Medical Mondays: What I Wish I Would Have Known About Applying To Medical School

Monday, June 3, 2013



I've been waiting for this for a month - my first Medical Mondays link up!  So far, I haven't done a lot of blogging about medical school or college or being pre-med which is pretty strange since it's been a huge part of my life.  

I don't think I have many pre-meds or med students that read this but I'm confident that a lot of my experiences can be shared by those in graduate school or any professional school.  I would love to hear how your experiences compare and contrast!  We're all in this fun, educational boat together.

I'm also linking up with Postcards from Rachel & Northern Belle Diaries for I <3 Bloglovin' - because I do indeed love it.  It's wayyyy more convenient and user friendly than GFC - plus I can follow all my favorite medical blogs and news sources.  You can follow me, too!

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Now for the purpose of this post. There is A LOT I wish I would’ve known before I decided to apply to medical school the first time (I was a reapplicant this year).  Even though I've wanted to be a physician for most of my life, I didn't feel adequately prepared for the huge task of applying.  

It's really easy to lose sight of your goals when they seem so far off.  Eventually one day you wake up and realize it’s finally time to start submitting applications.  Here are the top 5 things I wish I would have known as a high school and college student!

1. Save Your Money
It's all about the $$$. Applying to medical school is e-x-p-e-n-s-i-v-e.  As if your college tuition wasn’t bad enough, time to tack on another couple thousand dollars for the MCAT, application fees, interviews, and deposits. 

People will tell you it’s all “a drop in the bucket” compared to the cost of attending med school but what they really mean to say is “there is no justifiable reason for this and it sucks.”  Bottom line, accept the fact that you will need to save your money, have super cool (or rich) parents to help you out, or get some credit cards. 

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2. Keep Your Eye On the Prize
My biggest problem was that applying to med school crept up on me.  One minute I was a freshman taking Intro Chemistry and the next I was a junior studying for the MCAT (while working & taking a full course load - bad idea!).  

If you have a bad semester, it’s easy to think, “Oh...I’ll do better next semester." or "Next semester I’m totally getting a 4.0.”  Guess how many times I said that compared to how many times it happened? 

You NEED to put the work in each and every semester even if you are just starting out at college.  College is a huge adjustment especially if you are like most pre-meds and didn't really have to study much in high school. One semester isn’t going to wreck your chances but eventually that attitude catches up with you.  


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3. Hurry Up and Wait
Start working on your applications as soon as the new application becomes available in May.  You won’t be able to submit until early June but you should have everything ready to go so you can submit right away.  

There is some lag time between app submission and release to the schools but by submitting as early as possible, you increase your odds of being some of the first applications the schools see.  This can only work to your advantage since most schools are on rolling admissions.  Many qualified applicants have been rejected just because they submitted way too late (think Oct/Nov).


I actually submitted pretty early in the process - around mid-June.  I was verified by the end of June and started getting secondaries in July.  What I didn't anticipate was all the waiting after my secondary apps were submitted.

Like all good things in life, you are going to spend the majority of your time waiting.  You will have all your applications ready to go, proofread, and sealed with hearts and kisses...then you will submit and often hear crickets.  

In this situation, you should toe the line between being enthusiastic and being a PITA.  Call admissions and check on your application status - this is something I should have done more often.  Make sure all your materials are submitted but also realize that the office staff has a ton of applications to deal with.  Be patient but be proactive.  Most of all, keep yourself busy.

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4. Be Realistic (Apply Broadly)
This was my second biggest problem applying the first time.  I chose schools I had no business applying to just because I wanted to be close to home. More than likely, you will have to move at some point in your medical education.  

You should apply to a variety of schools - reach schools, safety schools, and schools you have a reasonable chance of getting into. Purchase the MSAR for MD schools!  It will save your life.  I wish there was a better equivalent for DO schools but because there are significantly few schools of this kind, you should be able to find admission stats a little easier.

Only about 52% of applicants get accepted to medical school each year.  Maximize your chances by applying to a good selection of schools without sacrificing the quality of your secondary applications. You need to be able to write several quality essays within two weeks or less of receiving the secondary app for each school.  

5. Know Thy Self
Before you can start writing your personal statement and preparing for your interviews, you need to have a good grasp of who you are as a person and what makes you tick. Take a personality test or two, talk to your family and friends, chat with professors, volunteer/work in a clinical setting, and do some journaling - figure out who you are and if you truly want to go into medicine.

Believe it or not it was really hard for me to talk about myself constantly, let alone do so in about 15 different essays.  (For whatever reason, it was much easier in interviews.) I answered everything from why medicine, to strengths and weaknesses, to describe your interests in XYZ. 

Don't discount the importance of the personal statement and essays. You never know who is going to read them so make sure they really convey who you are and why you should be a future physician at that school.

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I could go on and on about all the things I wish I would've known or things that I knew but didn't prepare for.  The biggest piece of advice I have is to realize that medical school admission is a game. You have to do everything in your power to tip the odds in your favor and put your best foot forward.  

16 comments:

  1. Thanks for linking up with Medical Mondays - and great advice!

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  2. Stopping by from MM - love your blog and you! What a great list. All of it is so true - the hurry up and wait is something my hubby and I talk about all of the time and it stands true throughout the whole medical career process!

    You have a new follower on bloglovin :)

    Stop by and visit!
    Amy
    http://whenlifegivesyoumedicinemakemartinis.com/

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    1. Thanks Amy! You're so sweet!

      The waiting is the worst!

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  3. Great post! I'm currently in nursing school, but I've thought about continuing on after this degree and maybe going to med school. Thanks for the tips! Stopping by for Medical Mondays.

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    1. Thank you, Ashley! Best of luck in nursing school & in pursuing your dreams! Nursing will give you such valuable experience if you decide to go into med. Check out Erika @ Stethoscopes, Style, & Grace if you haven't already! She was a nurse and is now a 4th year med student!

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  4. This is awesome! Things are a little different in South Africa (we don't have to do undergrad first, thank God), but these are REALLY good pointers! So glad you got where you dreamed of being. Awesome. Keep well!
    P.S: My cabin mate on Semester at Sea was an Indiana Hoosier too. I know it's a big school, but anyways :P

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    1. Oh man...you go straight from high school? I couldn't imagine how hard that would be :/ Thanks so much...I've got more where this came from!

      I love that! Hoosiers are everywhere!

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  5. Visiting from Medical Mondays! I got married to my DrH right before medical school, and I wish I had your advice back then!

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  6. Visiting from MM hop! What great advice and from what my SO has told me, spot on :D (except he went from working to applying to med school, he graduated undergrad in 1996 and had an entire different career). I will keep this in mind just in case my son decides he wants to go to med school too ;) He's only 4 so I've got a while Lol

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    1. Thanks for visiting! I couldn't imagine career switiching to medicine - he must be an amazingly hard worker! You're never to young to start thinking about being a doc! :)

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  7. Hahaha I love that, those things are so very true! Visiting from medical mondays!

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    1. Thanks for visiting Sarah! Can't wait to check out your blog

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  8. HI! I'm visiting from MM! It's so true, there is no real reason for how crazy expensive it is just to APPLY to medical school. Whew!

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    1. The expensive and the waiting have to be the worst part! Ahhhh!

      Thanks for visiting, Meredith!

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  9. Yay! Glad to have you on the MM grid!! Welcome to the party!!!
    All such good advice! Pinch those pennies... ;)

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