Last year, an interviewer for a top medical school joined Reddit for an AMA (Ask Me Anything). It was at a time when the interview season was starting  to get underway. The Reddit user, postbac, stated that he/she thought it would be a good opportunity for pre-meds to ask questions about the process. They disclosed that they hoped to dispel any myths or misconceptions about the interview process and was happy to answer any questions.

Here are 5 things we learned:

Most Applicants Don’t Have ‘Shock Stories’

It’s peak season for medical school interviews and pre-meds are understandably anxious, especially knowing what a big role this part of the admission process plays. Reddit user postbacc discussed what students should focus on.

Most applicants do not have ‘shock stories’ and are like you in that they have relatively comfortable upbringings. I would not focus on how fortunate you are because that is not a differentiating factor, not something that you can draw on as a strength. Focus in your interests and your reasoning behind why you chose medicine. You are right to not exaggerate anything in your application as insincerity can come through in your application.

It’s Actually Somewhat Rare For a Personal Statement to Really Stand Out As Spectacular

A redditor wanted to know: when ‘postbac’ read applications, what are some of the things that immediately stood out?

I personally read through the applications quite thoroughly, even if some of them have relatively mediocre PS’s. It’s actually somewhat rare for a PS to really stand out to me as spectacular. What I typically expect from a PS is to get a sense of who you are as a person as well as your journey down the path of medicine. Most people do a pretty good job of that and it serves as a good starting point to initiate some of the conversations during the interview.

Physician Shadowing is Incredibly Important

One of the most important things about being pre-med is knowing what you’re getting yourself into.

I think premed shadowing is incredibly important, as do the people on the adcom. It’s important to show that you understand what it is actually like to be a physician, which requires you to actually be with one. Volunteering in the hospital doesn’t quite fulfill the same thing, as most volunteers do not interact with physicians much. Patient privacy is something that is easily worked around in that as long as the shadow is HIPAA compliant and the patient consents to the shadow being in the room. I would highly recommend reaching out to some physicians in the area to see if any of them are open to brief shadowing opportunities. You might have better luck at smaller independent clinics.

Having a Demonstrated Interest in Primary Care Will Go A Long Way In Interviews

It’s one thing to say your interested in practicing as a primary care physician and another thing to show that you’re interested. In other words, don’t talk about it, be about it and then talk about it.

If you have a demonstrated interest in primary care or pediatrics, I think it will go a long way in interviews. There’s no reason to keep in mind any one specialty, and we don’t expect or even wish people to be set on a specialty. We’d rather them keep an open mind as far as specialties go, especially since most premeds at this point only have a small inkling as to what each field actually is like. If you are passionate about primary care and pediatrics, make sure that shines through in your interview!

Doing Research Is An Excellent Way to Boost Your Application

In a pool of thousands of medical school applicants, it never hurts to give yourself an edge among the competition.

Doing research is an excellent way to boost your application, especially if you can get a publication out of it. That is probably the most popular gap year job. Things like teaching and tutoring go over well too, as well as working in a clinical setting.

Absolutely Pursue Things That Interest You, That Is How You Will Stand Out

This is an awesome answer the classic question, “How do I stand out among the competition?”

GPA/test scores are indeed very important, however once you reach a certain point. Physicians of decades and years past were part of a different system than the one that exists now. Med school used to be significantly less competitive than it is today, and it was true that all you needed were basically good grades and good test scores. Unfortunately, the environment has gotten so competitive, that is no longer enough to stand out as an application. There are more applicants with stellar GPA/MCATs than there are total seats for med school. ECs are now the way to try and set yourself apart from being ‘merely smart.’ Med schools are now also looking for things like leadership qualities, team work experience and unique experiences and interests. You should absolutely pursue things that interest you, because that is how you will stand out. Doing only the cookie cutter things is a great way to stay boring and bland. Unfortunately they are still necessary to check off however.