Medical School. Those two words loom large in the minds of many premedical students throughout their college life. They are daunting words; however, acceptance into medical school continues to be increasingly competitive.
In 2013, more than 48,000 people applied to medical school, with a little over 20,000 matriculating. That translates to an acceptance rate of less than 50 percent, which is incredibly scary because it means your chances of getting into medical school are less than your chances of getting rejected.
Beyond that initial fear factor, the medical school admission process is almost an enigma based upon a complex interplay of factors that no one can really master. Making things even worse is the consistent hovering of your parents along with their anecdotes of how great so-and-so aunty’s kids are doing as obviously future doctors!
Getting accepted into medical school is no easy feat. To make the process go a little more smooth for you, I, a first-year medical student, have compiled a list of some valuable advice. So as not to overwhelm you—the student who is already bombarded with information—this will be presented in a multi-part series of articles. While I did some of this firsthand, I learned much of this information along the way, and the rest I now realize upon reflecting on the process.
1. Get to know your school’s pre-health advising services
Each school has a different approach to tackling medical school admissions, but most have a pre-health advising office. Even if you’re not assigned an actual advisor until later in your college career (I didn’t have one until my junior year), you can always email and meet with people in the office. They can be intimidating, but that’s only because this is a tough process and there’s no room for sugarcoating.
Don’t let them scare you, though. Their job is to answer your questions completely and there is no such thing as a stupid question. They have an immense amount of knowledge; they go to conferences to figure out how to help students tackle medical school admissions. I had so many random questions that I began emailing my school’s pre-health services before I started my freshmen year.
Not only did they clear things up, but when it was time for me to apply, I had already developed a rapport with the director of the office. This is important because these are the people that have to support your application and assemble your letters of recommendation.
2. Plan your time in college carefully
By this, I do not mean to sing the old tune of the importance of time management. I am not suggesting that you have each minute of each day structured in your agenda unless that is how you roll, then really, who am I to stand in your way?
Medical school is dependent on a series of prerequisites you must complete. You will definitely not enjoy all these prerequisites and they may conflict with other classes you want to take, prerequisites for your major, and other opportunities you want to take advantage of during your short four years. As cliché as it sounds, college is a time of exploration, so do not let your prerequisites limit you.
Sit down and write out your eight semesters early in your college career. This plan is absolutely fluid and prone to change, but having rough drafts that you can come back to are vital in helping you envision what you need to get done and when you need to have it done. Without this process, I would not have been able to simultaneously be pre-med and achieve my goals of becoming a non-natural science major and studying abroad. In addition, doing this can help you plan out when you want to take your MCATs and apply to medical school.
Was that helpful? Stay tuned for more advice from BG Saumya in this series, “From Pre-Med to Med: You Can Make It Happen!” If you have any specific questions or topics you would like to be address simply leave in the ‘Comments’ section below or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Saumya Bhutani is a recent graduate of Vassar College where she majored in History and minored in Biology. She wrote her thesis on the relationship between beauty ideals and the changing roles of women in India in the late 1970s. Saumya is an aspiring physician but also considers herself a history aficionado and pop culture junkie.