As a rising senior, the reality of applying to medical school is starting to hit me hard. We need to somehow capture and showcase everything we’ve accomplished within our application with just personal statements, letters of evaluation, transcripts, and the activities section… It can really feel daunting. What may be even more frightening is having only fifteen slots to sum up all the activities and experiences we’ve accumulated throughout our academic careers. Thankfully, we have others we can ask for advice: previous applicants, medical school admissions officers, pre-health advisors and the AMCAS/AACOMAS services. I’d like to share some tips that I’ve learned as I’ve begun preparing to apply to medical school.
Tip #1: Begin Early!
The centralized services open their applications in May, however, the earliest you can submit your application is in June. This gives you nearly an entire month to prepare your application, order your transcripts, make sure you have your letters of evaluation, etc. This also gives you a month’s worth of time to work on completing the activities section. As premedical students, many of us are notorious for checking and double-checking our work and when it comes to our medical school applications it should be no different. What’s more, in this time between May and June many of us don’t have classes. Get your celebrating with a Netflix binge out of the way, then get back into focus-mode and start working on what may be the most important application of your life.
Tip #2: Where You Apply Dictates How You Apply
If you are mostly applying to research-focused schools, it is probably important that you have significant research experience. Be sure to list all of those experiences even if it means cutting others. If you are primarily applying to schools emphasizing primary care or rural medicine, it would be wise to list activities that show your interest and experience in that area. Basically: know what schools fit your goals and prioritize your activities accordingly. It’s easy to get caught up in applying where we think our GPA or MCAT might be most competitive but it is also important to look at each school’s mission statement to understand what each school is about. You can find this on each school’s website or in their Medical School Admission Requirements profile. If you are still unsure or have questions, you can follow up with your pre-health advisor or the admissions staff at the medical school.
Tip #3: Prioritize what’s Relevant
Relevance is simply defined as “relating to the matter at hand.” It is important to keep this in mind when listing your activities. While you or your family might think it’s really cool that you played in a band for a year, how would you relate this back to medicine? Did you display leadership? Were you able to keep your grades up, participating with shadowing, volunteering or research activities and still maintain a challenging practice and touring schedule at the same time? As an LGBT student, I have contemplated whether to be “out” or not in my applications. In asking for advice on the matter, I was told to consider its relevance. While I may be proud that I’m transgender, it’s safe to say that I won’t be given any extra bonus points for listing my membership in an LGBT club as an activity without anything stronger to back it up. On the other hand, since I’m an officer in an LGBT student club and participated in human rights rallies and policy writing, it makes more sense listing these as an activity.
The activities section may be making you feel an overwhelming sense of uncertainty right now and that’s ok. You have time to work out the kinks. Like me, if you are one of those people who feels uneasy about building your list, I recommend you write it out ahead of time and reflect on each activity. I am planning to spend a decent amount of time doing this to reflect on what motivates me to pursue medicine. Look at each activity and ask yourself, did this make you more passionate about medicine? Is it something you are personally passionate about? Did your participation show dedication or leadership? Remember, many people who apply may have similar experiences to yours so find something that makes you stand out. If you weren’t planning to apply to medical school, which activity would you still participate in because you enjoy it? Don’t just use your application to show your academic successes. Medical schools want to see well-rounded applicants with myriad experiences and interests. This can lead to a stronger application as well as help guide you in writing a stronger personal statement essay, and down the road, help during your medical school interviews, too.
About Corey Hoch
Corey Hoch is a junior studying microbiology and cell science at the University of Florida. He is currently a national leader in the American Medical Student Association and serving as the LGBT Programming Coordinator within the Gender & Sex Action Committee. Over the past two years, he has been heavily involved with AMSA as well as being an officer for his Global Medical Brigade chapter in which they worked hard gathering donations in preparation for a weeklong brigade to a remote area of Panama.
Four years ago, a friend of Corey’s helped him attain a nonclinical job in a hospital. At that time he was just looking for work and unsure of what direction life would take him. He eventually moved into a patient care role as a nurse assistant. It was in this role that he began to understand the delicate relationship between patients and medical care providers and he decided to pursue a career in medicine. Additionally, in being transgender, he understands the difficult journey of medically transitioning and the general lack of LGBT awareness within medicine. He hopes to be a resource and to aid in eradicating this medical disparity. It is his goal to attend medical school and receive dual training in urology and plastic surgery to be able to perform gender confirmation surgeries.