How to Make Your Med School Application Stand Out | MedSchoolCoach

How to Make Your Med School Application Stand Out

Dr. Ziggy Yoediono

Posted in: Applying to Medical School

When medical school admissions committees review your application, they want to know you’re an applicant with a high likelihood of success in their program and a future career in medicine. To stand out from the competition when applying, you’ll need a notable, well-rounded profile to present.

For years, I’ve worked with students as an admissions committee member and, now, as an advisor to pre-med students working to improve their applications. These are my insights on the top 10 ways you can be a competitive medical school applicant (plus, a few important missteps to avoid in the process).

Let’s jump right in.

1. Emphasize Academics and Testing

On medical school applications, your academic performance and test scores are your first chance to stand out. You’ll struggle to get invited to write secondary essays or interview anywhere without strong academic credentials.

Competitive GPA and MCAT scores are standardized indicators of your ability to handle the demands of medical education. That’s why you should ignore the ‘minimum requirements’ and focus on doing as well as you can. 

MCAT scores, for instance, often reflect how you will perform on the USMLE. Prioritizing students with high scores is one way for medical programs to attempt to predict future success.

Aim for a GPA of 3.7 or higher before applying to medical school. The average overall GPA of medical school matriculants was 3.75 in the 2022-23 application cycle.

Ideally, you’ll need an MCAT score of at least 511 to be a competitive applicant. MD program matriculants (students accepted and enrolled in medical school) averaged 511.9 on the MCAT, while DO matriculants averaged 504.6 in the last application cycle.

If your sights are on the Ivy League, your MCAT score will need to be closer to 520 for a chance at consideration.

Make sure you balance your drive for academic excellence with a sustainable workload. Overloading extracurricular activities, while good for your application, can backfire if it leads to burnout and impacts your grades. Remember, a dip in academic performance can significantly affect your med school application.

If your academic record is less than ideal, consider a post-baccalaureate program or a gap year to improve your academics.

Get world-class MCAT tutoring with 99th percentile scorers. Students who work with MedSchoolCoach increase their scores by 12 points on average.

2. Apply to Schools That Align With Your Values

Selecting the right medical school takes intentionality beyond an institution’s prestige and location. Ideally, you should choose a school whose ethos and curriculum mirror your own values.

This sets you up for long-term success — plus, you won’t have to worry about manufacturing reasons you chose a specific school when you’re asked (because you’ll definitely be asked).

If your heart is set on primary care, look for schools that strongly emphasize it, offering extensive hands-on training, community-based projects, and mentorship programs focused on primary healthcare. Their alumni likely feature leaders in family medicine, pediatrics, and other primary care specialties.

If you’re driven by a desire to serve underserved communities, identify schools that not only teach medicine but also instill a deep understanding of social determinants of health. Look for programs with rotations in rural or inner-city clinics, or those that include public health coursework.

Diversity is increasingly recognized as a cornerstone of effective healthcare, and aligning with a school that actively supports and promotes diversity can be pivotal for your career. 

If diversity is on your list of must-haves, apply to schools with a diverse faculty and student body, robust support systems for underrepresented groups, and a curriculum that addresses health disparities and cultural competence.

Deciding on which schools to apply to isn’t just about where you’ll spend the next few years — it’s about finding a place that will set the stage for the kind of doctor you aspire to be.

MedSchoolCoach offers comprehensive med school application consulting so that you have the best chance at getting a “YES!” from the program of your choice.

3. Choose Your Extracurriculars Wisely

When it comes to extracurricular activities, pre-meds often face a dilemma: balancing a variety of interests while focusing on their ultimate goal of becoming a doctor. Whenever possible, you should choose extracurriculars that:

  • You can participate in long-term
  • Genuinely interest you
  • Support your personal, professional, and/or academic growth and development
  • Are appropriate for a person pursuing a future medical career

You’re not limited to clinical experiences. In fact, non-clinical activities can reflect your unique personality and demonstrate your ability to balance academics with personal interests. Admissions officers prioritize well-rounded applicants, as they often make the greatest contributions to the medical field.

Balance academic extracurriculars like research and clinical experience with activities such as taking a leadership role for a sports team or club, engaging in the arts, or volunteering internationally. Seek opportunities to develop leadership skills, teamwork, and empathy.

