MedSchoolCoach Scholarship Program

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Scholarship Program for Students Interested in Advancing Health Care (Medical School Path Not Required)

MedSchoolCoach is pleased to announce a $1,000 USD academic scholarship for the 2017-2018 academic year. Winners will be selected on April 30th, 2018.

Submission Deadline: April 15, 2018
Date of Award: April 30, 2018
Open to Undergraduate, Graduate and Incoming Medical Students
Open to legal residents of the United States and Canada
Minimum GPA: 2.5

Proof of GPA will be required before scholarship is awarded.

The scholarship award will be sent directly to the College or University being attended instead of directly to the winning student.

NOTE: Submissions are used for the sole purpose of awarding a scholarship. Applicants will never receive solicitation from MedSchoolCoach or any other party and no purchase is necessary to apply. Applicant information is never shared or sold.

Scholarship Title: The MedSchoolCoach Scholarship

Students are required to submit a 500-750 word essay titled “The Future of Medicine In Our Culture”

Medicine is a constantly evolving industry. From the advent of penicillin to today’s growing electroceuticals industry it seems that the possibilities for healing truly are limitless. We’d love to hear your ideas about the direction that medicine is going and how doctors are going to have to adapt to stay on the cutting edge. Entrants will be judged on originality, persuasiveness, and evidence-based proof.

 

Learn More About MedSchoolCoach

Since 2007, MedSchoolCoach LLC has provided medical school application consulting services to hundreds of premedical students. We started this company after successfully going through the process ourselves. Dozens of people instantly wanted advice on how to do the same. We found that the advice people were getting from other sources was outdated or incorrect, and often lead them down the wrong path. We saw firsthand the many different places one can falter in the medical school application process. That is why we thought it would be helpful to offer structured tutoring services.

In combining our experience as premeds, applicants, medical students, admission committee members and physicians, we were able to give better, more sound advice than almost any other advisor you can find. Together, our advisors have the experience and credentials to help you get into a great medical school.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_cta h2=”Ready to apply?” h2_use_theme_fonts=”yes” h4_use_theme_fonts=”yes” add_button=”right” btn_title=”Apply Today” btn_color=”sky” use_custom_fonts_h2=”true” use_custom_fonts_h4=”true” btn_link=”url:https%3A%2F%2Fgoo.gl%2Fforms%2FX8NUEh2c0AUYoSrD2|||”][/vc_cta][/vc_column][/vc_row]

Different Types of BS/MD Programs

When narrowing down your potential list of colleges, one of the most important factors to consider is the number of schools you’re applying to. Most guidance counselors recommend applying to anywhere from 8-12 colleges. Any number beyond that, they warn, can cause unnecessary stress and anxiety for students. And while this may be a valid point for any normal high school senior, any student looking to apply to BS/MD programs has to be cautious of such advice.

When I was first considering which schools to apply to, I had originally short-listed about 25 colleges. And while I was well aware and ready to dedicate all the time, effort, and money required into these applications, my guidance counselor did not have that same confidence. She warned me multiple times that this many applications were unnecessary, and that I needed to narrow the focus of my list a bit more. But what she didn’t understand was that when you’re applying to BS/MD programs, application season is a little different.

First, you have to note down a list of regular undergraduate schools that you’d like to apply to. This takes into account your safety schools, target schools, and reach schools. But in addition to that, you have to make another list of all the BS/MD programs that you want to apply to. Now the unfortunate part of BS/MD schools is that even if you’re only interested in the school for their program (which is a debatable topic that’s further discussed below!) you still have to complete their entire regular undergraduate application. The upside, however, is that if you’re interested in both the undergraduate school on its own as well as with the program, then there is only slightly extra effort you have to put in to apply to the program. This sort of overlap is extremely convenient and is the best way to get your total number of colleges down.

But before narrowing down your college list, you’ve got to decide what you’re looking for in a potential college. With regards to regular undergraduate schools, the normal conditions apply: how big is the school, what subjects is it known for, what types of extracurricular activities are available, etc. When it comes down to BS/MD programs, however, there are additional details that need to be considered. Below, I’ve listed some of the most important questions to ask when deciding which programs are best suited for you.

