“The application cycle can be a long road. Don't forget to step back sometimes and reflect on the journey, both the good and not-so-good parts.”
What is your advice for those who are ready to apply to med school?
9 Ideas from Michigan Medical Students to Make the Application Process Go Smoothly
1. Start working on your apps early!
“Turn everything in as early as possible! While you're waiting for your primary to be verified with AMCAS, check out last year's secondary questions for your schools (found on online forums) and start outlining/writing.” -Alexandra P.
“It is never too early to start working on your personal statement or activities section of the application if you can make time for it. Even if it's a rough draft you visit every so often, thinking about it early can take the pressure off and lead to a great result.” -Charlie
“Put in a lot of work on the front end and it will end up paying off. Start working on secondary applications right when you get them if you can and have about a week turn around for turning them in. I also had several different people, in medicine and not, read through my essays and give constructive criticism.” -Christina
2. Practice the art of reflection.
Writing your medical school application is a deeply reflective experience and you should make it clear what you learned from each experience.
“Spend time introspectively to uncover and reveal what makes you unique and invest time in contemplating what that difference will mean to your contributions to the future of medicine.” -Michelle
“Be honest about your chances. If you have a love of health care, find a way to make it happen even if your test scores/GPA/activities aren't competitive enough for an MD program.” -Emily
“Take an honest personal inventory of your strengths, your weaknesses and your values. This will allow you to present a clear image of who you are on the page and in your interviews. I believe that being able to do that in itself is impressive and will allow you to stand out more than any perfect resume would.” -Kaitlyn
“Understand where you are strong and where you are weak in your application, and when interviewing own who you are. Do not be afraid to mention where you lack; say why you are in that situation and explain how you are strengthening that part of you.” -David
3. Share the why, what and what it meant.
Write about WHY you engaged in certain experiences, WHAT you actually did, and WHAT IT MEANT to your personal growth.
“Don't be afraid of putting something completely unrelated to medicine or academics. I wrote about how much I love fishing and playing basketball even though I almost always lose in the latter, and only get to do the former about once per year.” -McKenna
“Focus on the things that truly helped shape who you are when you apply. Any admission committee worth its salt will skip over those ‘extra’ things you did mostly to add to a resume. Just because your experience isn't exactly like the ‘typical’ premed doesn't mean it is not valuable!” -Zoe
“You'll hear a lot of people talk about completing the checklist for getting into medical school (volunteer, research, etc). It’s also important to do activities purely because they interest you. Discovering yourself is an important step in applying to medical school, and I highly recommend it.” -Mohamed
4. Remain authentic!
“Humans respond to learning about other humans in the form of stories. Spend time reflecting on what makes you tick and then tell a colorful and real story. Don’t be afraid to be vulnerable.” -CJ
“Use your essay to actually make sure you want to do this; don’t write a boring, safe essay. Better to have med schools reject you because they don't like the real you than because they don't like the safe, not-real you.” -John
“Have courage in yourself and believe that you are worthy beyond measure; believe that you are capable of achieving anything you put your mind to. Lastly, a quote that I found exceedingly helpful by Theodore Roosevelt, 'Comparison is the thief of joy.'” -Donovan
“Stay true to yourself. By being authentic in your application, you’ll stand out more and allow schools to see the real you. Medical schools are not only evaluating your potential to be a successful student, but they are also looking for what makes you unique and how you would contribute to their school.” -Kyle
“Don't be afraid to be unique and memorable in your essays. Even if it feels like it's taking valuable space to tell an interesting story about yourself or describe something vividly, these are the things that stick out to admissions officers.” -Clare
5. Showcase your passions, don't shy away from them.
“Be true to yourself and your experiences. Not everything has to have a medical spin on it. Some things we do because we love them. Just make sure the passion for everything you are doing shines through. Passion is one of the most attractive qualities.” -Alexandra
“You don't always have to listen to your advisors. If you feel passionate about an essay that you're writing, don't be afraid to submit.” -Dan
“Continue pursuing the things you find interesting and exciting! It makes for great interview conversation and, equally as important, for a happy/content/energized person going through the cycle.” -Rebecca
“Have confidence in yourself! You do not have to have a perfect MCAT score, GPA, or do a certain extracurricular to get into medical school. It is most important that you have the skills to relate to patients with identities different than your own, and be able to self reflect on your own passions and faults.” -Brittani
