Ready to Apply to Medical School?

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Hello Everyone,

Are you applying for medical school this cycle? Nervous? It’s okay, I was here last year too, it worked out for me. Remember, once you press that submit button you’re in it to win it, so don’t look back now. My last second advice:

– Submit early, but don’t submit garbage. As much as I’ve been harping on you to apply early, it doesn’t make much of a difference between the first day and perhaps next week. The key here is: will your application be better by that time? If yes, then wait a few days to work things out. If no, and you’re just nervous, then it’s time to take the plunge and apply. Also, the MCAT and LOR can all be updated even after you submit, so if you’re waiting on these to submit then you’re making a big mistake. Even if you have a great MCAT score and award winning LORs, if you submit late in the season it’ll still take time to get verified plus there’s less seats for you; so, if you’re school has rolling admissions you’re chances have diminished significantly. The process of applying to medical school is NOTHING like most universities because of rolling admissions.

– If you didn’t opt for the $25 MSAR (potentially less than 1% of total medschool application bonanza) you’ll likely be very sorry later on. I was lucky, and I bought mine before I applied. If in the future you’re reading this, and its now secondary apps period and you still haven’t bought it, well you’re likely wishing you did — but don’t worry it’s still incredibly useful during the secondary and for prepping for interviews. If you feel like data mining all over the internet yourself, knock yourself out.

– Ignore most SDN hype, except for the “verification” threads. There are a series of threads you can search for using “verified” or “verification” as terms in SDN, you’ll see last years verification pattern. People will post the day they submitted and they day they were verified. I can save you a lot of time by saying it’ll take either exactly as long as the AMCAS told you or shorter unless you application is returned to you. You don’t need the extra drama at this point in your life. Don’t worry about when other people are receiving their secondary, invites, or rejections etc. For example, one school I interviewed out explicitly told us that they’ll be saving spots for other applicants they plan to invite later, some schools feel a little more cavalier about when they’ll contact you. Give schools some time to process things before you panic about how quickly they may be contacting you. When I put in my application at Boston University, I had already interviewed at other programs before I was even invited to an interview, so each school does their own thing. Pro tip: getting the MSAR will help you understand each schools’ deadline yourself.

– You’ll feel a large weight lift off your shoulders once you press the submit button. Awesome! Now, take a day off or two if you can muster it, and start working on secondary application drafts. The key here is to remember, no matter how well written your draft is, it’s still a draft and it can’t be submitted until you’ve customized it so much no one can tell you pre-wrote it. Here’s a secret, everyone reuses their secondaries to an extent, all schools know this. It’s really the only way to crank out 50-70 short essays in a month or two. But, humor medical schools by personalizing — each secondary should sound like they’re pretty much the only school you’d ever want to go to. And to be honest, by the time I wrote my secondary I actually felt emotionally bonded to each program. I actually got sort of depressed when I had to withdraw my acceptances, because I got so attached to each program, it felt like I was breaking up with someone I liked each time I withdrew. Everyone wants to feel you love only them after all. If your hearts not in the secondary than they’ll spot it, they have some type of clairvoyance about it.

– The secret to completing a good secondary is to love each school you apply to [while filing out their secondary] and staying organized. Part of that means doing your homework about applications. Schools are very generous about giving out their old secondary essays. Unfortunately, this doesn’t always mean that your school will provide it directly on their site — but a lot do if you just Google it. On SDN you can also search for past secondary prompts. The key is for you to realize that there’s really only a handful of categories that they’ll ask you about, so once you have good ideas developed for multiple topics you’ll be fine.  I’ll spend more time talking about secondary applications soon, for now this older article I wrote should help:

– Don’t be afraid to ask for help, or even reputable companies/accounts (ProMEDeusLLC, MedMentors, Accepted, MDAdmit). People like to brag about how independently they applied to medical school and were fine. But, with all do respect, this isn’t a “lifting contest”. In the end only one thing is going to matter when the dust settles: are you in medical school or are you at least closer to it for the next cycle. I was one of those people who did so pretty independently: no premed advising, no tutoring (although I was a tutor later), self-studied for the MCAT (Examkrackers), and I personally didn’t use advising services during the AMCAS. But you know who’s going to care about all of that in medical school? No one. Do what you have to do, don’t under utilize your resources. I dodged a bullet, feel free to reach out for help and advice.