4. Have Something Unique to Say

Med school admissions committees are looking for unique, well-rounded applicants to review, not a homogenous group of applicants with everything in common. This diversity in the applicant pool isn’t just nice; it’s essential for effective medical education and practice.

As a prospective medical student, your uniqueness is a significant asset. Your undergraduate major, your cultural background, and your individuality are all factors that can positively influence how your application is received.

For nontraditional applicants, this aspect is especially crucial in the admissions process.

Maybe your journey to medicine wasn’t a straight path but a more winding one of varied experiences. Perhaps you have a background in the arts, business, or a completely different field. These experiences contribute to a diverse skill set and perspective that can enrich the medical profession. Emphasize these elements in your application; don’t downplay them.

Your academic choices also play a role in showcasing your individuality. There’s a common misconception that majoring in sciences is a prerequisite for medical school. This just isn’t true!

Pursuing a major in humanities, social sciences, English, or any other field outside the traditional pre-med track can actually work in your favor. It demonstrates intellectual curiosity and a breadth of knowledge, which are highly valued in the medical field.

Medical schools are looking for candidates who bring something different to the table. Your background, experiences, and academic choices are not just talking points, but they form the essence of who you are as a candidate. Let your individuality shine through in your application, offering a distinctive profile that medical schools are more likely to notice.

5. Show a Commitment to Research and/or Clinical Work

Whether or not you plan on a research-heavy career, you’ll need a deep understanding of science and humanity to excel in medicine. One way to showcase this in your application is by expounding on the research opportunities you participated in during undergrad.

A research-intensive path isn’t obligatory for every aspiring doctor. If your career aspirations are more clinically oriented, it’s perfectly acceptable to have an application with more clinical exposure than research experience.

However, demonstrating an involvement in research settings is a significant advantage. This can take various forms, such as internships, shadowing, job experiences, or volunteer positions (abroad or stateside).

When discussing your experiences in research projects on your application and during interviews, focus on the impact, learning outcomes, and future plans they provided:

  • What skills did you develop? 
  • How did these experiences deepen your understanding of medicine? 
  • How would you like to continue or expand on the research opportunities you already have during or after medical school?

Even if your research work wasn’t groundbreaking, the analytical skills, attention to detail, and scientific curiosity it encouraged are worth highlighting. If the work was invigorating, you may even find yourself considering an MD/PhD!

6. Make Good Use of Gap Years

Embracing a gap year can be a game-changer, allowing you to develop personally, professionally, and/or academically in ways that directly benefit your medical career path.

This was one of my favorite things to cover on TikTok!

Here are a few fantastic ways to strategically use your gap year:

  • Do a post-bacc program: Consider a post-baccalaureate program if you need to strengthen your academics. They’re designed specifically for students who need to improve their GPA or fulfill specific medical school prerequisites. Plus, they often offer great opportunities for research and networking with medical professionals.
  • Expand your extracurriculars: Volunteering at healthcare facilities, participating in medical research, or getting involved in community health initiatives can give you insights into the realities of a medical career. You can gain a deeper appreciation of the healthcare system and the needs of patients, which is crucial for any aspiring doctor.
  • Work in healthcare: Working in a healthcare-related field, from phlebotomy to medical office administration, can give you an inside look into patient care and teach you skills easily transferable later in your career.
  • Teach or tutor: Tutors, teachers, substitute teachers, and teacher’s assistants learn valuable tools and techniques for communicating information to others, which is a vital part of being a physician.
  • Travel: Medical school is tough, and there’s nothing wrong with wanting to take some extra time for yourself before jumping back into a demanding academic schedule. If you’re feeling burned out, consider traveling alone or with a friend or family member to get some much-needed R&R. Domestic and international travel offer plenty of chances to learn and grow personally, all of which you can use to strengthen your application.

7. Demonstrate Positive Growth When Reapplying

Reapplying to medical school again after an initial rejection isn’t just about submitting a new application — you’ll need to showcase how you’ve evolved in areas where your previous application fell short. If you can’t demonstrate growth, you’re unlikely to be accepted.

If your MCAT scores were low, you’ll need to retake the exam and show significant improvement. Each attempt’s score is part of your file, and you can only take the test a limited number of times. After 3-4 attempts, it becomes far more difficult to get into medical school (even after you pass).