6. Make sure to clearly answer the question "why physician" in your personal statement.
“I was so worried that my personal statement was too informal, but the truth is, at the end of the day, my personal statement shared who I was and what I believed in. That is what carries you through the application cycle. Be true to who you are, and trust that your story is enough.” -Kyra
“Be honest and genuine in your essays and short answers. Admissions truly wants to get to know you because they care about the person you are and what kind of person you want to become.” -Aurelio
“I would encourage applicants to be radically honest with themselves about their prospects, preferences, goals and preferred lifestyle. It is easy to overlook, undervalue or distort some of these aspects based on conventional advice or others' opinions, so be sure that you are making choices that you feel most comfortable with and excited about.” -Matthew
“It's tempting to resort to general buzzwords for defining yourself - a ‘leader,’ ‘caregiver,’ ‘researcher,’ but think about how you spent your time meaningfully up until the point of application. Think critically about what/who excited you most, and how that can potentially translate to your future career.” -Anisa
7. Dedicate as much time to secondary responses as you did to your primary application.
“When secondary applications began, I made personal goals to return them within approximately one week. Some of my friends pre-wrote secondary application responses, which is a helpful tip for someone who may be more busy. Many questions are repeated for different schools so once you complete your first few applications, the rest should get done much more quickly.” -Alexis
“Take your essays seriously. They will set you apart from others. You are the ONLY you there is. Whether you think you do or not, you have a story. Show that to every medical school you apply to in your PS/Secondaries and that alone will set you apart!” -Aseel
“Don’t repeat information listed in your primary application in your secondary (too much, at least!) - it’s an opportunity to add to your file, not repeat information you’ve already mentioned.” -Peter
“At least a few months before you plan to apply, create a spreadsheet of secondary essay prompts for all the schools you're targeting and organize them by theme. Doing so will give you time to brainstorm. You never know where you might be inspired with the perfect essay topic -- on a run, driving home, etc.” -Brian
“Keep on top of your secondary applications. I kept a spreadsheet with each school that offered me an application, and as I completed them I would jot down some key words about my answer, so that I could refer to those pre-written answers later when I came across a similar question in another application.” -Annelie
8. Ask experienced personnel to review your writing.
“Ask those who review your essays to provide at least two pieces of critical feedback. Adding this stipulation for reviewing made it so my essays actually benefited from reviewing, and I would not be devastated when hearing that my essays needed some work.” -Erin
“Ask for advice!! Faculty mentors are usually good at being honest about how strong your application is, and they can make good recommendations on how to improve.” -Amanda
“Reaching out to mentors/older students who have gone through the process was useful to me. I highly recommend finding people you trust to give you honest feedback and to support you. The more people in your corner, the better! Even if they hadn't gone through the process themselves, I appreciated friends that would check in on how I was doing and offer moral support.” -Katie
9. Write PROFESSIONALLY.
Medical school is a professional school, so making sure your writing is professional, concise, clear, but still maintaining your unique personality and writing style is important.
“Share your essays and have them proofread. When you feel anxious and stressed, please talk to someone. When you struggle to select which schools to apply to, have a discussion with others. Don't go through this long, expensive, and incredibly taxing process alone.” -Fahmida
“Be honest about yourself and who you are - do not tell medical schools what they want to hear. Be true to yourself and you will end up at the place that is the best fit for you. A fit for a medical school goes both ways.” -Rita
“Make sure you have a few trusted eyes to help look over and edit your application! It helps so much to have two or three people (ideally each with different strengths and perspectives) to give you feedback on essays that you write for your primary or secondary applications.” -Shannon
“Give yourself more time than you think you need to complete your application. There were parts of the application, such as the personal statement, that I underestimated how much time and effort I would need to put into it.” -Anjola
"Michigan wants to see what your interests are and help you develop them and reach your goals. Since I had been doing things I was really interested in, I was able to clearly share why those activities were meaningful for me and how they shape my desire to become a physician."
