This is the first post in our series on applying to med school in the most efficient and timely manner. You’ve got six months to make this happen. Make sure you do it right by following the tips in Med School Action Plan: 6 Steps for the 6 Months Before You Apply.
In the six months leading up to the medical school application cycle, you can begin anticipating any weaknesses in your application. By assessing your qualifications early in the process, you can use this time strategically to improve your chances of receiving an acceptance. With nearly ten years of experience in admissions and a demonstrated record of success (on average, 9 out of 10 of the clients I worked with last cycle received an acceptance), I recommend reviewing your qualifications in these areas:
GPA: Do you have an increasing trend in your GPA? If not, consider completing more coursework, if you are not already doing so. Do whatever it takes to earn A’s in the courses you register for—even if that means that you sign up for fewer classes. Having a decreasing trend is a deal breaker for most medical schools.
For more information about how to improve your study skills, I have included a chapter on this topic in my book, The Definitive Guide to Premedical Postbaccalaureate Programs.
MCAT: If you have a competitive MCAT score, apply. If it would make you a stronger candidate, you have time to retake the MCAT before you submit your application. The higher your MCAT score, the better. If possible, work with the test prep company that can address your specific weaknesses—whether that is content or test-taking strategy. Make sure that you apply strategically to the schools that accept applicants with MCAT scores in your range.
Activities: Have you completed activities that cover clinical experience, community service, research (optional at many schools), leadership and cultural diversity? Do you have any long term activities—any that you have continued for a year or longer? It’s helpful to have a strong balance of diverse experiences with long term involvement. It can raise red flags if an applicant has several short term (six months or shorter) activities.
Application Essays: If you know that you struggle with writing application essays (most people do!), start early. Anticipate this potential weakness in your application by addressing it head on. You can allocate time for brain storming and journaling to improve the way that you approach the writing process and the way you handle high stakes writing assignments. You can always work with an expert, like those of us at Accepted. We can work with you to help you outline and organize your ideas as well as guide you through the writing process, draft by draft.
While there are many ways to improve your application, being strategic in identifying what your specific weaknesses may be can make all the difference. Being honest with yourself in your assessment of your materials will help you submit a better application. Take the time to plan for success!
Alicia McNease Nimonkar is an Accepted 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. Want Alicia to help you get accepted? Click here to get in touch!