Should I Include College Activities on ERAS Application?

ERAS Application College Activities

The ERAS application Electronic Residency Application Service is an application you fill out during medical school in preparation for the MATCH process in order to obtain a residency. There are several common questions that come up in filling out the ERAS application. While it is similar to the AMCAS application in some regards, residency program director’s look at applicants experiences quite differently than a medical school admissions committee would. This leads to differences in the way the applications should be filled out and if college activities should be included on the ERAS application. Here are a few general rules of thumb:

  1. If it was published research, include it

Research is tremendously important to residency programs in most instances. Even if the research was NOT in the field you are applying into (and chances are that it wasn’t), you should still include any published or substantial research on your ERAS application. This includes poster presentations or oral presentations where you were the presenting author.

  1. If it relates to your speciality of chose, include it

This means that if you are applying into OB/Gyn and in college you spent hours volunteering at a women’s health center, this experience should absolutely be included because it adds to your narrative for residency programs.

  1. If it was substantial experience in some way, include it

If you were in Teach for America, the PeaceCorps or even did work during gap years before medical school, these are all substantial experiences that residency programs would love to hear about. They shaped who you are as a person, so they should be included on the ERAS application when you submit it.

  1. If it was for less than 40 hours, do not include it

The 40 hour mark is somewhat arbitrary, but basically if you had an experience in college that you did not invest a substantial amount of time into, then a residency program is not going to care about it. Do not include it as it will take away from more important experiences.

  1. If it was college volunteering on a small scale, do not include it

For ERAS, volunteer activities are far less important than they were for AMCAS. While we all love students who volunteer, college level volunteering will only bog down your residency application. You should have a few experiences from medical school that you can put on there instead.

Here is another tip for your ERAS activities section: KISS (keep it short and simple). As a residency program director, you have a few hundred applicants to wade through. When that PD looks at an application, they want to get out the crux of it right away. What’s important to their speciality and research is most important. You do not want your ERAS activities bogged down with dozens of college level activities that will only take focus away from the important things you’ve done in medical school!

How to Write a Great Medical School Personal Statement

Medical School Personal Statement

Wring a strong personal statement for medical school is what will define your initial advancement in the application process. It is 100% essential that your statement is powerful and flows well for the captured audience.  Now is the time to get started with your personal statement. Keep these handy tips in mind for a great medical school personal statement:

Start your personal statement long, and then condense it.

Pick a quiet place, turn off your phone, grab a cup of coffee, and begin drafting your medical school personal statement.  For the early draft writers, focus on the overall content, structure and message, and then edit down your ideas to fit the length limits for the application. It’s much easier to write a long personal statement, and then condense it. The maximum entry is: 5,300 characters (including spaces) for AMCAS, 4,500 and 5,000 characters for Texas programs.

Incorporate stories, experiences, and details to make your statement compelling and convincing.

Your goal is to capture your audience immediately. Reviewers read hundreds of essays. Write a captivating opening story that touches the reviewer’s heart and grabs their attention. The more interested the reader will be, the more likely he or she would like to know more about you in detail – which will lead you to the next phase of their application process (secondary essays and the big interview!).

Take breaks between drafts.

A few days or even longer between drafts will allow you to read yours statement with fresh eyes and see what is working, and what isn’t. Find a time during the day to come back to your draft when you’re not distracted.

Don’t try to squeeze in every activity and accomplishment you have.

Medical school applications contain sections to list your work, volunteer and extracurricular activities, so use the medical school personal statement to focus on a smaller number of essential experiences that support the story of why you want to become a physician, and why you’ll be a good one.

Get others’ opinions, but a select few.

Having an advisor, physician or professor look over your statement and give you feedback can be invaluable. However, taking advice from too many people will lead your own distinctive writer’s voice to be lost in a sea of other people’s thoughts and opinions. Allow a select few of readers to review your statement so that the process will be smooth and not too overburdened.

Be your own advocate

A great medical school personal statement serves as a letter of introduction to the admissions committee and will convince them that this is an applicant they want to get to know better. Be confident, but do not try to “sell” your story, it may come across in a negative way and will turn off the reader.

Proofread relentlessly.