Improve your MCAT exam score by following a study schedule designed around high-yield topics, making good use of study resources and practice exams, and working with an experienced tutor.

If your GPA wasn’t high enough, complete a post-bacc program focused on medical sciences. Depending on how much time has passed since you applied, relevant work experience may also help boost this part of your application.

If your clinical experience is lacking, get more practical experience in the medical field. Great pre-med jobs in clinical settings include:

  • EMT (emergency medical technician)
  • Radiologic technologist
  • Occupational therapy assistant
  • Clinical lab tech
  • Surgical technologist
  • Medical records
  • Phlebotomist
  • Medical transcriptionist
  • EKG technician
  • Medical scribe

If your extracurriculars need work, consider doing more volunteer work in a healthcare setting. Volunteer internationally with organizations like Global Medical Brigades or closer to home at a clinic or hospital.

In your reapplication, clearly illustrate what you’ve learned, how you’ve grown, and why these experiences make you a stronger candidate now. Admissions committees are looking for applicants who can learn, adapt, and improve.

8. Write an Engaging, Story-Driven Personal Statement

Your personal statement should be a compelling narrative snapshot that communicates your dedication, passion, and drive for a medical career. It’s your one opportunity to connect with the admissions committee on a personal level before secondaries or an interview.

Avoid the tendency to use your personal statement to recount your qualifications and achievements. There are other sections on the AACOMAS or AMCAS application for that.

Instead, use the power of story to showcase your journey in a way that communicates your individuality and values important for a medical career. 

Use vivid, specific examples to demonstrate your experiences and the lessons they’ve taught you. Did a particular event or person inspire you to journey down this path? How have your experiences shaped you on your way to becoming a physician?

We wrote the ultimate storytelling guide to writing your personal statement with everything you need to know. Check out compelling personal statement examples from accepted applicants to see what the final product should look like.

Need some top-tier support writing your personal statement? Our Writing and Physician Advisors can help you craft an essay to stand out to admissions committee members.

9. Thoroughly Prepare for Interviews

Your preparation for interviews can set you apart from other candidates by allowing your personality and values to shine through when answering difficult questions.

Different interview formats require unique strategies, so make sure you know which interview type you’re heading into so you have the best chance for success.

For traditional interviews, focus on developing a comprehensive understanding of common questions and your own professional narrative. Anticipate questions about your experiences, motivations, and challenges.

For MMIs (multiple mini interviews), you’ll need to prepare for several interviews with short, scenario-based stations designed to assess your ethical judgment, communication skills, teamwork, and critical thinking. 

Regardless of the interview format, be sure to role-play common questions and answers with peers, family members, or mentors. This is especially important when you’re getting ready for an MMI, as MMI questions are designed to make you think on your feet about complex topics.

The key to excelling in medical school interviews is to connect and communicate effectively, not just answer a series of questions. Use the constructive feedback you get from role-playing questions to refine your answers, work on your body language, and improve your overall delivery. Opt for a professional, yet genuine and approachable tone.

If you sense an interviewer seems disengaged during the actual interview, re-engage them by asking a clarifying question, sharing an intriguing anecdote, or demonstrating genuine enthusiasm about a topic. Stay focused and ensure your responses remain concise and impactful.

Get ready for interviews by practicing with Physician Advisors who have been on admissions committees. Students who complete at least 3 mock interviews with our Advisors have a 96% acceptance rate.

10. Maintain a Beneficial Online Presence

You don’t need to get rid of social media just because you set your sights on medical school. In fact, having a positive online presence can do a lot to help you stand out from the crowd. Medical schools like to consider students who will elevate the brand of their institution online, so your online presence can be quite a boon.

Check out our extensive guide to social media strategies to boost your chances at acceptance. Here are the basics:

  • Showcase your passion and expertise: Whether it’s related to your future medical career or not, you can use social media to stand out as a well-rounded individual.
  • Keep it professional and appropriate: A few viral TikTok dances won’t keep you from getting accepted. But posting scathing indictments of respected physicians, displaying behavior unbecoming of a doctor, or providing medical advice you aren’t yet qualified to give are all surefire ways to create a red flag with your application. If you’re unsure, ask your pre-med adviser or a trusted mentor for input.
  • Highlight your extracurricular activities: The Work & Activities section doesn’t give you a lot of space to write about each experience, but social media allows you to highlight your meaningful experiences to your heart’s content!
  • Keep your accounts up-to-date: Especially for professional social media like LinkedIn, keep your information accurate and current. When you get a new job or enroll in a new school, add it to your account(s).
  • Balance social media with your other commitments: Avoid the tendency to get consumed by over-perfecting your online presence. Balance your time building an online brand with other important tasks, like school work and clinical experience.

