The medical school admissions process is competitive enough as it is! But as an international applicant, it’s even harder. There’s a limited number of medical schools in the US that accept or even interview international students. A good place to start making your list if you are an international student is to understand which MD schools even interview international applicants. This list below should help you as it lists medical schools that interview and eventually accept international students.
Interviews for International Medical School Applicants
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.
- Biology 1 and 2 plus lab
- Inorganic chemistry 1 and 2 plus lab
- Organic Chemistry 1 and 2 plus lab
- Physics 1 and 2 plus lab
- Two semesters of Math
- Two semesters of English
- 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!
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!
From an application committee’s perspective, it makes sense why essays are such a crucial part of the selection process. Standardized tests and GPAs tell colleges about your work ethic, but essays tell them about ambition, perspectives, and personality.
Granted that you have a solid GPA and standardized test scores, essays are really going to be the “push” factor that help you get a BS/MD interview. The entire essay process (if done properly) is quite lengthy and can take up to several months. So again, the best way to set yourself up for success, especially for BS/MD programs that often have application deadlines earlier than most regular undergraduate universities, is by starting early. Below, I’ve divided up the essay-writing process into three different parts and included some tips of what to do during each part so that you’ve got a better idea on how to get started!
Every school and every program has a unique focus and different philosophy. When selection committees decide which applications to accept, they try to envision how well that student will fit into their campus community. Thus, it is important for you to emphasize in your essays how well aligned your personal philosophy is with the school’s philosophy (because then you’ll seem like a natural fit). Before you can really get into that, though, you of course need to first figure out what the school’s philosophy is. And to do that, there’s really only one way – research!
Doing research can at times feel like a drag, but in fact it can also be an exciting process. Think about it; this is the school you could potentially be spending the next 4+ years of your life, so don’t you want to figure out what the people/location/classes are like? Sometimes, while you’re doing research, you’ll actually figure out that this school isn’t the best pick for you. In which case, great, you’ve saved yourself an unnecessary application! Other times, research might actually excite you because all of a sudden, you’ve realized how interesting the school is and how much you actually really want to go there. Either way, research is only going to ever help you, so it’s something that is mandatory for you to do.
With BS/MD schools, the research process get’s a little bit more complicated. Because on top of researching the undergraduate school and it’s focus, you also have to research the medical school and what their philosophy is. In your essays, you will likely have to mention both, so skimping out and only do research on one (whether that’s the undergraduate school and not the medical school or vice versa) is going to hurt your chances.
So what’s the best way to do research? The easiest answer is through the university website. You can figure out just from the home page what are the most successful aspects of that school (because of course every school wants to brag about their accomplishments, and naturally, the best way to do that is by displaying them is on their home page). You can also look into the different departments and classes that the school offers. This could be key if you’re looking for a specific subject that maybe not a lot of schools offer. For example, one field that I wanted to learn more about in my college years was health policy; unfortunately, that’s a pretty unique field that not a lot of schools offer an entire major or minor on. The University of Rochester, however, did! Likewise, another field that I wanted to pursue in both my undergraduate and medical school years was neuroscience. Through my research, I found out that the Rochester’s Medical School has invested a lot of money into their neurology department and it is in fact one of their most successful departments. Thus, for me, it was an ideal fit. All this information I gathered simply by going online and surfing through university websites. For factual and statistical information, I definitely recommend this method. To find out more about the school’s ambiance and philosophy, though, I’d recommend speaking to upperclassmen, which I’ll talk about further down below.
Read lots of other essays
When you initially start out with the essay writing process, you might find it difficult to figure out what ideas to put down on paper. Well the best way to fix that is to find inspiration from other, successful essays. There’s plenty of books you can get from the library or essays you can find online from students who successfully got into top undergraduate schools and medical schools. Read as many of them as possible and figure out what they did well, then try to do it yourself! It’s okay if your words don’t seem to flow as well as theirs; at this point, your focus should be getting all potential ideas on paper, not the fluidity of your writing. The more essays you read, the more ideas you get. Just make sure to avoid plagiarizing or molding your thoughts and experiences to better parallel those in the essay you just read; it can be tempting, but the point of this is to draw inspiration from others’ essays and to use that to help you find your own voice, not for you to simply take somebody else’s words/ideas and make them yours.
