Note that almost anything can be related to medicine. One of my activities on my application was cycling, and I talked about the many ways I saw links between competitive cycling and medicine.Also, research is broadly defined. Research is most definitely not confined to pipetting in a basic science lab for 20 hours a week.
From the outset, this might not seem important as long as you do everything that is “expected of you,” but it actually becomes very helpful down the line.
Interviews are conversations, particularly medical school interviews. Random topics will come up. The more you’ve read about, the more you will be able to converse about in an intelligent, informed, and impressive way.
I did a lot of traveling during my time as an undergrad, and whenever I went somewhere, I created a Tumblr blog to write about my experiences and share them with family in friends. I took the quality of the blog very seriously and actually really improved my writing by thinking about how to frame my travel experiences in a creative, informative way. At a certain point, I started to think about how I would write about the experience while I was experiencing it! Can you see how advantageous this might be if you do this with premed activities?
I took the MCAT at the end of the the summer of my junior year, studying while doing research and taking 2 courses.
Last June, I submitted my AMCAS the day before graduation, after working on it all week while simultaneously studying for finals. This was insane. It is obviously better if you can get more done before finals. I pressed submit on the 5th day after the application opened (June 14th) and my app was not verified until July 23rd! This year saw a massive number of early apps, as more and more applicants recognize the importance of this. Be sure to send in your transcript BEFORE you submit, preferably in May.
Example: “I am a driven and I am passionate about understanding the human body.” versus “I worked tirelessly in the lab day after day to better understand the pathophysiology of Alzheimer’s disease, driven by a fascination with how the brain comes to deteriorate.”
There are certainly expectations to this. If you have a very strong interest and have really distinguished yourself in a certain area, you certainly can focus more on this.
There are a few nuggets of uniqueness I have tried to throw in throughout each step of the process: I race bikes. I spent one summer in Nepal and another in Peru. I know how to play the didgeridoo. I am currently working at a winery.
I submitted 23 secondaries, all by mid-August, but I’ve only heard back from a little over 1/3 of the schools I applied to.
What does conversational mean? Faculty doctors, who have years of experience reading people through clinical work, are observing how you communicate and interact. They are generally less concerned with your qualifications, which you have already proven to get an interview invite in the first place. The key question they examine: “If I was this person’s patient, would I want them to be my doctor? Would I be comfortable with them?”
Edison is one of history’s most famous inventors, and is recognized for his creation of the incandescent light bulb. But it famously took him over 3,000 trials to come up with something that worked. There is this idea that to get accepted to a school like Harvard or UCSF or Johns Hopkins, you have to be a genius. You certainly have to be smart, but I’m here to remind you that genius is largely a product of incessant work and relentless determination.
UCSD HMP3 Constructing the AMCAS Presentation - Ben Ostrander
How To Set Yourself Apart:
Constructing an effective
November 6th, 2013
By Benjamin Ostrander
1) The WHAT and the
Success in the application process starts with WHAT
you do and HOW you do it
It is no secret what admissions committees want
(Hint: Google “medical school selection factors” or “med
school applicant traits”)
The important thing: Do what you love, love
what you do!
Your activities should be things you enjoy
There are endless options, so do something you are
These are not boxes to check
If you enjoy what you do, it makes a huge
Questions to ask:
Am I learning?
Reflecting on this activity?
Read read read. Write write write.
Many fail to recognize that the quality of an
application is heavily dependent on your ability to
effectively express ideas and experiences through
So you have to practice
All good writers are voracious readers. So read!
My suggestions: Atul Gawande, Paul
Farmer, Oliver Sacks, Michael Gladwell, Abraham
Verghese, the New York Times, the New
Yorker, the Economist…
Bonus: Through reading, you not only improve
your writing and vocabulary, but you are also
preparing for interviews
Write a lot! And not just for school
Write for the Guardian, Prospect Journal, Saltman
Quarterly, Triple Helix, or start a blog
Keep a journal, preferably one that you will share:
This forces you to write, and to put effort into it
3) START EARLY
How are you going to take care of all the requirements
and still stay sane? When are you going to take the
MCAT? Do you realistically have time to fit that
activity in this quarter? Will you have time next
Then you finally reach the application year…
First: Start prewriting for your personal statement
Spring Break: Write a first draft of your personal
May: AMCAS opens online. Start filling it in.
June: Submit! Apply early. This is especially tough
on the quarter system.
July-August: Complete supplemental apps.
September: Let the interviews begin!
4) TELL A STORY
This is probably the most important thing!
Many premeds participate in very similar activities,
so the difference is HOW you talk about them in
AMCAS is your medium: The application is to you
as the poem is to Robert Frost and the novel is to
Academic transcript: Believe it or not, this tells an
What did you major in? Did you have a minor? What trends are
apparent in your grades?
Essay: 5300 characters
15 slots available, 700 characters each
3 most meaningful activities, 1325 additional characters
This is hard!
Your mindfulness and reflection during all your
premed activities (the HOW) and all the reading
and writing you have done to become the next
(insert favorite author here) now take center stage.
Think deeply about who you are, your
personality, and why medicine. Show these traits in
Most Meaningful Activity
FOCUS, BALANCE, SHIN
Focus on the traits medical schools are looking for
and that you honestly feel you possess (see
compassion, empathy, leadership, motivation, com
Tailor your app:
This is especially important for secondary applications: Is the
school a research institution? Is primary care the focus? Do
they have an affiliated school of public health?
Pay very close attention to the language in the mission
statement and on the admissions website.
Construct a balanced application
This is especially important for the primary app. You can
narrow your focus more in the supplemental apps.
Your 15 slots in the Work/Activities section should ideally
be divided somewhat evenly into the different categories
How will you be remembered? How are you going
to differentiate yourself ?
Do not hold anything back
There are ways to describe what you have done and really
highlight and accentuate them without falsifying information.
You are all interesting people, so be interesting!
1. The WHAT and the HOW.
2. Read read read. Write write write.
3. Start early.
4. Tell a story.
5. Focus, balance, shine.
If you submit early, you can expect to hear back
from the first schools sometime in September
BUT: Interview invites are stochastic and
unpredictable. Be patient.
Prepare: Browse the school website, see Student
Doctor interview feedback surveys, do mock
HOW ARE THEY ANYWAY
In general, on interview days schools are recruiting
you just as much as you are trying to prove you
deserve a spot
Usually consists of a dean welcome, two 40-60
minute interviews (or MMI format), lunch with
current students, and a tour
Interviews so far have been largely conversational