Getting started is the hardest part of the writing process. Having to write a personal statement is the stepping-stone to making your dreams of becoming a physician come true. My final piece of advice is to commit to a time and a place and begin writing. Although you may not love your first draft, it will move you forward even closer to finishing after your drafts.  Sit down, fill a page or two with your thoughts and then go back and revise again, and again, and again. Stay strong and focused. Remember, many patients are waiting for your help and assistance in the future as their physician!

A Guide to Writing a Stand-Out Personal Statement

Personal Statement

The college essay should tell an original story about you and what matters to you. It can feel like a strange way of writing because students often engage in activities without explicitly expressing why they are motivated to do so. You want to convey your internal motivations and values to the reader.

The first step to writing a genuine personal statement is to start with free-writing and lots of it. Familiarize yourself with Common App questions and any supplemental essays. Then think through many moments and stories that could help you answer the prompts. Be specific, general statements are not as memorable You will have time to refine so focus on expression first

Think about big questions. What are your biggest dreams? What are your values? Why? How will college help you achieve your goals? What are your main academic interests? What appeals to you about those subjects?

Seek out information provided by admissions offices at your top choices. They will likely have clear language about what kind of students they are looking for and what kind of community they are striving to create. For example. Yale looks for “applicants with a concern for something larger than themselves.” Princeton looks for “students with intellectual curiosity, who have pursued and achieved academic excellence.” Find the mission statements for your top choices and practice writing stories that prove you are the kind of student they want to admit.

After free-writing, read through your stories and reflections and select the strongest points for your chosen prompt. Refine this story into a first draft then get feedback. Your Med School Coach mentor is a great resource for this. Revising will usually take longer than putting together the first draft. Don’t settle for your first draft. Go through your work critically. Be prepared to replace repetitive words, be more concise, and fine-tune your transitions. Once you revise, at least twice, get feedback from your recommenders so that they know what you are submitting.

Remember to let your voice shine through and make the statement about you, not other people. You might choose a story that involves your grandmother. Yet, your grandmother is not the one applying to college, you are. If you write about other people make sure their story does not overpower yours. You should be talking about your relationship with the other person and how it molded, shaped, and impacted you.

Your essay will be read alongside the complete application so you should think about how to tell a story that complements your overall narrative. Again, be critical of your writing. Would you be able to remember this statement after reading it once? Admissions officers will only have about 12-15 minutes to read your application so make sure you grab their attention and leave them with a lasting impression.

About the Author: Racquel Bernard

Racquel Bernard, MedSchoolCoach Tutor
Racquel Bernard is a former admissions officer of Dartmouth College. She graduated from Dartmouth with a bachelors in African and African American Studies. She completed her masters in Cultural Studies at the University of the West Indies, Mona. She is currently a PhD student in Musicology at UCLA.

What’s the Latest I Should Take the MCAT for an Application Cycle?

A pretty common question we get asked is “what’s the latest I should take the MCAT if I want to apply this year?”. Great question! There’s several factors to consider when you talk about MCAT timing. We’ve laid out a few different scenarios below to help you determine what the latest date you should take the MCAT is.

Scenario 1: Taking the MCAT just once and applying early

If you are only taking the MCAT once, the most ideal scenario is that you have your MCAT score by the time the application opens up in early June. That usually means taking the MCAT in the winter/early spring (Jan – April test dates) because MCAT scores take about a month to be released (see score release dates below). For some people, that is during their Spring semester, which may become busy (classes, MCAT, application, extracurriculars, etc!). For others, this is during a gap year so it’s not as cumbersome to carve out MCAT study time.

Scenario 2: Taking the MCAT just one and applying without an MCAT score

This scenario is fairly common for test takers in the later Spring. If you take your MCAT in mid-May, you won’t have your score back until mid-June. Remember, the application opens up in early June, so that means you don’t have your score by the time you apply. That’s not the end of the world as you CAN STILL SUBMIT OUR AMCAS WITHOUT AN MCAT SCORE (little known fact, but super important one!). You can choose a list of schools and add to it as well post submission, depending on your MCAT score. You can do this and have your score come out as late as mid-August (which means a mid-July test date) and still be relatively early in the cycle because you’ll be “complete” by the time secondaries come out and you submit them. That typically means that mid-July is the absolute latest we’d recommend taking the test, if you are only taking it once, and you want a relatively early application. Even with that, you should be getting the rest of your application done before your MCAT (which can get difficult with timing, but hopefully you get the idea!

