Creating a winning med school application

If only the adcoms could sit down with med school applicants a year or two before their first meeting and whisper sweet nothings in their ear, this is what they’d say: “Step out!” “Be different!” “You’re more than two little numbers!” Because that’s how you show you’re a well rounded medical school applicant.

med school applicants

Granted, there is no getting away from the importance of a good GPA, MCAT score and enough science classes to comprise half of your college career, as part of a good med school application.

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But you may be asking…”what do medical schools look for in applicants?” The admissions committees are admittedly looking for competitive medical school applicants with something a little different. A compelling story. Some divergent interests. Unique experiences…essentially a swath of color applied to the otherwise black and white canvas that is your life.

What’s the best way of becoming a well rounded medical school applicant?

What are the best ways to be “different,” but in a good way? There are plenty of options. Here are just a few that are reportedly making adcoms’ hearts flutter…

Fascinating life experience

If you’re a med school applicant at age 21, it’s tough to be all that interesting. But if you’ve made good use of your time, you may already have done something interesting besides sit in class. How about serving in the Peace Corps for a year? Packing off to India or the Appalachians to volunteer in healthcare clinics? Becoming an EMT and spending at least a year or two at it? Having a previous career, like a teacher, a mom, a construction worker. One medical student accepted in 2018 had his own construction company for 10-plus years and started med school with four children.

A true passion

Your extracurricular activities can be either a means to checking a box, or can help you become a competitive medical school applicant by showing your passion for serving and helping in a variety of settings. Like working for several years in a local soup kitchen, Boys & Girls Club or LGBTQ support group. Running a summer physics camp for high schoolers or getting a community food kitchen up and running shows a commitment to lessening the needs around you.

Med school admissions committees like diverse college classes

University students are typically either science geeks or social science types. Guess where most medical school applicants typically stand? Those who step into less comfortable territory can become an even more competitive applicant for med school. If you’re a Biochem major, get some Humanities or English classes under your belt. It can’t hurt and may help you as you prepare for the MCAT. Monochromatic applicants are sometimes perceived as just that…one dimensional. Get a little more well-rounded!

Research experience

This one can’t be overstated. Well rounded medical school applicants usually come with some research experience. This aspect of a competitive medical school application is viewed favorably by almost all schools, as it prepares you for things you’ll confront in both med school and medical practice. Find a mentor professor who you can join on a research project. Stay with it for a couple years. Even a few hours a week will give you some worthwhile experience. If you can get listed as co-author on a research paper, it’ll give you some very competitive cred when you approach the med school admissions committee.

Clinical, volunteering, shadowing hours

Think about this one differently. Rather than just counting hours, well rounded medical school applicants should look for valuable opportunities and stay put. Work for a couple years as a medical scribe. Stay on with an oncology treatment center long enough to figure out that’s what you want to do in life. Shadow doctors in a variety of settings, but hopefully let one be a stand out. Talk about the impact it had on you personally in your personal statement and school interviews.

The pre-med years are stressful, but you can’t let that stress keep you from venturing out to serve, give, experience and enhance your life experience. Start today imagining how to make your medical school application stand out; specifically how you’d like to present yourself when you meet the admissions committees face to face, and those efforts will likely pay big dividends.

Here are a few other posts for med school applicants re: best experiences for medical school:

—Gap year…a good idea or not?

—Is pre-med consulting worth the money?

—Pre-med research: a beginner’s guide

—Extracurriculars for med school are golden