You’ve taken the MCAT, completed all the pre-reqs, and maybe shadowed a physician, done some research, and volunteered. Now it’s time to make sure you’re all in for the last legs of this long journey. In this series, we’ll discuss how you can continue to navigate your way to a med school acceptance by analyzing your profile, creating a strong med school application, writing stellar AMCAS and secondary essays, and nailing your interview.
Here’s how important clinical exposure is to your med school profile: You can have a GPA in the high 3’s and an MCAT score over 515 and still get rejected from a top med school; throw in some clinical exposure or shadowing with those top marks and you’re practically a shoo-in.
According to most admissions members at top-ranked medical schools, clinical volunteer work is absolutely necessary; an absence of such experience can literally kill an application. Without it you fail to show the adcom that you have investigated the medical field, thereby failing to prove that you know that it’s the right field for you.
Saying that you want to “save lives” or “work in pediatric hematology oncology” is noble and admirable, but do you understand what doctors do daily to fulfill such a goal? Do you have what it takes to save lives PLUS work 24-hour shifts? Do you like working in a hospital environment? Can you handle dealing with sick people and their families?
Furthermore, if you indicate that you are interested in a particular specialty field, then you MUST be able to discuss what you’ve seen and what you’ve experienced and how those things have contributed to your calling and your desire to enter that specialty field.
Bonus tip: If you are the child of a physician, you most likely have more shadowing experience than the average non-child-of-a-physician applicant. However, it is crucial that you acquire clinical experience with doctors who are NOT your parents in fields that are NOT your parents’ fields, so that you are certain that your decision to enter a field is because you truly desire that role and those responsibilities and not simply because you are blindly following in the footsteps of your mom or dad.
Remember, if all things are equal – high test scores, high GPA, excellent references, and a solid application – the applicant with the clinical exposure, with the hands-on knowledge that being a doctor is his or her true calling, is the one who will get that coveted letter of acceptance.