5 Tips For Aspiring Pre-Med Researchers

The importance of research experience according to one med student.

Gaining research experience will make you a more competitive applicant

Gaining research experience won’t just make you a more competitive medical school applicant—it’ll also help you sharpen your critical thinking skills, and give you training you’ll draw on as a medical school student and physician.

How can you find the right research opportunity for you?

1.  Start early. Ideally, it would be great to have 1-2 years of research experience under your belt before you apply—so the earlier in your undergrad career you identify promising opportunities, the better.

2.  Find an area that interests you. For example, if you’re more interested in Psychology or Anthropology than you are in Chemistry, look into the possibility of assisting a professor in one of those fields.

3.  Make contact with professors to see if they need research assistants/laboratory volunteers. If your university has a research office or a central list of undergraduate research opportunities, check there first. If the system is less formal, do some research into professors’ current work (through department websites, professors’ CVs, etc). Then make contact via email and ask if you can speak to them about the possibility of volunteering in their lab. Let them know what background you have in the field (especially any prior research experience).  If they don’t need research assistants at the moment, don’t be discouraged- talk to someone else.

4.Think about doing a thesis. Depending on where you’re studying (and what field), this might allow you to design your own experiment.

5.  Consider summer research opportunities. AAMC provides a good listing here.

Rebecca BlusteinBy Dr. Rebecca BlusteinAccepted.com consultant since 2008, former Student Affairs Officer at UCLA’s Scholarship Resource Center, and author of the ebook, Financing Your Future: Winning Fellowships, Scholarships and Awards for Grad School. Dr. Blustein, who earned her Ph.D. at UCLA, assists our clients applying to medical school, residency, graduate school and Ph.D. programs. She is happy to assist you with your applications.

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Learn how to use medical school rankings to choose the best med school for YOU.

Exercise has been proven to increase mental acuity—this will help you stay sharp and focused on your goal!

Congratulations! You have been identified as one of the most promising applicants for medical school this application cycle. Follow these seven steps to ensure that you will ace your interview and receive an acceptance:

• Celebrate!

While you may be nervous about embarking on the next step in your journey, don’t forget to celebrate each small victory along the way.  Take some time to fully acknowledge all of the people and effort that have contributed to your success.  Share the good news and express your gratitude!  

•  Stay Active

To ensure that you will be in the most positive frame of mind, work out at least three times a week. Staying physically active will allow you to burn off all that nervous energy and help you to regain your focus while increasing your endorphins.  The closer it gets to the interview, work out more frequently but not to the point of injury.  Exercise has been proven to increase mental acuity—this will help you stay sharp and focused on your goal!

•  Review your AMCAS application

The most important thing you can do to prepare for an interview is to review your AMCAS application every day leading up to the interview as well as the secondary essays you submitted to the school. Reminding yourself of all of your experiences will make it easier for you to answer specific questions about them and to provide an overall timeline of what you have done to prepare for medical school.

•  Update your CV/Resume

Arriving at your interview with copies of your updated CV/Resume and reviewing it on the way will help you appear organized and focused.  If it’s a traditional interview, it may guide the direction of your conversation.  Use it as an opportunity to update the interviewer on what you have been doing since you submitted your application.

•  Research the School

Take some time to read the school’s website.  If you have friends or family attending the school, contact them to ask questions about what they do and don’t like about studying there.  You should prepare at least three questions for your interviewer(s) that demonstrate your knowledge of their curriculum, special programs and volunteer opportunities in the community.

•  Prepare with Mock Interviews

Whether it’s a traditional interview or a MMI (mini multiple interviews), mock interviews are the best way to prepare yourself for the actual interview day.   Running through all possible questions and scenarios can help you formulate the strategies that will earn you the most points!  Take the time to practice. Mocks will not only ease your mind but give you an edge!

•  Test Drive your Interview Outfit

While that suit or outfit may look fabulous on the hanger, you won’t know until you try it on whether the buttons are loose or if it would benefit from a visit to the tailor.  Wear the outfit you’re planning on using for the interview for a few hours and see it is comfortable and professional enough for the interview.  You don’t want to have any wardrobe malfunctions when you’re traveling and unable to find a replacement.  It wouldn’t hurt to bring a couple of back-up outfits, just in case.

Having helped students successfully prepare for medical school interviews for almost a decade, I hope that the tips that I have shared will lead to a wonderful experience and that you will be offered an acceptance.  Most importantly, be yourself.  And answer the questions honestly and thoughtfully.  Good luck!

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Alicia McNease Nimonkar is an Accepted.com advisor and editor specializing in healthcare admissions. Prior to joining Accepted, Alicia worked for five years as Student Advisor at UC Davis’ postbac program where she both evaluated applications and advised students applying successfully to med school and related programs.

