Here’s What You Need To Know Before Applying to Medical School

College students are always asking “how do I get into medical school?”. Before we even ask that it’s important to know what’s important before applying to medical school.

Wouldn’t you want to know the basis of what makes a high-quality medical school applicant?

In this post, I break down what I think are essential items you need to know before applying to medical school. Learn how hard medical school really is in my first pre-med post!

But first, let me give you some insight into my applicant process. When I was applying to medical school, l I was not a stressed out applicant. In fact, I was anything but.

How do you ask?

I had developed a strategic plan from the very start. I knew how I would gradually develop a competitive resume. I knew that my gameplan would lead me to become a high-quality medical school applicant.

Did I know I would get into medical school on my first try? Did I think I’d receive acceptance offers from every school I interviewed at? Did I know I would get into one of the top institutions in the country? Absolutely not but I was confident I would do well!

Now maybe you’re thinking I did well because of a stellar MCAT or a high GPA. I had an average MCAT and a decent GPA.

It was the extracurriculars which made me a competitive applicant. (This is something anyone can excel at. I will teach you how throughout my pre-med blog post.)

You see, my goals weren’t just to get into medical school, it was to crush the application process.

I knew I provided value as an applicant. It was thanks to my game plan which led to this confidence. I set myself up very well and the interview process was much less stressful.

So in this post, I want to teach you the things that I knew as a 3rd-year college student applying to medical school. I want you to also become that stress-free applicant when you submit your applications.

If you prefer a video then check out my YouTube channel which puts out weekly content on topics just like this one!

Let’s begin, shall we?

Have a Good Reason Why You Want To Go To Medical School:

A question you’re guaranteed to get asked on your interviews is why you want to become a doctor? There are many different careers which “help people”. So why did you choose to become a physician?

If your only answer is that “I want to help people”, or some variation, it’s not good enough.

When you pursue medicine you have to understand the sacrifices involved. It may not seem like a hard decision right now. All of your peers may be pursuing their education. This changes when you’re a 24-year-old medical student and you notice your peers  have been in the workforce for 3+ years.

In addition, you’re setting yourself for countless nights of studying, long shifts, and decreased sleep. Your 20-year-old brain may be able to handle that, but will your 50-year-old body be okay with your decision?

Ask yourself if pursuing medicine will it impact your plans on having a family or pursuing your other hobbies? These are all questions you must ask yourself. To be honest, I don’t even all the answers but I’m discovering more as I undergo this journey. I’ll surely give as much insight in my blog posts as I can.

Honestly, the first step is convincing yourself you want to become a doctor. Coming from an immigrant family I know the pressures that can be on you to become to have a successful career as a physician or an engineer. But if you can’t even convince yourself of your desires there’s little chance you can convince your interviewer.

This will also help you develop the strategy into a becoming a very competitive applicant. Once you understand your “whys” for pursuing medicine, you can pursue experiences around those reasons.

Many people in medicine or currently in medical school discourage others from pursuing the field – I’m not one of those individuals.

But I do discourage the students who don’t know if medical school is for them. True you cannot really know what you’re in for before you undergo it. But you do need to have a basic understanding if your future plans/goals match up with the lifestyle of a physician.

So ask yourself are you convinced with your answer when I ask you why do you want to become a doctor?

In the future post, I’ll break down how you can decide if medical school for you. I will lay down different experiences that can help you decide if medicine and what type is right for you.

Develop a Well Rounded Resume Around Your Desires Before Applying to Medical School:

As I mentioned earlier I didn’t have the most impressive test scores when applying to medical school. In fact, my MCAT was below the average of my institution. But did any of those things stress me out? Absolutely not.

This goes back to my original point of having a very strategic plan. That strategy revolves around the idea of having a very well-rounded and diverse resume. If you want to understand how my mindset works read this post. I think progress is the most important thing that I can pursue.

This is exact mindset I used as a college student and is the reason I was confident when applying to medical school.

In the previous sections, we focused on identifying our “whys” for pursuing medicine. Now sit down and ask yourself how you can further explore those whys.

For example, if you’re interested in medicine because of the ability to research treatments and actually apply them, find translational clinical projects to join.

If you find self-fulfillment by helping underserved populations, find local free clinics to volunteer at.

If you like the idea of being able to call the shots in stressful situations, seek out leadership positions in student government or organizations.

Don’t try to read the minds of the admission boards and pursue everything under the sun. If you do you’ll likely become a superficial student. You’re likely to have many experiences but very little content to each. You much rather have 2-3 amazing experiences you can talk about in depth and with passion.

Am I saying you shouldn’t do research or you shouldn’t do community service?

No.

I’m saying to only do it if you want to. Because similar to the question of why you want to become a doctor you’re going to be asked about these experiences.

If you can’t speak to them with conviction, it will appear as just a resume stuffer. There are plenty of those students – you don’t need to be another one.

I do think it’s important to get your feet wet on all of the different quote requirements that medical school has. This includes research, community service, and leadership.  But if you decide that these opportunities are not what you want then cut your ties.

Also, your interests in medicine will be influenced by more factors as you explore it. So it’s perfectly normal to begin with a research-centered interest and then become interested in the public health sector of medicine.

You can then pursue more community service and public health projects.