How long do you want your undergraduate career to last?

BS/MD programs can last anywhere from 6-8 years, with 6 year programs being slightly less common than 7 or 8 year programs. The benefit of 6 or 7-year programs is that they allow you to accelerate your study of medicine by a few years. It’s no secret that becoming a doctor takes near 12-years of study, and for some people, minimizing that time is of utmost importance. Not only that, but by cutting your undergraduate education short, you get to save up some extra money that you can later use to fund medical school. The only downside to these accelerated programs is the quicker pace of study. 6-year programs will almost always require you to take summer classes while 7-year programs may at least recommend doing so (especially if that 7-year program requires taking the MCAT).

The best way to find out if an accelerated program is right for you is to determine how organized and confident you are what you want to study/how you want to pursue your interests during your undergraduate years. Any accelerated program requires that their students be extremely proactive in terms of planning. It’s difficult to switch around majors and incorporate things such as study abroad (though it has been done before!) due to the limited time available. Depending on the program, though, there is some freedom given to you for extending your undergraduate times if you wish to do so.

8-year programs, on the other hand, have a completely different goal in mind. The purpose of these programs is to enrich your undergraduate education rather than accelerate it. Many of them, in fact, do not even allow students to enter medical school prior to four years of undergraduate education. Now that doesn’t mean you need to spend all those 4 years in school. Some people choose to graduate in 3 years and use the fourth year to take advantage of fellowship offers, study abroad programs, or pursue a graduate degree in some other subject. And if four years still isn’t enough time to accomplish all of your goals before medical school, then go ahead and take some gap years in between. In general, these programs tend to be flexible with increasing your education time before medical school but strictly enforce at least a four-year minimum. And that’s simply because they don’t any student to come into this program with the goal of accelerating their education; the goal is always enrichment.

In my opinion, one of the greatest advantages of an 8-year program over an accelerated program is the acceptance of uncertainty. On average, the typical undergraduate college student changes his or her majors 3-4 times, and having the freedom to do so is one that should not be taken for granted. I can speak from personal experience on this; coming into college, I thought I knew exactly what I wanted to study and had a full 4-year plan sketched out of every class I was going to take. But by the end of my first semester freshmen year, I was doubting my major choice simply because I had heard from older students that my academic department of interest wasn’t as strong as I’d hoped for. So at that point, I had to opt for a new major and completely change up my entire 4-year plan. But again, by the end of my second semester of freshmen year, I was doubting my new major choice because I didn’t love it as much as I thought I would, so I ended up keeping it as just a minor. At this point, I was back to square one with no major in mind even though one year of college had already gone by. But the point is, its okay to be unsure. In fact, it’s quite natural for your interests to change in college. No matter how confident you are in your choice of study or extracurriculars prior to entering college, something or another is going to change, and you are going to have to make adjustments in order to accommodate for those changes. In an 8-year program, its far easier to make adjustments than it is in an accelerated program, and it’s a freedom that I personally value quite highly.

What interests are you planning to pursue in college?

This is an extremely important question when deciding which BS/MD program is best suited for you. While some programs strongly encourage (perhaps even require) research and clinical experience during your undergraduate years, others want their students to focus more time on liberal arts activities and get a more holistic understanding of medicine. With some research of the undergraduate university, it is quite easy to determine the program’s focus (since most programs endorse the whatever philosophy holds true to the undergraduate school). There are, however, also schools that completely leave it up to you by minimizing requirements and maximizing opportunities. Take, for example, the BS/MD program that I am currently enrolled in: REMS at the University of Rochester. Though the undergraduate school is known for their strong research facilities, they also require students to take courses in all three-subject areas of Social Sciences, Humanities, and Natural Sciences. Due to the dual focus of the university, it is very easy to get involved with whatever you want, whether that be more research-oriented interests or liberal-arts oriented interests. And on top of that, the REMS program puts no requirement on you for any specific extracurriculars. As a result, the amount of diversity present amongst REMS students is large; about 50% of students are natural science majors and the other 50% are social science or humanities majors. Not everyone gets involved in research, and even if they do, it might not be the traditional lab-research that everyone associates with pre-meds. A large part of my college application was explaining how I’ve balanced science and art my entire life; with Rochester though, I didn’t have to choose. Some people may be more drawn to one area of study, and if that’s the case, then there is no point in going to a program that encourages an alternative area of study. It’s all about finding what program aligns with your interests, and the only way to determine that is through research.