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So Your MCAT Score Is Not Perfect…

You can get accepted to med school low stats!…that doesn’t mean that you can’t get into med school! Medical school admissions boards are looking for well-rounded students, and while high stats are certainly important, it IS possible to highlight some of your other super strengths and still get accepted. There are also other routes you can take (DO programs, international programs, taking additional courses, etc.) that will do wonders to your profile if you find yourself in a situation with less-than-perfect stats.

What can you do NOW to increase your chances of getting in? Read up on essential tips and information in our new admissions guide, Applying to Medical School with Low Stats: What You Need to Know. This 16-page report will become your trusted companion as you make the journey towards med school acceptance.

Don’t let your low MCAT or GPA get you down! Download Applying to Medical School with Low Stats: What You Need to Know to get started on your admissions adventure today!

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Meet Toni: An Optimistic, Realistic Pre-Med with a Solid Plan B

Read more interviews with med applicant bloggers!This interview is the latest in an Accepted.com blog series featuring interviews with medical school applicants and students, offering readers a behind-the-scenes look at top medical schools and the med school application process. And now, introducing Toni J.…

Accepted: First, can you tell us a little about yourself? Where are you from? Where and what did you study as an undergrad? If you’re not currently in school, how are you spending your time?

Toni: I am a first-generation American. My parents migrated from Jamaica, West Indies. I am from Queens, NY. I attended CUNY Brooklyn College, where I received a Bachelor of Arts in Chemistry. My journey is a bit untraditional. I’ve worked in allied healthcare since I was seventeen years old (pediatric, geriatric and rehabilitation). I wasn’t born wanting to become a physician. It was my patient interactions that motivated and inspired me. Having just graduated and in a gap year, I decided to seek meaningful employment that would allow me to learn and grow professionally. Having no prior experience with dermatology and blessed with the opportunity of working with some of the top cosmetic dermatologist in the world, I knew that this would be a great introduction to the dermatological specialty.

Accepted: What stage of the med school application process are you up to? What has been the most challenging step and how did you work to overcome it?

Toni: I have filled out/sent in my primary AMCAS application and received/sent in my secondary applications. I received two rejections, a hold and I am currently in review at five other medical schools. The most challenging part is being patient. It takes so much, for me not to check my e-mail repeatedly throughout the day, in hopes it’s an interview invitation from the remaining schools. I haven’t been able to rid myself completely of the anxiety associated with waiting, but I have calmed myself by devising a plan B. A post bacc program that would allow me to be more competitive and strengthen my chances of medical school acceptance.

Accepted: You describe yourself as a “nontraditional” med school applicant. Can you elaborate? Can you tell us more about your postbac plan? What sort of advantage do you think this will give you long-term?

Toni: I am a “nontraditional” med school applicant in the sense that I wasn’t prepared to hit the ground running after graduating high school. I was a late bloomer in many respects, emotionally and academically. This in conjunction with a physically demanding job was a recipe for disaster. I divulge quite a bit, about this, in my verified post on my blog.

I applied and was accepted to one college my senior year of HS, CUNY College of Staten Island. The distance proved to be the biggest hindrance, spending four hours commuting (two hours to and from work, home and school) left little time for studying and sleeping (FYI: the reason I transferred to Brooklyn College).

Having gone through that experience, I encourage those, who are in similar shoes, to take some time to evaluate their situation. With honest self-introspection, I believe anyone can prevent making the same mistakes in the future.

After seeking guidance from my mentors (professors, premed advisors, club mates and medical school faculty) and after careful thought, I made the decision to attend a post-baccalaureate program, if I am not able to get into medical school on my first attempt. Post-baccalaureate programs will not only strengthen me academically, it will strengthen me professionally thus make me a competitive applicant.

Accepted: It looks like you offer some good advice for underrepresented minority applicants. Can you share some of your advice here with our readers?

Toni: Being an underrepresented minority, I found getting accurate information, tailored to my specific needs somewhat challenging. My college premed department had limited information regarding the opportunities available to underrepresented minorities. Most of the information I know and provide on my blog, I learned through my own research and through the Minority association of pre-health students (MAPS), my college club (affiliated with the Student National Medical Association – SNMA).

I advise students to join a pre-heath club, devoted to the mission of increasing the number of underrepresented minorities in medicine, because I believe that this will make all the difference in the strategy used to construct a competitive medical school application.

Accepted: Why did you decide to blog about your experience? What have you gained from the experience? What do you hope others will learn?

Toni: Helping people, whether it be assisting patients, tutoring underclassmen or even by providing useful information I learned along the way (will hopefully prevent others from making the mistakes I’ve made) is quite emotionally rewarding. Blogging allows for a cathartic release, a form of therapy in many respects, that gives my past mistakes purpose.

