The journey to medical school is difficult. It is an endurance race meant to weed out the less passionate and driven.
Applying to medical school can feel overwhelming, especially with little guidance. I was the first person in my family to apply to medical school. I had no mentor to walk me through the process and here at California Baptist University, there is no designated pre-medical adviser. Since I had to learn on my own, here are a few tips that I wish I knew
before I applied to medical school:
1. It takes so long. I had no idea of the sheer amount of time this application process would require. The more time I dedicated, the more my motivation dwindled. I stopped submitting my secondary applications altogether because I figured I had no chance at certain schools. You should set aside time specifically for applications to avoid becoming swamped by secondaries.
2. Medical schools will not review your application until your MCAT has been scored. If you are like me, you might not be satisfied with your first MCAT score. Most medical schools will accept MCAT scores that are taken before September (there are exceptions). What I did not realize is that medical schools will not process your application, and you will be stuck waiting for the American College Application Service (AMCAS) to
score an online multiple-choice exam.
3. There are required courses for medical schools. I know — this is one I probably should have known about, but I chose not to worry about it. Surely my degree would cover it right? Wrong. Some medical schools require up to 18 units of humanities classes. I was fortunate that my minor covered these courses. However, for someone without a minor, they could easily be thrown off guard. I recommend checking on Medical School Admission Requirements to better understand the requirements at your preferred medical schools.
4. The MCAT does matter. Everyone will tell you, “We review candidates holistically” or “The MCAT score is becoming less important.” Do not believe them. Study for the MCAT and do
5. Apply for the Fee Assistance Program. It did not work for me for reasons passing understanding (I am broke; send help), but it is a beneficial program for anyone who needs
Applying to medical school is expensive. You have to pay for submitting the AMCAS application. Then you pay for each medical school application and then you pay for each secondary application. It never ends. Apply for the Fee Assistance Program. Do not let them take your money like they took mine.
“My advice is to really weigh out the costs and benefits of going the doctor route,” said Sierra McCloud, graduate of St. George’s University School of Medicine. “Make sure you have an undeniable certainty for wanting to be a doctor because it’s not easy and very expensive.”
6. You don’t have to apply to 60 medical schools. When I started the application process, everything I saw said to apply to a minimum of 15-20 schools. I ended up applying to 13 medical schools. Do not do it. That was so much money. When secondaries came, I did not have time to complete all 13 in a reasonable amount of time. I believe there is an argument for quality over quantity. Pick a handful of schools you would actually like to attend. Spend time researching the schools and make your application stand out. That being said, the more medical schools you apply to, the likelier you are to get accepted. You have to choose your battles.
7. There are more exams besides the MCAT, including the Computer-Based Assessment for Sampling Personal Characteristics (CASPer) exam and the Professional Readiness Exam (PREview) exam. The CASPer exam is not required by very many schools. However, the PREview exam is becoming more popular among medical schools. These exams test professionalism, empathy and other valuable qualities for healthcare professionals. You should verify whether your medical schools require it. Do not be like me and sign
up for the last day they offer the exam.
8. Perhaps the most important part of applying is understanding the timeline. If it was not for my friends applying with me, I would be so behind. I had no idea when anything was happening. I was so focused on school that I did not do much research on the application timeline. It is complicated, and half the battle with medical school applications is applying as soon as possible. Make sure you understand the timeline thoroughly so you do not feel quite as overwhelmed by the process.
The road to medical school is long, and once you get into
medical school the road becomes even longer. Consider your options. Make sure medical school is what you
want, then commit to it. You can do it.