What NOT to do when applying to medical school

medical school admissions

Applying to medical school can be a grueling process. It's a very competitive process, and candidates with nearly perfect metrics can be turned down. Keep the following advice in mind to ensure that you are successful in your admissions cycle. 

Do NOT take the MCAT as a practice test.

You should only take the MCAT when you are completely prepared to do so! The people who write the MCAT are one and the same as the people who run AMCAS. So, when medical schools are sent MCAT scores, they have access to all of your non-expired scores. You do not want to have a suspiciously low score from a "practice" MCAT test in the mix. Taking the exam when you're ready can lead to a higher score, which then leads to a more competitive application.

Do NOT rush your application.

Only apply to medical schools when you are ready to do so! Assess where you are in these three domains: academics, clinical work, and personal goals. Within the academic domain, it is important to assess whether you have the grades that prove you can handle the rigor of medical school. If you find your grades or GPA lacking, maybe you should enroll in a post-baccalaureate program before applying to medical school. Your continued academic work through a post-bacc can help make an appealing case for MD admissions. The next domain is clinical experience. Clinical experience is not only necessary to round out your MD application, it also helps you identify and hone in on why a medical profession is right for you. If you lack clinical experience coming out of your undergraduate program, taking a year to gain that experience before applying to medical school is essential. The final domain is personal goals and needs. Are you personally ready for the time commitment of medical school? Are you financially ready for this step? Do your family responsibilities affect your decision at all? These (and many other questions) are entirely valid questions to ask! You may not be ready for medical school due to personal reasons, and that is entirely okay. Gap years might seem like a foreign concept, but they can be so beneficial to cultivating a successful application. I myself had 3 years between completing undergrad to matriculating into school. 

Assessing where you are academically, clinically, and personally helps you make an informed decision about the timing of your application. Don’t be afraid to look to experienced mentors to help with that decision.

Do NOT apply to the "top" schools alone.

I have seen people make their school list by looking at the US News Top 30 and applying to solely those schools. But for best admission results, you should apply to schools that fit your mission, which may not align with whatever is going on at the top 30 schools. You want to apply to programs that get you where you want to be and that you would enjoy. I have heard the quote, “I just want to get into ANY med school.” Yes, it is an immense privilege to walk down this path, but I would like to amend the quote to, “I would like to go to any med school that would make me happy.” Medical school is four whole years of your life! In that time, you want to be fulfilled personally, as well as professionally. When applying to schools, consider your goals, your mission, and preferences related to things like class size, clinical experiences, cost, and community.

Best of luck with your admissions process and remember to never give up!

Emmanuel is pursuing his MD at UC San Francisco. Previously, he earned his BS in Biomedical Engineering at UC Davis and worked at a Fortune 50 company developing medical devices.

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