Professionalism for Pre-Med Students

July 25, 2011
Kaplan Test Prep

By Patrick Boyle, Kaplan Elite MCAT Instructor

Summer is in the air and hopefully you are finding some time to take a well deserved break from the rigors of the pre-health lifestyle.Whether you are in the middle of applying to medical school or are gearing up for the next school year, this is a great time to re-evaluate an important but often overlooked aspect of being a “professional” pre-health student.Professionalism is a word that means different things depending upon what environment you are in, however, there are some things that remain true no matter the situation.So what does professionalism mean?

Webster’s dictionary defines professionalism as “the conduct, aims, or qualities that characterize or mark a profession or a professional person.”As a young doctor to be, you want to start practicing professionalism in all respects since it’s an important factor that medical schools consider on your application. What are the conducts, aims, and qualities you should be practicing?


“You’ve got mail!” Email has become a part of everyday life. Whether it is a quick email to a professor to ask when his office hours are or more importantly a question to a potential medical school you hope to attend, it is imperative to remember that anything in the email is expected to be professional.Everything written in an email is saved and will available to read again.You want to remember to keep your messages short, concise, and to the point, while avoiding any major grammar or spelling mistakes.Remember to save terms like “LOL” and “OMG” for texting with friends, and it probably goes without saying, but above all never use slang terms or profanity!
It also pays to remember that the same rules should apply to your use of sites like Facebook and Twitter. While you may not be actively sharing these accounts with professors or medical schools, they are a part of your “public presence” so use caution. For more tips on using social media as a pre-med, check out this archived blog.


While I like to wear my favorite Hawaiian shirt or my brand new “Jersey Shore inspired” deep V-neck, there are certain types of dress you are going to want to avoid in professional situations.Remember,first impressions are crucial.This is important not only in your medical school interviews but when you meet a new professor during office hours.You probably don’t need to wear a suit to class every day, but you never know who you might need to ask to write you a letter of recommendation.


“Shut the front door!” Occasional expletives here and there are okay for the evening out with friends but do not hold a place in the world of professionalism.There is a time and place for crude language; however, it is important to remember that if you get in the habit of frequently using crude language it may be used at the wrong time.Slang terms and expletives should be avoided at all costs, not only does this make you look tacky; it could completely ruin your professional image.


“Hey, can I just look at the homework real quick?”We have all heard it. Hopefully we are the ones that are avoiding this situation.Accountability is of vital importance in the medical field.Being accountable for your actions now will ensure that you will continue to be an accountable doctor.Accountable people are ones that put forth their honest effort in their own work.On top of giving your best effort you want to make sure you show up and are on time for the things you say you will be.Just remember, patients do not like tardiness!

Hopefully these tips will help put you on the path to a career as a physician. Remember, as a pre-med you’ve already taken the first steps towards joining a respected group of professionals, and society will expect your behavior to reflect that.

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