Scenario 3: Taking the MCAT multiple times

It’s of course possible to take the MCAT more than once. That means you can have a score, apply, and still have a pending score. The same situation as scenario 2 applies in that you may not have a final school list yet. You may also start getting your AMCAS application actually evaluated by schools because you already have 1 score, so that means you can take the second MCAT a tiny bit later (mid-August MCAT date would be the last advisable date in this scenario).

MCAT Test Dates and Score Release Dates

Test Date  Release Date
Friday, January 18, 2019 Wednesday, February 20, 2019
Saturday, January 19, 2019 Wednesday, February 20, 2019
Thursday, January 24, 2019 Tuesday, February 26, 2019
Friday, March 15, 2019 Tuesday, April 16, 2019
Friday, March 29, 2019 Wednesday, May 1, 2019
Friday, April 5, 2019 Tuesday, May 7, 2019
Saturday, April 6, 2019 Tuesday, May 7, 2019
Saturday, April 13, 2019 Tuesday, May 14, 2019
Saturday, May 11, 2019 Tuesday, June 11, 2019
Saturday, May 18, 2019 Tuesday, June 18, 2019
Thursday, May 23, 2019 Tuesday, June 25, 2019
Friday, May 24, 2019 Tuesday, June 25, 2019
Friday, May 31, 2019 Tuesday, July 2, 2019
Saturday, June 1, 2019 Tuesday, July 2, 2019
Saturday, June 15, 2019 Tuesday, July 16, 2019
Friday, June 28, 2019 Tuesday, July 30, 2019
Saturday, June 29, 2019 Tuesday, July 30, 2019
Wednesday, July 10, 2019 Tuesday, August 13, 2019
Saturday, July 13, 2019 Tuesday, August 13, 2019
Friday, July 19, 2019 Tuesday, August 20, 2019
Saturday, July 20, 2019 Tuesday, August 20, 2019
Friday, August 2, 2019 Wednesday, September 4, 2019
Saturday, August 3, 2019 Wednesday, September 4, 2019
Friday, August 9, 2019 Tuesday, September 10, 2019
Saturday, August 17, 2019 Tuesday, September 17, 2019
Friday, August 30, 2019 Tuesday, October 1, 2019
Saturday, August 31, 2019 Tuesday, October 1, 2019
Friday, September 6, 2019 Tuesday, October 8, 2019
Friday, September 13, 2019 Tuesday, October 15, 2019
Saturday, September 14, 2019 Tuesday, October 15, 2019

The Interview Day – How to Maximize the Day and Optimize Your Chances

man getting an interview

Author: Sean Childs MD

Finally, after all of the required forms, applications and costs, you have been awarded with the long desired “interview.” Now is a time to celebrate, but also to begin preparing for what is the most crucial, high stakes portion of the entire application process.

Whether it is your first interview or you last, they all will feel the same…one lone day to show faculty, physicians and even students that you are a MUST for their acceptance lists.

Additionally, many will be told that this is not only a day for medical schools to interview applicants, but also a day for applicants to interview the medical school. As cliché as this may sound, it is 100% true and very important to remember. So, whether you are asking yourself “What can I possibly do to make this school want me out of the other 700 applicants” or “How will I know if this medical school is for me?,” … read on and hopefully your questions will be answered.

Always Have You Game Face On Your Interview Day

From the minute you hit “submit” on your application to the day you begin your first day as a medical student, you must treat all communication with medical school staff/students/admissions as a official interview. At any stage in the process, treating anyone with disrespect or making candid/inappropriate comments can be the single strike that will land you with a rejection letter. Everyone involved in the admissions process knows that there is a very limited window available to get to know potential applicants. With this in mind, any slip up, distasteful comment or interaction may be enough of a flag on an applicant to prevent them from obtaining the much-desired acceptance letter. In this day and age, with the extreme abundance of qualified medical school applicants, everyone must remember that in addition to showing medical schools why they should be chosen for acceptance, it is equally important to NOT give them any reasons for rejection. Thus, from the time you respond to invitation emails to the day you get your acceptance letter, treat every interaction with medical school, regardless of the individual, as an official interview. Be kind, be courteous, and stay true to who you are at all time, for you never know who can be your ally or your enemy.

Interviewing the School..

