You need to show the admissions committee that you have investigated the field of medicine and are sure that you know exactly what you are getting yourself into. It is important that you have a clear understanding of what physicians do during the day and how they interact with their patients, the families of their patients, and other health care professionals.
If you indicate that you are leaning toward a certain specialty, for example, pediatric orthopedic surgery, be prepared to discuss what you know about this specialty during your interview. Be able to discuss what you have observed, the day-to-day responsibilities of a pediatric orthopedic surgeon, the types of patients they usually see, and why you think you might enjoy this specialty area.
If you always thought you might enjoy being an oncologist or an otolaryngologist, then shadow physicians in these areas, in addition to those in other areas, to experience a variety of roles and responsibilities. This exploration will not only help you decide that medicine is the right career for you, but it will also help you to convey better in your personal statement or interview your reasons for wanting to enter the medical profession.
If you happen to be the child of a physician, it is important that you get additional clinical experiences shadowing other physicians and getting direct patient contact. This will show the admissions committee that this is something that you want and have investigated on your own, not simply something that you have heard your parent discuss at the dinner table.
Think of it like this: If an admissions officer has ten applications on the desk that all have about the same GPA and MCAT scores, but there is only one interview spot left, who will get this last interview spot? Most likely, the officer will offer it to the applicant with the most clinical experience, because that speaks volumes about how motivated he or she is, and about the fact that this candidate has already gotten a good amount of relevant experience. This edge may persuade the admissions officer to believe that this applicant probably has a realistic expectation of what he or she is about to take on. While perfect MCATs and a high GPA might reflect well on your aptitude for succeeding academically in medical school, they do not reveal anything specific about your motivation for or your understanding of the medical profession. Clinical experience often does.
This is excerpted from 101 Tips on Getting Into Medical School by Jennifer C. Welch, who has served as the Director of Admissions at SUNY Upstate Medical School since 2001.
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