Are you willing to stay in the same location for an extended period of time?

When I had finally decided to commit to U of R for REMS and starting informing friends and teachers of my decision, the most common reaction I got back was “Wow, congrats! But you’re really willing to stay in one place for 8 years?” This question confused me, since most of the people who asked it had been living in the same city (or at least nearby) for a good majority of their lives. But I guess what most people assume is that they’ll go to college in one city for 4-years and then hopefully relocate for graduate school or job purposes. To some people, location may be a factor of great importance (especially if you get there and find out you hate the area), and it is definitely something to consider when applying to BS/MD programs. Not all programs have the undergraduate school in the same city as the medical school (for example, the Baylor/Baylor program has Baylor University in Waco, Texas but Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, Texas), but many of them do. So just to be safe, it’s best to do some research on it beforehand and make sure you’re really ready to commit to one general area for the next few years.

How important is avoiding the MCAT?

According to older pre-med students, taking the MCATs is one of the most dreaded parts of being a pre-med. It’s an 8-hour test that requires extensive knowledge and commitment because it cumulatively tests everything you’ve learned since day one of freshmen year. The MCAT, in fact, is one of the biggest roadblocks that prevents pre-med students from pursuing interests such as studying abroad. And that’s exactly why many BS/MD programs allow for their students to opt out of taking it, so that they can use that time they would spend studying on other, more enriching experiences.

Unfortunately, not all programs exempt you from taking the MCAT. Instead, they require that you get a minimum score (usually slightly lower than that medical school’s average MCAT score) to be guaranteed admission into the medical school. Of course, no MCAT is usually preferable to a lower score on the MCAT, but that doesn’t mean you should automatically cross out any program that requires the MCAT off your list. In fact, there can be several benefits to taking the MCAT.

One of the most critiqued aspects of BS/MD programs without the MCAT is that their students will be disadvantaged when it comes time to take their USMLE (another standardized test) in medical school. Though I have several friends who have debunked this theory with their own education, it is still a point of valid concern for many students. In that case, perhaps a program that requires you to only achieve a minimum score is ideal. That way, you get the experience of taking a large, standardized test but get to do so without having to overstress about getting the highest score possible. Alternatively, some students might prefer to avoid the MCAT altogether simply because they do not perform their best under standardized testing conditions, in which case a program without MCAT requirements is optimal. It all comes down to personal preference, but this is definitely a question that should be addressed when deciding which programs to apply to.

How prestigious does the undergraduate school need to be?

Disclaimer: By no means am I trying to talk down to any undergraduate school in this section below. Instead, I am simply trying to shed light on a controversial topic that students entering BS/MD programs deal with all the time.

One of the biggest dilemmas that BS/MD applicants face when it comes time to commit to college is how much weight they should put on the “prestige factor” of their undergraduate university. Even though acceptance rates for several BS/MD programs are much lower than those of even the most competitive ivy-league schools, that doesn’t take away from the fact that most of the undergraduate universities part of these BS/MD programs are ranked lower (sometimes substantially so) than those ivy-league schools. Deciding where to commit to is an extremely personal decision, and with options as great as these, you really can’t go wrong. I have friends who have turned down renowned universities including Stanford, Harvard, and MIT simply for a slot in one of these programs. On the flip side, though, I also have friends that have turned down some of the most competitive BS/MD programs to instead attend ivy-league standard schools including Yale, UC Berkeley, and Princeton.

