Constructing and Communicating Your Narrative as a Medical School Applicant

Posted by Santiago on 5/3/19 5:22 PM

medical school application

So, you've cleared the MCAT, aced your undergraduate courses, developed your extracurricular résumé, and have accomplished everything you wanted to before taking the next step in your career — it's time to apply to medical school. Premedical students will have surely heard at one time or another that their application ought to have some kind of narrative, but what does that mean? In concrete terms, the narrative of your application is the story told by the sum total of your application materials (not just the personal statement) and attempts to answer two questions in the minds of the admissions committee: first, why does this applicant want to go to medical school and, more importantly, why should our medical school admit this particular applicant? This often-overlooked component of the application can, in my opinion, turn a merely good candidate into an excellent one.

The Sum Total Of Your Application

Your total application is made up of: transcripts, a personal statement, the work and activities section, secondary application, letters of recommendation (LoRs), and the interview. Premedical students will often spend weeks even months writing and rewriting their personal statement until it's thematically polished, grammatically pristine, perfect — and they should! The personal statement is important. However, they will often neglect to invest a similar level of care into the other written portions of the application which also showcase your capacity for reflection, level of self-awareness, and personality. It is precisely these written components which form the sinew of your application, providing vital context to the academic and extracurricular achievements within it. That said, the idea is not that all of the written portions of your application read like your personal statement but they should reinforce one another to highlight your unique strengths. You should, in other words, not think of them as discrete untouching parts but as elements of a contiguous product from the personal statement to your interview day.

Repetition Legitimizes

Your personal statement sets the stage for the rest of your application and medical school admissions committee members often cite it as the first component of an application they read. Think of it like the compass your application reader will use to navigate the rest of your application. It should introduce the core ideas which motivate your desire to become a physician without merely summarizing your résumé. The work and activities section builds your credibility and ideally reflects the values, goals you wrote about in your personal statement. How to do this in practice? Signifying an activity as "Most Meaningful" (MM) on AMCAS will allow you to elaborate on a specific experience. If your personal statement highlights, for example, how your upbringing drew you towards the service professions, a good MM candidate might relate to your involvement with a service organization in your hometown. Alternatively, reflecting on your experiences in order to better articulate a more specific motivation for pursuing a career in medicine could help you write a more effective personal statement. The key concept here is to build a medical school application that is more than the sum of its parts. 

Letters of Recommendation

All competitive applicants will have positive LoRs, but great applicants (that's you) will have LoRs from mentors who can speak towards your greatest strengths and accomplishments. In addition to the required LoRs, I recommend that students attempt to obtain LoRs from faculty and superiors associated with their MM activities whenever circumstances allow. These letters will add credibility and depth to the most important extracurricular activities on your application. Of course, if there is an important figure in your life who you are confident will write you a sterling recommendation, that is always the most important element to consider!

Are you interested in working with a coach like Santiago on the high level messaging of your medical school applications?

Contact Us!

Interested in reading on more on the medical school application process?

5 Important Things to Remember When Applying to Medical School

FAQs on the Medical School Admissions Process

How to Get Letters of Recommendation for Medical School

Tags: MD/PhD admissions, MD