Medical School Application: The Checklist

I’m a fourth year med student. With match around the corner, I am coming to the end of this process and I as remembering back how stressful it can be getting into med school. I work pretty closely with our admissions department and have interviewed 50+ students. So I figured I would post my step by step guide on how to get into med school. I think it is pretty comprehensive guide for most K through MD students.

  • Do the prereqs and get A’s. Try as hard as you possibly can to not get other grades.
  • Choose a major that you are really passionate about and makes you a more interesting person. Do not just be a bio or psych major because you think that looks good on an app. It doesn’t. A major you’re interested in is much more important. Consider majoring/minoring in a language, not because it’ll help your application, but because it will make you more useful during med school/practice. Get really good grades. Like almost all A’s.
  • Study for the MCAT and take practice tests and study more. Do it until you are consistently getting high marks on practice exams. Take the MCAT.
  • Find an extracurricular or two that you are very passionate about and can speak about at length. This will be essential to your application and fodder for your interviews. It can be legit anything. Rock climbing. sure. Horology. Okay.
  • 6 months to 1 year before applying start writing your personal statement. Do an outline. do a rough draft. Put it down for a few weeks. Come back to it. Maybe completely rewrite it. Maybe not. Do this until your personal statement is amazing. Have everyone read it. Mom, read it. Med School advisor read it. Guy you meet on the bus, read it. Get everyone’s opinion and incorporate the things you agree with. Ignore the things you don’t.
  • I don’t think this is as important as all the rest, but spend some time in a clinical context. Whether it’s shadowing, working a job scribing, or being a med tech. For some reason, people feel like this is important. More importantly, it will get you a good letter from a clinician.
  • If you really want to go above and beyond, during the summers in undergrad do research at a lab. Any lab. In any domain. Have it be interesting research. Be able to talk about it. For example, I worked on detecting the Top Quark at the CMS detector of the Large Hadron Collider the summer of my freshman year. I am an non-traditional MS-4. Freshman year was 12 years ago, but on residency interviews I routinely got questions about it. Doubly so for medical school applications.
  • Don’t stress about doing all this shit all at once. You have 4 years to build an application and if you take away anything from what I wrote, don’t build an application/resume/cv. Build a person. Find the things that you are interested in an pursue them. Having interviewed 50+ candidates for medical school, the ones that I remember and recommended really highly were the ones who seemed like cool and interesting people.
  • Last most important, figure out how to be a calm and kind person in all contexts. Throughout every stage of this process you will meet patients/faculty/staff who will be mean to you unnecessarily, who will belittle you or insult you, who will try and find things that upset you. Being able to smile/shrug these responses off is incredibly important for your personal well being and growth. Also in interviews, most of the time we can tell if a person is nice all the time vs. being fake.

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