What steps to take during undergrad to succeed in med school applications later?
I am a new college freshman and am fairly certain about going to medical school. I need tips on what to do now to make applications easier down the line.
Drew Peake, MSME, M.Eng., MBA, PE, FNAFE, DEE, CIH, CSP
As someone currently in medical school, here are some of my suggestions:
1) Don't pursue a science major if you don't want to. While medical schools do have a couple of required pre-med math and science classes you have to take (usually algebra, statistics, calculus, chemistry, organic chemistry, biochemistry, biology, and physics), which you should discuss with your advisor, what's really important is a good GPA. So if there's a particular subject you enjoy or excel at, even if it isn't science, I recommend pursuing that as your major.
2) Focus on things other than hard science and math classes, even if you are doing a hard science major. Of the four sections on the MCAT, two of them are on hard science (one on chemistry & physics, and one on biology & biochemistry), and two of them aren't (one in psychology & sociology and one in critical reasoning and analysis). Getting a well-rounded education in those non-science subjects is also important. If you can work for intro classes in psychology and sociology into your schedule, that will really help you study for that section of the test. Likewise, English and History classes with help you hone those necessary critical reasoning and analysis skills, especially if you do a nonfiction English class. I did classes in sociology, economics, communications, literature, and philosophy & ethics, and they were all really helpful in preparing me both for the MCAT and medical school.
3) Second languages look really good on applications! We need to improve medical communication, and many medical schools are adding medical dual language programs so there can be more bilingual doctors to help diverse patient populations. The two most common ones are Spanish and American Sign Language.
4) Shadowing. Look into local clinics and hospitals in your area and see if any of them have shadowing programs so you can get that clinical experience.
5) Volunteering and Community Service. It can be medicine and health-oriented, like a blood donation facility or a hospice center, but it doesn't have to be. So long as you are active in your community and have a deep commitment to service and engagement, that'll look good on an application.
6) Research. Again, it doesn't have to be focused on biomedical sciences. When I was an undergrad, I did medical sociology and medical communications research, and it was really interesting. Something health-adjacent will look good, but that's such a broad and diverse field. So whatever you pursue, try to find some way to get some research in that field. And if you can relate that to medicine and health, even better!
7) Leadership. This doesn't have to be a huge role, but doing some kind of leadership position will look really good on an application. Maybe you are on a committee to organize a school event, or you join a student club or organization and join an officer role. Do something that interests you and something you're passionate about, but try to have something in regard to leadership on your resume.
I hope this helps! Best of Luck to you.
Audrey recommends the following next steps:
One of the main lessons that I learned during the medical school application process with my peers was that actively pursuing more difficult science courses in undergrad is not as valuable as ensuring that you maximize your GPA in whatever coursework you pursue. It is important to remember that medical schools receive hundreds to thousands of applications each cycle. The implications of this are:
1.) Many will use cut offs. If you have a 3.6 GPA but took the most challenging courses and another applicant from the same school has a 4.0 GPA, your coursework difficulty will go unnoticed.
2.) Applications blend together. Most applicants have good grades and an OK personal statement. Accordingly, what do you excel in which will set you apart? This could be anything. Examples include dedication to a volunteering effort, a business, a second language, a hobby, or many others.
3.) Plan to apply to a broad array of medical schools. Since there are so many applicants, it does not always make sense why some people receive interviews and others don't, so it is important that you cast a wide enough net.
In addition, it is important to plan your curriculum and life events so that you can do well on the MCAT and also have some time to retake it if you do not do as well as you anticipated. Since schools are able to see multiple scores, it is best to put forth your best effort at the first attempt.
Hope this helps!