The Do’s and Don’ts of Applying to Medical School
Position yourself to enter medical school
For many, the dream of going to medical school begins at a young age.
Students often begin preparing to apply for medical school as early as middle and high school by taking advanced science courses, attending pre-med workshops, shadowing physicians and even working in medical settings. For others, the desire to attend medical school comes later in their young lives, when they are enrolled in college. Regardless of when a student decides that medical school is their goal, there are known steps to best position oneself to gain admission into medical school. The Association of American Medical Colleges reports that in the 2022-23 school year, 22,712 individuals matriculated into med ical school among the 55,188 applicants.
When Applying to Medical School, Do the Following: Get Your Feet Wet
Applying to medical school is a rigorous, time-consuming process. It is important to be sure that practicing medicine is what you truly want to do! Seek opportunities to shadow physicians, work in a clinical setting, or participate in a “preview” program to ensure that medicine is the right fit for you.
Study, Study, Study
While GPA and Medical College Application Test (MCAT) scores are not the only components considered for medical school applicants, it is important to give both academic metrics your all. A high GPA and/or MCAT score can only be an asset to your application. Be sure to manage your study time while in college and dedicate sufficient time to study for the MCAT. Many applicants even develop a personalized study plan to ensure ample preparation for the MCAT.
When invited to interview at medical schools, be prepared to answer why you are pursuing a career in medicine and how you will use that career for greater service to all. Your goal should be to distinguish yourself from other applicants, so be engaged and ready to ask relevant questions of your interviewers as they pertain to the medical school experience. You can stand out in your interview by showing that you have done your homework on the school’s culture and educational environment. Most schools will have admissions, curriculum and other information readily available on their website, such as www.lsuhs.edu/ourschools/school-of-medicine.
Take a Break
1. Don’t forget self-care during your medical school application process. The process can be long and tedious, filled with pressure and anxiety, so be sure to take time for yourself. Enjoy your favorite workout, spend time with friends and family, and treat yourself to a nice dinner or experience. When you priori tize yourself, you perform better in all steps of the application process.
Just as there are simple practices students can implement that will help them achieve their goal of attending medical school, there are things students should not do that will also support their application journeys.
When Applying to Medical School, Do Not Do the Following: Rush It
If you are preparing to take the MCAT, you are facing one of the most important exams of your life thus far. Take your time! Many students set aside several months to study for the test and earn the best score possible. If you do not feel prepared or receive the score you are hoping for, you may need to decide if waiting until the next application cycle will give you more time to study and prepare. Taking your MCAT early may give you time to retake the test during the current cycle. The decision is personal, and I suggest discussing your plans with your pre-med advisor before making your final decision. Some students take a gap year after completing their undergraduate degrees to prepare better for medical school. Consider if this option is right for you.
If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again! If becoming a doctor is your dream, do not let rejection stand in your way. According to a report from the Association of Medical Colleges, there were approximately 16,000 re-applicants for medical school for the 2022-2023 application cycle, a number that has been increasing since 2008. That’s almost 25% of applicants!
Be Someone You Are Not
1. Although it may be tempting, don’t try to “fit the mold” of what you think a medical school applicant is. Admissions committees are trained to discern if you are not being your authentic self and are looking for a unique and diverse group of candidates to fill the class. Stay true to yourself and share your interests, passions and goals with the admissions committee so they will know who you really are.
While applying to medical school can be intimidating, setting expectations, being prepared and following these simple suggestions may help students achieve their goal of becoming a part of the next generation of physicians. LSU Health Shreveport wishes you all the best of luck in your medical school application journeys. For more information about our admission process, visit: https://www.lsuhs.edu/our-schools/school-ofmedicine/admissions.
Wanda Thomas, MD, FAAP, is the associate dean for admissions for the LSU Health Shreveport School of Medicine.