For one-on-one guidance on your med school applications, please see our catalog of med school admissions services.

You can read more about Toni’s journey by checking out her blog, KeepCalmGoToMedicalSchool. Thank you for sharing your story with us – we wish you loads of luck!

Do you want to be featured in Accepted.com’s blog, Accepted Admissions Blog? If you want to share your med school story with the world (or at least with our readers), email us at bloggers@accepted.com.

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Not So Secret Secrets to Nailing the Medical School Interview

More med school interview advice.

Sorry, there are no magic tricks to interviewing and getting accepted to med school.

Journeys with Joshua: Joshua Wienczkowski walks us through med school at East Tennessee’s College of Medicine with his monthly blog updates. Get an inside look into med school down South and life as a student adcom member through the eyes of a former professional songwriter with a whole lot of clinical experience — thanks Joshua for sharing this journey with us! 

Right now, every week, there are a slew of fresh faces coming to interview for a coveted spot at our medical school. They come mostly from Tennessee; many have done undergraduate work all over the country, had previous careers, and are very impressive on paper, but they all share one thing in common: a feeling expressed on their faces that hints at sheer excitement and terror mixed evenly. Interviewing for medical school is one of the most exciting things someone can do; the hours have been poured into taking classes, studying for the MCAT, writing the lengthy application, shadowing in hospitals, researching in labs, and often times neglecting personal life to become one of the few to don the white coat as a student doctor.

There are a few things that I feel should be said to students getting ready to interview for medical school. Just a year ago, I was in those nervous, excited shoes and suit, and I’m incredibly thankful for the mentors that guided me in the following ways:

1. Practice. Hours are spent practicing for the MCAT, why not practice for the one thing that could make or break an acceptance into one of the extremely competitive seats of a med school? Each undergraduate school has a career development center that is well versed in preparing students for professional interviews, both academically and industry-oriented. I always recommend setting up a practice interview with a career counselor, and gaining invaluable feedback on some personal quirks that aren’t always apparent to ourselves. A fault of mine is that I have unfaltering eye contact with a big, forward personality to match, and this is sometimes mistaken as aggressive and commanding to people. This was pointed out to me in a practice interview I scheduled, and I was guided on how to lighten up my intensity to let the more communicative, and expressive parts of me come across more clearly. A good way to practice answering interview questions and getting solid feedback is to work through Dr. Jessica Freedman’s, “The Medical School Interview” with friends and family. It’s a quick read and I found it helpful to hear my parents’ perspective with tidbits they thought would be important in telling my story while answering interview questions.

2. Read up! I’m baffled sometimes when I give a tour to interviewees, and some have very basic questions that are easily accessibly on our website. The ones I know have invested time into reading about our school already understand the mission of the school, and want to know more in-depth things like what the student life is like, what things there are to do in the area, how accessible and helpful faculty are, and they essentially are interviewing me to see if my little corner of the world is somewhere they can see themselves fitting well in. It’s absolutely ok, and I encourage interviewees to treat the interview day like a two-way interview. When I was in the hot seat, I asked so many questions about why my interviewers chose that school, why they like the area, and the pros and cons of that school. You’re the one that has to spend the next four years with your hands at the grindstone, so you should absolutely be invested in choosing a school that YOU see yourself at, not just one that offers you a seat. This is YOUR education, and I am a firm believer that you should take control and command of it, starting with the school you want!

3. Don’t try and impress anyone. What I mean by this is that everyone already knows about everything you’ve ever done, because those things should have been well articulated in your application and secondaries. When we invite students for an interview, we’ve already thoroughly screened them, scrutinized their credentials, and know they are qualified to succeed in the rigorous medical education. The interview isn’t to test academic prowess, but it’s so we can meet the person we’ve been reading about, are excited about, and see if we like each other. Come to your medical school interview prepared to show everyone the person you’ve written about in your application! We already know about your awards and what everyone else to say about you in your recommendation letters, and now we just want to spend some time and see if we’re a fit for you, and you for us. Be yourself. Be yourself. BE YOURSELF! Interview day is a lot of pressure, but it’s the most enjoyable and exciting part of this whole process, in my opinion.

Having just gone through the rigors of applying and getting accepted to medical school a year ago, all I can say is that you should be extremely proud of the obstacles you’ve overcome to reach this momentous achievement. There are no magic tricks or secrets to interviewing and getting accepted to medical school; however, being an honest person with the integrity that I hope you wrote about in your application, and showing that person to us as a medical school and student body is a fast-track to an instant acceptance. The people we end up accepting are the people that I want to spend the next four years with, through the good and the bad, and they with us. The person I’m willing to go out of the way for and write an email to the admissions committee is the person that would do the same for me, and is also someone I’d want to have a beer with next year. So, in your interview, show them that person.

Good luck!

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