As I near the end of my medical school journey, I’ve been thinking quite a bit about the path to this point. Many people aspire to become physicians but the route to medical school can be challenging. For high school and college students, here are some of my favorite pieces of advice:
There is no substitute for giving your best effort to your academics. No, you will not be rejected from all medical schools for a single low grade, but do your best to make sure you demonstrate solid upward trends. If you are an incoming college freshman, work hard! Don’t get caught up in the college scene and permanently tank your GPA. It’s hard to make up for a whole semester’s worth of low grades.
- Be a fancy cookie.
Medical schools will tell you they don’t want you to be a cookie cutter applicant but what they really seem to want is for applicants to meet all their requirements (the cookie) and be special on top of that (the icing). Make sure you complete all your required shadowing, volunteering, and patient contact hours, and then be sure to find time to do activities that make you unique. While all this sounds daunting, it is better to push yourself to achieve these ideals than try to explain why you are deficient (yet still qualified!) during your interview. Also remember that you will have to write a personal statement to go with your application, so having some unique aspects to your personality and application will help you craft your story.
- Apply early.
Submit your application as soon as the application service opens for the year. If not when the portal opens, then submit as soon as you can after that. The later in the season you apply, the longer the processing time your application will experience. Better to have your application submitted and sitting on top of the admission committee’s pile than be sweating it out in mid-July waiting for your application to be processed by AMCAS.
- Apply to as many schools as you reasonably can.
Applications cost money, so you don’t want to apply to schools randomly. But resist the temptation to stop filling out secondary applications when they start to pile up and become overwhelming. The more applications you complete the better your chances of being accepted (assuming you chose schools that match your abilities and qualifications of course). If you’re going to bother spending all the money to apply in any given application cycle, make your investment worth it and maximize your chances for success. I completed applications for 14 schools and as the application cycle wore on I wished I had applied to more schools. Ultimately, 14 proved to be enough for me to get two acceptances but it was such a long and nerve-wracking slog that I would recommend applying to more if you are able, for peace of mind.