Whether you believe it or not, the common teaching that an interview is a two way street is fully correct and important to remember. While applicants are often only focused on obtaining acceptances at as many institutions as possible, they can often overlook the subtleties that make each institution uniquely different…and which make them ideal for different applicants. One of the most important concepts that can drawn from the interview process itself is that medical schools, while responsible for teaching the same content, are all rather different in their delivery and style. In addition, each medical school attracts and is comprised of a unique type of student body. Thus, any time spent at an institution during the interview process should be viewed as a precious opportunity to gauge your fit among the community behind each medical school.

During the interview day, applicants have free range to observe, talk with, interact with and question any student or faculty they meet.

They must realize the importance of these interactions as they can first hand “feel out” their fit within the community they may end up calling home for 4 or more crucial years of their life. Common questions may include what they do for fun, their favorite/least favorite aspects of the school, what they were looking for in a medical school and whether or not they would repeat their decision if they had the chance to do it all over again.

From Interviewer to Interviewee

Whether it is your first or your last, whether it is at a “reach” school or safety net interviews can be a source of anxiety and fear…but they don’t always have to be. Interviewers are not out to get applicants, as often believed to be. They have what can be thought of as 2 main jobs: 1.) To get to know you as a person, something that a piece of paper or electronic file cannot fully do, 2.) To determine whether you would be a good fit and addition to their medical school and community. With those two things in mind, the interview can be transformed into a more relaxing, even enjoyable process. Applicants should try to relax and be themselves, in a professional setting, to reveal to interviewers why they belong at that institution. Taking time to peruse a medical school’s website prior to the interview can assist in finding the basic tenets upon which the schools educational foundation is based upon. Taking time to ponder what personal characteristics one possess to make them an ideal applicant can help to guide the interview and make them seem like a perfect fit. Be sure to answer all questions truthfully and to always ask yourself “why do I belong here” and “what is it about my application that makes me uniquely posed to succeed at this institution.”

The Dreaded Medical School Personal Statement

books as a stand for a laptop with stethoscope

One area of the medical school application process that may seem especially daunting to applicants is the dreaded personal statement. There are other parts of the application that you may be able to complete on autopilot. You researched things? Awesome! Put your dates here, mentors there, publication right here. You volunteered at a homeless shelter? Bless your soul, now just put the details in this box over here.

You’re listening to that beautiful engine purr as you deftly handle the array of application obstacles like some sort of ninja, when all of a sudden you hit that personal statement speed bump, your gearbox falls out, and now you’re pounding the console. It was all going so smoothly!

Well fear not, brave compadre, you are not alone. The rigors of pre-medical coursework have tuned up your “left-brained” traits that have steered you to success thus far, but now is the time to ditch the formal writing structure of your O-Chem lab reports in favor of a more “right-brained” approach.

If you can break yourself from the logical, algorithmic patterns you’ve already started to develop (and will continue to strengthen in medical school), you will discover that the free-flowing, associative nature of the personal statement is, in fact, quite fun!

The most important aspect of the personal statement is to be AUTHENTIC.

You want to grab the reader’s attention, but you want to do this in a manner that is authentic to you and your personality. You want to show the reader that you are a caring human being, but do this in a way that demonstrates how YOU are a caring human being, not how Mother Theresa is a caring human being. You need to illustrate specifically why being a doctor is important to you, not why it is important for the generic med student, or society for that matter.

When you go to interviews, your interviewers are going to consciously and subconsciously compare you to the “you” that they read about in your personal statement. The most important element here is congruence–if there is incongruence between the impression given in the personal statement and the one “in the flesh”, this is going to give the interviewer (and yourself!) a less than great impression of the encounter. If you really have no interest in research, but you make yourself out to sound like a lab rat because the school you are applying to is well-known for research, then you’re going to wear yourself out in the interviews trying to pull the wool over the eyes of your interviewers.

This doesn’t even have to be in terms of content. If you spent hours on your personal statement carefully crafting witty lines like you’re some kind of cocktail party wizard when that’s just not your personality, then you might fall a bit flat in the interview. If you “spice up” a former illness or death in the family just to pull at some heart strings, you’re going to appear less than authentic when interviewers ask you about this experience, as they have been living through these experiences professionally now for quite some time.

If you are that cocktail party wizard, or have truly been strengthened by a harrowing medical tragedy, by all means, display that in your personal statements! But if that’s not you, don’t cheapen your authenticity just because other people do have these personalities or experiences. Just be you, and like Sinatra, soon enough you’ll be singing “I did it my way”!