My strongest piece of advice for students leaning towards accepting a BS/MD offer is to make sure you are truly happy with the undergraduate school, even if it is not as highly ranked as some of your other university options. I can remember back to the fall of my senior year when I was so desperately hoping to get into any BS/MD program, regardless of how good or bad the undergraduate university was. Of course, my aspirations were towards programs like Brown University’s PLME, which combined both an excellent undergraduate school with a well-ranked medical school. But when you’re in that deep into application season and are questioning how you could ever go through this entire process all over again, just about any BS/MD program looks promising.

Now, however, having just completed my freshmen year of college and reflecting back to those days, I can’t imagine what I was thinking. I know for a fact that if I had decided to go to a undergraduate university that I didn’t like simply because of the conditional medical school acceptance it was offering, I would have hated it. So much so that I might have even transferred schools. Your undergraduate career is a time to challenge yourself, both intellectually and socially; it’s an exciting part of your life where you get to grow and push yourself to be better. If, however, you choose to go to an undergraduate school that doesn’t excite you or challenge you in any way, then you will never have the motivation needed to reach your full potential.

Previously, I had categorized BS/MD applicants into two different types: those who had turned down BS/MD programs for ivy-league schools and those who had turned down ivy-league schools for BS/MD programs. But I omitted perhaps the most important category of all: those who had regretted the decision they made. These are the students who’s perspective you should really try to understand and ask yourself if you could possibly see yourself having some of the same regrets in the future. Students who regretted choosing a BS/MD program felt so most likely because either (1) they didn’t feel challenged by their peers and professors or (2) they ended up deciding that medicine wasn’t for them and had wished their resume now had a slightly more prestigious undergraduate university on it. Students who regretted choosing an ivy-league type school over a BS/MD program, on the other hand, likely felt so because (1) they felt the stresses and time commitment required to be a successful pre-med was not worth the extra “prestige” factor, or (2) the competition was so fierce that they eventually had to consider an alternative career route because their GPA and MCAT scores were not high enough for medical school.

It is, of course, impossible to predict what obstacles you are going to face in the future. And no matter what you decide, there will always be some “what if” questions still lingering in your mind. The goal isn’t to avoid those questions, though; instead, it’s to avoid regretting your decision in its entirety. The best way to come to a decision, then, is to make sure you’re committing to a university truly because you believe you will be happy there, not simply because it’ll provide you with an “easier” route to medical school or because it’s a more “prestigious” university. Of course those should be points of consideration, but they should not be the only reason for your decision. If medicine is truly your calling, then one way or another, you will get there. And if somewhere along the way you decide medicine isn’t for you, then you should still be happy with the undergraduate university you chose.

Can you afford it?

The final point to consider when applying to a BS/MD program is financial restrictions. Though most people don’t look into this matter too heavily until they’re strongly considering committing to a university, it is a topic to keep in the back of your mind when applying to BS/MD programs. A good majority of these programs have two stages to their application process: (1) an essay portion that is included in addition to your regular undergraduate application, and (2) an on-campus interview with the medical faculty. Of course it’s always exciting to get an interview offer, but the downside to that is that you often have to spend money buying plane tickets/taking long road-trips and book hotels. Unfortunately, these interviews are a non-negotiable part of the application process, so there is no way you can convince the selection committee to offer you acceptance even though you could not make the interview due to financial restraints. The only way to minimize monetary costs, then, is by being very selective with which schools you travel to for an interview. If you apply to a program that’s perhaps you’re not 100% interested in attending but still end of getting an interview, do not waste your time and money traveling to campus unless you are serious about accepting a potential offer from them.

