Greetings Undergraduates (and High School Students)!
Perhaps you’ve always known you wanted to engage in patient care and aspired to become a physician. If we worked together during high school you were already made aware of the essential steps towards achieving your goal – including:
- A solid foundation in science coursework during high school preparing you for the required undergraduate coursework including Biology, Chemistry and Physics. Not everyone attends a college with a health professions academic advisor. I work with undergraduate students to prepare and lay the groundwork for medical school (and law school) admission. Click to learn more about working with Bonnie Rabin, PhD and Graduate School admissions.
- The importance of clinical work – gained through volunteering, shadowing and even paid positions across the variety of available health professions. While high school students may shadow or volunteer at local hospitals – undergraduates are expected to have taken these opportunities to higher level. Working within physicians’ offices, local health clinics and perhaps earning an EMS certification prior are excellent ways to authenticate your interest in engaging in clinical practice. How do you feel when you treat and care for individuals who are ill?
- Research- having an interest that can be explored while an undergraduate is also invaluable to understanding how science continues to advance our understanding of patient care. As undergraduates, actively seek out research across science, psychology, and other related fields will be essential to preparing you for success in medical school and as a future physician.
If you are applying to medical school to begin your program in the fall of 2022, there’s quite a bit to consider. Similar to your experience applying to undergraduate programs, the medical school application process has many moving parts- and it’s NEVER too early to begin your preparation. The moment you graduate high school = start thinking about those steps and begin your preparation. Course planning, research opportunities and clinical experiences should be carefully curated and planned. Gone are the days where being a science major with a research publication list is the end of the process. You’ll need to demonstrate 15 core competencies (read on….)
But if you’re ready to apply – let’s talk abit about your medical school application cycle and the timeline for you will follow during the cycle of your AMCAS application year.
January-March: Initial Steps
Begin by working with your on-campus health advisor or reach out to meet to help define your list of colleges. Unlike during high school where social considerations helped to define your short list beyond academic priorities and goals, for medical school- your goal is to define a short list that aligns with your strength as an applicant and delivers in medical specialities you might be considering. You’ll be seeking an opportunity that delivers on research opportunities that you’re intrigued by and provides for clinical experiences.
Your medical school advisor will help you assess your strengths and limitations as an applicant and provide an assessment for the level of selectivity that meets your qualifications. A started point is to review the admitted students’ profile at the medical programs on your radar—taking stock at the target MCAT scores and GPA range of admitted students.
This is a good time to offer a tip to high school students. Median undergraduate GPAs at the top 50% of medical schools are 3.8 – as you consider where you’ll be enrolling undergraduate- assess the level of competitiveness you’ll encounter in the undergraduate pool. Sometimes it can be a more strategic choice to enroll at a less competitive undergraduate program – being the “big fish in the small pond”.
Many but not all undergraduate programs have a health professions advisor who has already assembled a file of letters of recommendation. If that’s not the can it’s important to begin to think about the professors and others during your undergraduate years (and post-graduate employment experiences) who would provide outstanding recommendations on your behalf. . Also be prepared to submit your undergraduate and any graduate school transcripts well before the AMCAS submission deadline in May.
Complete your MCAT
Most students do take a prep course but just like in high school, you’ll need to have completed the appropriate prerequisite coursework to do well on the required content coverage. If you aren’t planning to apply to medical programs immediately- keep in mind that scores submitted must be within 3 years. Students prepare for months for this very important exam.
Please stay tuned for my blog on the content of the MCAT and how to prepare.
March to May: Focus on the AMCAS and School List
At the end of May, AMCAS opens- and it’s by this time that you need to have finalized your list of medical programs. Applicants will be at a disadvantage if they do not submit their AMCAS early in the process identifying their universities of interest. Begin the work on the initial parts of your AMCAS.
What’s considered: According to AMCAS, here are the core competencies sought after in each applicant.
These will be assessed in many ways- but two sections of your AMCAS stand out – many more and significantly longer essays where you write about how your experiences shaped your interest in becoming a physician.
Section 5 – Activities
Section 8 – Essays
Here’s a link to the core competencies you’ll need to demonstrate.
Pre-Professional Competencies as defined on AMCAS SOurce AMCAS
Service Orientation: Demonstrates a desire to help others and sensitivity to others’ needs and feelings; demonstrates a desire to alleviate others’ distress; recognizes and acts on his/her responsibilities to society; locally, nationally, and globally.