About the Author: Dr. Stephen Brandt is a graduate of Southern Illinois University School of Medicine

The Medical School Application Timeline Explained

Today we are going to go over the medical school application timeline to US-based medical schools. This is a question we get often and it actually has fairly straightforward answer. However, a lot of students get a little bit bogged down in figuring out when to submit the application when it opens up and also want to take the MCAT so I’m hoping to clear up some of that confusion today.

Three Applications (AMCAS, AACOMAS, TMDSAS)

Now, as you guys know there are three main applications in the United States to medical school. There’s the AMCAS application which is to MD schools or Allopathic schools, there’s the AACOMAS application which is to Osteopathic or DO schools and then there’s the TMDSAS application which is essentially only for Texas schools, so Texas has their own application system. Now the nice thing about a lot of this is that while there are three different applications and many students may fill out all three, some students may only fill out these two particularly if they’re not a Texas resident, where some students may only fill out the MD application because that’s all they want to aim for, the timelines are relatively similar, so with these three basically in May of any given year, the application opens up. Now, when I say application opens up, that means that you can go online and start filling it out, you can fill out your demographic information, you can start putting your grades in can maybe even send in letters of recommendation.

Closer Look at the AMCAS Timeline

Let’s focus in on the MD application for a second. So typically in early May it opens up; the exact date varies from year to year and then in early June, you can actually physically hit the submit button. Between May and June it’s all about just putting your information in getting your personal statement in there then you can hit the submit button in June. Now, again exact date varies from year to year, sometimes it’s you’d first sometimes it’s June 1st, sometimes its June 3rd, sometimes it’s May 31st but that gives you a general idea. Now in June, you can hit the submit button for the MD application and what happens after that is medical schools don’t get your application the next day, this is a common misnomer or misinformation. Medical schools actually don’t get your information for a couple of weeks after that at the very earliest. What happens after you hit the submit button is it goes through the verification stage; now, this can take anywhere from a couple of days particularly if you’re very early in the cycle to a couple of weeks almost four to six weeks if you’re late in the cycle. That’s one of the reasons why submitting early is really important because actually you get behind in the AMCAS queue. Now what the verification does is that basically AMCAS sits there and looks at all the grades that you’ve entered into their system and compares it against all the transcripts that you sent them. So between May and June one of the important things is that you want to send in your transcripts to the application itself so that they’re ready to go. You don’t want to wait until June to send those in because then you’re delaying your application even more imagine if you submitted your application on June 1st but your transcripts didn’t actually get there until June 15th AMCAS cannot start verifying your application until that time that’s why it’s so important to get your transcripts in as early as possible now. Once it goes through that verification stage which as we said takes anywhere, let’s say from one week to six weeks depending on when you’ve submitted then, the application becomes verified and you get that email. Now, once it becomes verified now we can actually go to schools, before this no school is seen your application so the earliest this typically happens is let’s call it Mid-June in reality mid to late June is the earliest that this really happens and in mid to late June medical schools can now start seeing your application, so now your app goes to Med schools. Does this mean that medical schools start evaluating you right then in there? No! because remember medical schools are going to send over secondaries applications to you, so at this stage you’re now going to get secondaries.

When will I get secondary applications?

Remember, secondaries consists of anywhere between one and five essays some of them are optional some of them are not they require a typically an application fee to the actual medical school, so you have to go through this process of actually filling out and submitting your secondaries applications at this point. Now once you’re ready and you fill those out and submitted them then only will a medical school start even thinking about evaluating your application. So really, the earliest you’re talking about somebody evaluating an application, let’s call it Mid-July plus minus a little bit here but Mid-July is really the earliest that any school is going to start evaluating your application. Now keep in mind, in order for them to evaluate your application, they need obviously used for you to be verified because they haven’t gotten it without that they need your secondaries in and they also need your letters of recommendation into them.

When should I get letters of recommendation?

