Planning Ahead for Med School: 11th and 12th Grades

Following our recommended steps to the medical school of your choice? We hope so. So far, we’ve tackled how to best prepare in 8th and 9th grade, 10th grade, and now we’re going to get into the nitty gritty of how to prepare for medical school when you are in the 11th and 12th grades.

What to do in 11th grade

Finish all standardized tests and narrow down your college list.

Hopefully, by the end of 10th grade, you’ve taken care to ensure both volunteer positions and research opportunities (if not, then keep working at it!). If so, then your focus in junior year should now shift from activities to academics. Some of you may have finished your SAT/ACT in 10th grade, but if not, then that should be your biggest priority coming into junior year (along with stellar grades, of course!). Spend some extra time the summer before your junior year to really prepare for this test so that hopefully you’ll be ready to take it by October or November. It’s best to try and take it during first semester of your junior year for two main reasons: (1) either you’re happy with your score and you can focus second semester on SAT subject tests/AP exams, or (2) you’re not happy with your score but you still have some time left in junior year to retake the test and improve. Having to deal with the SAT/ACT in your first semester of senior year is a huge burden, since it’ll take time away from your college essays and applications, so do all you can to complete it by junior year.

Once you’ve finished the SAT/ACT, the next standardized tests that you should focus on are your subject tests and AP exams. Since the content covered on both subject tests and AP exams is quite similar, most students tend to take both around the same time (in May/June). I would generally recommend taking at least 2 subjects tests: the first being SAT Math Level 2 and the second being SAT Science (usually biology or chemistry for BS/MD programs). Some students choose to take a third subject test in a humanities or social science subject simply do so to showcase their academic well-roundedness, but only do this if you’ve got time for it. Otherwise, math and science are really what the BS/MD programs are looking for.

Quick note: Be sure to do your research and double-check what each program you’re applying to requires in terms of SAT Subject tests. Some want a humanities subject test, while others may want both biology and chemistry subject tests. In general, one science and one math will suffice, but that piece of advice may not hold up for every program. Do your research early (preferably in 10th grade) so that you can accordingly plan when you want to take each separate test. 

What to do in 12th grade

Complete the college application process and prepare for BS/MD interviews

After finishing up all your standardized tests, its time to get really serious about application season (I know… it seems like the workload never ends, but hey, you’re almost there!). In the summer between your junior and senior year, you should try to secure some sort of research or health-related internship. On top of doing all that, though, it’s important to find some time to start working on your essays. As a BS/MD applicant, you are going to be writing nearly twice as many essays as any traditional college applicant, so the best piece of advice I can give to anyone is to start writing early. Hopefully you’ve already got at least a short-list of colleges you’re planning to apply to, but if not, then do that first. Once that is settled, you can really start to focus on the prompts that each individual school asks for.

When first attempting to write college application essays, they may seem daunting and impossible (which is why most students tend to procrastinate so much on them). But in reality, the most daunting part is that blank word document; once you start putting thoughts on paper, all your ideas will start to flow and slowly coalesce into a more structured essay. I’d recommend starting out with your largest prompts, since those are going to be the ones that take the most time. These include the common application, the “Why Medicine” essay, and the “Tell me about a non-health-related passion” essay. I encourage writing multiple prompts (whether that be one big one and a few small ones or multiple big ones) at the same time simply because it minimizes the chances of feeling stuck. There are inevitably going to be days when you can’t seem to coherently express your thoughts on paper; and if you choose to exclusively work on one prompt at a time, then those days are ultimately going to reduce your rate of progress.  If, however, you’re working on multiple prompts at the same time, then you might find yourself feeling particularly motivated to answer one question even though you’re at a loss of words for another. Essay writing has a lot to do with different moods and times, so multitasking and working on several different prompts at once allows you to be flexible with your ideas and emotions.

After finishing up all your essays and applications, you can finally take a huge sigh of relief. For the next weeks, you can take a bit of breather and relax before interview invitations for BS/MD programs start to come out. Successful applicants will usually be notified anytime from late January to early March about the interview process. If you’ve applied to several BS/MD programs and successfully get interview invitations from many of them, then get ready for a lot of traveling (and a lot of preparation for what you must do before, during, and after your interview, so keep a look out for future blog posts addressing all those topics!). If, on the other hand, you’re not successful in getting interview invitations from some or all of the BS/MD programs that you applied to, then don’t worry too much about it. Remember that these programs are some of the most competitive programs in the country, and by having gone through the entire BS/MD process in the first place, you’ve already got an advantage for four years down the road when you apply to medical school. Everybody hates rejection, but just know that that is part of the college application process. If you are truly passionate about pursuing medicine, then don’t worry because you’ve still got plenty of time to achieve that dream!

This blog posts conclude the three-part topic of “Planning Ahead” (see part 1 and part 2).  As you can tell, a lot of thought goes into figuring out how to maximize your success rate when it comes to BS/MD programs. In the midst of it all, you may find yourself questioning your own potential and ability, but always try to keep perspective. If you mess up here or there, it’s okay! You can make adjustments as you go. As long as you do your best to stick to the plan, chances are that you’ll pass the finish line with positive outcomes!

 



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