|Applying to Medical School|
For graduates considering a career in medicine and public health, City Year provides a unique and valuable perspective. Corps members must be compassionate and empathetic, forging personal relationships with students and their families each day. They must be hardworking and persistent amidst seemingly insurmountable obstacles, constantly honing the skills that will one day turn them into both competent and caring physicians. They witness first-hand the impact a lack of access to high quality health care can have on an individual, a community and society at large. City Year alumni working in the medical field say City Year shaped their pathway and provided a solid foundation for their medical career.
Below, find resources to guide you in your journey to medical school. The content below includes:
Medical School Course Requirements
John Hopkins has an extensive guide on applying and preparing for medical school.
Medical School Course Requirements
If you have not completed the following courses throughout your undergraduate years, it is best to gain credit for these courses before you apply to medical school.
Many health profession schools also require:
Each school has different requirements, look on the school’s personal website to see their specific course requirements.
If you have not completed most of the requirements, it is a good idea to enroll in a post-baccalaureate program. Post-baccalaureate premedical programs are designed to help individuals pursue admissions to medical school after gaining their bachelor’s degree. Each program has a specific focus ranging from completing course requirements and enhancing credentials to assisting people from underrepresented, educationally and/or economically disadvantaged backgrounds. A list of post-baccalaureate programs is available here.
Social Media and its Impact
Some schools do search for applicants online. You should assume that admissions committees DO look at your online profile. As an applicant, you are responsible for how you present your public face to the rest of the world. Researching a candidate online is not illegal and can either hurt or help you in the admissions decision. To find out what others can see about you, do a simple web search and see what comes up. Anything that is illegal, shows poor judgment or is controversial will affect you. It is important to censor what you do; posting pictures of illegal activities is a strict no. If you have any doubts about posting something online, chances are you shouldn’t. Although schools can search you online, they have no right to ask for access to any of your accounts.
An important aspect of your application will be a demonstrated interest in the medical field. Medical school often look to your experiences as an indication of whether or not you have acted upon your interests and taken the necessary action to delve into the field and explore your options.
Registering and Preparing for the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT)
The MCAT is a standardized test designed to help medical schools assess your skills. The test consists of four sections:
The MCAT’s administration time is about seven and a half hours, including breaks and other activities. It is administered by the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC). To register you must make an account here.
When will you take the exam? Do you need to take a gap year or two? Take the exam when you are prepared, practiced and ready. Typically, the MCAT is taken no later than the spring of the application year. For example, if you are applying for 2016 admission, the MCAT should be taken in winter 2015 or spring 2016 to give you adequate time to apply to medical school. If you need the time to fully prepare yourself, a gap year is reasonable Focused and time-intensive studying for the MCAT should start at least 6 months in advance of your expected test date. There are many resources and products available to help in your study for the MCAT.
Discover the topics that will be on the exam, make sure that you know the content of the exam well. There is a lot of knowledge to be reviewed, but there are definitely topics that are tested more than others, so be informed. Constantly doing practice problems and timed mock exams are essential to preparation. Knowing the format and being used to the timing will be an important skill when taking the exam. There are supplemental materials that the AAMC provides to aid in studying. If you learn better from watching videos, Khan Academy has a collection designed specifically to aid in MCAT preparation. There are also commercial MCAT preparatory programs, the most popular being Kaplan Test Prep and The Princeton Review. Keep in mind that these programs are often costly, knowing yourself is very important. If you need structured time and a strict studying schedule, participating in a preparatory program is highly recommended. If you can simply manage your time well and will not get distracted, these programs may not be useful. No matter what, be ready for a lot of additional independent study.
A suggested timeline by the AAMC can be found here.
Retaking the MCAT
Only retake the MCAT if you believe that your score can be improved, medical schools do not look favorably upon those who take the MCAT again and receive lower scores. The point of retaking the MCAT is to demonstrate to medical schools that you are motivated and capable of improving and that the first score is not an indication of your capabilities. If you plan on retaking the MCAT, dedicate a lot of time to preparing and understanding your weaknesses from the first time you took the exam.
Taking a Gap Year
A gap year is a good time to get your academics and financials in order. Yale (http://ocs.yale.edu/content/gap-year-and-short-term-post-graduate-opportunities) has a lot of resources as to possible programs that you may possibly want to partake in. Use the gap year to your benefit and improve upon anything and everything that will help you succeed and become a better physician. A gap year is a good time for you to:
The Application Process: Choosing where to apply to Medical School
You may apply to as many or as few schools as you’d like but keep in mind the financial implications and keep your list narrowed down to the schools that you are seriously considering attending. Apply to a broad range of schools, do not rely on rankings as a judgment of where you should apply, rather you should focus on how the school best fits you. The MSAR online provides a comprehensive list of schools, their programs and requirements. Think about your best method of learning. Do you like lecture-based classes or more hands-on activities? Would you prefer to have a Pass/Fail system or an A, B, C grading system? Is student size important? Do you learn better in small or large classes? In addition, how important is location and diversity to you? Think financially. How much debt are you willing to accrue? Would living close to family be an ideal circumstance? The most knowledgeable person to aid in your search would be the pre-health advisor at your alma mater. Don’t be afraid to reach out to them and ask for advice, they’re there for a reason and utilizing all your resources is to your benefit.