Now letters of recommendation can be collected at any point before this and can be sent into numerous different organizations, whether it’s directly to AMCAS or to enter folio and then to AMCAS or to your school’s own pre professional office and then to AMCAS, so there’s a bunch of different ways to potentially do it but we’ll talk about that in another video. Essentially, you’ve got to have your letters of recommendation and your secondaries plus the application fee all paid in before school even evaluates your application. The other thing you need before all this is your MCAT score, and this is where things get interesting because let’s say you’ve taken the MCAT back in January and you had a score in February well easy, you’re ready to go but let’s say you didn’t take your application or sorry you didn’t take your MCAT until June 20th, then you know that your score doesn’t come out until around July 20th so in reality no school is going to evaluate you until you have that MCAT out so even if you submitted everything super early and take your MCAT until a little bit later in the process schools won’t evaluate you. that’s why it’s so important to take the MCAT relatively early in the cycle or at least have an MCAT score that comes out by around mid to late July, that’s typically the latest that I would recommend for most students. Obviously, there’s variation and some exceptions but for most students you want to have your score out by mid to late July this way schools can actually evaluate you early on in the process because if you took your MCAT in July or if you took your MCAT in August and your scores didn’t come out until September, what’s going to happen is your application even though you submitted on June 1st, may sit the entire time and you only actually even get evaluated by medical schools until it’s ready to go.

A Quick Recap

So that’s the basic timeline of when your application actually ends up being evaluated by medical schools, we said mid to late July, now some schools obviously have a little bit more extended time line, they may not even look at your applications on August, they may want to get a batch of applications before they start looking at them, but that’s the earliest! Now once the school looks at your application what happens then well they typically put you into a couple of different spots as you probably know, you either get an interview, you get rejected or you get put on a hold.

What happens after my application is complete?

Now, they’ll put you into one of these three categories and depending on which category they put you in they’ll either invite you for the interview which can happen anytime between September and March, they can reject you or they can put you on hold. If they put you on hold, you may not even hear from them for a while or they may send you a quick email that says “Hey, you’re on hold before we interview you”. Once you get interviewed, then obviously you can get an acceptance now some schools will accept you a couple of weeks after, what’s called rolling admissions; other schools won’t actually make final decisions all the way up until March of the following year even if you’re interviewing in September you may not get your acceptance decision until March or even after. We’ll talk a little bit about interviews and the actual interview timing in another video but this hopefully gives you a little bit of the timeline of a medical school application. Now, this keep in mind we started back in May, let’s say it’s the 2018 year, you may not even hear from medical schools particularly if they’re not enrolling until March of 2019, you’re talking about a long time it’s almost a year plus process and then of course you don’t start medical school until August or September of ‘19 so, in order to really be effective in this process you got to have some patience because starting in May when you start filling out your application you’re not going to reap the benefits sometimes all the way up until March of the following year. Now, we talked a lot about the MD application and the reason I brought that up first is because the other applications typically follow a similar timeline particularly early on. The deal application typically opens up in May and actually you can usually submit it within the first couple of days in May, so a lot of this is pushed up by about four weeks or so. Same thing with the Texas application, a lot of this is pushed up and they actually have a March system which we’ll talk about in another video. Bottom line-if you’re looking to apply to medical school this year, you want to get your application ducks in a row by May or so, so you can submit in early June, the later you submit the longer the verification will take, the longer it will take for schools to evaluate you and the less chances you have at an interview overall. So I hope that was helpful in going over some of the application timeline specifics lots more videos to come, stay tuned!

Differences Between MD (AMCAS) and DO (AACOMAS) Applications

If you are applying to medical school, you maybe applying to both DO and MD schools. While the applications are relatively similar, there are a few differences in character counts/limits for the DO application to keep in mind while you are drafting your essays and activities sections! Here’s a real quick guide for your review that highlights the differences!

Application Personal Statement Character Limit Activities Character Limit Most Meaningful Activity Limits
MD (AMCAS) 5300 characters (including spaces) 700 characters (including spaces) 3 can be selected as a most meaningful activity. You’ll have an additional 1325 characters for these
DO (AACOMAS) 4500 characters (including spaces) 600 characters (including spaces)  Not applicable

As always, if you need help through your MD or DO application, MedSchoolCoach is here!

What Is the Best Pre-Med Major?

Choosing a major can be one of the most stressful things for a college student to do! I talked to hundreds of early students who wonder what the “best major” for a premed is. That’s a loaded questions with all kinds of different possible answers. There is no single best “premed major”. It really depends on each individual scenario, but I wanted to outline a few key concepts that everyone should consider when choosing a major as a premedical student.

