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.


academics study skills MCAT medical school admissions SAT college admissions expository writing English strategy MD/PhD admissions writing LSAT GMAT physics GRE chemistry biology math graduate admissions academic advice law school admissions ACT interview prep test anxiety language learning career advice premed MBA admissions personal statements homework help AP exams creative writing MD test prep study schedules computer science Common Application mathematics summer activities history philosophy secondary applications organic chemistry economics supplements research grammar 1L PSAT admissions coaching law psychology statistics & probability dental admissions legal studies ESL CARS PhD admissions SSAT covid-19 logic games reading comprehension calculus engineering USMLE mentorship Spanish parents Latin biochemistry case coaching verbal reasoning AMCAS DAT English literature STEM admissions advice excel medical school political science skills French Linguistics MBA coursework Tutoring Approaches academic integrity astrophysics chinese gap year genetics letters of recommendation mechanical engineering Anki DO Social Advocacy algebra art history artificial intelligence business careers cell biology classics data science dental school diversity statement geometry kinematics linear algebra mental health presentations quantitative reasoning study abroad tech industry technical interviews time management work and activities 2L DMD IB exams ISEE MD/PhD programs Sentence Correction adjusting to college algorithms amino acids analysis essay athletics business skills cold emails finance first generation student functions graphing information sessions international students internships logic networking poetry proofs resume revising science social sciences software engineering trigonometry units writer's block 3L AAMC Academic Interest EMT FlexMed Fourier Series Greek Health Professional Shortage Area Italian JD/MBA admissions Lagrange multipliers London MD vs PhD MMI Montessori National Health Service Corps Pythagorean Theorem Python Shakespeare Step 2 TMDSAS Taylor Series Truss Analysis Zoom acids and bases active learning architecture argumentative writing art art and design schools art portfolios bacteriology bibliographies biomedicine brain teaser campus visits cantonese capacitors capital markets central limit theorem centrifugal force chemical engineering chess chromatography class participation climate change clinical experience community service constitutional law consulting cover letters curriculum dementia demonstrated interest dimensional analysis distance learning econometrics electric engineering electricity and magnetism escape velocity evolution executive function fellowships freewriting genomics harmonics health policy history of medicine history of science hybrid vehicles hydrophobic effect ideal gas law immunology induction infinite institutional actions integrated reasoning intermolecular forces intern investing investment banking lab reports letter of continued interest linear maps mandarin chinese matrices mba medical physics meiosis microeconomics mitosis mnemonics music music theory nervous system