These are 5 things you should do to get into medical school. This list was shared with me by a dear friend. I believe in this list so much that I decided to write an article about it. Thank you, Nikki, for sharing this list with me. Without you, I would’ve never known to do these things. And now, I am sharing it with the world in the hopes that it can be helpful to someone else and paying it forward. I will forever be grateful for this advice you shared.
1. Have a solid GPA and MCAT score.
This is important because you DO NOT want to be filtered out of the application pool. Each medical program has a cap for the MCAT score and GPA of applicants that they are willing to review. For some programs, the cap for the MCAT is 500 and for others, it’s 515. Do your research and figure out, realistically, what programs would actually look at your application; otherwise, you’ll be wasting your money applying to that medical program. These numbers are important because they help admissions officers narrow down their applicant pool. The reality is that medical programs do not have the financial resources or human power to review every single application that gets submitted to them. It’s possible; however, it would take a freaking miracle to review all 10,000 applications holistically and thoroughly. I do not know how many admissions officers each medical program has; however, I do know that they are very busy people. These numbers are necessary for them to filter people out of their applicant pool. Please note: these numbers say nothing about you as a person or what kind of physician you will be. Research has shown that there is ZERO correlation between MCAT performance and how well a student performs in medical school. ZERO. DO NOT let these numbers play with your head. At the end of the day, they are just numbers used to narrow down the applicant pool. So, my suggestion is to TRY YOUR BEST! DO THE BEST THAT YOU CAN and go into every single exam feeling like you did everything you could to learn the material. If you are walking into the exam room, thinking you could’ve done better, there is something wrong. GIVE IT YOUR ALL EVERY SINGLE TIME. So, when you look back, you can be proud that you did the best you could at that time. Walk out of the exam room with a smile on your face, proud that you completed that exam. Although, you may have not gotten all the answers correct, that’s okay. Because you did YOUR BEST. And that’s all you can do.
2. Do research.
There is a stigma about research in that it only encompasses basic science studies (i.e. animals, test tubes, petri dishes, and pipettes). However, that is not the case. Research is SO BROAD. It is complex. It has many layers to it. It’s like an onion. There is so much more to research than what the general population believes. There is clinical research where you can directly work with patients to collect data and work with the Principal Investigator to conduct clinical studies. There is pharmaceutical industry research where you can work as a Clinical Research Coordinator (CRC) and conduct human clinical trials. As a CRC, you will follow the protocol provided my the pharmaceutical company and collect the necessary data to investigate a particular drug. This data will eventually be interpreted and concluded into results and submitted to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration where it can undergo investigation. These trials take a lot of time and are necessary to determine the safety and efficacy of specific drugs so that doctors can prescribe them to their patients. There are case reports where students can work directly with residents and attending physicians to evaluate a special case, write about it and possibly present it in a research poster and/or research article publication in a medical journal. These are just a few examples of research. There is SOOOOOOO MUCH MORE. Do your own research on Google!
Please note that research is not necessary to get into medical school, BUT it is highly recommended and can only help your application if you do valuable work.
3. Seek a leadership role.
This is important because if you are a physician, you will be taking on the role of the leader in the patient healthcare team. Each person plays an essential role – nurses, CNAs, janitors, RTs, PTs, and most importantly, the patient. As a future physician, you are expected to be able to lead this team of healthcare workers and make holistic, well-thought out, educated decisions on how to best treat your patients. So, look for roles that can challenge you and help you attain great characteristics of a leader.
4. You must have clinical experience.
How can you say you want to be a physician if you never stepped foot in a hospital? How can you say you want to help people if you’ve never interacted with a patient? You cannot say you want to be a physician unless you have done these things. I mean, it’s easy to say you want to be a doctor. What’s better is putting in the work so that you can learn and acquire the necessary skills to be a GOOD DOCTOR. It is not enough just to say it. You have to LIVE IT. DO IT. And reflect on it. Volunteer, scribe or become a clinical assistant in some type of clinical setting where you can be exposed to the hospital/clinical environment. Find out if this field is meant for you. If not, then that’s ok. You can do something else. Expose yourself to a clinical environment so you can evaluate whether or not this atmosphere is meant for you. You won’t know until you try.
5. Serve your community.
Participating in community service is important because if you want to be a physician, you essentially want to give back to the community. I hope you’re not in it for the money or the status, because if you are, you are WASTING YOUR TIME. Society does not need doctors driven by their ego and success. People want physicians who CARE, who will LISTEN and who are COMPASSIONATE and EMPATHETIC. It’s not easy for someone to be vulnerable and share the most intimate parts of their health with a complete stranger. You have to CARE. Think about your mom or dad. Think about your grandparents, your loved ones. How would you want them to be treated by a physician? Think about what kind of physician you’d want to take care of your loved ones, and BE THAT! Strive to be a compassionate and caring physician who sees their patients as humans and not just the disease. Patients are more than their illness. They are human beings with complex minds, hopes, struggles and aspirations. By giving back to the community, you are displaying an act of service. To be a physician is a privilege and a constant act of service. An act to which some will not appreciate or acknowledge. Some patients will question your own education, your capabilities and your character; however, that is not important. What is important is that you are doing this out of the goodness of your heart. Do it because you want to and because you CARE. Not just to check the box and get a specific amount of community service hours. That’s lame.
Keep in mind that it is NOT ENOUGH to do things just to “check the box.” Do not be a cookie cutter and do things just because you think it’ll make your application “look good.” Don’t do research if you don’t like research. Not everyone does. There are plenty of medical students who have never done it. Trust me. It’s okay not to. These are simply things that I wanted to do for myself and I feel like it worked. Therefore, I am sharing it. Sign up for things that will ENRICH YOUR LIFE. Take on roles where you feel you can GROW personally and professionally. Invest in YOU. Not just your education, but also YOUR MIND. Pursue experiences that can enrich your life and enlighten you and teach you something you didn’t know before. Strive to be a better human being every day.
By investing in yourself, you are also investing in your future role as a physician. Put in the WORK. Be assertive, but not too assertive where it’s disrespectful. Recognize boundaries set by your superiors. BE SELF-AWARE. Reflect and remember that with each experience, you are investing in yourself. Do things with PURPOSE, not just to “check the box.” You will be doing yourself a disservice if you do that. Don’t waste your time. Time is something that you can’t get back.
Lastly, do you own research and search on Google. Google and YouTube were my best friends during undergrad. Do the research and put in the work to find these opportunities. For some, these opportunities will present themselves and that’s great! But for most, it doesn’t happen like that. Keep in mind that these opportunities are privileges. They are a privilege in that they are experiences in which you can GROW and LEARN how to be a better person. Not just a better physician, but a better human being. So, MAKE THINGS HAPPEN and DO THE WORK. No one is going to go out of their way to present these opportunities to you. Good luck to anyone in their pre-med journey. The road is long but you can do it. Have good intentions and hopefully, the universe will reward you.
Have questions? Feel free to enter them here! I’d be happy to help!