As you add on more experiences due to genuine interests, you can tell a story of why a specific experience fit with your interest in going to medical school.

Quality is Better Than Quantity When Applying to Medical School:

Now that you understand that you need to only do extracurriculars that fit your “whys”, the next question is about the quality of the experiences.

For example, are you just a member of 10 different organizations because you enjoy being in different clubs?

If I asked you to talk about your experiences in these clubs would you really be able to have a discussion for more than 5 minutes? The answer is likely no.

Ask yourself which applicant you would rather take. Would you rather prefer an applicant who has multiple organizations but very little impact on each of them?

Or would you rather take an applicant who has only been in two organizations but is in a leadership position which has created some value? Obviously, the answer is the second applicant.

This is why I stayed away from one time experiences. Even if I participated, I refrained from including one-time volunteer experiences on my application.

There just wasn’t enough content to talk about during an interview. Instead, I loaded my applications with experiences over a time frame of weeks to ideally months or years.

This was my strategy when I was planning medical school. This can also be yours as well. I joined a few organizations and made my way to the top.

When I earned a leadership role, I was passionate about it and used the position to create impactful change. Thus not only did my resume show my leadership experience, I also had talking points about what I accomplished and learned.

So first identify the different opportunities in the different organizations that you want to join. Then ask yourself how you can make an impact in each of them.

Once you find yourself in leadership positions or developing new research plans in your lab, for example, ask how you can even make a bigger impact. As you continue to develop this quality you will become the student that can talk extensively about each item on your resume.

Man are you going to wow your interviewer or what!

Introspect on Your Experiences When Applying to Medical School:

Let’s get into more detail about how to define your experiences.

That interviewer across the table is going to ask you a question after question about each experience you put on the application. You don’t want to be caught off-guard if you haven’t given much thought to a resume item.

Get away from this notion of trying to reflect when you have to. Instead, constantly be in the mindset of introspection.

When you pursue medicine, people will always ask you why you want to do the particular field. Even as a third-year medical people always ask me why I want to do internal medicine or emergency. I simply can’t say “I want to help people”. That convinces no one.

It’s because of introspective through my experiences in college and medical school I’ve decided these fields to be the path for me.

So every time you undergo an experience ask how it impacted you. You may not always have a good answer – that’s okay. But these few seconds reflecting can add value to your personal statement, applications, and ultimately the interview.

I was often praised on my thoughtful nature during my nature. I wasn’t dropping wisdom on the interview table. Instead, I was just vocalizing all that introspection I had done.

Even if you’re a “typical” applicant on paper, you can separate yourself from the pack if you’ve given thought to your experiences.

Understand How You Study Well:

Obviously, we have to talk about studying. You need to know how you study before applying to medical school.

I always say that most medical school students don’t study the same way they did in college. That’s likely because there’s much more information in medical school. You simply can’t rely on memorization.

But I’m not talking about trying to study like a medical student in college. There’s no need for that.

What is important to identify how you learn. Do you learn by doing questions, are you a student who benefits from group study, or are you a student who benefits from doing flashcards over and over again until you understand information?

These are important questions to ask yourself in college. You have more time and flexibility to play with your studying style.

To be honest it’s hard to transition your studying techniques in medical school. (At least it’s hard to transition without being stressed out) There’s just so too much information to constantly try new study styles in medical school.

So next time you’re studying for class, ask yourself how you really studying. Are you passively rereading the notes? If so you need to develop a plan more based on retention. You won’t be able to read your syllabus medical school and just remember the facts – there are too many.

Once you earning the grades you want, ask yourself how you can do it quicker. If you’re studying 5 hours a night to get all A’s, ask how you can cut that down to 2-3 hours.

College is a great time to master the  80-20 principle. This says that 80% of your results come from 20% of the effort. Thus you may not really need all of those 5 hours to be an all-A student.

You could realize that flashcards and practice questions are all you need to earn the grades you want. So gradually take out the study strategies which don’t impact your results.

Once you’re in medical school, the 20% you keep will have you succeed from day one. Not only will you be a successful med student, you’ll know how to do it more efficient. I talk about this extensively in my book, The Preclinical Guidewhere I provide tips for first and second-year medical students. These are the same tips I wish someone told me day one of medical school. Check out the book here.

 


If you stuck with me until the end, you deserve a reward. (At least a cookie) Before you even start thinking about applying to medical school, understand these principles. Once you have a good grasp on your learning style, constantly introspect on your experiences, and focus on quality not quantity, you will be the applicant that no medical school can deny.

This is my second post in my pre-med section. Check out other pre-med posts below!

How Hard is Medical School? (How To Survive)
5 Things You Need To Get Into Medical School
Should You Do A Gap Year Before Med School? (My Own Experience)
What Are The Requirements For Medical School?
Tips for The First Year of Medical School

If there is something specific you’d like me to address in a future blog post, comment below or email me at themdjourney.com@gmail.com.

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Originally syndicated from TheMDJourney with permission.

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Lakshya Trivedi, TheMDJourney

My name is Lakshya (pronounced Luck-sh) and I’m a third-year medical student at UT Southwestern in Dallas, TX. TheMDJourney is my effort to give helpful advice and personal experiences to anyone on a similar journey. It is also my dedicated form of self-reflection and a project I hope to keep on going for a while.