Mistakes to Avoid

There are many ways to stand out as a medical school applicant — and not all of them are going to help you stand out in a good way. Avoid these common application and interview mistakes:

  • Don’t name-drop. If you have close relationships with a well-known physician or instructor connected with where you apply, ask those people for glowing letters of recommendation. Otherwise, stand on your own merits.
  • Don’t say you’re interested in a school just because of its location. Avoid naming anything extraneous to an institution you’d like to attend as a reason you want to go there. AdComs want to know you’re a good candidate who matches up with the vision and mission of the institution, not just interested in living somewhere specific.
  • Don’t use AI to substitute for personal experience. ChatGPT and other AI tools can be great for editing and spotting areas for improvement in your writing or other parts of your application. But a chatbot has no lived experience, so don’t ask it to pretend it does.
  • Don’t just cross your fingers with a very low MCAT score or GPA. If your GPA and/or MCAT score is remarkably low for the schools where you want to apply, don’t go through the extensive and costly application process based just on hope. Either adjust your expectations and apply to schools with lower average scores for matriculants or spend time improving your academic record before applying.
  • Don’t sleep on the Work & Activities section. Extracurriculars are a huge way to show that you align with the AAMC’s premed competencies for entering medical students. These competencies were updated for the 2024/25 application cycle to include new areas such as cultural humility, empathy and compassion, and commitment to learning and growth. Extracurricular activities help communicate these competencies in a way your transcripts can not.

FAQs

Obtaining LORs from professors at your current institution is preferable, but letters from previous colleges, especially where core courses were taken, hold value. Broadly, recommendations from science professors are vital, but non-traditional courses like behavioral sciences, Physio Psych, and Health Disparities also count.
A Master’s can provide an edge, especially if you’re part of a 4+1 master’s program. A high GPA in a Master’s program can certainly boost your application. However, a Bachelor’s degree is acceptable for most US medical schools.
Start strong by laying a solid foundation in your core science courses, seek out meaningful extracurriculars that genuinely interest you, and prioritize building relationships with mentors early on. Your journey to medical school is not just about grades; it’s about developing a holistic understanding of the medical profession. You should also connect with a pre-med adviser at your college to understand what premed courses are required for medical school. Your pre-med adviser can also help you land appropriate extracurricular opportunities.
Medical schools tend to prefer courses taken at four-year institutions, but they also understand that students have varied paths. If you’ve taken prerequisites at a community college, ensure you have a strong academic performance in upper-level courses at a four-year institution to solidify your foundation.
Whether it’s AP or IB High-Level credits, such credits should not be used to test out of premed courses. Medical schools want to see that you took these courses in college; so even if you tested out of a specific premed course, you should still take it in college.
Graduating early can be seen as an achievement, reflecting your academic prowess, especially if you’ve maintained a high GPA. However, ensure you’ve gained adequate clinical, research, and extracurricular experiences during your shortened undergraduate tenure.
Aim for at least 50-100 hours of shadowing across various specialties to gain a comprehensive understanding. However, quality and reflective insights from these experiences often outweigh the sheer quantity.
Seek roles in clubs, organizations, or community projects where you can drive initiatives, mentor peers, or coordinate events. Demonstrated leadership can also come from research, teaching roles, or spearheading community service projects.

Don’t Leave Your Application to Chance

Whether you’re applying for the first time or reapplying to medical school, this process is both career- and self-defining and, as such, deserves the utmost attention.

Double your odds of acceptance by working with MedSchoolCoach! Schedule a free 15-minute consultation with a member of our Enrollment Team to learn how we can help you achieve your med school dreams.
Picture of Renee Marinelli, MD

Renee Marinelli, MD

Dr. Marinelli has practiced family medicine, served on the University of California Admissions Committee, and has helped hundreds of students get into medical school. She spearheads a team of physician advisors who guide MedSchoolCoach students.