Talk to upperclassmen
In my experience, I have always found that the best piece of advice comes from older students who have recently and successfully (or sometimes even unsuccessfully) gone through exactly what I’m going through. This is relevant with the college application process, the BS/MD interview process, the college decision process, and even all of college itself. In general, you will find that people who are successful in their endeavors, whether that be acing a class or getting into their dream school, have done certain things to ensure success. If that’s the case, then you want to find out exactly what they did and try to repeat it so that you too can experience the same successes as them. If, on the other hand, they were unsuccessful at something, they probably have an idea as to why and what they would do differently if they could go back in time. In that situation, you should take their advice so that you can learn from their experience and avoid making the same mistakes and facing the same problems. Either way, there is always something to learn from older, wiser students. Everyone always says that hindsight is 20/20, so why not take advantage of someone who’s got that perfect vision when you don’t?
In specific regards to the “Pre-Writing” process for BS/MD applicants, talking to upperclassmen is beneficial when you’re trying to figure out more about the culture of a given program. For example, what type of learning environment does the program foster? Do they encourage you to explore interests (both academic and otherwise) beyond medicine, or do they expect you to stick to science subjects? How hands-on is the program faculty and how committed do they seem to your success? What is the program’s philosophy or outlook on medicine as a progressing field? You may be able to find answers to some of these questions online, but by speaking to upperclassmen, you will get more authentic and realistic answers. These are students who know better than anyone what their program is looking for and what its focus is. So by talking to them, not only will you get a understanding of the program itself, but you might also get some tips and tricks as to what specifically to emphasize in your essays. In my experience, there really is no down side to talking to older, wiser, more experienced students, so if you have the opportunity to do so, always go for it!
The other advantage in talking to upperclassmen is the possibility that they might share some of their essays with you. When I first started out with the “Why do you want to be a doctor” essay, I had absolutely no idea where to begin. So I reached out to one of my friends (actually she’s a friend of a friend… but hey, any connection should be explored!) who was about to enter medical school that fall and asked her if she would mind sending me her medical school essays. She gladly did, and in fact essays were really helpful in showing me how to write medical school applications (since that is essentially what you are doing with BS/MD applications). Not every person is going to feel comfortable giving you their essays, so if they say no, don’t take it personally. But you really have nothing to lose, so I would just try it out and ask. If they say yes, then great! Otherwise, no worries, because in today’s generation of technology, you should have no problem finding plenty of essays online.
Most students often overlook the Pre-Writing process, but it is in fact one of the best ways to help set yourself up for BS/MD success. Follow the above tips, and you’ll likely have a leg up from other applicants. In the next post, I’ll go more in depth on what to do during the actual writing process itself, so be ready to see that!
Photo Credit: Shutterstock
We sat down with Jennifer, MedSchoolCoach tutor and fourth year student at David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, to learn a little bit more about her background and her experience throughout the application process.
Tell us a little bit more about your background.
I received my undergraduate degree at University of California, Los Angeles, where I conducted research in cardiology and took on numerous leadership positions teaching everything from college-level organic chemistry to middle school violin lessons to high school choir classes. I was actually considering being music teacher during my first year in college! After graduation, I took a gap year and worked as a full-time research assistant in Seattle while applying to medical school. Throughout my time at David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, I’ve taken on many leadership roles tutoring fellow medical students in the pre-clinical curriculum and Step 1 while continuing to be actively involved in clinical research.
What was it that got you interested in advising students?
I’ve been very involved in tutoring while at David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA. Currently, I’m the lead for our tutoring program and I oversee the other tutors, organize lectures, and prepare handouts for students. I’ve also put together USMLE Step 1 guidebooks for second year students. During your first and second year of medical school, you are mostly taking basic sciences courses and I’ve loved helping students understand why they’re learning this material and how it will benefit them in the future. It’s also been helpful for me to continue reviewing first and second year material as a fourth year student!
What is one piece of advice that you wish you had going through the process?