The other downside to BS/MD programs is that once you have been accepted into the program, not all of them offer great financial assistance to their students. And they do so strategically. These programs know that a conditional acceptance to medical school is of great value, and they try to use that as leverage when determining how much scholarship money to give you. As a result, don’t be too surprised if a university with a BS/MD program doesn’t match scholarship offers you’ve received from other, regular undergraduate universities (no matter how prestigious they may be). And don’t at all be surprised if these schools provide you with no money towards medical school. For people with financial restraints, the best programs to apply to are those at public, instate universities. They often provide a bit more scholarship money, and even if they don’t, their tuition prices are already significantly lower than those of private schools.

So to recap, the six questions you should ask yourself when applying to BS/MD programs are:

  1. How long do you want your undergraduate career to last?
  2. What interests are you planning to pursue in college?
  3. Are you willing to stay in the same location for an extended period of time?
  4. How important is avoiding the MCAT?
  5. How prestigious does the undergraduate school need to be?
  6. Can you afford it?

Applying to BS/MD programs is no joke; it takes a large amount of planning to be successful at it. But if you start early enough and do enough research before sending in your application, then you’ll maximize your chances of finding a program that best fits you.

Photo credit: Shutterstock

Preparing for the Medical School Interview

Whether you are excited for interview season, or view it at as yet another daunting aspect of the application cycle, a bit of preparation can go a long way in terms of providing you with the tools and confidence needed to shine–as you should :)–on interview day.

A little anxiety is normal and expected, but don’t stress out too much. Remember, you were invited for a reason. So relax–believe that you belong at the interview–because you do.

So if everyone is qualified, how do you stand out?

Below, I’ve shared a few tips that helped me prepare for interview season. I hope you too will find them to be just as useful as you embark on this next (and last!) segment of the application season:

Learn as much about the program as possible beforehand.

  • Do you know anyone who has interviewed at the same program? Do you know a student currently in the program? If so, reach out to express your interest and seek their insight on the interview experience and the program itself. If you don’t know anyone, do a quick internet search to see if there is any information on the interview structure available.
  • Some questions to consider asking:
    • Will you have individual and/or a group interview?
    • Who will interview you? Have the interviewers already seen your application, or are they blinded to your application when they meet you?

Of course, it is 100% okay if you do not have the info above, but if possible, the more insight you have on the structure of interview day, the more tailored your preparation can be.

Do your prep work.

  • Do a quick Google search, or ask friends/mentors/advisors about commonly encountered questions that you may be asked.
    • Group similar questions together and make your life easier. 🙂
    • Make a master list of interview questions. At first, this may be overwhelming, but soon you will notice that many questions are similar but slightly different ways of asking the exact same thing.
  • Go through this list, and come up with concise answers that directly address the question at hand. When doing so, try to:
    • Use examples. Anyone can make any claim. Real world, personal examples enhance your credibility by substantiating your claims.
    • When using examples, implement the STAR method: Briefly describe the situation or task, the action you took, and the results you achieved. For example:

“I think my biggest strength is resilience. Last year, I was asked to [insert task]. It was difficult because of [insert challenge]. I approached it by [insert your tactic that demonstrates resilience]. With this approach, I was able to [insert how you accomplished task A]. I believe that this quality will enable me to contribute to your program in a meaningful way by [insert why you would be valuable/add to their program]”.

You don’t need to literally write out each response word for word. In fact, it is important to avoid sounding over-prepared or robotic–even a few bullet points would be just perfect!

  • Diversify your examples. For each practice question, come up with one example related to medicine, and a 2nd, more personal (non-academic) example. Try not to repeat any examples. This exercise will likely be harder and more time intensive than anticipated, but well worth it (at least in my experience). You will learn a lot about yourself and create a plethora of invaluable examples that you can have at your fingertips throughout interview season.

If you have multiple examples for any one question, identify which example is best. Remember, it’s not about giving an example–almost anyone will be able to do that–it’s about providing the best example, so do your best to identify your best example, and then be ready to share it on interview day. 🙂

Practice (literally)

  • To anyone and everyone who will listen.
  • Much communication is nonverbal. Even when content is ideal, do not underestimate the power of your delivery. How you share your example will likely be at least as important (if not more) than the actual words you use
  • As you go through interview season and hear feedback from interviewers, you will get a good sense of which examples are best received–which ones you might continue to use in the future. Edit and revise your master list of questions/examples accordingly.

