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. Check out our comprehensive list of summer research programs for premeds.
By Dr. Rebecca Blustein, Accepted consultant since 2008, former Student Affairs Officer at UCLA’s Scholarship Resource Center. Dr. Blustein, who earned her Ph.D. at UCLA, has helped hundreds of applicants get accepted to top MS, MA, and Ph.D. programs. She’s also an expert on grad school funding and scholarships. Want Rebecca to help you get accepted? Click here to get in touch!