If you’re trying to get into medical school, you already know it’s competitive. The national acceptance rate is just 43 percent, according to research from the Association of American Medical Colleges. Once you are accepted, the coursework will also be intense, requiring critical thinking skills and immense discipline. A career in medicine is well worth the effort, as it is a field that’s intellectually stimulating, financially secure, and personally rewarding. Passing the first hurdle of being accepted into medical school requires preparation; here, we offer some tips for impressing the admissions committee and getting into medical school.
• First, choose a pre-med major in which you can shine.
You may have heard that there’s a designated pre-med major, but that’s not actually the case. You will obviously need to take classes like biology, physics, inorganic and organic chemistry, and math, because these classes are required for med school admission. However, choose a major that you will really enjoy so that you will be able to excel. It’s recommended that medical school applicants have a GPA of 3.7 if they intend to become MDs (medical doctors), or 3.5 if their plan is to become DOs (doctors of osteopathy). Aspiring NDs (Doctor of Naturopathic) need to have at least a 3.4 GPA. To accomplish this, you need to take classes that interest you. If you struggle in any of your classes, get help right away so that you can maintain the grades you need to get into your school of choice.
• Know what’s required from specific schools.
When you have a pretty good idea of where you’d like to matriculate, research your preferred institutions to learn about their requirements, timing, and other factors that could affect your application. Do this as early as possible, even during your freshman and sophomore years of undergraduate study, if you already know which schools you’re considering. Did you know that over 60 percent of applicants fail to get into the medical schools to which they apply? Being accepted into medical school is difficult, which is why you need to achieve at your highest level and gather all the information you can about the admissions process. What specific classes are required? Schools have different requirements for things like GPA and MCAT scores, and the required scores will be posted so prospective students can prepare. Beyond grades and test scores, consider how best to present yourself as a worthwhile candidate. How can you demonstrate to the admissions committees your commitment to pursuing knowledge, promoting health, and serving people? You need to be prepared to explain your reasons for wanting to be a doctor and back the explanation with the experience you’ve gained along the way.
• Choose diverse extracurricular activities.
Being a good student goes further than your grades, and medical school admission committees want to see a balance between your academic performance and your other interests. What do you do that makes you interesting? Do you play an instrument or a sport? Joining clubs can give you the opportunity to develop leadership and interpersonal skills, but make sure you go for quality over quantity of activities. Creating deep and lasting experiences not only helps guide your personal development but also connects you to people who will one day be happy to write your letters of recommendation for medical school. While no amount of diverse extracurricular experiences will help if you have a poor MCAT score or GPA, participating in outside activities while managing a successful school career shows that you have discipline and time management skills.
• Put in the time to learn a language.
When you can communicate with people from different backgrounds and understand different cultures, you will be a more valuable candidate for medical school. What’s more, knowing another language opens career possibilities for you that might not otherwise be available to you. At the very least, learn a language. If you are considering studying abroad, do it; it is a wonderful way to broaden your cultural horizons.
• Build other important skills as you’re building your GPA.
In addition to required coursework and impressive extracurriculars, medical schools want to see the certain core competencies, listed by the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) as follows:
• Interpersonal competencies:
• Service orientation
• Social skills
• Cultural competence
• Oral communication
• Intrapersonal competencies:
• Ethical responsibility to self and others
• Reliability and dependability
• Resilience and adaptability
• Capacity for improvement
• Thinking and reasoning competencies:
• Critical thinking
• Quantitative reasoning
• Scientific inquiry
• Written communication
• Science competencies:
• Living systems
• Human behavior
• Spend plenty of time preparing for the MCAT.
Study early and often, preparing yourself by using every tool at your disposal. Most medical schools require the MCAT (Medical College Admission Test) for admission, and it is challenging. Take a preparatory course, as well as taking as many practice tests as possible, to make sure you’re prepared. You can also prepare by joining a pre-health professions club at your school, where members help each other prepare for tests. These organizations also host speakers and events to help their members gain experience and knowledge that will help with the MCAT. However you decide to prepare, familiarize yourself with MCAT eligibility and testing requirements before signing up for it. The exam will take about seven and a half hours, and you can take it three times in a year, or four times in two years, to get the best score possible. It’s generally recommended that you take it a year earlier than you plan to apply to medical school.
• Gain experience in medical work and academic research.
Obviously, as you are not a doctor yet, medical schools will not expect you to have real experience treating patients. However, there are many different opportunities available to prospective students that will help them learn more about what a medical career would be like. Working or volunteering in a hospital, doctor’s office, nursing home, or public health clinic will provide exposure to the medical field and could influence your decision about whether or not to pursue a medical career. Therefore, admissions committees look favorably on medically related work experience. While it’s not typically a requirement, it does look good on your resume. Another resume boost comes from academic research. The hands-on science knowledge that comes from research projects is invaluable, and prioritizing research can help you develop critical thinking skills while stoking your passion for scientific study.
• Shadow medical professionals.
In addition to academic and medical work, shadowing health professionals is an important way to learn more about the career you’re interested in choosing. Aim to shadow two to four physicians across multiple specialties, for 50 to 100 total hours. This will primarily be a hands-off experience, with the goal of observing how the physicians work and what is involved in their daily activities.
• Serve your community.
Spend some of your time volunteering, whether that’s mentoring students, walking dogs, serving at a soup kitchen, or cleaning up a public park. Med schools want to see that you are willing to give back to the community and serve the greater good. There are endless opportunities to plug into a volunteer position, so find somewhere to put in some time. It can be connected to medicine, but it does not have to be. Medicine is a career of service, and admissions committees want to see that you share an altruistic mentality.
• Apply to multiple schools.
This is a common-sense move. Applying to many different schools raises your odds of acceptance. Make sure to determine each school’s specific requirements, reaching out to the admissions committees if you have specific questions about the programs and expectations.
• Spend time on your personal statement.
You will be required to write a personal statement as part of the application process, and you should begin working on it well in advance. This is your opportunity to promote yourself, so work to produce the best possible essay. It should reflect your unique goals and qualities and demonstrate the reasons behind your decision to pursue a medical career. Carefully consider the experiences that have forged your character, and the academic foundation you have built while you are deciding what to write.
• Prepare for your interviews.
Medical schools screen applications and then invite promising candidates for interviews. These can take place on or off campus, conducted by multiple members of the admissions committee or just one, or even by off-campus interviewers like current students or practicing physicians. The interview will be included for consideration with the rest of your admissions information. Be prepared to answer questions covering critical thinking skills and problem-solving, grades and test scores, personal attributes, experiences, and viewpoints, why you want to study medicine, and what would make you a good fit for the institution. You may also be presented with ethical questions and scenarios. Dress professionally, be polite, and be yourself.
When you’re looking for a medical school with a deep-rooted tradition of quality, look into Universidad Autonoma de Guadalajara
. The first medical school in Latin America to offer a US-style curriculum, we are committed to cultivating future physicians who have the skills and abilities necessary to meet the challenges of personal and community health. With the best facilities in Guadalajara, state-of-the-art laboratories, and a close working relationship with many of the hospitals in the city, we are able to provide an excellent educational experience for our students both on campus and in the field. With the goal of preparing graduates for careers as physicians where they can provide individuals, families, and communities with outstanding preventive, diagnostic and therapeutic services, our medical school offers a curriculum of excellence. We prepare our students to heal and serve their community, and we encourage them to strive for innovation, academic excellence, leadership, and commitment to society. For more information about our college of medicine, call 833-220-7645 or contact us
through our website.