The day before your interview: relax!

  • Get a good night’s rest, stick to your evening and morning routine, and be excited.
  • If you tend to be an anxious person, sometimes driving by the location the night before can minimize anxiety.

The day of your interview–have fun!

  • Befriend fellow applicants; it will make the day more fun, less stressful, and you may make a lifelong friend (whether or not you end up in the same medical school class together)
  • Be courteous and respectful to everyone. Hopefully you do this already even when you are not in an interview setting. 🙂
  • Don’t let the interview setting detract from your personality
    • For example, if you are a funny person, feel free to insert some humor (in good taste), as you address the interview questions
    • After all, you are at the interview- your application already demonstrates that you possess skills to succeed in that particular program…so much of the interview is actually about finding a good personality fit. Do not underestimate the power of your personality. 🙂
  • Smile, relax, and enjoy your moment!

What’s the Purpose of a BS/MD Program?

For anyone familiar with what a BS/MD program is, it seems that their goal is quite obvious: to give a select few high school seniors early, conditional acceptance into medical school. But why? If these students really are as exceptional as the programs advertise, then why do they even need that early acceptance? Shouldn’t they easily be able to get into medical school four years down the road, through the traditional route?

Indeed, most of the students who get selected into these programs have already developed the study habits and strong work ethic required to be successful as traditional pre-med students. But that just means that by offering these students early acceptance into medical school, the BS/MD programs are aiming to achieve some other goal. This “true purpose” is something few applicants are aware of, but it is something that can give any student a huge advantage, whether that’s at the essay stage or the interview stage of the application process.

Too many students apply to these programs simply because they’re looking for the easy way into medical school. And if we’re being realistic, then of course having an “easy route” into medical school is a strong motivation for anybody (including me!) to apply. But what I’ll try to emphasize throughout the rest of this post is that that shouldn’t be your only reason. If it is, then perhaps you should reconsider applying, because any experienced BS/MD professional will be able to easily see through that.

So I’ll just cut straight to the chase: the purpose of BS/MD programs is to provide intellectually curious students with an opportunity to use their time to explore their interests and enhance their education rather than waste an unnecessary number of hours being burdened by traditional pre-med hurdles. Sounds like a mouthful, right? Well, let’s try and break that down a little.

Intellectual curiosity

The first, and possibly the most important, part of the underlined statement above has to do with regards to a specific type of student: an intellectually curious student. From my personal experience of BS/MD interviews, I can tell you that the students I always found most interesting (and the one’s who I’d categorize as the “Oh yea, they’re definitely getting in”) were those who could not only talk about their previous accomplishments, but also are able to effectively communicate their future undergraduate goals. Whether those goals were or were not academically related was largely irrelevant. The point of focus, rather, was that these students had a plan of action. They knew what there interests were, and they knew what they wanted to spend their time pursuing in the future. Students like this are less likely to waste the precious free time that a BS/MD program grants to its students, and ultimately that is what the selection committee is looking for. Most of your competitors for these programs are going to be just as, if not more, qualified as you. The best way to convince the selection committee that you are the best pick for this program is to show them that you are a proactive student who will use your time wisely to pursue whatever intellectual curiosity you may have.

Academic and extra-curricular pursuits

The second part of a BS/MD program’s purpose is to find a student that wants to “explore their interests and enhance their education.” Depending on the length of your program, your undergraduate career can last anywhere for 2-4 years. And what you get out of those 2-4 years is entirely dependent on yourself. The problem for most traditional pre-meds is that they have to spend so much time securing the highest GPA possible while simultaneously building a resume and acing their MCATs that they are left with no time to pursue outside interests. And while getting good grades and developing a strong work ethic are both essential, they don’t do much to enhance your overall college experience.