When medical school admissions committees review your application, they want to know you’re an applicant with a high likelihood of success in their program and a future career in medicine. To stand out from the competition when applying, you’ll need a notable, well-rounded profile to present.

For years, I’ve worked with students as an admissions committee member and, now, as an advisor to pre-med students working to improve their applications. These are my insights on the top 10 ways you can be a competitive medical school applicant (plus, a few important missteps to avoid in the process).

Let’s jump right in.

1. Emphasize Academics and Testing

On medical school applications, your academic performance and test scores are your first chance to stand out. You’ll struggle to get invited to write secondary essays or interview anywhere without strong academic credentials.

Competitive GPA and MCAT scores are standardized indicators of your ability to handle the demands of medical education. That’s why you should ignore the ‘minimum requirements’ and focus on doing as well as you can. 

MCAT scores, for instance, often reflect how you will perform on the USMLE. Prioritizing students with high scores is one way for medical programs to attempt to predict future success.

Aim for a GPA of 3.7 or higher before applying to medical school. The average overall GPA of medical school matriculants was 3.75 in the 2022-23 application cycle.

Ideally, you’ll need an MCAT score of at least 511 to be a competitive applicant. MD program matriculants (students accepted and enrolled in medical school) averaged 511.9 on the MCAT, while DO matriculants averaged 504.6 in the last application cycle.

If your sights are on the Ivy League, your MCAT score will need to be closer to 520 for a chance at consideration.

Make sure you balance your drive for academic excellence with a sustainable workload. Overloading extracurricular activities, while good for your application, can backfire if it leads to burnout and impacts your grades. Remember, a dip in academic performance can significantly affect your med school application.

If your academic record is less than ideal, consider a post-baccalaureate program or a gap year to improve your academics.

Get world-class MCAT tutoring with 99th percentile scorers. Students who work with MedSchoolCoach increase their scores by 12 points on average.

2. Apply to Schools That Align With Your Values

Selecting the right medical school takes intentionality beyond an institution’s prestige and location. Ideally, you should choose a school whose ethos and curriculum mirror your own values.

This sets you up for long-term success — plus, you won’t have to worry about manufacturing reasons you chose a specific school when you’re asked (because you’ll definitely be asked).

If your heart is set on primary care, look for schools that strongly emphasize it, offering extensive hands-on training, community-based projects, and mentorship programs focused on primary healthcare. Their alumni likely feature leaders in family medicine, pediatrics, and other primary care specialties.

If you’re driven by a desire to serve underserved communities, identify schools that not only teach medicine but also instill a deep understanding of social determinants of health. Look for programs with rotations in rural or inner-city clinics, or those that include public health coursework.

Diversity is increasingly recognized as a cornerstone of effective healthcare, and aligning with a school that actively supports and promotes diversity can be pivotal for your career. 

If diversity is on your list of must-haves, apply to schools with a diverse faculty and student body, robust support systems for underrepresented groups, and a curriculum that addresses health disparities and cultural competence.

Deciding on which schools to apply to isn’t just about where you’ll spend the next few years — it’s about finding a place that will set the stage for the kind of doctor you aspire to be.

MedSchoolCoach offers comprehensive med school application consulting so that you have the best chance at getting a “YES!” from the program of your choice.

3. Choose Your Extracurriculars Wisely

When it comes to extracurricular activities, pre-meds often face a dilemma: balancing a variety of interests while focusing on their ultimate goal of becoming a doctor. Whenever possible, you should choose extracurriculars that:

  • You can participate in long-term
  • Genuinely interest you
  • Support your personal, professional, and/or academic growth and development
  • Are appropriate for a person pursuing a future medical career

You’re not limited to clinical experiences. In fact, non-clinical activities can reflect your unique personality and demonstrate your ability to balance academics with personal interests. Admissions officers prioritize well-rounded applicants, as they often make the greatest contributions to the medical field.

Balance academic extracurriculars like research and clinical experience with activities such as taking a leadership role for a sports team or club, engaging in the arts, or volunteering internationally. Seek opportunities to develop leadership skills, teamwork, and empathy.

