This is a post I’ve been thinking about writing for a while because it’s a question I get frequently from friends, friends-of-friends, and coworkers. I completely forgot how nerve-racking it was to apply to medical school, until recently when someone asked about my specific MCAT study schedule. All the info in this post is based off my personal experiences with my own application and my friends applying around the same time. I hope I can pass along the knowledge I’ve gained and help someone else along their path to medicine!
- Complete the prerequisites. Every school is somewhat different so check with the schools you are interested in, but the major ones are general chem 1, general chem 2, organic chem 1, organic chem 2, biology 101, anatomy, physics 1, physics 2, English, and sometimes calculus.
- Major in something you LIKE! If you hate biology, don’t major in it! It’s not necessary to be a biology/chemistry major to get into medical school. I have tons of friends who majored in really cool subjects like anthropology, Russian literature, and religious studies.
- Challenge yourself. A lot of people advocate for doing a less challenging major so you can get good grades in undergrad. I personally really appreciated taking difficult coursework like graduate level chemistry and biology courses because it really prepared me for the difficulty level of my medical school classes. Medical school is extremely challenging and doing well in difficult undergrad classes will prepare you well. It will show the admissions committee that you are capable of doing well in the difficult med school curriculum.
I wrote a whole post on studying for the MCAT but here’s the Spark Notes version! 😉 I can’t speak towards studying for the new sections of the MCAT but my main tips are to do practice questions and take full-length practice tests. The main way to study is to just do a zillion practice questions. I wouldn’t bother watching or reading review material, instead dive right into the practice questions. Do 10 questions at a time and then check those and make sure you understand the concepts. Each one I missed, I would write down in a notebook the concept and why I missed the question. If I was still confused, I’d quickly review the concept or watch a video online. I also tried to do a full practice test every Saturday. It’s definitely doable to study while you are working full time or taking classes, you just need to make it a priority to do X number of practice questions per day (100-200 is plenty because you need time to make sure you understand the ones you’re missing!) and at least 5-10 full-length practice tests before the big day. I would only recommend a prep course for those who are a few years out of college because it is a good review, but if you have seen the material recently, then doing practice questions is a better use of your time. These were my favorite resources:
- All 5 Examkracker 1001 Books (1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + 5) – Practice questions, practice questions, practice questions.
- Audio Osmosis – I listened to this every day on my way to and from work and it was super helpful. I’m definitely an auditory learner and I loved the way they had silly ways to remember facts.
- Full-Length Practice Tests via AAMC and Gold Standard (scroll down) – I would do 10 of these before your real exam day because the average of these will probably be around your real score. What is more important than taking the tests, is giving yourself a few hours to review the test and make sure you really understand the ones you missed.
Where Should I apply?
This is a very personal choice because each school is looking for a particular type of candidate. Some schools focus more on research and want students with lots of research experience. Some schools focus on service and want students with hundreds of hours of volunteer experience. The focus and mission of the school will dictate the type of students accepted. To have the best experience in your 4 years in medical school, try to find schools where your goals and experiences match the school’s mission (ie: you don’t want to be stuck at a research-based med school with a required research year if you hate research!). You should apply very broadly and no school is out of reach but keep in mind your own strengths. If you are interested in getting an MD/PhD and are heavily focused on research, and that’s where most of your previous experiences are, you are not as likely to be a top choice for a
service-oriented school, even with excellent GPA/MCAT scores.
Writing the applications
In general, for your primary application, I would write a personal statement about WHY you want to go into medicine and then different activities you’ve done and how they’ve prepared you to be a good physician. I wouldn’t get too fancy by writing a very attention-catching personal statement like you’re encouraged to do for undergraduate college admissions. Keep it simple and sincere! As far as secondary applications, I would write very specific ones for each school. Every school has extremely different programs and characteristics and tailoring your essays will show the schools you care about their program.
Do you have any questions about applying to medical school? Any advice to add? Comment below!