Don’t be afraid to reach out for help! When I was studying, I definitely felt that I needed to be alone and independently focus on my own material and notes. You don’t necessarily need to be isolated; group studying can be very beneficial and make you feel that you’re not alone in this process. It’s also healthy for your overall “medical school well being”, and can help to give you perspective. Don’t hesitate to study in groups or with a tutor!
College application season is no doubt one of the most arduous parts of any high school student’s career. It requires a large amount of time and dedication to be spent on essays, interviews, financial aid applications, and so, so much more. And the worst part? Doing everything you possibly can and still somehow feeling like you haven’t done enough. So why would anyone voluntarily decide to go through such a grueling process all over again? Well unfortunately, for any undergraduate student who’s decided to pursue a career in medicine, there isn’t much of a choice. When it comes to high school seniors interested in medicine, however, there is! And that’s exactly where BS/MD programs come into question.
So what exactly is a BS/MD program? It’s a dual-degree program that has been constructed by undergraduate universities in partnership with some local medical schools to provide high school seniors with conditional acceptance into medical school. The two degrees, Bachelor of Science (BS) and Doctor of Medicine (MD), are offered to students who successfully graduate through both the undergraduate school as well as the medical school. Typically, these programs last anywhere from 6-8 years (in contrast to the traditional 4 years of undergraduate + 4 years of medical school), and they’re specifically targeted towards students who’ve shown a great deal of interest in medicine throughout their entire high school career. These programs are known to be some of the most competitive programs in the country (some of their acceptance rates make Stanford and Harvard’s 5% acceptance rate sound like a joke), and there are a great number of things to know in order to be a competitive applicant. Getting in depth on any point would take an entire post, so below, I’ve outlined the most important points to note when trying to better understand a BS/MD program.
First, and perhaps the most important piece of advice, is to start early. Given that some of the most difficult BS/MD programs have an acceptance rate of near 2%, these universities are looking for students who have known for quite some time that they are interested in medicine and can really show for it. Most students who are serious about getting into these programs don’t just wake up one morning of their senior year and make a spur of the moment decision to apply. On the contrary, many know before they even step foot into high school. Many might ask, “How can you know what you want to do for the rest of your life in just 9th grade?” and they pose a valid point. But even if you don’t know exactly what you want to pursue career-wise at that age, most students will know whether or not they have an interest in science and if they are even open to the possibility of becoming a doctor. It’s okay to not know for sure (that’s what the rest of high school is for!), but it is important to start getting involved with health-related activities so that either (1) you can decide this field isn’t for you after all, or (2) you realize that studying medicine is something you can envision yourself doing and already have the experience to back that statement up. Whether it’s research, volunteering at a hospital, getting EMT certified, or simply shadowing your family physician, it’s never too early to start get involved with the field of medicine.
Get those grades
Secondly, keep your GPA high and study hard for your ACT/SAT/SAT Subject tests. As previously mentioned, some of these programs have single-digit acceptance rates, which means having a strong GPA and high ACT/SAT score is of upmost importance. Some schools (such as Drexel University, Case Western, Penn State/Jefferson) require BS/MD applicants to be in the 10% percent of their graduating class in terms of GPA and to have standardized test scores to be above a certain number. Keep in mind, though, that even if a school doesn’t explicitly state a certain GPA or SAT/ACT score that they’re looking for, they still expect stellar statistics. Take, for example, the BS/MD program at Northwestern University, which had an average application SAT score of 2309 and ACT score of 35 in 2015. By no means will a 2400 SAT score and 4.0 GPA guarantee you acceptance into any BS/MD program, but high academic statistics are an indication of academic maturity and thus will increase the chances of being considered for the program.