  • Non-science majors can be attractive to medical school

    Biology major. Biology major. Biochemistry major. Biology major. That’s your typical stack of medical school applicants. Imagine if you could insert something really interesting in there like “Beatles, Popular Music and Society”. Okay, that maybe extreme, but the idea would be that you would be a great science student who get’s A’s in all your premed classes, does science research and volunteers at hospitals but also brings a completely unique major to the table.

  • The premed curriculum is stacked, so plan ahead

    There are a lot of great majors out there that have nothing to do with science or medicine. They may make you a really attractive candidate to medical schools because you bring a whole new perspective to the incoming class. I always encourage people to major in non-science fields, however you have to keep the premed curriculum in mind when you decide to do so. And with the new MCAT coming out in 2015, there are even more courses added to the mix. Remember, every premedical student has to take the classes below. That’s a lot of classes! In fact, it’s over 18 courses. With each semester in college allowing you to take 4-5 classes, the premed curriculum could take up as much as 50% of your coursework. That becomes difficult with certain majors that have no overlap with the premedical curriculum, so you should make sure to plan ahead if you are going to choose a non-science major.

    1. Biology 1 and 2 plus lab
    2. Inorganic chemistry 1 and 2 plus lab
    3. Organic Chemistry 1 and 2 plus lab
    4. Physics 1 and 2 plus lab
    5. Two semesters of Math
    6. Two semesters of English
    7. Physcology
    8. Sociology
    9. Biochemistry (some schools)
  • Remember that your GPA is incredibly important

    One factor that premeds overlook too often when choosing a major is how they will be able to maintain a great GPA. Remember, your GPA is incredibly important in your premed process! If you are a biomedical engineering major with a 3.2 GPA versus an english major with a 4.0 GPA, the 4.0 wins out every day of the week, despite the potentially more difficult curriculum of a biomedical engineer! You should keep in mind your ability to succeed and maintain a great GPA in the major you choose.

  • Major in something that interests you!

    You should major in something that you are interested in. You will spend 4 years dedicating yourself to classes in your major. You better enjoy it! If you don’t, your grades will suffer. And even if you are planning to go to medical school, college is a time where you can really learn about something different from medicine. It’s amazing how little what you learn in college will be a part of your everyday life as a physician, no matter what major you are, so it’s great if you can diversify yourself!  If you are passionate about film as well as medicine, be a non-traditional premed who majors in film. If you really are mainly interested in the sciences, don’t be afraid to go for the traditional life science majors.

Finding the perfect major also involves understanding your undergraduate institutions curriculum, requirements and pathways. So you need to take into account many of these factors when you decide what you want to major in!

Can You Negotiate a Medical School Scholarship?

When you receive a medical school acceptance, you are elated, and rightfully so! You’ve worked a tremendous amount to get to the point of being accepted and are now on your way to becoming a physician!

Except, there’s one potentially crippling hurdle in the way: tuition. You’ve probably seen the numbers: many medical students graduate with over $200,000 in debt. It’s certainly not easy to finance medical school nor to leave medical school with so much debt.

Luckily, most students qualify for some sort of financial aid. Whether those are grants from the government or scholarships, your initial tuition sticker shock may be lowered just a little bit. For a select few, there are honors scholarships that can almost pay your entire tuition.

A question that often comes up is if a student can use one scholarship offer to “negotiate” with another school. The short answer is YES, absolutely! Now, I’ve had a student who was actually been on the waitlist at a top 5 medical school, but got into another school (“lesser” ranked) with a full scholarship. Not only did he get off the waitlist at the top 5 school, he got a full tuition ride! How, a well timed and strategically placed letter or phone call to the powers that be can certainly get a school to rethink their offer to an individual applicant.

Bottom line, you absolutely can use one schools offer to talk with another school. You can send an email outlining something along the lines of:

“Dear Dr. _____,

Thank you so much again for the chance to matriculate at University of _______. I couldn’t be happier or more excited to have this opportunity!

As I make my final decisions for medical school, obviously cost is one of the factors I am considering. While I absolutely love your school, the X College of Medicine has actually offered me a full tuition scholarship (see attached).  While tuition costs is certainly not the only factor determining my decision, I wanted to understand where I stood for potential financial aid/scholarships at University of ______. I’d love to discuss more with you over the phone or even in person soon!

I hope to hear from you. Thank you again!


A simple letter like this can go a long way in a potential acceptance and a scholarship offer!