Tips on Medical School Admissions

  • 8duyên_dáng

    khoảng 1 10 năm trước
  • Perspective
    Tips on Medical School Admissions

    Written by: Alison Lam, MD



    So your Vietnamese parents want you to go to medical school? In today’s era, with so many advances in technology, you’ll be happy to know that there are still some things that never change … many Asian parents still wish for their children “to become a doctor” someday. If there is anything you should get from reading this, remember that the responsibility of being a physician will eventually lie in your hands, as is the initial decision to pursue medicine. If it’s your calling to remain committed to that institution, so to speak, please read on.

    When I was applying, I searched everywhere for advice, the “inside scoop” as you would call it, with tips on th whole process of applying and getting into medical school. So, from the many mistakes I’ve made over the years, I will now share with you my tips in the hopes that they will eventually help someone out there who is also searching for some answers.

    1. Find out what the “pre-med” requirements are early.

    Although they should generally be the same across the country, different schools will vary with which “Physics 101” courses fulfills the “physical science requirement” or which “English and Humanities” satisfies the English requirement for medical schools. Surprised? Yes, there is a language requirement, which is particularly important since med schools and the MCATs are placing even more of an emphasis on the verbal section nowadays. This is important, as your ability to read, interpret, and communicate with others is invaluable as a physician and beyond. Kudos to all you pre-med English majors out there.

    2. Take a prep course for the MCATs.

    No matter how prepared you think college courses have made you, nothing is as good as having some inside “know-how” on how to ace the exam. These instructors are well versed on tid-bits and study skills. Many of them have actually already taken the MCATs themselves, and scored well in the genius range to qualify as your teacher, so please take heed. There are many reputable prep courses available for a nominal fee, such as Kaplan or the Berkeley Review, that allow you to take the course, use their facilities, and practice with lots of questions. It is all well worth it. If money is short, find a good set of used prep books with questions, and practice, practice, practice! One of the keys to nailing that MCAT is, aside from simply being a genius, doing a ton of questions. Open that book, stay put, and do not get up for anything until you’ve finished the section you set out to do. Everyone has a unique study habit mantra, so be true to your own. If you need quietude, seek it instead of forcing yourself to think about benzene rings and the electron transport in the midst of the next episode of Alias.

    3. Do projects and volunteer work that you really are interested in, not just those that will impress some admissions committee member.

    Many of them are tired of reading about the millions of hours of hospital volunteer work you’ve done if that doesn’t truly reflect who you are. How will they know, you ask? There is what’s called “secondaries” that you need to submit after your first general application (AMCAS) is sent out. This can be anything from an additional $50 check to a few other essay-type questions where you have a chance to explain just what that volunteer work meant to you. And, of course, there’s the interview, where your true self will hopefully shine through. Another bit of advice: Stick with what you know. With that I mean it’s always better to have fewer activities to which you have dedicated four years than to have 15 projects that lasted only two months each. We all want a doctor who is in it with us for the long haul, right? Admissions committees are not only looking for the “well-rounded individual” (and please raise your hands if you are) but also the one who was willing to give up their Saturdays the past three years to the Special Olympics or teaching health education to a poor village in Central America. Ah, if we were only lucky enough to travel.

    4. Research medical schools and the application process early, and know when their deadlines are.

    Always apply early, preferably in June! Now, although the AMCAS system allows you to fill out a general application to many programs via computer, spend some quality time to research those places you feel strongly about, especially the schools that don’t participate in AMCAS. Find out what their basic requirements and timeline are for the year you plan to apply. This gives you an idea of what to expect and how to schedule your time amidst applications, secondaries, interviews, and, of course, classes (if you have them). The applications and secondaries will actually take you longer than you think, so plan wisely. Know when your exams or other important dates fall, and avoid scheduling interviews then, as professors rarely can pass someone who doesn’t happen to show up for a final.

    5. Talking to a career advisor might be useful, but always take their advice (as with anything that is written here) with a grain of salt.

    Many of them really do advocate for their fellow man, but statistics take you only as far as the next statistic—you. So what if they tell you that there’s no way you’re going to get your foot out of that dumpster and slip it smoothly into the clogs of a brain surgeon? The person who knows you best is, simply put, yourself. I have known many people who have struggled with their GPA or MCAT, but have successfully made it into med school. That’s not to say that it’s not extremely competitive to get into medical school … I’m simply reaffirming the notion that admissions committees look at individuals, and every applicant is different. If you know your GPA or MCAT is suffering, do something to get that score up. Med schools don’t reward you for sitting on your bum, but they do look highly on those who show hard work and consistent improvement.

    6. Spend some time to write a reflective personal statement about what really drives you, and quite honestly, “why medicine?”

    What is that spark that ignites your inner being? Cliché as it sounds, if it doesn’t come from your heart, then it often seems forced; believe me, the admissions committee can read right through that. Use the personal statement as your ammunition to tell admissions committees, “This is who I am, this is what I’ve done, and this is what I believe in.” It doesn’t have to be some huge ideal that no one can achieve. If you play the guitar, and have volunteered as a musical therapist in a hospice, and would like to someday work as a physician who incorporates that into their practice, go for it! You may very well be the first …

    7. Start thinking early about whom you would like to kindly ask for that letter of recommendation.

    Respect the fact that professors see hundreds of students every year, and you need to give them ample time to write a thoughtful letter that says a lot about who you are as a student and as a person. It is always best to ask for the letter when your performance in their class or research project is at its peak, as they will likely still remember the A+ you scored in their class and all the time you spent in office hours devoted to thoroughly understanding the concepts discussed. It’s never too early in your college career to ask for a letter. By the time you apply, you will have had a few to choose from (you will need at least five), which is quite easier than desperately seeking letters at the last minute. It is always best to ask a letter from someone who knows you well, rather than from a well-known biologist who couldn’t pick you out of a hundred other species.

    8. If you must reapply, do not do so unless there is something you’ve added or done differently to improve upon your last year’s application.

    Many admissions committees keep copies of your file, especially for comparison from year to year. Talk to people you know, get advice, find out what it is in your application that can improved upon to make you a stronger applicant. Do not despair! Many applicants don’t get in the first, second, or even third time they apply. Although I hate to refer to statistics, if there are 40,000 applicants to medical school each year, and only 17,000 get in … well, you get the picture. The “non-traditional applicant,” or those who did not go straight to medical school after college, are looking to medicine as a second career, or who have taken years off to pursue other interests, are often looked highly upon by many schools.

    9. Always prepare for your interview(s).

    As simple as it sounds, although the interview may be the only one you have all year, or the 10th you have in a row, the next one could be “The One.” Whether it be running through a few easy and tough questions with a friend, or dressing up in your Charlie Chaplin suit for a mock interview with a professor, it’s best to have discussed out loud what you thought might have sounded so easy to answer in your head. Do not rehearse your answers, but just have a sense of what you would do in various scenarios, and try to relax as much as possible. Chances are, your juices will start running when your muscles are less tense.

    10. Last, but not least, prepare yourself for the journey, and sacrifice, of a lifetime.

    I sincerely mean that. Eventually, you will live, breathe, and work as a person whose entire selfless nature is dedicated to others. Someone who has given up at least four years of college, four years of medical school, three to five years of residency, and perhaps even another one to three more years of specialty training for the sole purpose of helping another human being. Take a long, hard look at what you’re getting yourself into, and know why you’re doing it. Talk to many people who are physicians or are in the medical field, and get their take on the whole process. In the end, you will be the one in the clogs of that brain surgeon, and ask yourself, “Am I happy with the choices I’ve made?” If the answer is “yes,” then you can rest easy knowing that, as with anything you believe in, the sacrifice was well worth the wait.

  • 4 Beauty

    khoảng 1 10 năm trước
  • got any tips for Pharmacy school Confused ??? ;)

  • anhhung_80

    khoảng 1 10 năm trước
  • tui cần 0 dịch viên Blinking .... Confused ???

  • 4 Beauty

    khoảng 1 10 năm trước
  • thong vịt viên tới đây Laugh of loud

  • anhhung_80

    khoảng 1 10 năm trước
  • 0 vịt viên tới rồi sao O dịch ci đó viết gì Confused ???

  • 4 Beauty

    khoảng 1 10 năm trước
  • anh for real hả Confused ??? nó viết về làm ngành Doctor. em ko bít nhiều tiếng viet sorry nha :) i love you please don't get mad at me :D Hugging

  • anhhung_80

    khoảng 1 10 năm trước
  • emday wrote:anh for real hả Confused ??? nó viết về làm ngành Doctor. em ko bít nhiều tiếng viet sorry nha :) i love you please don't get mad at me :D Hugging

    sao em 0 vịt ... :( em 0 viết tiéng việt vậy em đang viết tiếng gì Blinking Confused ???

  • 8duyên_dáng

    khoảng 1 10 năm trước
  • emday wrote:got any tips for Pharmacy school Confused ??? ;)


    no, I'm just a janitor, so what do I know Laugh of loud Its depend on ur state, there is no longer a BS Pharmacist, PharmD now and there are schools actually accept u straight into pharmacy school right out of high school with requirements off course, u have to do research on this. There are serveral requirements that called differently but it all boil down to chemistry for prerequisite. PCAT, intern with a license PharmD in hospital .... all that fun stuff .... Do your HW :)

  • Aki

    khoảng 1 10 năm trước
  • Anyone has some tips for Medical school/ Pharmacy school personal statement then ? :(

  • princenguyen

    khoảng 1 10 năm trước
  • How about a Law School in US?...


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