How To Apply To Medical School: Making Experiences Relevant to Your Application

Posted by Adrienne Raphel on 8/19/15 11:00 AM


It's time to get creative!

During college, you spent countless hours down in the newsroom as the managing editor of the student paper. You’ve got a black belt in karate. You’re a competitive Scrabble player. You’ve been a Sunday school teacher for nine years. You want to tell the medical school committee about these experiences because they’re such an integral part of your life, and they make you stand out from the crowd—but they’ve got nothing to do with hospitals and labs. How do you make your passions relevant, even if they seem totally unrelated to the skills you need to demonstrate?

Be as concrete as possible.

Reflect on specific examples: what skills did you learn? Thinking about very specific incidents will help you avoid just coming up with big, clichéd life lessons. Instead of writing that the discipline from martial arts helped you maintain discipline in the rest of your life, describe a specific moment in karate class when you finally managed to get a form right that you’d been practicing every day for seven months. Give sensory details, and tell the story with a narrative arc.

Not everything needs to relate beautifully back to medicine.

Doctors are people too! Many of the most successful doctors practicing are also very accomplished at things that are unrelated to medicine. Having interests outside the hospital is a good thing: you have to stay a sane and balanced human being so that you can bring empathy into the exam room. If you think it’s too much of a stretch to turn the Scrabble tournament into something that seems analogous to something in a medical setting, don’t worry about trying to force it into a perfect box. Instead, be honest about why you’re passionate about this activity.

But don’t shy away from making analogies to medicine.

Think about how the work you did might be deeply similar to the ways in which you’ll approach problems and interact with people in med school and throughout your career. If you were a managing editor at the newspaper, you probably had to organize a very chaotic, fast-paced environment to make sure that everything got done at a high quality. That’s not too dissimilar to working with a team in an emergency room: everyone has to do his or her job well and in a timely fashion so that the whole operation can keep running smoothly. If you dig into most activities that seem like they’re coming out of left field in comparison to lab research or clinical experience, you might realize that you’ve picked up some skills that will be invaluable to some crucial aspects of your practice.

In short:

When thinking of how to apply to medical school, you'll know that your med school app will, by necessity, mostly involve medicine-related activities. But that doesn’t mean your non-medical interests have to go away. On the contrary, these can be an exciting aspect of your application that provides the committee a chance to see you as a well-rounded person. Don’t be afraid to show that you’re a human being--but also, remember that medicine isn’t just confined to the lab or the hospital. The lessons you learn in the ER can be applied to other aspects of your life, just as the rest of your life can apply to your medical career.

Looking for more help with firguring out how to apply to medical school? Check out these other blog posts written by our medical school admissions consultants in Boston and New York: Getting the Application Essay RightDo's and Dont's of the Medical School Interview, and What's the Deal With New Medical Schools?. If you'd like more hands-on support, feel free to reach out to Cambridge Coaching! Our business school admissions coaches will be happy to help.

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Tags: medical school admissions