Social Skills: Demonstrates an awareness of others’ needs, goals, feelings, and the ways that social and behavioral cues affect peoples’ interactions and behaviors; adjusts behaviors appropriately in response to these cues; treats others with respect.
Cultural Competence: Demonstrates knowledge of socio-cultural factors that affect interactions and behaviors; shows an appreciation and respect for multiple dimensions of diversity; recognizes and acts on the obligation to inform one’s own judgment; engages diverse and competing perspectives as a resource for learning, citizenship, and work; recognizes and appropriately addresses bias in themselves and others; interacts effectively with people from diverse backgrounds.
Teamwork: Works collaboratively with others to achieve shared goals; shares information and knowledge with others and provides feedback; puts team goals ahead of individual goals.
Oral Communication: Effectively conveys information to others using spoken words and sentences; listens effectively; recognizes potential communication barriers and adjusts approach or clarifies information as needed.
Ethical Responsibility to Self and Others: Behaves in an honest and ethical manner; cultivates personal and academic integrity; adheres to ethical principles and follows rules and procedures; resists peer pressure to engage in unethical behavior and encourages others to behave in honest and ethical ways; develops and demonstrates ethical and moral reasoning.
Reliability and Dependability: Consistently fulfills obligations in a timely and satisfactory manner; takes responsibility for personal actions and performance.
Resilience and Adaptability: Demonstrates tolerance of stressful or changing environments or situations and adapts effectively to them; is persistent, even under difficult situations; recovers from setbacks.
Capacity for Improvement: Sets goals for continuous improvement and for learning new concepts and skills; engages in reflective practice for improvement; solicits and responds appropriately to feedback.
Thinking and Reasoning Competencies
Critical Thinking: Uses logic and reasoning to identify the strengths and weaknesses of alternative solutions, conclusions, or approaches to problems.
Quantitative Reasoning: Applies quantitative reasoning and appropriate mathematics to describe or explain phenomena in the natural world.
Scientific Inquiry: Applies knowledge of the scientific process to integrate and synthesize information, solve problems and formulate research questions and hypotheses; is facile in the language of the sciences and uses it to participate in the discourse of science and explain how scientific knowledge is discovered and validated.
Written Communication: Effectively conveys information to others using written words and sentences.
Living Systems: Applies knowledge and skill in the natural sciences to solve problems related to molecular and macro systems including biomolecules, molecules, cells, and organs.
Human Behavior: Applies knowledge of the self, others, and social systems to solve problems related to the psychological, socio-cultural, and biological factors that influence health and well-being.
June-September: Get Ready for Secondary Applications
After you’ve submitted your primary AMCAS application (sort of like the Common App), there’s an initial of review of your credentials. Subsequently,(unlike the Common App), a subset of applicants from a specific medical school are invited to submit a secondary application, which is an additional and separate application with details and questions specific to that medical school. These applications are submitted early summer and sometimes into fall. There’s quite a bit of variation on the secondary applications- sometimes it’s just an affirmation and additional fee – but you should also expect the as many as a dozen short essays – 500 to 850 words in length. These essays need to be submitted with short turn-around and must contain very program-specific details. Your work in March/April in selecting programs should be exhaustive and definitive – making writing your medical app SUPs no surprise.
September-February: Medical School Interviews
If you advance, you’ll be invited to visit campus throughout fall and into winter (pre-pandemic- now these interviews have been virtual- it remains to be seen how fall 2021 will unfold). You’ll be prepared by knowing about the program and showing how your experiences to date allowed you to carefully select a particular program. My role here is to conduct mock interviews with you.
Faculty (as opposed to admissions teams you experienced as an undergraduate) are reviewing your application. These are practicing physicians who are on the teaching staff. You’ll review your acceptances and be making your decision on where to enroll my mid May. Please don’t be disappointed—many students apply to twice as many medical schools as the number of colleges applied to as undergraduates. Students have significant work experiences, some have graduate degrees- and acceptance rates are more favorable to students who aren’t recent undergraduates. You should be prepared with a Plan B and a second round of applications. That said, the earlier you begin planning for medical school, the higher your chances of acceptance. The time to begin planning is the moment you step onto your undergraduate campus.
I’d welcome the opportunity to guide you to realizing your aspirations to enter the medical profession.
Bonnie Rabin, PhD
Educational & College Admissions Consultant
Professor Emeritus & Cornell University South Florida Alumni Representative