Although not officially required, you’re going to need a resume at some point in your medical school application process, either as a starting point for completing the experience section or to bring to interviews. While you can look up templates for a resume online, there are a few pointers you should keep in mind.
1. Keep it clean and easy to read. The purpose of a resume is to have all of your information in one convenient place. Most admissions committee members will use the resume to remind themselves of where you went to school and where and when you worked. For that reason, keep it clear and neat. Don’t make the font too small or too fancy. Don’t put pictures or other details. Design details will just distract the readers from your qualifications.
2. Emphasize academic excellence. You should include all academic honors you’ve received as well as your major and GPA. If you’ve received merit scholarships, you should mention those as well.
3. Don’t forget research. Many medical schools are interested in candidates who have engaged in research. Don’t just list the labs where you have worked, include poster presentations and pending or accepted publications to show the admissions committee your commitment to science.
4. Emphasize leadership in extracurriculars. Medical schools are looking for people who go above and beyond the threshold requirement, so emphasize extracurriculars where you took on active leadership roles, like planning conferences or organizing and teaching classes to others. All of the descriptions should feel active. The same goes true for hobbies – if you like skiing, for example, name the competitions or tournaments you’ve competed in as a way to show excellence.
5. Don’t pad with fluff. Here’s a not-so secret – people can tell when you are adding fluff to your resume. If you are including jobs to mark time, but they aren’t significant, don’t overwrite the description. Don’t add hobbies at the end like “watching T.V.” or “reading.” If you don’t have the research experience or volunteer work needed, then that’s a sign to go get some. On the other hand, if you have experience, don’t be shy about listing it.
After the long process of applying to medical school and taking the MCAT, the resume or CV can feel like an afterthought. But, avoid turning in something sloppy. Think of the document like a roadmap that gives people reviewing your application a convenient guide to navigate all of the other material you’ve included.
Jessica Pishko graduated with a J.D. from Harvard Law School and received an M.F.A. from Columbia University. She spent two years guiding students through the medical school application process at Columbia’s PostBac Program and teaches writing at all levels.