We are living in a time of uncertainty. No medical school or hospital was prepared for how much this pandemic would affect our world. As a premed student, it can be difficult to prepare for an application cycle when this is uncharted territory for us all. Add on the stress and anxiety of the medical school application process and it can all feel overwhelming.
However, as an aspiring medical student, there are a few significant ways you can get involved right now that can not only make you stand out as an applicant, but allow you to make meaningful contributions to the healing of this pandemic.
There is no better time than now to show that volunteering matters to you. Do a little research and find the opportunities available to you locally. To start, you can look through this database of localized mutual-aid resources to find opportunities in your area. Your contribution might be grocery shopping for homebound seniors, child/pet care, medication pickup, check-in/emotional support calls, making PPE, or tutoring/teaching students whose classes have been moved online. Even though you might not be on the frontlines of this crisis, there are still ways to support your community.
While most research labs have suspended projects for the time being, COVID-19 research is in full force. Reach out to your advisor or to your school’s Office of Student Research and get a feel for how you might fit into current projects. Your roles might include telephone recruitment of potential participants, carrying out symptoms questionnaires over the phone, or data analysis.
Taking a gap year this cycle may be more necessary than usual. If you were counting on these next few months to add the finishing touches to your application (shadowing, research, clinical experience, or even taking the MCAT), then it may be a good idea to start thinking about taking an extra gap year.
It is a huge misconception that medical schools look down on gap years. In fact, most matriculants these days have taken at least one year off from the time they completed their undergraduate degree. Medical schools value the extra life experience that nontraditional students bring. I know it may feel like your life plan is being completely derailed, but taking a gap year might just be the perfect addition to your application.
The transition to online learning can truly sap you of your motivation to put forth full effort into your studies. I have three tips on how to combat the urge to remain horizontal all day. The first is to get ready each morning as if you were going to class. Wash your face, brush your teeth, and put on real clothes. The second is to study with your friends. Creating study groups allows you to hold each other accountable and it makes learning a lot more fun. Lastly, stay involved. Extracurriculars can still be rewarding, even if they take place over Zoom. Try to find ways to transition your clubs to an online format so that you can still participate in them.
It is important to recognize that it is not only okay, but normal to find yourself struggling during this time. Many of us have close family members, friends, and colleagues who have suffered from this virus. Take advantage of the extra hours in your day and find things that make you happy. Find new hobbies, read new books. Take the time for yourself because it is important to keep yourself healthy before you can take on the responsibility of helping others. Reach out to your school’s academic support centers for studying help and be sure to keep your school informed on your current circumstances so that they are able to offer accommodations and support if necessary.
Applying to medical schools is tough. Which makes a certain amount of sense: if it were easy, everyone would do it. It involves a primary application, a round of secondary applications (or supplemental materials), and interviews at schools that are considering your candidacy more closely. The process is arduous largely because it takes, start to finish, at least several months, and because it is very writing-intensive, involving not just your AMCAS personal statement but multiple secondary essays as well. And this is where a lot of applicants get tripped up: after years of stuffing every square inch of your brain with molecules and formulae, it can be a shock to discover that your dreams hinge upon your ability to express with clarity (and maybe a little poetry) why you want to be a doctor.
This is where Cambridge Coaching comes in: we are the most qualified team of medical school writing coaches available anywhere. Our team is composed of MD, MD-PhDs, and professional writers because we understand that the best coach is going to help you produce a dazzling AMCAS essay, as well as a suite of supplementary materials that provides a persuasive, integrated argument for why you belong in medical school.
The challenge of the medical school application process isn’t just due to the workload, either. It has to do with the sheer competitiveness of the system. You can’t take anything for granted; every aspect of your application has to be solid - your GPA, your MCAT, your recommendations, your interviews, your activities, and your personal statement. That’s why we go beyond the usual options and offer coaching that covers the entire application, not just your personal statement. While we are happy to work with clients on a single essay or drafts, we find that we achieve the best results with clients who work with us throughout their application process - from the MCAT through to the admissions deadlines.
Applying to medical school in 2020-21? Check out some other helpful blog posts below!