This article is part of a series of tips about visiting medical schools. In this post you’ll learn that one of the best ways you can set yourself apart as an applicant is to visit as many medical schools as you can before and during the application process.
If possible, you should plan on visiting the medical schools in your state, ideally your top choices. When it comes time to write your secondary essays, actually having visited the campuses will make it easier for you to demonstrate your interest in the schools. Introduce yourself to the students, staff, and faculty. Get to know them. Learn as much as you can during the campus tour. I recommend contacting the Admissions Offices of the schools when you are planning your visit so that you can schedule a tour of the school. Also, check the school’s website for information about pre-health or premed fairs that they may host annually.
When visiting a campus:
1. Introduce yourself by your first and last name.
While this may seem obvious, so many students become shy when introducing themselves and forget to mention their last names. It can be intimidating to be face to face with the people who may one day be reviewing your application. If possible, say your first and last name as many times as you can politely work it into the conversation. It takes about three times, on average, for us to say, see, or hear something before we remember it. Or tell a funny story about your name. We learn through stories. Make an impression. There will be more on this topic in the next post in this series.
2. Bring an updated copy of your resume or CV and/or a business card.
This approach is an especially good idea if you have already submitted your AMCAS application. On the business card, have a professional photo with your AMCAS ID, name, and contact information. If you make a good impression, an admissions committee member is likely to look up your application after meeting you since they have your AMCAS ID readily available. Be proactive and make it easy for admissions officers to advocate for you.
3. Ask questions.
Give yourself permission to be as curious as possible. That being said, make sure you do your homework before visiting the school – it doesn’t make a great impression to ask questions that are answered clearly in several places on the website! It can be helpful to prepare a list of questions that you have. Ask thoughtful questions that demonstrate your knowledge of their school. While you can learn a lot from the website, there is nothing like an actual visit to the school to give you the best idea of what they can offer you as a student. If possible, ask to talk to a current student or to attend a class.
4. Take notes.
Since you will hopefully visit more than one school, make it easy on yourself and take detailed notes, if not during your visit, then right after. Future you – the one who actually has to sit down and write those secondary essays – will be so grateful that you did. The more detailed your notes, the better. They will help jog your memory. This information will make your visit worth your while.
5. Stay in touch with the people you meet.
Send thank you notes or emails to each person you meet. If you make a genuine connection, follow up. Keep the conversation going. Update the person with your progress. Let them know once you have submitted your application. Be genuine in your interactions. It’s often best to begin and end each note or interaction with gratitude.
The best advice that I can give you as you prepare to apply or begin the application process is to make time to visit medical schools, even if you can only visit the schools nearest you. Having this personal contact with the school will elevate the quality of your secondary application essays – and make them easier to write. Plus, you may have the added benefit of falling in love with one or more of the schools you visit. When you are exhausted midway through the application process, this source of additional motivation or inspiration may help you win the day! Visit as many schools as you can, taking careful note of what you most appreciate about each individual campus.
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