4. Have Something Unique to Say

Med school admissions committees are looking for unique, well-rounded applicants to review, not a homogenous group of applicants with everything in common. This diversity in the applicant pool isn’t just nice; it’s essential for effective medical education and practice.

As a prospective medical student, your uniqueness is a significant asset. Your undergraduate major, your cultural background, and your individuality are all factors that can positively influence how your application is received.

For nontraditional applicants, this aspect is especially crucial in the admissions process.

Maybe your journey to medicine wasn’t a straight path but a more winding one of varied experiences. Perhaps you have a background in the arts, business, or a completely different field. These experiences contribute to a diverse skill set and perspective that can enrich the medical profession. Emphasize these elements in your application; don’t downplay them.

Your academic choices also play a role in showcasing your individuality. There’s a common misconception that majoring in sciences is a prerequisite for medical school. This just isn’t true!

Pursuing a major in humanities, social sciences, English, or any other field outside the traditional pre-med track can actually work in your favor. It demonstrates intellectual curiosity and a breadth of knowledge, which are highly valued in the medical field.

Medical schools are looking for candidates who bring something different to the table. Your background, experiences, and academic choices are not just talking points, but they form the essence of who you are as a candidate. Let your individuality shine through in your application, offering a distinctive profile that medical schools are more likely to notice.

5. Show a Commitment to Research and/or Clinical Work

Whether or not you plan on a research-heavy career, you’ll need a deep understanding of science and humanity to excel in medicine. One way to showcase this in your application is by expounding on the research opportunities you participated in during undergrad.

A research-intensive path isn’t obligatory for every aspiring doctor. If your career aspirations are more clinically oriented, it’s perfectly acceptable to have an application with more clinical exposure than research experience.

However, demonstrating an involvement in research settings is a significant advantage. This can take various forms, such as internships, shadowing, job experiences, or volunteer positions (abroad or stateside).

When discussing your experiences in research projects on your application and during interviews, focus on the impact, learning outcomes, and future plans they provided:

  • What skills did you develop? 
  • How did these experiences deepen your understanding of medicine? 
  • How would you like to continue or expand on the research opportunities you already have during or after medical school?

Even if your research work wasn’t groundbreaking, the analytical skills, attention to detail, and scientific curiosity it encouraged are worth highlighting. If the work was invigorating, you may even find yourself considering an MD/PhD!

6. Make Good Use of Gap Years

Embracing a gap year can be a game-changer, allowing you to develop personally, professionally, and/or academically in ways that directly benefit your medical career path.

This was one of my favorite things to cover on TikTok!

Here are a few fantastic ways to strategically use your gap year:

  • Do a post-bacc program: Consider a post-baccalaureate program if you need to strengthen your academics. They’re designed specifically for students who need to improve their GPA or fulfill specific medical school prerequisites. Plus, they often offer great opportunities for research and networking with medical professionals.
  • Expand your extracurriculars: Volunteering at healthcare facilities, participating in medical research, or getting involved in community health initiatives can give you insights into the realities of a medical career. You can gain a deeper appreciation of the healthcare system and the needs of patients, which is crucial for any aspiring doctor.
  • Work in healthcare: Working in a healthcare-related field, from phlebotomy to medical office administration, can give you an inside look into patient care and teach you skills easily transferable later in your career.
  • Teach or tutor: Tutors, teachers, substitute teachers, and teacher’s assistants learn valuable tools and techniques for communicating information to others, which is a vital part of being a physician.
  • Travel: Medical school is tough, and there’s nothing wrong with wanting to take some extra time for yourself before jumping back into a demanding academic schedule. If you’re feeling burned out, consider traveling alone or with a friend or family member to get some much-needed R&R. Domestic and international travel offer plenty of chances to learn and grow personally, all of which you can use to strengthen your application.

7. Demonstrate Positive Growth When Reapplying

Reapplying to medical school again after an initial rejection isn’t just about submitting a new application — you’ll need to showcase how you’ve evolved in areas where your previous application fell short. If you can’t demonstrate growth, you’re unlikely to be accepted.

If your MCAT scores were low, you’ll need to retake the exam and show significant improvement. Each attempt’s score is part of your file, and you can only take the test a limited number of times. After 3-4 attempts, it becomes far more difficult to get into medical school (even after you pass).

