If you’re nearing the end of your pre-med journey and beginning to seriously consider which medical schools you’d like to apply to, you’re probably wondering how to make your medical school application stand out.
Along with letters of recommendation and your interview, your medical school application is an opportunity for you to distinguish yourself from other candidates and impress the admissions committee.
Getting into medical school is a very challenging task with lots of competition. For the 2020–2021 school year, there were 53,030 first-year applicants for medical school, but only 22,239 matriculated. That’s roughly 43%. So it is essential that your medical school application highlights your strengths and elevates you above other applicants.
Let’s look at how to make your medical school application stand out from the rest . . .
Your Medical School Application Should Demonstrate Academic Excellence
An outstanding GPA is critical for your med school application. Admissions committees want to see that you are committed to your academic pursuits and that you are ready for the stress and rigor of medical school.
Your GPA isn’t the only thing admissions committees look at, but it is certainly an important factor in their decision making process.
Keep your GPA in mind when choosing classes outside of your prerequisites during your undergraduate study. Courses in which you can perform well and elevate your GPA can be helpful.
If you are wondering what is considered a good GPA, this varies from school to school. However, it is helpful to know that the mean GPA for medical school applicants was 3.60 in 2020–2021, and the mean GPA for matriculants was 3.73.
Highlight These Five Extracurricular Experiences
Your academic performance – a high GPA, a good MCAT score, prerequisite courses – are all important, but your academic success isn’t the only thing medical schools are considering. Extracurricular experiences are important too. Especially the following five experiences . . .
1. Volunteer Experiences
Demonstrating a willingness to “give back” in your local community is a bright spot when considering how to make your medical school application stand out. This shows character and empathy, and it will give you some great talking points should you get an interview opportunity.
2. Research Experience
Having research experience is crucial to your application success. Medical schools value applicants who have hours of research experience – the more hours the better. Any research opportunities are good, but research in a lab setting is best. Admissions committees want to see that you are developing the analytical skills that you will one day need as a physician.
3. Shadowing Experience
Shadowing is simply spending time observing physicians, learning how they interact with patients and make clinical judgments. If you have shadowing experience listed on your medical school application, it demonstrates your commitment to learning. There is a side benefit too! Not only does it look good on your application, it gives you an opportunity to see different specialties and can help guide you into a career path that most interests you.
4. Clinical Experience
Knowing that you have spent time with patients in a clinical setting is something admissions committees value. Volunteer work in a hospital or clinic, or working as a medical assistant or EMT, shows that you are familiar with patients and are already comfortable interacting in a clinical setting.
5. Leadership Experience
Medical schools love applicants who are confident, accomplished, and have experience in a leadership capacity. Developing initiatives, overseeing a team, leading a service project, student council experience – these opportunities, and others like them, demonstrate decisiveness and accomplishment. It will certainly help make your application stand out.
MCAT, MCAT, MCAT
Your MCAT score is one of the most important factors in how to make your medical school application stand out. Remember, medical schools are selective and the competition is significant, so an outstanding MCAT can be the thing that distinguishes you from the rest of the field. In order to do your very best when you sit for the MCAT exam . . .
- Build an MCAT study plan well in advance of the exam and stick to it
- Take a practice test at the beginning of your study plan and then at times throughout your prep to establish a baseline of knowledge and to track your progress
- Use a premium online learning tool like UWorld, written by subject matter experts with knowledge of the basic sciences, humanities, and social sciences
The MCAT is a seven-and-a-half hour exam, developed and administered by the AAMC. All medical school applicants have to list their MCAT score. The mean MCAT score for medical school applicants in 2020-2021 was 506.4. The mean MCAT score for matriculants was 511.5.
Because of the high-stakes nature of the MCAT, don’t try to study alone. Use a resource that can help you perform your best and master the MCAT exam.
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2021 facts: Applicants and matriculants data. AAMC. (n.d.). Retrieved April 4, 2022, from https://www.aamc.org/data-reports/students-residents/interactive-data/2021-facts-applicants-and-matriculants-data