Thirdly, stay organized. If you haven’t already, by the time you get the application season of your senior year, you will quickly realize how easy it can be to get lost in all the submission dates, essay topics, and other requirements being thrown your way. And on top of that, if you’re applying to a multiple of BS/MD programs, you’re going to have even more essays and date requirements. So my greatest piece of advice is to narrow down your list of colleges early (and by early, I mean by the end of the summer before senior year, at latest) and to create an excel sheet noting down all the important pieces of information in separate columns. Though it may be a pain to sit down one day and spend hours researching all the specific submission details for each university you are applying to, it will largely pay off in the long run. Some BS/MD programs require you to submit essays through email, while others require it through the common app. Some have an earlier application date set for BS/MD applicants (sometimes as early as mid-November), while others ask you to submit at the same time as all other students in January. Some may ask for 4 extra essays, while other simply ask you to checkmark a box that indicates your interest in being considered for the program. Each of these little details is unique to each program and can easily get past you. Rather than having to Google it every time you forget one tiny detail, having an easy-access document with all the necessary information is much simpler. Take my word for it; this document will quickly become your holy grail!
Fourthly, don’t take it personally! Of course the hardest part of this entire process isn’t editing your essays long into the night or sitting through hour-long interviews. The hardest part is always rejection. And though there is nothing you can do to change the outcome, you can remember to not take the results personally. Of course it’s easier said than done, but this statement holds true for BS/MD programs even more so than it does with regular college applications. Most of these programs accept only a handful of students (10-15) out of the hundreds or thousands (yes, sometimes even more than a thousand students!) of those that applied. They are looking to maximize their diversity, and as you can imagine, that is quite difficult to do in such a small group of people. So at the end of the day, you might have been the perfect match for that school in every way possible, but somebody else just happened to match their criteria (however ambiguous it may be…) a bit better. Getting through the entire BS/MD process is an accomplishment in itself; it’s something not any and every student can do. It takes a great deal of commitment, maturity, and strong work ethic to get through this process successfully. Those are the very same qualities that differentiate a successful pre-med from an unsuccessful pre-med, so hey, you’re already ahead of the game! Look forward to all the great opportunities that have presented themselves throughout this application process and take advantage of them in your upcoming undergraduate career.
Many medical students consider a military scholarship for medical school and have many questions surrounding the process. Medical school is expensive, bottom line, and the anticipated debt after four years can be daunting. The average medical student graduates with just over $200,000 in debt. With a typical re-payment plan, the total repayment cost can exceed $400,000. With such a steep price, it is no wonder why applicants seek out alternative ways to finance medical school.
One of these options is the Health Professions Scholarship Program (HPSP) offered by the Army, Navy, and Air Force. The deal is full tuition through medical school, including all costs for books and equipment along with a living stipend in exchange for four years of military service once your education is complete. In this article we will briefly explore the path and day-to-day life of an HPSP student.
In order to join the military you will have to be in touch with a recruiter and complete an application. Many branches still have an automatic acceptance program in which a certain GPA and MCAT score will earn you the scholarship as soon as you get your first medical school acceptance letter. A 1 year scholarship requires 2 years of service, everything after that is year for year. Most students end up taking a 4 year scholarship to cover all of medical school incurring a 4 year commitment to the military.
Most students will complete their basic officer leadership course the summer before medical school or in between their first and second years. During medical school you will look and act just like your civilian peers with no other requirements. In your 4th year, the military will pay for you to do 2 audition rotations/interviews at programs you are interested in for residency. Room, board, and daily costs are covered for a maximum of 45 days.
Most students will end up going to a military residency program. There are exceptions for some of the more specialized branches of medicine but this gets tricky and is a larger discussion. During these 3-7 years, depending on your specialty, you will be active duty. This means you will be wearing a uniform and working in a military hospital. It also means you will be paid as an active duty service member.
Life After Residency
While some physicians will now go on to fellowship training, many will now begin their payback working in their field of specialty at a military hospital or clinic. This is now the first time you will be eligible for deployment. While deployments work on a rotating basis, it is safe to assume that during a 4 year payback you will likely be deployed at least once for 6-9 months. There are, of course, many exceptions.
All in all, the military scholarship is an attractive option. You can finish medical school with zero debt in exchange for military service as a physician which can be very rewarding in its own right. Military physicians receive extra training in leadership skills and adaptability which easily carry over into civilian life.
About the author: David is a board certified family medicine physician in the Army currently working as a flight surgeon. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information about the HPSP scholarship or life as a military physician in general.