Something as simple as studying abroad or getting a major in a non-science related subject sounds like it’s easy enough to incorporate into your college timeline. But it’s not always that easy for pre-med students. Studying abroad requires extensive planning to make sure you’ve got enough time to study for MCATs, write medical school applications, and preparing for interviews. Pursuing a non-science major, on the other hand, means taking extra coursework on top of your required pre-med classes (which coincidentally happen to overlap quite a bit with biology-related majors) and a possible disadvantage when it comes to taking your MCATs. It thus comes as no surprise that most pre-meds choose to forgo such experiences in hopes of maximizing their chances of getting into medical school. But such experiences are just as, perhaps even more, important as studying. Studying abroad, for example, helps students better understand medicine on an international level, and non-science majors, such as economics or philosophy, help students understand medicine from a more liberal arts perspective. Both such experiences can be extremely valuable when it comes to working with patients or running a private practice, but unfortunately, most pre-meds lack these unique perspectives. Therefore, what BS/MD programs are looking to do is grow the best possible future doctors by encouraging them to invest their time in experiences that provide them with a more well-rounded education.

Knowledge

The final part of a BS/MD program’s purpose has to do with knowledge; understanding the difficulties of being a pre-med student is essential for you to understand why these programs were created in the first place. Being a pre-med student is hard. Regardless of whether or not you’re selected for a BS/MD program, that’s a fact you cannot get around. Professors challenge you like no other, and the amount of time and dedication it requires to be a successful pre-med student is no joke. With that being said, though, there are a number of hurdles that can be minimized, and that’s why so many people support BS/MD programs.

Back in April of 2015, when I was deciding which university I wanted to commit to, I consulted a number of my mentors who had themselves gone through the traditional pre-med to medical school route. I informed them of all my options, including the REMS program at the University of Rochester, and nearly all of them told me to accept the offer at U of R without hesitation. But why? These people were some of the most successful physicians (or soon-to-be physicians!) that I knew, and all of them had gone through the traditional route. One had graduated from Princeton University and later from David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, another had graduated from the University of Pennsylvania and had also gone onto attend UCLA’s medical school, and the last one had graduated from Ohio State University with a full-ride (though she’d rejected a number of other prestigious college, including Columbia University) and was soon to be a MD/PhD student at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine. So if all these ex-premed’s had successfully fulfilled their traditional pre-med duties, then why were they all so strongly pushing for me to accept the BS/MD offer?

Because there is only a finite amount of time available to us in our undergraduate career. And even though any hardworking, dedicated student could use that time towards studying and applying for medical school, why do so if you don’t have to? Instead, use that time and energy to do something that will enrich your life and college experience. Medical school is stressful as is, and there is no point in having to cope with such stresses earlier in life if it can be avoided. Even the most successful pre-med students will tell you that if they could, they would go back in time and try to strengthen their chances at being a strong BS/MD applicant. It’s a prestigious offer that everyone wants, one that could completely change the course of your undergraduate career.

So when deciding whether or not a BS/MD program is right for you, ask yourself three questions:

  • Why do you really want this?
  • What would you do with your free time in college?
  • Do you understand and feel prepared to take on the challenges of being a pre-med student?

If you can confidently answer all the above questions, then you’re most likely on the right track. Keep it up and good luck with the rest of your application process!

Photo Credit: Shutterstock

How Your Medical School Personal Statement Reflects on Your Admission Chances

Since most medical school applicants have strong GPAs and MCAT scores, applicants must find a way to distinguish themselves from the hundreds of applications reviewed by admissions committees. The personal statement, or essay, is the place to make this happen.

Writing a personal statement is often the most difficult part of the application process and you must give it the attention it deserves. The impression it makes can be an “accept” or “reject” factor by admissions committees. Drafting your essay should begin weeks before filing out the application.

It is not enough to say, “I volunteered at my local hospital”. You must explain what the experience says about you as a potential physician and as a person. The personal essay is the place to share with the admissions committee to help them understand your character, your attitudes, your values, your motivation, and your knowledge.

In addition to a strong background in science, medical schools want students who show compassion. This includes empathy, concern, kindness and benevolence.

