Medicine is an ever increasing field, and more and more mysteries are being explored and solved by incredible minds around the world. We all hear the stories and read the biographies of amazing doctors and scientists who discover the next big thing, cure a disease, or save a life, and we wonder how we can be like them. However, if we consider the basics, they all had to start in the same place: medical school. Before we can change the world, we have to be accepted, too. We need experience and a killer application to stand out from the masses and be accepted, and luckily many students begin looking for opportunities to build their résumé before applications are due. There are plenty of things that a student can do to improve a résumé, but many take time, so be sure to begin with enough time to complete before your medical program applications are due.
For example, some common highlights that we are told to keep in mind to stand out to medical school admissions committees are high GPAs, job shadowing, and internships. These are all very important, but there are many things that can accommodate if you lack in one or more of these areas.A representative from the Washington University School of Medicine made a point that a balanced personal life can be just as important as scholastic credentials, stating “…personal attributes considered [by admissions committees] include strong communication skills, extracurricular accomplishments, and a balanced life style, including hobbies and recreational interests.” This means that even if you have a slightly lower GPA than another student, if you are involved in multiple activities and groups or clubs on and off campus, they may balance out to put you on an even playing field. Another thing that many students do not consider is volunteering work. This looks great on an application, as it goes above and beyond being involved. It shows involvement, commitment, and personal character, and it shows that you can put your own needs aside for a time period and focus on others.

As noted above, communications skills are also pretty key. You can be the smartest person in the room, but it will not mean a thing unless you can accurately convey theory, information, and concepts to another person, either orally or written, so be sure to be prepared in this sense as well. One way of displaying aptitude in this area is your personal statement. There are plenty of resources online on how to write a good one, and even then, find a professor or doctor to proof read it, spell check it, and make comments on how to improve it. Across the board, it is one of the most important aspects of an application, so make sure it is up to par.

Another thing that is arguably the most important aspect of an application but is often ignored is the interview. Students often spend all their time applying their knowledge and commitment on their academics and extracurricular activities in order to have a great résumé, but a résumé means nothing if it is not supported by the personal interview. Renee Akins, M.A., the Associate Director of Admissions at Indiana University School of Medicine remarked, “An applicant can ‘wow’ admissions personnel academically, but if he/she cannot connect with interviewers by responding to the interview questions in an articulate manner, a manner that demonstrates critical thinking skill, have good eye contact, and be able to participate in a dialog with the interviewers, it is unlikely an offer of admission will be positive.” Obviously, this is truer for some schools and not as much for others, because each school places greater emphasis ! on different categories of the application process.

An important point to keep in mind about the interview is to be prepared academically. Basically, a student needs to look good on paper, and they also need to be able to make a good impression with the interviewer on a surface level, but a student also needs to be able to combine the two. Know about the schools and be informed of the programs and curriculum where you are applying; have plenty of questions ready when you go for your interview. Also make an “educated impression,” meaning be sure to demonstrate your strengths and intelligence while not coming across as arrogant. Tell a story or recount a comical conversation that shows that you are well-rounded and able to carry on through discourse or trials, that you are not a quitter. Make your interviewer positively remember you above all the other students they will meet throughout the day.

Lastly, just know that there is always a chance that an admissions committee may pass you over because another student has one more letter of recommendation or is part of one more sports team, but through it all, persevere. If you are denied, make a change and apply again. Do not give up; many people have to try and try again before they are accepted, and it may take some time, but there is always something that you can do better, and eventually hard work will pay off.