The pre-med process can be very challenging because of the many demanding requirements. To be a competitive candidate, you need to take the required pre-med courses, maintain a high GPA, do well in the MCAT, and develop close relationships with potential recommenders—all while gaining extensive experience in clinical work, shadowing, research, and leadership activities!
Our strong record of success with medical school applicants shows that this can be done! Here are some tips from our clients who have mastered the art of the pre-med experience:
1.) Maintain confidence in your chosen path, even if it’s the road less traveled.
“I took a unique route by pursuing an undergraduate business degree while completing my pre-med requirements at Cornell. There were many individuals who doubted the possibility of such an interdisciplinary path, but it was what I enjoyed and I saw how these different interests/skills could complement one another to make me a well-rounded applicant and future physician.”
2.) Have faith in your ability to succeed, even if there are strong challenges along the way (like Organic Chemistry Lab)!
“There will absolutely be challenges and obstacles along the way, but I kept my eye on the prize, remembered why I was pursuing this path and stayed positive.”
3.) Plan from the beginning. Plan out a 4-year curriculum schedule that satisfies your required courses for your major, minor, general education, and the pre-med track, as well as electives—and re-evaluate every semester. Find a way to balance your courses with your activities in clinical experience, shadowing, and research. And make sure to time your MCAT exam so that you’ve taken your science courses in advance.
“Don’t compare yourself to other pre-meds and don’t get intimidated. Just make sure you have a plan to do everything you need to do (grades, MCAT, research, medical volunteering, non-medical volunteering, shadowing, hobbies) before applying.”
4.) Find meaningful research opportunities. Research is very highly valued by medical school admissions, especially by the most competitive, selective schools. Participation in research throughout college strengthens important skills in critical analysis, follow-through, and overcoming challenges. Finally, demonstrating the ability to understand complex journal articles is a valuable skill for future physicians.
“Get involved in research during your first year. Professors who run labs will not want to spend time training you if you will only be there for 2-3 semesters.”
5.) Build long-term relationships with mentors and professors. It’s extremely important during college that you gain direct exposure to the demands of medicine by shadowing and participating in clinical experience. The physicians you meet can serve as valuable mentors.
“Seek out established physicians who will advocate for you, guide you, and provide advice.”
In addition, develop close relationships with professors – especially science faculty – who can serve as recommenders. Many med schools require one or two recommendations from science faculty, and since many of the pre-med science classes are large, it can be challenging to identify faculty who know you personally.
“If you take the time to attend office hours and build long-term relationships with your teachers, they will know you better and will be able to write you quality letters of recommendation.”
6.) Meet with the pre-health advisor. Establish a relationship early on with the pre-health office at your school. Find out if your college composes a committee letter for pre-med applicants. The med school admissions process is very complex, and it can be very helpful to have an expert guide you along the journey.
7.) Stay connected. Subscribe to email lists and follow the social media accounts of pre-med blogs and pre-med related organizations at your school.
“They frequently share information about professional panels, volunteering opportunities, scholarships, research opportunities, and other unique experiences that may appeal to you.”
The AAMC website is also a great resource for information about pre-med opportunities.
8.) Pursue medically relevant extracurricular activities that you are genuinely passionate about. Each college offers hundreds of opportunities for clinical work, shadowing, and research. Choose what most appeals to you.
“If you enjoy your experiences, you will spend more time on them and are more likely to excel in them. Your unique interests will help you stand out during the application process, and you will also be much happier!”
9.) Carve out time for your hobbies. More formal, medically-relevant activities are important – but make sure to find some time just for you.
“Hobbies allow you to destress and are essential for your mental health and well-being. Furthermore, medical schools want to know that you are a well-rounded individual.”
Hobbies also help personalize you and show that you will contribute diverse interests to your med school class. These can include Greek life, sports, or the arts.
“One of my three designated Most Meaningful Experiences was a non-medical work experience that came out of my passion for art. Several of my interviewers ended up discussing these experiences with me!”
10.) Create a “theme” for your application in which common threads weave through your activities.
“[You can do this] by simply pursuing what you’re passionate about; for example, I ended up doing a lot of volunteering with underserved communities and teaching, and my entire application was shaped by these themes.”
Collegiate Gateway advises students on all aspects of the medical school admissions process, including course selection, medically relevant experiences, letters of recommendations, MCAT test prep, med school list, primary applications, secondary essays, and interview prep. Our students have been accepted to top medical schools. 94% of our med school applicants have been accepted to at least one medical school, as compared with the national average of 41%.
The med school application process is complex and competitive. Contact Collegiate Gateway if you would like guidance for any aspect of your journey. As always, we’re happy to help!