The key to medical school admissions success is careful planning based on correct information. Research the schools in which you are interested. What are their admissions requirements? Keep in close contact with your pre-med advisor. Are you taking the proper classes now? With thorough research and thoughtful questions, you will benefit from the great amount of information that is available to you. By proactively seeking information, you will avoid the aggravation, disappointment, and delays that come upon finding out that you do not meet all of the necessary prerequisites.
Par for the Course(s)
During your pre-medical education, you will be required to fulfill certain coursework prerequisites. In addition, you should select other courses in the sciences and humanities to supplement this core curriculum, enhancing your education and your application to medical school.
Most schools agree on the basic elements for pre-medical education. Minimum course requirements include one year each of biology, general (inorganic) chemistry, organic chemistry, physics, and related lab work for each. In addition, about two-thirds require English and about one quarter require calculus. A small number of schools have no specific course requirements.
Bear in mind that since the MCAT covers material from the commonly required courses, you will need to include those courses in your program of study whether or not they are medical school prerequisites. Nevertheless, many students are surprised to learn that the list of courses required by medical schools is so small. The best sources for admissions requirements for specific medical schools are the Medical School Admission Requirements (MSAR) and the Osteopathic Medical College Information Booklet.
Selecting a Major
While science majors are certainly more common, medical schools stress their interest in well-rounded students with broad-based undergraduate backgrounds. In fact, regardless of your major, your undergraduate transcript is a vital part of the admissions decision.
If you are a science major, one approach is to broaden your education by considering at least some social science and humanities electives. If you are not majoring in a science, your work in both science and non-science courses will be evaluated. However, with fewer courses on which to judge your science ability, your grades in the core science subjects will take on greater importance. So consider taking at least some additional science courses, such as biochemistry, cell biology, or genetics.
Bottom line? Don’t choose a major because you think it will get you accepted to medical school. Choose a major in a subject in which you are really interested. You will do better and have a more enjoyable time throughout college.
Health Care Experience
According to a recent survey of medical schools, knowledge of health care issues and commitment to health care were among the top five variables considered very important to student selection (the other four were med school interview ratings, GPA, MCAT scores, and letters of recommendation).
You should consider being active in health care activities as much as possible as a premed student. If nothing else, these experiences will help you articulate in your personal statement and interviews why you want to pursue a career in medicine.
Your Pre-Med Advisor
Your pre-med advisor is instrumental in helping you decide if medical school is right for you and assessing your chances for admission. In addition, he or she will be particularly helpful in guiding you to the schools whose curricula and student profiles best match your qualifications and interests. Finally, your pre-med advisor will have specific data about medical school requirements, how students from your school fared in the admissions process, and where students with similar academic backgrounds and MCAT scores were accepted.
In many undergraduate institutions, the pre-med office handles the letters of recommendation. In some cases, they simply relay the letters to the medical schools. Yet in other cases, the pre-med advisor—or committee—writes a letter to the admissions offices on your behalf. It’s imperative that you get to know your advisor and that they get to know you.
Going it Alone
An applicant to medical school often fails to acknowledge the importance of working with an institution’s premed office. Going it alone means that the applicant won’t benefit from networking contacts and relationships the premed office has with a number of admissions offices where the applicant has applied. Often admissions officers ask why an applicant has not used his/her premedical office’s resources. So be very mindful to have the full support of your premedical office if such a resource is available to you.
Enhance Your Application With Your Extracurricular Choices
Medical school admissions committees select applicants who have demonstrated intelligence, maturity, integrity, and a dedication to the ideal of service to society. One way they assess your nonacademic qualities is to look at how you have lived your life prior to completing your medical school application. To this end, you have an opportunity to submit a description of up to fifteen activities, club memberships, leadership roles, honors, awards, and jobs within the AMCAS Primary Application. Furthermore, many committees will ask you to submit a more comprehensive list of the extracurricular activities with which you have been involved.
While not all admissions committees consider them in the application process, many value the nature and depth of your extracurricular activities as significant factors in your admissibility to medical school.