Sample Medical School Interview Questions and Answers
There are several medical school interview questions that you should be prepared for. While we recommend not memorizing answers, because this makes you sound like a robot, it’s important to think about these questions and their answers prior to your interview. Preparing yourself with our list of medical school interview questions and answers can help!
Tell me about yourself?
This is a question that is often the most popular start question. Rather than say what to do, it’s important what to avoid. Don’t give out your grades (saying you graduated “summa cum laude”, saying you got a 38 on the MCAT, etc). These simple statements quickly lead down the wrong path! Instead, focus on your family, your upbringing, etc.
This question is obviously going to be asked. Saying you want to help people is not enough. MedSchoolCoach recommends that during your medical school interview, you lay out a brief timeline of how you came to the decision you wanted to pursue medicine (don’t simply say I always dreamed of it since I was little). Provide concrete examples and scenarios that have shaped you and made you choose medicine as a career.
Do not be afraid to talk candidly. If you overcame a personal tragedy, or a family member did and this truly led you to medicine, tell us about it. Don’t beat around the bush, unless it is sometime very sensitive. (Beating around the bush means saying your mom suffers from a disease and you were there for her rather than saying your mom suffers from cancer). If there are things that truly lead you to chose medicine as a career, we want to know about them honestly.
Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
This old-school job interview question still pops up from time to time, and can trip up even the most confident job interviewer. We do not expect you to have your entire career mapped out, or even your specialty choice. But, it’s nice to hear whether you are interested in academic medicine (say it, even if you aren’t), research, teaching, etc. Certainly avoid saying you want to be a plastic surgeon doing breast implants all day in LA (doesn’t come across great).
What are your strengths and what are your weaknesses? How will you improve upon your weaknesses?
Create an honest list of what you think are your strengths or weaknesses and then pinpoint a couple you can remember. Practice your responses so that they sound natural and you are prepared for the question.
An example of a strength would be communication skills: “ I work very well with all kinds of people, and understand that everyone has different perspectives about projects and work tasks – so when I work with others I realize that everyone comes to the table with different priorities and objectives. I keep this in mind when I communicate tasks that need to be accomplished with positive reinforcement and awareness of what others are working on.”
For the weakness, pick one that won’t that is not going to disqualify you being a physician, and then follow up with – this is what really matters – the examples of what you are doing (or have done) to fix your weakness. The most important point here is to show that you learn from your mistakes and your weakness, and you are taking the corrective action to fix the situation – and stress that! For example, if the job does not require public speaking, you can say that your weakness is you are afraid of speaking in front of the public. Then tell the interviewers that you have joined a Toastmaster club or public speech course to overcome the problem. Remind them that when you identify a problem, you actively take actions to correct it, and that is how you do things.
What are the current challenges in current health care and what can we do to improve it?
This question will be asked and you need to have an answer. Read NYTimes articles, the economist, etc and understand the current health care climate and policy so that you can better answer this question on your medical school interview.
Stay tuned! We will soon be posting more medical school interview questions and answers!
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A Quick and Dirty Guide to Approaching Medical School Secondary Applications
Sahil Mehta MD – MedSchoolCoach
It is time for medical school secondary applications. Honestly, if you thought the primary application was difficult, wait till you tackle these beasts. Here are the major problems people have:
- Way too many of them! Medical schools all of a sudden inundate you with applications all at one time. You are now looking at a stack of 20 applications, each with 1-6 essays on them.
- Generic questions like “why do you want to come here?” You will feel like saying, cause it’s a medical school! Why else?! Then you will start writing the responses and inevitably copy information from the school’s website. At this point, you may feel as though everyone is doing the same thing.
- Repeat questions like “tell us about your most important activities.” You may think did I not just do that on my AMCAS? Why am I doing that again?!
Now these are just some of the frustrations that will come with writing secondary applications. But take a deep breath and you will get through it. Here are some things to keep in mind:
- Turnaround time: You want to get a secondary back to a school within a max of 4 weeks of them sending it to you, but ideally 2-3 weeks.
- Perfection: because of the above turnaround time, perfection is harder to achieve on secondaries than on your primary where you had weeks to prepare. While it is still totally UNACCEPTABLE to make spelling or grammatical mistakes, it may be more acceptable to not write a Shakespearean piece for each of the essays.