– A rejection nor an acceptance dictates your value. Everyone receives rejections, and some will get both rejections and acceptance(s). It seems almost like a character building exercise, you could probably win the Noble Peace Prize, single handed cure Malaria, and resurrect the dinosaurs and you’d still probably receive at least one rejection. The point is, using my culture as a reference point for this example, that you probably won’t marry anyone if you don’t at least date someone. You have to be willing to stumble, roll down a hill of jagged rocks, and then spring up and say you’re ready for more! Getting an acceptance is also pretty awesome, but this doesn’t mean that person is necessarily more qualified — after all everyone applies so different that while the scores matter, it’s hard to objectively rank application versus application.

– Work on your weak points now. If you’re not sure you can vocalize “why medicine” and “where do you see yourself in 10 years after attending this program”, then get that hammered out now. If you’re heads in the sand about the Affordable Health Care act, you better get up on your game. If you’re not used to defending your opinion in front of someone you think is “superior” to you, then you’d best learn how to do that now as well prior to interviewing. If you’re still in college there are probably programs to practice interviewing available to you. It’s also easy to find typical interview questions if you search online. Print them out, and have someone ask you. I ignored my own advice on this one, I yap all the time and argue with professors and sometimes a physician or two so I just went into my interviews mostly cold because I felt comfortable. My interviews, it probably felt more like I was interviewing them at times, and I was. Also, for me, I get more nervous if I put too much prep time into talking — go figure. So, do what works for you, but at least practice a bit in whatever way works for you.

That’s all for now!



Medical School Prerequisites: Masochism?

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As a future physician it is your duty to have sound “scientific literacy”.   In in fell swoop I’ve answered the question stem to my blog entry, job well done me, time for a pint — oh wait, you were expecting an actual entry, back to work me.  Alright, so you’ve decided to take the physician plunge (make sure you learn the secret premed handshake) so let’s discuss those arduous prerequisites.  It’s a time honored tradition for premeds to bemoan the seemingly esoteric course work required just to get into [US] medical schools.  But, I believe most premeds miss the intent of the rigorous coarse work, falsely associating it with some type of twisted sadism created with the sole intent to crush your soul.  As a reminder, the typical premed course work consists of a year of:

  • Biology
  • General Chemistry
  • Organic Chemistry
  • Biochemistry *optional at most schools
  • Physics
  • English
  • Upper level math

Along your coursework you’ll probably eventually encounter this famous quotation incantation or another “Biology is just chemistry, chemistry is just physics, and physics is life”.  If that doesn’t encapsulate the importance of the medical school prerequisite consider that, as a physician, you will be expected to not only have an empirical understanding of medicine, you are also expected to be able to understand and even take educated guesses.   The prerequisites will serve as your foundation, when you become well versed in these courses making the leap into the MCAT will seem less intrepid.  In addition to science content topics, the MCAT will test scientific inquiry and reasoning skills:

  1. Knowledge of scientific concepts and principles
  2. Scientific reasoning and evidence-based problem solving
  3. Reasoning about the design and execution of research
  4. Data-based and statistical reasoning

(Hilborn & Friedlander, 2013)

Medicine is changing faster than ever, and it will likely continue to do so.  To stay in lock step with this evolution requires physicians to not merely be clinicians, and this requires premeds to obtain more than a sophomoric understanding of the core science breadth.

Besides, getting nerdy jokes like this is part of the experience.
Besides, getting nerdy jokes like this is part of the experience.

Don’t get me wrong, you can get pretty far on empirical data, typically it’s more important to know which medicine to use at a given instance than understanding which amino acid residue is phosphorylated.  However, at the same time, if you limit yourself to not understanding how things work you’ll be doomed to memorize everything because you won’t notice the patterns except from experience (not that there will always be one).  Personally, I feel doctors should understand the medicine and tools they are using: you should know how hydrogen atoms correlate to MRI scans while searching for tumors, understand how lens properties effect focal length and power of the eyes,  and why high doses of potassium can be fatal.   There’s a lot more to being a doctor than being a scientist, but if you don’t revel in the thought of science meshing with medicine than you have long torturous journey ahead of you.


There’s a lot of ways for you to deliver positive outcomes to your fellow man, and a lot of them wouldn’t require these prerequisites, MCAT, nor over a decade of education and nearly a quarter million dollars in debt.  But, it takes a special type of sadomasochist to enjoy what it takes to serve people as their physician.  I don’t want to discourage anyone from medicine, but just remember if you’re going to be a patient advocate, a physician, you better be okay with having deep ‘scientific literacy’.  It’s just your responsibility.

twitter: For more research literature about the MCAT see: