Getting into a reputable medical school can be challenging and requires dedication, commitment, and exceptional grades. In the 2022-2023 application cycle alone, the Association of American Medical Colleges estimated about 55,000 candidates, of which only around 23,000 applicants were accepted, which translates to an acceptance rate of just 43%.
Generally, medical schools require a bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution, relevant medical field experience, and acceptable scores from the MCAT. And while most institutions have rigorous academic requirements, you can get into one with appropriate preparation.
This article outlines the most effective tips and tricks on preparing for medical school to help increase your chances of success. Read on.
1. Create A Strict Study Schedule
Achieving academic excellence in your undergraduate program is the initial step toward getting into your desired medical school, and one of the best ways to do it is by developing strong study habits. Considering medicine demands you to absorb knowledge and information in different fields to maintain exceptional academic performance, developing a rigorous study schedule and cultivating effective study habits is imperative.
Below are a few tips to help you get started:
Establish Your Goals: The first step to making a strict study routine is determining your objectives for each semester. It could be getting better grades in particular subjects or passing exams.
Know All Your Subjects And Topics: It can be a great strategy to organize the subject topics depending on your goals, their importance to your medical career, and their difficulty so you can allocate adequate time for studying them.
Find An Effective Learning Style: Whether your learning style is watching videos, studying anatomical illustrations, or taking practice tests, knowing which approach works best for you is essential. This way, you can tweak your learning habits and strategy to help you better absorb and retain as much information as possible.
Set Aside Time For Social Activities: Getting into an excellent medical school requires a lot of studying, but engaging in social and personal activities is just as vital for developing the needed skills. Therefore, when creating your study routine, ensure you set aside some time to exercise, meditate, and bond with family and friends to release some pent-up tension and stress.
With these tips, you can slowly build an effective study schedule and habits to help you attain your academic goals and thrive in medical school.
2. Work On Your GPA and MCAT Scores
One way of ensuring you get into an excellent medical school is nailing your Grade Point Average (GPA) and Medical College Admission Test. Generally, most medical schools require applicants to have an average GPA and MCAT scores of about 3.0 and 510, respectively.
The GPA measures your average academic performance. On the other hand, the MCAT is a standardized test undertaken by every medical student to assess their writing skills, critical thinking, and problem-solving capabilities. During the MCAT exam, you’ll take exams under different sections, including:
Psychological, Social, And Biological Foundations Of Behavior Systems: This section has 59 multiple-choice questions, which you must finish in under 95 minutes. It aims to test your biology, sociology, and introductory psychology knowledge and skills.
Biological And Biochemical Foundations Of Living Systems: It is designed to test your knowledge in basic biology, biochemistry, and organic and inorganic chemistry. Like the previous section, it also consists of 59 questions with multiple-choice questions to be undertaken in 95 minutes.
Chemical And Physical Foundations Of Biological Systems: This exam section evaluates your comprehension of biology, biochemistry, general chemistry, organic chemistry, and physics. It also has 59 questions that must be answered within 95 minutes.
Critical Analysis And Reasoning: Unlike the rest, it’s a 53-item multiple-choice test you must complete within 90 minutes. It aims to assess your reasoning skills, comprehension, and analysis. It also focuses on humanities and social science subjects.
Essentially, working on your GPA and MCAT scores is an essential step towards achieving your goals of pursuing a career in the medical field. While a strong academic record is not the only factor determining your admission into medical school, it’s a critical component that can demonstrate your ability to handle the rigorous work and demands of the profession.
3. Apply To Many Schools
Another important aspect of pursuing a career in the medical field is applying to multiple medical schools. While you may have a specific medical school in mind, it is always wise to apply to several schools to increase your chances of being accepted.
For one, applying to many schools can allow you to explore various options. It’s worth noting that each school has its unique curriculum, culture, and faculty, and by applying to multiple schools, you can compare and contrast these different factors to find which one best aligns with your values and goals.
4. Ace Your Application
Crafting an outstanding application that sets you apart from your fellow applicants is crucial. Essentially, it must convince the admissions board that you have the work ethic and qualities of a productive medical student.
Here are a few tips to consider when drafting your application:
Apply Early: Although the school may give you a reasonable deadline to submit your application, you must hand in your application at an earlier date. Late applications may not be considered, as many medical schools use a rolling admission process, reviewing applications as received. Early application can also give you enough time to follow up on your application to ensure it’s complete.
Consider The Requirements: Different schools have varying requirements regarding your GPA, MCAT score, and list of mentors. You may also be required to complete specific mathematics, physics, chemistry, and biology coursework. That said, ensure you research and meet all requirements to improve your chances of getting into their medical program.
Outline Your Clinical Experience: A great way to prepare for medical school is by getting exposure to clinical work. So, ensure your application highlights these experiences and your supervisor’s details for reference.
Include Extracurricular Activities: It’d be good to note that medical admission offices also pay attention to your extracurricular activities, such as volunteer work. This can boost your chances of getting an acceptance letter, especially since it demonstrates interest in diversity and shows you have a genuine interest and commitment to helping the community. Besides being an advantage, volunteer work can also enable you to develop skills, such as communication and teamwork, which are vital in healthcare.
By focusing on the key areas of your application and presenting yourself in the best possible light, you can increase your chances of being accepted into the medical school of your choice and realizing your dream of becoming a doctor.
5. Get Some Medical Experience
As briefly mentioned, one of the essentials of medical school preparation is gaining relevant clinical experience. Like extracurricular activities, it helps you develop the needed skills and knowledge, showcases your commitment, and enables you to build patient empathy and compassion.
There are several ways to gain medical experience, such as volunteering, shadowing a healthcare professional, participating in research, or working in a clinical setting. By gaining medical experience, you can demonstrate your ability to work in a clinical environment and your commitment to providing high-quality patient care. It also exposes you to different aspects of the medical field, including different specialties and patient populations, and can help you make an informed decision about your career path.
By taking the initiative to gain medical experience, you can set yourself up for success in your educational and professional pursuits.
6. Request For Help If You’re Struggling
Pursuing a medical career can be challenging, with students often struggling to cope with rigorous academic work, stress, and anxiety. However, seeking assistance from professors, advisors, peers, and mental health professionals can provide invaluable support, helping students develop coping mechanisms, overcome obstacles, and ultimately succeed academically and professionally. Whether through tutoring, counseling, or other forms of support, reaching out for help can make all the difference in achieving success in medical school.
Preparing for medical school can be overwhelming, but following the tips and tricks outlined above can help make the process more manageable. From developing strong study habits to building clinical experience, these strategies can help aspiring medical students stand out and succeed in the competitive world of medical education.
With dedication, hard work, and the right tools, anyone can achieve their dream of becoming a doctor and positively impacting the world of healthcare.