with a lab on
campus, which can lead to your contribution to a paper that
gets published in a journal. I worked with two
post-doctorates in a neurodevelopment lab that provided a
source of reference as well as acknowledgement in a
published journal article.
MCAT: This standardized exam is computer-based and
consists of four parts: verbal, writing, biological
science, physical science. The verbal section tests
your reading comprehension. The writing sample is
made of two short essays focused on your response to a
statement. The biological and physical science
sections tests your knowledge of basic concepts such as
genetics, organic chemistry, general chemistry, current,
etc. Each section has a maximum score of 15 except
the writing, which is scored on an arbitrary letter scale.
Application and letters: I recommend starting to
consider potential letter writers. He or she ought to
know you a little more than the student who sat in the
front row of the class at every lecture. They can be
a mentor, the person you did research for, or the professor
of a course you excelled in. Be sure to ask early
because professors are busy with their classes, research,
and academic responsibilities. You should have ready
your curriculum vitae (resume) ready. As the deadline
draw nears, send your letter writers a Thank You note as a
friendly reminder and to express your appreciation for
their time. Make sure you have the number needed for
each program as this can vary as well as the necessary
number of each one for the application process.
Personal statement: Whatever you do, do not put this
to the last minute. My approach is not the only
approach- but tweak it to your liking. Just start
writing about what you hope to accomplish by being a
physician. At some point, the rambling straightens
out and the signs that have guided you to where you hope to
go become apparent. Once the draft is done put it
aside for a while before reading it and making
changes. Repeat this until you feel comfortable with
what you have written before handing it over to a few
people to read.
Interviews: Similar to applying for college, create
a list of medical schools that include a few dream schools,
sufficient reasonable schools, and several safety
schools. Consider tuition cost, location, class size,
reputation, curriculum, and student life. For
example, my school was close to home, inexpensive, provided
work-study, and allowed me to participate in IM softball
and dodgeball (co-ed champs once in each!)
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