By Sam Coren
So you’ve always dreamed of becoming a doctor? Congrats! The world certainly needs more of them. Hopefully you won’t end up a cranky old kook like Dr. House or Dr. Cox from Scrubs. But being a doctor in real life is much harder than playing one on TV and getting into med school is no walk in the park either.
So what can you do if you’re a college student planning to go to medical school after you get your Bachelor’s? Here are 7 things you should be doing to prime yourself for med school applications:
1. Get good grades in your medical school pre-requisite courses.
If you’re not sure what classes to take, go talk to your academic advisor about it – chances are your school has a pre-med program that you can elect to take that will give you “priority” at course selection for these courses depending on your school. Another good thing to do is check out the requirements pages of medical schools you’re thinking about applying to and go over the required coursework for applicants just to be safe.
2. Start practicing now for the MCAT.
The Medical College Admissions Test (MCAT) is a computer–based standardized test designed to predict how well you’ll do in medical school. It tests physical and biological sciences, verbal reasoning, and writing skills. Medical school admissions are fiercely competitive and even students with a glowing transcript and letters of recommendation can be turned down if their MCAT score fails to make the cut. Might be a good idea to pick up a few practice books now to prepare yourself.
3. Choose extracurriculars that relate to science, health services, medicine, nutrition, fitness, etc.
You don’t have to be in every single possible thing your school offers (and I doubt you’ll have time to), but find one or two student activities you really enjoy doing and stick with them. Try to find a leadership position in the one your most interested in when you’re an upperclassmen. If there’s no current group at your college that fits the bill, then start your own or consider doing volunteer work.
4. Scout out undergraduate research opportunities.
If your school offers undergraduate research opportunities find out how you can get involved. Many schools offer programs and resources to facilitate research projects initiated by students. If your school doesn’t have a formal undergrad research option, ask your professors if they’re doing research or know someone who needs help.
5. Take internships!
If you were to make a resume right now and the experience section is almost blank then chances are you’re not going to impress the med school admissions office. Even if it doesn’t relate to medicine directly, having real-world, professional experience is invaluable not just only for grad school admissions but your post-college life in general.
6. Connect with alumni at your school that are currently in med school or practicing medicine.
Typically your school’s alumni relations office or a professor can hook you up with someone. Having a mentor is invaluable and most alumni are willing to talk about their career with undergrads from their alma mater. Additionally if you establish an ongoing relationship with them while you’re an undergrad they might be a good candidate to ask for a letter of recommendation. Or you may find out from talking to them that this whole med school thing might not be the right path for you.
7. Find your purpose for being a doctor beyond heritage, prestige or money.
Med school admissions officers read countless admissions essays. Just because everyone in your family is a doctor doesn’t mean you’ve got a guaranteed a ticket into med school. Medical school is long, hard and expensive – even after you graduate you aren’t going to be making “bank” for several years. Find out what your underlying passion is in wanting to go into medicine and let that shine through in your applications.