Updated: May 12, 2021
Google “getting into medical school” and the number of websites, blogs, resources, councilors, YouTube videos, and resources that pop up makes me uneasy. Here’s why:
Most of them attempt to guide students to exactly what needs to fit on the paper application to happily, and with “a guarantee of admission”, send you forward. Unfortunately, I hold a different opinion. While time and many iterations of eager future medical students helped create a blueprint of successful applicants - there is never ANY guarantee. Why? Because no matter what, there will always be more medical school applicants than seats they can fill. This should not discourage any applicant, but help guide them to the reality that I believe to be true:
The best medical school applicants, and those that will gain admission to medical school at some point, are those who not only fill the the basic requirements for medical school set by the AAMC and the individual medical schools applied to, but readily and simply articulates how they are an above average fit for medicine.They describe their specific life experiences and how they will contribute to the medical school environment, medicine, and their future success as a physician. ** Check the bottom of this post for some ‘sample’ applicants
I suggest you reference the FAQ page for some of the bare minimum requirements for medical school application (and keep your eyes out for future blogs) but I want to focus on the idea of “you against yourself” - the underlying thread that ties your experiences together. Think of your application, life, and stories as puzzle pieces. If they all come from the same box with a single-minded outcome in mind they will fit together clearly and concisely. But if they don’t align, they may have the right shapes and fit geometrically together, but they won’t paint a clear and cohesive picture. Your goal in applying to medical school is to have an image (or application, if we must digress) that leaves ZERO doubts about your passion, intention, and dedication to the profession of medicine.
So before I try to really drive the point home I want to share a personal story. During my application cycle, my dad spoke to some colleagues and shared that I had been accepted to “x’ amount of schools. One of his work partners then shared that his son was the PERFECT applicant, had done everything possible to get into medical school, and despite his first application cycle didn’t gain an acceptance. I hope this sounds fishy to you, because it is. Why? Because while we all wish we could gain acceptance on our first cycle, not getting in doesn’t mean you’re not an appropriate candidate, it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be a doctor, but it does mean that your puzzle might be a little unclear or a few pieces might be missing.
So what does putting you against yourself mean? It means you know what the “averages are” in that you are accurately applying to schools that fit your quantitative and personal interests. It means that with what you have, you are emphasizing your strengths and how you are combatting your weaknesses. This cycle, this application, you presented every single thing you could. Don’t get in? Maybe you need to strengthen things.
In short - is this the best application you could submit, or not? No matter how you shake it out, this process is about putting your achievements on a pedestal and letting them speak for you. In every class you will find people that “fit the mold” of what people assume a medical student is, and then you will find 200 other stories right there with them. That is important to know, because your application is about what you’ve done, your individuality, and your story. So is your application the absolute best you can put forward today? Does it fit the minimums and provide examples of how you exceed otherwise?
Due the growing length of this article I am going to walk through some examples of students who optimize their application either before their first cycle, or in-between cycles in Part II of The Right Time to Apply: You Against Yourself. These are actual students I’ve worked with and are all medical students now. I will not include a student who falls into the 99% of every category, but if you want my opinion on that position please email me.