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The Savvy Pre-Med

The Savvy Pre-Med is a medical school admissions blog powered by Passport Admissions. Discover unconventional advice for standing out in the medical school admissions process at www.savvypremed.com

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How to Avoid Sounding Naive in Your Personal Statement

Consider the following introduction to a personal statement: “It’s time to get back on the horse,” Rosie said, referencing her earlier days as champion rider. “I’ve handled bigger hurdles than this.” Rosie winced in pain as she gripped her walker, but her grimace quickly turned into a smile. She glanced down at her knees, and then lifted her head to look around the office. She beamed at me and the nurse, but she reserved the most heartfelt look for Dr. Jones.   Rosie had just taken her first steps in two years. Not only had Dr. Jones successfully replaced her knee, but he had also directed the therapy that gave her the strength to once again move on her own. “Thank you so much,” she said, hugging him. “You’ve given me a second chance.” Months later, Dr. Jones showed me a holiday card from Rosie, posing with her prize horse. Rosie represents the rewards and joy of medicine. To me, nothing would be more fulfilling than to help people on a daily basis, alleviate their pain, and get them “back in the saddle.”            What’s wrong with the excerpt above? There’s plenty to like about it: the use of a personal anecdote, the decent writing, and even the detail. But it makes a classic mistake that you should avoid if you can: the “why medicine” is naive. It only...

10 Tips for Choosing the Best College to Be Pre-Med

In recent weeks, we have explained the 10 Biggest Myths About Getting Into Medical School. But now we’ve arrived at an important question — how does your choice of undergraduate college affect these factors? Let’s look factor-by-factor to see how one’s choice of college might influence your ability to get into medical school.     MEDICAL SCHOOL FACTOR #1 – A GOOD ENOUGH MCAT SCORE THE GIST — Your MCAT score, like your GPA, is one of the primary ways that medical schools sort the wheat from the chaff in the applicant pool. CHOOSING A COLLEGE — From your author’s experience as a long-time MCAT instructor, I’ve seen that students who attend competitive colleges tend to do better on the MCAT than students who don’t. But is there something about those colleges that affect the performance on the MCAT? I’d argue no. Students at top colleges are more likely to perform well on the MCAT because they are good test-takers. Because they have already been able to get into a top college, they have demonstrated their test-taking acumen (on the SAT, ACT, etc.), and as a result, we’d expect them to perform better as a group than students who attend lower-ranked schools. OUR ADVICE — It doesn’t make sense to consider MCAT scores in evaluating where to go to college. The same biology, chemistry, and physics is taught at...

The 10 Biggest Myths About Getting into Medical School (Part 2)

In our first installment, we broke down myths #1-5 in an attempt to decode the cryptic and overwhelming medical school admissions process. Now we’re back to complete the top ten and put an end to the rumors once and for all.   Medical School Myth #6 Volunteering is all about the hours – the more you do, the better off you are.   What you might think: That all you need is a few hundred hours of volunteering to get into medical school. That you can do that volunteering over a summer or two. That you’re too busy to volunteer during the school year.   The truth: Volunteering reflects who you are as a person: do you only care about serving others when it’s convenient, or does your commitment to service run so deep that you consistently make time for it over the course of several years? Doctors serve their patients and serve the profession for the rest of their lives. There’s no better way to show your commitment to doing the same than by volunteering consistently over a long period of time.   You want volunteering that goes beyond just watching from the sidelines. You want to be right in the middle of the action, getting down-and-dirty. You want the tasks and challenges that sound gruesome, frustrating, or depressing. Real medicine isn’t about the glamor of being a doctor....

The 10 Biggest Myths About Getting into Medical School (Part 1)

“I’ve heard that medical schools…” “My friend says that…” “I read online that…”   In our work with pre-meds, we hear all kinds of crazy claims. About 95% of the time we hear one of the above phrases, what follows is false. No, you don’t need 400 hours of shadowing to get into medical school. No, it doesn’t help to finish college in three years. And when you get a rejection letter, you shouldn’t call the medical school and plead to be given a second chance.   The myth-making process is completely understandable. Pre-meds are competitive people, so they pounce on any piece of information–no matter how unreliable the source–to help them gain an edge. Medical schools don’t make this any easier; resources about how to get in are often vague, with little to no tangible details about how medical schools ACTUALLY choose applicants. And given that any idiot with a computer can post his “knowledge” to a message board, well… you get a lot of people who have heard a lot of things.   In the following post, we hope to tackle some of the most insidious rumors in the medical school admissions process and lay out our best representation of the truth, as seen from our perspective of working with hundreds of pre-meds.     Medical School Myth #1 The science GPA IS THE ONLY GPA med...