- Instructions: make sure to follow a school’s instructions. If they say LIST, just list with a few words, do not give them long paragraphs. If they say x characters, stick to it.
Another question that comes up all the time is “which ones should I submit first?” It is a relevant question and the answer is really whichever one you can. I would tackle those that you think are really easy (i.e. have no essays or maybe just one really short one) and get them out of the way. Then, move onto schools you are targeting. If UCSD is your dream school, make sure you are submitting your application to them as soon as possible. If there is a particular school that has a really hard question, you can come back to it with a “fresher” mind at a later time.
Here are some tips for specific medical school secondary questions that come up a lot:
- What is your most important relationship? Who is the most influential person in your life?
This question should be relatively easy. You can, of course, choose a parent or relative, but also think outside the box to perhaps a teacher or a professor. The most important part of this, and the key to answering all questions, is not the particular person you choose or even the relationship you have with them, but to keep the reader entertained through the paragraph. If you write “my dad is important to me because he was a doctor and he showed me how to take care of patients,” it will not get you anywhere.
- Most important activity
These questions are annoying. You just spent your AMCAS writing about your three most important activities and now they are asking you for more. There are a few approaches to take. If one activity really is most important and you wrote about it as one of your three most meaningful ones, you can write about it again. If there is something dominant in your life, write about that (i.e. you are a classical musician on the side). Things I would avoid are shadowing experiences. Really think about how important that shadowing experience was? Did following around a doctor really change your life?
A straight forward question that you can talk about your most significant research activities. Make sure to give the reader a framework in the first few sentences – show them what the big picture of your project or lab was. Here is a do and do not
– DO NOT start a paragraph with: “I studied receptor RLAJKNCH – r897 which showed that there was no uptake in expression when compared to JLKASN – 8343 when exposed to methyl-alpha-dioxide.”
– DO: “The purpose of our research was to understand how toxins affect cells, which in turn could be used to eventually try to come up with novel drugs. In particular, I studied…..”
- Why do you want to come to school X?
A very popular question and one students often have trouble answering. You should research a school’s website to see what they think they offer, but your SHOULD NOT directly copy from there and say I really love your research pathway and early clinical exposure. If you say just that, your essay will be exactly the same as everyone else’s’. Instead, relate back to your experiences and how that fits in with a particular school. You could say something along the lines of “as an undergraduate, I was exposed to the world of clinical research through my project on depression. With Columbia’s required research pathway, I hope to continue this or similar projects. The Psychiatry Department at Columbia is known for its prowess in studying hospitalized patients and I know I could contribute to this.” (that is not a great sentence, but the idea is that you want to talk about how YOU fit into a school, not just what the school offers.
- Long term goals
You do not have to have chosen a specialty or fellowship and write about it here. Instead, you can say you are leaning towards x and y because you have been exposed to it in the past. Or you know you love working with children, and so you’d love to do pediatrics. Again, think about how your past experiences fit into your future goals. If you have done global health trips, perhaps you want to mention that and say you eventually would love to be doing international work.
- Diversity. What do you add to the class?
Remember, diversity comes in many flavors. Skin color is certainly one of them, but there is so much more. Let’s be honest, if you are an Asian, you are not diverse when it comes to applying to medical school. Same thing if you are Caucasian. But how about diversity in your field of study in college? In your interests? In your talents as a musician? Or a computer programmer? If you really cannot think of a single thing that distinguishes you, you may be in the wrong field. There is something interesting about you. Find it.
- Describe a challenge you have overcome
Lots of students say I’ve never had a challenge. While it may be true you have not grown up homeless, that does not mean there isn’t something out there that has been a hiccup in your life. That said, you should not overplay the time you broke your little toe and couldn’t get to class on time. Examples may include a death in the family, a time when you had to adjust to a new life outside of the home, a time when your brother was going through depression and you had to help him, etc.
The above are simply ideas! The real important points to remember again are:
- Keep it interesting. Boring writing gets looked over.
- Relate what you are saying back to things you have done or genuinely want to do.
- Follow instructions.
I hope that helps stimulate your mind a little bit!