Remember, to move from the application pile to the accepted pile, you must describe why you would be an ideal medical student, keeping in mind that compassionate people make excellent doctors.

MCAT Scheduling: Factors to Consider Before Signing up for Your Test Date

We all know that the MCAT is one of the most important factors in your entire medical school application. Doing well on this test is of paramount importance to making a competitive application. Maximizing your test score is going to require a lot of studying, but also planning. With your heavy pre-med course load or hectic work schedule, it may seem as if there is never an ideal time to take the MCAT. In order to schedule your MCAT at the best possible time, check out these tips to ensure that you have adequate time and peace of mind to study:

1)      Plan out courses prior to scheduling your test date: If you are taking the MCAT while school is still in session, make sure you spend some time scheduling your courses prior to reserving your MCAT date. This will help to avoid stressful conflicts with finals or big deadlines.

2)      Check in with family and friends: If you anticipate a big life event that would be important for you to attend (wedding, religious function or season, etc.) make sure you plan for this in advance. There are ways to arrange your study schedule around these important events, but conflicts around Test Day could leave you disappointed and distracted when you are trying to focus for the exam.

3)      Free up weekends: One of the biggest score-boosting activities you can do to prepare for the MCAT is to take and then review MCAT practice tests. This can often consume the majority of a day, and the best time to do this is on an undisturbed weekend. Taking several practice tests is recommended, so be kind to yourself and do not over commit your weekends for the 4-6 weeks leading up to Test Day.

4)     Anticipate AMCAS timelines: Scores typically take 4-5 weeks to result after Test Day. For medical school applications, you can access the AMCAS application as early as the first few weeks in May to be ready to submit as early as the first few weeks in June. If your schedule is otherwise permitting, consider taking a test that allows you to have your score back by the end of May or early June. That way, you can hit “submit” and get a jump start on the application process right as it begins. Many schools have a rolling acceptance, and the earlier your application is complete, the increased chance of acceptance you may have at certain programs.

Common Myths about Medical School

A mere three years after graduating high school and joining a 7-year combined BS/MD program, I found myself on the doorstep of medical school, an entity which I only knew through harrowing tales almost always beginning with the words “I heard that in med school…” Before that last semester of college, medical school always seemed far enough away that I would never actually have to worry about it; when the time came to face it, I was filled with an uncomfortable combination of anxiety and excitement.

Now that I am nearing the end of this journey, I look back upon my medical school experience brimming with gratitude. Those years were filled with fond memories and immense personal growth experienced with a group of lifelong friends. Here are some of the rumors I heard before starting medical school and realizing that the right mentality is all it takes to break them down into exactly what they are – myths.

Everyone just studies all of the time

What impressed me most about my fellow students was how multi-talented they were. Everyone, at baseline, was intelligent and passionate about studying medicine – however, what was most surprising to me was the wide variety of hobbies they engaged in. My friends who competed in powerlifting competitions pushed me to work harder in the gym. I played guitar with my musician friends and performed several times for the school. And when an exam was over, we all went out and celebrated together. Getting through medical school builds a camaraderie unlike anything else.

But back to the studying – I will not sugarcoat it, you will definitely be studying more than ever, but you will finally be studying information that will be used to save the lives of your future patients. Remember this.

As a medical student, you will be treated poorly by your superiors

It is true that medical training can be very hierarchical, and medical students are at the “bottom”. The vast majority of residents and attendings, however, absolutely love their profession and love teaching. I was constantly inspired by how, even though they worked long and difficult hours for their patients, residents and attendings would still make time afterwards to teach the medical students. Learn from them and remember that the only way to go is up!

The toughest part is getting in

Absolutely not. And trust me, you do not want it to be. You will be surrounded by incredibly intelligent and driven minds. The beauty of medical school is that you will constantly be pushed by your residents, your attendings, your teachers, and your peers to be the best possible version of yourself. Embracing that is what will allow you to grow, succeed, and have a wonderful and memorable experience unlike anything else.