To apply to most medical schools in U.S. you will used the American Medical College Application Service (AMCAS). If applying to a M.D. program at a public school in Texas, you will use the Texas Medical & Dental Schools Application Service (TMDSAS). There may be a secondary application depending on whether or not the schools want supplementary information about you.
Mastering the Personal Statement
Medical school admissions committees are generally a combination of admissions staff, faculty, students and doctors. Make sure you consider who your audience is. The personal statement should ultimately answer the question, “Why do I want to be a doctor?” The essay should revolve entirely around you beyond your numbers. If it is generic enough to be someone else’s essay, then it is not going to make you stand out. The personal statement is an opportunity for you to present yourself to the medical school in a way that you want to be presented, make it count. Remember that the personal statement is a story depicting who you are, not an argument for why you should be accepted into medical school. Address why you want to become a doctor, what has been your motivation leading up to this current moment? Avoid using general statements and clichés. The personal essay is not a place for you to brag about yourself, nor is it the place to reiterate everything on your resume. Ponder deeply about what experiences have made contributed to your development. Provide details about these experiences, don’t merely tell. Be truthful and personalize your essay to cater specifically to you.
It is important to proofread and edit your essay many times. A grammatical mistake can indicate to the admissions committee that you didn’t care enough about getting into medical school to proofread your essay and may result in your immediate rejection.
Mastering the Interview
The medical school interview can be considered as the last filtering process. Generally, when an interview is requested, it indicates that the school is seriously considering your application. The interview allows the interviewer to have personal, face-to-face interactions with an applicant. Interviews are often used to separate qualified applicants from each other and see who stands out. Take it seriously and prepare properly. Interviews can make or break your application.
Medical school is expensive; be prepared and aware of the financial burden you are putting on yourself. Don’t let the cost frighten you. There are many loans, grants and scholarships available. They vary from being need-based, merit-based and/or require some service commitment. Most medical students borrow money to support their education. Both federal and non-federal loans are available. The AAMC’s Financial Information, Resources, Services and Tools program is a great resource when searching for financial assistance. Grants and scholarships are available from the federal government and individual schools. Some programs are specifically designed for individuals who agree to practice in underserved areas for a pre-determined amount of time. Students applying for financial aid must fill out the Federal Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) to be considered for federal aid. Some medical schools will require supplementary materials. To be sure that you are considered for all possible financial aid, be sure to fill out all the forms on time.
There are two types of loans: Federal and Private Educational Loans. Each loan has its disadvantages advantages, it is to your best interest to research and carefully decide. Be aware of the terms and conditions of each loan you plan on taking. Take into consideration your future plans. Do you plan on attending graduate school and holding a job? Or will you be completely focused on school?
Transitioning to Medical School
Use the time before medical school to relax. Cracking open a book for a few months will not get you ahead. Instead, focus on having quality time for yourself, family and friends. Reflect on the fact that you are privileged enough to go to medical school. You’ve worked hard to get here, now you must work even harder for your patients! Remember to get your finances in order. You will not be living on a physician’s budget, but rather on a medical student’s budget. Spend your money wisely and talk to other med students and see their strategies to deal with financial constraints.
The osteopathic approach is a distinct form of studying and practicing medicine within the United States. Osteopathic medical schools emphasize the importance of primary care and strongly believe that a foundation in primary care is the basis of a better physician. It also focuses on providing care to rural and underserved areas. In addition to studying all of the typical subjects required in medical school, students are expected to take an additional 200 hours of training in the art of osteopathic manipulative medicine (OMM). OMM is a hands-on technique that involves using the hands to diagnose, treat, and prevent illness or injury. Dos and MDs are both fully qualified physicians, licensed to prescribe medicine and perform surgeries in all 50 states and even beyond.
A Brief guide to Osteopathic Medicine: For students, by students is a comprehensive introduction to osteopathic medicine by current osteopathic students.
To determine whether or not a profession is osteopathic medicine is for you, be sure to shadow a DO. Ask them why they chose to be a DO as opposed to an MD, what lead them to working as an osteopathic physician.
If you are applying to a DO school, you must use the American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine Application Service (AACOMAS). The process is very similar to applying to an MD school and the requirements remain the same.