Improve your MCAT exam score by following a study schedule designed around high-yield topics, making good use of study resources and practice exams, and working with an experienced tutor.

If your GPA wasn’t high enough, complete a post-bacc program focused on medical sciences. Depending on how much time has passed since you applied, relevant work experience may also help boost this part of your application.

If your clinical experience is lacking, get more practical experience in the medical field. Great pre-med jobs in clinical settings include:

  • EMT (emergency medical technician)
  • Radiologic technologist
  • Occupational therapy assistant
  • Clinical lab tech
  • Surgical technologist
  • Medical records
  • Phlebotomist
  • Medical transcriptionist
  • EKG technician
  • Medical scribe

If your extracurriculars need work, consider doing more volunteer work in a healthcare setting. Volunteer internationally with organizations like Global Medical Brigades or closer to home at a clinic or hospital.

In your reapplication, clearly illustrate what you’ve learned, how you’ve grown, and why these experiences make you a stronger candidate now. Admissions committees are looking for applicants who can learn, adapt, and improve.

8. Write an Engaging, Story-Driven Personal Statement

Your personal statement should be a compelling narrative snapshot that communicates your dedication, passion, and drive for a medical career. It’s your one opportunity to connect with the admissions committee on a personal level before secondaries or an interview.

Avoid the tendency to use your personal statement to recount your qualifications and achievements. There are other sections on the AACOMAS or AMCAS application for that.

Instead, use the power of story to showcase your journey in a way that communicates your individuality and values important for a medical career. 

Use vivid, specific examples to demonstrate your experiences and the lessons they’ve taught you. Did a particular event or person inspire you to journey down this path? How have your experiences shaped you on your way to becoming a physician?

We wrote the ultimate storytelling guide to writing your personal statement with everything you need to know. Check out compelling personal statement examples from accepted applicants to see what the final product should look like.

Need some top-tier support writing your personal statement? Our Writing and Physician Advisors can help you craft an essay to stand out to admissions committee members.

9. Thoroughly Prepare for Interviews

Your preparation for interviews can set you apart from other candidates by allowing your personality and values to shine through when answering difficult questions.

Different interview formats require unique strategies, so make sure you know which interview type you’re heading into so you have the best chance for success.

For traditional interviews, focus on developing a comprehensive understanding of common questions and your own professional narrative. Anticipate questions about your experiences, motivations, and challenges.

For MMIs (multiple mini interviews), you’ll need to prepare for several interviews with short, scenario-based stations designed to assess your ethical judgment, communication skills, teamwork, and critical thinking. 

Regardless of the interview format, be sure to role-play common questions and answers with peers, family members, or mentors. This is especially important when you’re getting ready for an MMI, as MMI questions are designed to make you think on your feet about complex topics.

The key to excelling in medical school interviews is to connect and communicate effectively, not just answer a series of questions. Use the constructive feedback you get from role-playing questions to refine your answers, work on your body language, and improve your overall delivery. Opt for a professional, yet genuine and approachable tone.

If you sense an interviewer seems disengaged during the actual interview, re-engage them by asking a clarifying question, sharing an intriguing anecdote, or demonstrating genuine enthusiasm about a topic. Stay focused and ensure your responses remain concise and impactful.

Get ready for interviews by practicing with Physician Advisors who have been on admissions committees. Students who complete at least 3 mock interviews with our Advisors have a 96% acceptance rate.

10. Maintain a Beneficial Online Presence

You don’t need to get rid of social media just because you set your sights on medical school. In fact, having a positive online presence can do a lot to help you stand out from the crowd. Medical schools like to consider students who will elevate the brand of their institution online, so your online presence can be quite a boon.

Check out our extensive guide to social media strategies to boost your chances at acceptance. Here are the basics:

  • Showcase your passion and expertise: Whether it’s related to your future medical career or not, you can use social media to stand out as a well-rounded individual.
  • Keep it professional and appropriate: A few viral TikTok dances won’t keep you from getting accepted. But posting scathing indictments of respected physicians, displaying behavior unbecoming of a doctor, or providing medical advice you aren’t yet qualified to give are all surefire ways to create a red flag with your application. If you’re unsure, ask your pre-med adviser or a trusted mentor for input.
  • Highlight your extracurricular activities: The Work & Activities section doesn’t give you a lot of space to write about each experience, but social media allows you to highlight your meaningful experiences to your heart’s content!
  • Keep your accounts up-to-date: Especially for professional social media like LinkedIn, keep your information accurate and current. When you get a new job or enroll in a new school, add it to your account(s).
  • Balance social media with your other commitments: Avoid the tendency to get consumed by over-perfecting your online presence. Balance your time building an online brand with other important tasks, like school work and clinical experience.

