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January 2, 2019

How to Get into Top Medical Schools

Perhaps, both your parents, an older sibling and an uncle are medical doctors. Perhaps your mother is a pediatrician performing well baby checks for parents who want their children healthy. Perhaps your father is a general surgeon, performing appendectomies and cholecystectomies. It could be that your uncle is an oncologist, treating patients with various stages of cancer, for example lung, colon or breast. Or perhaps you are the first in your family to aspire the career of a physician, realized after you volunteered in a local hospital’s emergency department. The bottom line: you want to be a medical doctor. What’s next?

Where Do You Begin?

Assuming that you have completed a thorough self-assessment of your strengths, weaknesses, and aspirations, you must first:

  • Gather Information
    • If you have a phone, a computer and have access to the Internet, there is no excuse for you not to be curious and proactive. Medical school and beyond does not “fall into your lap.” You must work for it. You must earn it. Consequently, the sooner you begin to gather knowledge, discover your life’s work, and design your strategic plan, the more opportunities appear for you to take advantage of.
  • Talk to People
    • This is a good time to bounce your new-found revelation with your closest friends, parents and advisors. The feedback will prove invaluable, even if it is not entirely supportive. Constructive criticism whether positive or negative is essential because you are too young to know the whole truth; and you need to hear a diversity of opinions in order to refine your resolve, determination and begin to think strategically.
  • Put your Thoughts on Paper
    • The first thoughts in your head are sometimes the best. But they are like leaves floating in the air of a strong wind. Or perhaps a better analogy is that your thoughts are like matter at the microscopic quantum level, popping in an out of existence. When you write your thoughts down on paper, for example in your journal or diary, you gain focus. Your thoughts gain foundation like the roots of a tree, gaining a firmer place in your memory to be retrieved later at will. This allows you to see clearly and think logically.

Are You Willing to Pay the Cost?

You must complete your due dilligence before embarking on the path toward your life as a physician. Preparing to and actually applying to medical school requires insight into your soul, your abilities and your dreams. What are your true interests? What drives you? What inspires you? If money was not a concern, how would you spend your life, where? With whom? Doing What?

Moreover, there is a cost, not just financial, but terms of time and willpower. When you decide to go to medical school, you must commit 100% or not at all. The reason being that obstacles will surely get in your way. Resilience and stamina are key. Do you know the cost? Are you committed 100% to pay the cost? In order to be successful, you must do what successful people do; and that is to pay the full cost.

What are the Core Competencies for Entering Medical School?

Various stakeholders, including the American Association of Medical Colleges (AAMC) and the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME), determined the characteristics essential for students applying to and graduating from medical school. You’ll definitely need these traits when applying to medical school.

Pre-Medical Student Core Competencies:

  • Interpersonal
    • Commitment to Service
    • Social Skills: compassion and social intelligence
    • Cultural Competence: adjusting one’s behavior appropriately
    • Teamwork: working collaboratively, sharing information & resources
    • Oral Communication: effectively conveying information
  • Intrapersonal
    • Ethical Responsibility: behaving honestly and with integrity
    • Reliability and Dependability
    • Resilience and Adaptability: tolerance of stress & changing situations
    • Capacity for Improvement: sets goals for continuous improvement
  • Thinking and Reasoning
    • Critical Thinking: uses logic and reasoning to problem solve
    • Quantitative Reasoning: using mathematics to explain life
    • Scientific Inquiry: applies evidence-based knowledge, curious
    • Written Communication: effectively conveying information
  • Science
    • Living Systems: proficiency in Biology, Chemistry, Physics & Biochemistry
    • Human Behavior: proficiency in psychology and sociology

How do you stand out?

In the words of Alex Cheng, Harvard College graduate, the way to stand out in medical school admissions is to be “awesome” in one or more ways.

  • Exceptional Academics
  • Outstanding Letters of Recommendation
  • Distinguished accomplishments Outside of the Classroom
  • Unwavering Determination