It is often said that the hardest part of becoming a doctor is getting into medical school. I am a 2nd year MD student and at least this far into the journey, I would agree that getting in was the hardest. However, I do not believe it is the hardest part overall (more on that later).
There are a few key things you have to do to get in and as long as you focus on these and maximize each area, you have a good shot.
The two most important things come as a package deal and these are your MCAT and GPA. These are the pieces of your application puzzle that get your foot in the door. Prioritize these two things above all else in your pre-med journey.
You do not need a 4.0 GPA but in all honesty, you need to be as close to it as possible. My GPA was 3.93 with some low marks early in my academic career that I was able to make up for. Don’t be discouraged if your GPA isn’t as high but make sure you do all you can to maximize it. We will be posting study strategies and more on how to succeed in pre-med later. You will always hear some about some anomaly that got in with a low or less than stellar GPA, but this is definitely the exception and not the rule. Although there are ways to make up for a lower GPA, focus all your attention on maximizing the grades you get. I personally don’t feel that arbitrary numbers like GPA and MCAT are a good marker of how fit someone is to be a medical student, but that is the medical education system we live in. The AAMC posts average GPAs and MCATs on their site that you can look at but make sure to be on the high end as much as possible.
Not the most fun 8 hours of your life by any means, nor is the 3-4 months required to study for it. The MCAT is a monstrous 8 hour entrance exam with 4 sections include Bio/Biochem, Chem/Phys, CARs, and Psychology. My score was 518 (97th percentile) and I’ll make a post about my specific study strategies soon. Again, it’s not 528 or fail, but your job is to get the highest score you possibly can. Many people pay for prep company courses and others choose to self study. This is all about self-awareness and being honest about how you learn and work. If you need a schedule set out for you, and specific class-times etc, then maybe a course is the way to go. Personally, I recommend getting all AAMC material, 1 book set, Anki and practice tests. Again, I’ll post my specific schedule and materials I used in a little bit. Most people take the exam after their second or third year of college. I took it after my third year. Whenever you decide to take it, make sure you’ve completed your core courses that would help develop basic knowledge in each of the subjects assuming you’re following a traditional path.
As stated earlier, prioritize these two things above all else because they are a pre-requisite for any chance of getting in. There are some schools that don’t even look at applications which don’t surpass a certain threshold for GPA and MCAT as those applications are removed through computer programs.
This is anything you do other than school or MCAT studying. Jobs, volunteering, clubs you’re a part of, fundraisers etc. This shows admissions committees what kind of person you are (or who you’re pretending to be lol) besides being a bookworm. The fact of the matter is, almost everyone that makes it to the interview stage is smart and has a respectable MCAT and GPA. So you have to find other ways to distinguish yourself from the crowd. Things like volunteering at hospitals, shadowing, running blood drives are great, but if you just do a grocery list of stuff that you think will sound impressive, it’s obvious and boring. Try and do things you are passionate about which also serve people. For example, teaching guitar for free to underprivileged children as volunteer work because you love guitar is much better than sitting in a hospital stapling papers just because it’s “at a hospital”. I love sports and fitness so I used to run youth camps during the summers of college. Had a blast and the passion came through when I spoke about it during my interview. Your EC’s should paint a picture of who you are so make sure it is as authentic as possible. This doesn’t mean you’ll enjoy everything you do, but try your best to make it so.
Personally, I am not a fan of doing research. I think it is incredibly important for medicine but better left to people who are passionate about it. With that said, it is an important check-box for your medical school application. I did end up doing a project for the sole purpose of talking about it during my interview and “having that box checked”. It was miserable, but it did come up during my interviews. If you enjoy research then that’s fantastic, do as much as you can without sacrificing the previous 3 facets. If you are like me and don’t enjoy it so much, try your best to find a topic you are even remotely interested in and grind through it. Like I said earlier, you won’t enjoy every part of this journey.
This is arguably the easiest part of the journey, depending on what kind of person you are. If you have trouble socializing and expressing yourself, you will need some practice but it is certainly doable. My best advice here is that “the more it feels like a conversation, the better you’re doing”. That obviously doesn’t mean throw your feet up on the table and start shooting the shit, but you do want to show you are socially aware, and easy to get along with. Medicine is a long road and the interviewers want to see, is this someone I’d want to work with? Is this someone I’d want around my family if they were to be patients? When it comes to stuff like this, the highest GPA or MCAT won’t do anything if you’re just a bad person. Be kind, be humble and comfortable enough in your own skin to come across with confidence. An interview guide will also be released so be on the look out.
This was a very brief and broad overview of what it takes to get into medical school. It is simple but not easy and more posts will be released going in depth on each of these areas in the near future.
Never give up and feel free to reach out if you have questions through the contact page.