January 25, 2020
Getting Into Medical School
Things to Consider
Why Medicine: While it may be obvious it bears repeating. Make sure you know why you’re applying to medical school and can describe it articulately. You should also know why not medicine. If you haven’t thought of the pros and cons and weighed all your options carefully, I’d recommend doing some more exploration before applying.
Undergraduate Education: There are a number of well-known programs, like McMaster’s Health Science Program, that can be very good preparation. Having said that, I’d recommend picking a program you love, whether it’s philosophy, music, history, engineering, math or health science. I have medical school classmates from all of the above. It appears to me that medical schools are looking to recruit a diverse array of capable students from various backgrounds. Follow your own path to shine the brightest!
Quality Over Quantity
Grades: They’re important. This is also why I’d recommend studying something that you are excited and passionate about before medicine. You’ll probably do better studying what you love than studying something you find dull just because that’s what someone else did.
MCAT: Also important, but not like it used to be. You don’t need to get perfect, but get above a certain threshold that depends on the school. I’d highly recommend a prep course to help you with this. It keeps you on track. It teaches you not just content, but how to write the test. It also makes studying more fun!
Extracurricular or Volunteer Activities: You need them. But like my recommendation for selecting an undergraduate, do something that gives you pleasure and purpose. Don’t just do things because you think they’ll look good. Its quality over quantity. This shows when applying to medical school and when it comes time to write or talk about these activities.
Research, References & Essays
Research: While not an absolute requirement, it can be very helpful. It gives you a way to communicate your ability to work in teams, apply knowledge and confront challenging problems. Research is an inherent part of medicine, so it’s good to be familiar with how a research project works. Also, it helps you build a relationship with a supervisor who may mentor you and even write a reference letter.
Reference Letters: These are a powerful way for you to showcase your best self. It’s an opportunity that should not be lost and your selection of references should be thought about very carefully. Ask people who can write you a strong letter that speaks to more than just your academic excellence, but ability to lead, collaborate, advocate, manage, etc. Refer to the CanMEDs roles, a guide to the essential abilities physicians need for optimal patient outcomes. Remember, friends and family don’t count as references!
Application Essays: Certain schools require them and they can be on a wide variety of topics. This is yet another opportunity to showcase your best self and your ability to embody the CanMEDs roles. Write the essays with these roles in mind. Also make sure you edit your essays and get some feedback. It’ll make them stronger.
Preparing For Interviews
Prepare for Interviews: This will be your last opportunity to demonstrate that you’re a good candidate, so don’t go in unprepared. Practice! Make sure you practice aloud and in a form that’s as similar as possible to the interview day.
Meet Medical Students: If anyone knows what you’re going through and can offer some help, its medical students. Most of the time they’ll want to help because someone helped them and they’d like to pay it forward. Reach out to someone for advice on your essays, references, interview prep, etc. You don’t have to go at this completely alone. Just remember to keep paying it forward when you get in!
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