Mistakes to Avoid

There are many ways to stand out as a medical school applicant — and not all of them are going to help you stand out in a good way. Avoid these common application and interview mistakes:

  • Don’t name-drop. If you have close relationships with a well-known physician or instructor connected with where you apply, ask those people for glowing letters of recommendation. Otherwise, stand on your own merits.
  • Don’t say you’re interested in a school just because of its location. Avoid naming anything extraneous to an institution you’d like to attend as a reason you want to go there. AdComs want to know you’re a good candidate who matches up with the vision and mission of the institution, not just interested in living somewhere specific.
  • Don’t use AI to substitute for personal experience. ChatGPT and other AI tools can be great for editing and spotting areas for improvement in your writing or other parts of your application. But a chatbot has no lived experience, so don’t ask it to pretend it does.
  • Don’t just cross your fingers with a very low MCAT score or GPA. If your GPA and/or MCAT score is remarkably low for the schools where you want to apply, don’t go through the extensive and costly application process based just on hope. Either adjust your expectations and apply to schools with lower average scores for matriculants or spend time improving your academic record before applying.
  • Don’t sleep on the Work & Activities section. Extracurriculars are a huge way to show that you align with the AAMC’s premed competencies for entering medical students. These competencies were updated for the 2024/25 application cycle to include new areas such as cultural humility, empathy and compassion, and commitment to learning and growth. Extracurricular activities help communicate these competencies in a way your transcripts can not.

FAQs

Obtaining LORs from professors at your current institution is preferable, but letters from previous colleges, especially where core courses were taken, hold value. Broadly, recommendations from science professors are vital, but non-traditional courses like behavioral sciences, Physio Psych, and Health Disparities also count.
A Master’s can provide an edge, especially if you’re part of a 4+1 master’s program. A high GPA in a Master’s program can certainly boost your application. However, a Bachelor’s degree is acceptable for most US medical schools.
Start strong by laying a solid foundation in your core science courses, seek out meaningful extracurriculars that genuinely interest you, and prioritize building relationships with mentors early on. Your journey to medical school is not just about grades; it’s about developing a holistic understanding of the medical profession. You should also connect with a pre-med adviser at your college to understand what premed courses are required for medical school. Your pre-med adviser can also help you land appropriate extracurricular opportunities.
Medical schools tend to prefer courses taken at four-year institutions, but they also understand that students have varied paths. If you’ve taken prerequisites at a community college, ensure you have a strong academic performance in upper-level courses at a four-year institution to solidify your foundation.
Whether it’s AP or IB High-Level credits, such credits should not be used to test out of premed courses. Medical schools want to see that you took these courses in college; so even if you tested out of a specific premed course, you should still take it in college.
Graduating early can be seen as an achievement, reflecting your academic prowess, especially if you’ve maintained a high GPA. However, ensure you’ve gained adequate clinical, research, and extracurricular experiences during your shortened undergraduate tenure.
Aim for at least 50-100 hours of shadowing across various specialties to gain a comprehensive understanding. However, quality and reflective insights from these experiences often outweigh the sheer quantity.
Seek roles in clubs, organizations, or community projects where you can drive initiatives, mentor peers, or coordinate events. Demonstrated leadership can also come from research, teaching roles, or spearheading community service projects.

Don’t Leave Your Application to Chance

Whether you’re applying for the first time or reapplying to medical school, this process is both career- and self-defining and, as such, deserves the utmost attention.

Double your odds of acceptance by working with MedSchoolCoach! Schedule a free 15-minute consultation with a member of our Enrollment Team to learn how we can help you achieve your med school dreams.
Picture of Renee Marinelli, MD

Renee Marinelli, MD

Dr. Marinelli has practiced family medicine, served on the University of California Admissions Committee, and has helped hundreds of students get into medical school. She spearheads a team of physician advisors who guide MedSchoolCoach students.

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