How Competitive of a BS/MD Candidate Are You?

These 4 Questions Separate the Good from the Great. Featured Image: Source   If you’re considering a BS/MD program, then you’re already taking the application process more seriously than the average high school senior. But let’s be honest: despite your outward confidence in your chosen path, you’re likely having some doubts.   You might already be familiar with the drawbacks (and benefits!) of BS/MD programs, but it never hurts to brush up: What’s Wrong With Guaranteed Acceptance to Medical School? 3 Surprising Downsides to BS/MD Programs.   Besides these surprising downsides, there are more obvious problems, like the brutal competition you’ll face when applying. It’s not enough to have good grades and test scores (because everyone at these programs will). It’s not enough to have outstanding extracurriculars, coveted volunteer positions, and months of shadowing.   For more advice on how to standout as a BS/MD candidate, check out our take on Cal Newport’s “Zen Valedictorian”.   What separates the merely good candidates from the great can be subtle. But in our experience working with students applying to BS/MD programs, the following questions will separate the wheat from the chaff:   Question #1: Whose dream is it to apply to BS/MD programs?   Whose idea was it to apply to BS/MD programs? Yours? Highly unlikely. More often, it’s a parent, teacher, counselor, or doctor who brings this option to your attention....

What’s Wrong with Guaranteed Acceptance to Medical School? 3 Surprising Downsides to BS/MD Programs

  A guaranteed ticket into medical school, you say? With no MCAT? No lengthy personal statement? No letters of recommendation or secondary essays? You might be saying, “Sign me up!” Sorry, pre-meds; there’s no helping you here without a time machine.  BS/MD programs are only for high school students about to fill out their college applications this fall. Let me introduce you to a category of programs that accept you to  both your undergraduate (baccalaureate) and medical degree (MD) in one fell swoop. We call them BS/MD  programs.  They seem to promise many positives – who doesn’t want a guaranteed spot in medical school? – but they’re not right for everyone. To understand whether these programs are a good fit, we’ve made a chart to compare the “normal” path to medicine with the path for BS/MD  students.   What’s the Difference? BS/MD Programs Traditional Medical School Path Guaranteed medical school acceptance Yes No Total time to complete both degrees 6, 7, or 8 years (program dependent) 8 years MCAT No or only a minimal score to pass on to med school Required Medical school applications No Yes Medical school application fees (~$3,000-$5,000) No Yes Medical school application essays (60+ pages) No Yes Medical School Interviews No Yes Don’t these programs look sweet? Look how much stress you avoid! Look how much time you save! Look how many application fees...

7 Tactful Ways To Answer Loma Linda Secondaries Regardless of Your Faith/Religion

    Loma Linda is one of the rare medical schools with a religious affiliation (Seventh-day Adventist). Although other schools have a religious bent (see: Georgetown and Creighton), no other school’s secondaries have as much ideological commitment to the Christian lifestyle. Some students apply to Loma Linda’s medical school specifically because of this distinction, while others just want to add another California school to their list or apply to a good statistical match school. Before you apply, however, you need to know what the school represents and requires from its applicants, and we can easily glean that knowledge from the secondaries.   Loma Linda Secondaries (2015 – 2016) – 750 characters *There are two shorter prompts about their alcohol/drug policy and your willingness to abide by school codes. We haven’t included those here, since you must answer “Yes” to both if you’re serious about applying. Don’t apply if you’re not comfortable with their terms. *750 characters is approximately 6-7 sentences, so be economical with your words. No room here for fluffy sentences. Make every one of them count.   #1 Describe the extent and source of your knowledge of Loma Linda University School of Medicine (LLUSM). This question is testing whether you know anything about Loma Linda beyond what you scanned on the school’s website. If you have any connections to current students or alumni, this is a perfect...