Top Recommended Resources as You Consider Applying
1. Build relationships with mentors and pre-med advisors.
2. Thoroughly review med school and related websites.
3. Utilize industry-related materials, like AAMC and MSAR.
4. Research medical ethics articles.
"Some of my most formative and important experiences were not directly related to medicine, and that's okay. Having a diverse set of experiences that I really cared about and learned from was incredibly helpful to me and I think probably contributed to my successful admission."
Is there anything about you/your background that you think made your road to med school unique and/or challenging?
Underrepresented in Medicine
“As a mixed-race (African American/White) male, I’ve often felt the need to be 'twice as good.' Getting into medical school is difficult no matter which identities someone ascribes to; being a racial minority offers its unique challenges. Find your people - the ones who will understand what you mean when the words to describe how you’re feeling aren’t quite there yet. It will make all the difference.” -Keoni
Low socioeconomic background
“Although there were a lot of struggles and a lot of things I had to navigate myself, I realized that my background gave me a unique perspective that I could use to make a bigger difference. Don’t give up if this is truly want you want to do. I am proud of my background, despite the adversities I faced, and hope to use it to help those in need in the future.” -Kyle
“I believe that being a student-athlete provided me with a unique perspective, but it also challenged me to balance both academic and athletic schedules, demands, and expectations.” -Megan
“As a postbac student it can be intimidating to make a large career change and apply to medical school often at a later state in the game. It is very easy to feel behind. But there are a lot of advantages that come along with this as well. Once I got to the interview stage, I felt much more comfortable than a lot of my peers.” -Alexandra
“I applied three times, and I still feel a little ashamed of not having gotten in earlier, but the years in between each application cycle have strengthened my resolve to become a physician as well as helped hone what kind of doctor I want to be. If you are in the same boat, just know that there will be others like you in your medical school and that your experience going through this incredibly rough process will be valuable.” -David
“I made the switch from business to medicine. By the time I matriculate, I will have taken seven gap years! Although I'm a few years older than the median matriculant, I was pleasantly surprised to find -- particularly at Michigan -- a significant cohort of career changers like me. Their paths to medicine are fascinating.” -Brian
First generation college/medical school
“There are no health care professionals in my family at all, and neither of my parents have college degrees. Because of this, and the absence of premed advisors and/or a premed committee at my undergrad institution with which to clarify misunderstandings and misconceptions about applying, navigating the application process was uniquely challenging for me.” -McKenna
“I was in a very severe car accident while in high school that involved several months in the hospital and numerous surgeries and physicians on my care team. I got to experience health care from the patient perspective, which was really unique. I still have some deficits from the accident that I deal with on a daily basis, but the accident changed my life in a very positive way.” -Nikki
“I applied as one half of a couple who applied to medical school together. We carefully curated our list of schools and made sure to mention in our primary application that we were applying together, and planned to attend a school that admitted both of us. I believe that our being so up-front about our situation contributed to our success in attending school together.” -Annelie
"Continuing to do the things I love (completely unrelated to medicine) allowed me to de-stress and feel like myself throughout the premed years. Ironically, these are the same things that helped me stand out in my application!"
Dos and Don’ts of Applying to Med School
Do enough preparation to be confident in who you are and what you stand for.
Do answer questions genuinely.
Do reach out to students and staff during interviews if you need help.
Do focus on what you can control.
Do have a few fun facts about yourself in your back pocket for interview icebreakers.
Do remain calm and enjoy the journey.
Do write in your authentic voice.
Do be yourself!
Don’t compare yourself to others.
Don’t stay up all night reviewing your application over and over before an interview.
Don’t waste time in interviews using buzz words.
Don't be generic when applying to and interviewing with schools.
"Be as calm as possible. No school/interviewer is trying to interrogate you, they really just want to know who you are and why you picked the route that you did."