Pre-meds all across the country know that it is just as difficult – if not more so – to get in to medical school as it is to get through it. The application process is long and rigorous, there are fees and interviews, and after all of that, there is still a grand chance that you could be denied just because another person had one more letter of recommendation. So the following is a list of tips that could mean the difference between being accepted and being waitlisted.
- Design a “Study Format” – Establishing a “study format” comes from discovering and personalizing what works for you. Your study habits could include “brain food,” certain music, a special spot, routine breaks, etc. Do whatever you have to do to make sure your study time is productive.
- Be Wary of Social Media – Texting and social media sites are devious distractions when it’s time for studying and homework. A lot of research requires use of the internet, so be careful not to check Facebook when looking for sources. Before starting a study session, post on your social media networks that you will be MIA for the next x-hours, so your friends know not to disturb you; friends can be just as distracting when they do not realize you are busy.
- Reward Yourself – As most of you know, being a pre-med can burn out a student faster than an apple can smack Isaac Newton, so you have to take breaks and reward yourself often. It may be easier to stay locked in doing homework, but that’s a great way to lose all your friends. Take time each week to hang out, get food with friends, or just watch a movie, but have fun and at least a semi-balanced social life.
I’m sure everyone has heard all of this before, so the following are personal insights into what helps when applying for jobs, internships, and medical schools.
- Build a Résumé – There are plenty of things that are easy to do, but give weight to your résumé by taking extracurricular activities, joining an academic club, getting a job, and/or volunteering. Remember to be diverse; medical school is competitive, and an application committee wants to see you have experience in more than one area of study.
- Do an Internship – I cannot stress how important this is. Do more if you can, but take at least one. Make sure it is something that a) helps you decide if it is something you could do for the rest of your life and b) shows dedication to the medical field. An internship with your local gardener is great, but try to find things that are impressive for an application.
- Start Applications Early – This doesn’t mean you should complete them months ahead of time, but you should at least be looking at what kinds of things are required. Many medical schools require certain courses or standards, so be aware of those and strive to meet them. Also, think about the application fees. If you need to save up money or fill out a fee waiver, do it early!
- Take a Literature or English Class – Every college or university tells you it will help with your communication skills, which is true, but the reason it helped me was that it gave me ideas for writing a statement. A statement is one of the most important parts on an application, so it has to be perfect; unfortunately, most of them are the same, so taking a literature class can help with writing a perfect first sentence or at least give some good analogies.
- Find Good Letters of Recommendation – Most medical schools require a minimum of five or six letters, but go above-and-beyond. Earn as many as you can from different kinds of doctors (M.D.’s, D.O.’s, etc.) as well as from different fields.
- Use Technology to Your Advantage – There are plenty of digital study aides and programs that can help you study for the MCAT. Books and notes are great tools and should not be ignored, but there are other resources as well, such as wikipremed.com and a variety of smart phone apps.
- Find a Mentor –Everyone needs a person or persons that know about the pre-med/med school process and can answer questions. Find a doctor, a professor at your school, or a relative in the medical field who is available to answer questions. Put them on speed-dial, get their email address, and stay in contact. It’s amazing how much they can tell you even if it has been years since they were in school themselves.