Register for Pre-med Courses
Meeting with Your Pre-med Advisor
Meeting with a health professions advisor can be beneficial, especially when choosing your undergraduate courses. Most undergraduate institutions provide advisors for their students, and some have a separate office that includes advising services solely to premed students. The quickest way to get connected to an advisor is to search your school’s website. If you have trouble finding an advisor from your school, the AAMC suggests finding one through the National Association of Advisors to the Health Professions (NAAHP).
For more information regarding premed advisors and what they can offer, visit here.
Understanding Science GPA (BCPM)
Typically, a 3.7 GPA or above is considered competitive, but do not be discouraged if your GPA does not fall perfectly within this range. AMCAS calculates two types of GPA: overall GPA and BCPM. BCPM stands for Biology, Chemistry, Physics, and Math. The AAMC provides a classification guide of the courses that count toward the BCPM GPA. A good rule of thumb is to have a balance between these two averages, in other words, your overall and BCPM GPA should be similar.
Crafting Your Schedule
Each medical school defines its admission requirements, including required/recommended coursework. It is important for you to research the requirements of each medical school you are interested in. It is also recommended that you meet with your pre-health/pre-med advisor(s) to discuss what course schedule best suits you. The AAMC Website (link) highlights the general courses that most premed students complete as shown below:
To find out more about the required premedical coursework and competencies of each individual medical school, visit here.
Helpful Resources AAMC Publications. A one-year subscription costs $28.
Shadowing is a common way to gain clinical experience for many premed students. It allows you to gain an insider’s perspective of the typical day of a doctor. It also gives you the opportunity to explore different medical specialties while learning to interact with patients. Finding a doctor to shadow can be intimidating at first, but don’t let that discourage you. Don’t know where to start? The AAMC outlines everything you should know about shadowing here.
Student Organizations & Community Service
Another way you can get involved in extracurricular activities is through student organizations. Many institutions have established student organizations that aim to connect students to community service and clinical volunteering activities. If you are interested in getting involved in student organizations, visit your university’s website to find out more about what they offer. A common mistake that many premed students make is getting involved in too many extracurricular activities. In the case of medical school, quality outweighs quantity. Admission committees look for applicants who get involved in one extracurricular activity and make it their passion (read more here). Devoting time to a single organization/activity you are passionate about can also provide further opportunities for professional growth through involvement in student leadership roles.
When the time comes for you to apply, you will want to have a clear idea of the skills and activities you will highlight in your application. It is encouraged that you keep record of all your significant extracurricular activities, this includes start/stop dates, hours completed, contact information of references/supervisors, and your specific roles. You should also document your experiences, awards/honors, and other skills in a resume and/or curriculum vitae (CV). Not only are these documents necessary when networking and applying for leadership positions and/or research opportunities, but they will also ensure that all your information is organized and easily accessible to you once you apply.
Research is not a requirement, but it can help you prepare for medical school. Some schools weigh research more heavily than others when reviewing applications. It is in your best interest to familiarize yourself with the mission statement and admission requirements of the medical schools you are interested in. This can be done by visiting the school’s website or through the Medical School Admission Requirements (MSAR).
If you don’t know where to begin, check the science department website of your institution for research opportunities. Don’t be afraid to express interest to your professors, advisors and other faculty. You may need to be a little persistent, but with time and effort you may be able to find a suitable research mentor who will take you under their wing.
When reaching out to professors, doctors, or other professionals you must remember to always maintain a certain level of professionalism. This is not a skill that comes easily or naturally to many of us, so you must work to perfect it during your pre-professional years. You cannot speak to or write to other professionals in the same manner as you would a friend or family member. Sometimes it is helpful to have a template email as a way to structure your correspondence with others. Below you will find a few documents providing advice on how to communicate in a professional manner. These documents are meant to be used as guides, and you may find other similar ideas online.
Core Competencies for Successful Applicants
The AAMC endorses the 15 Core Competencies for Entering Medical Students, which is a competency list that underlines the skills, knowledge and abilities that a successful medical school applicant should possess. They are broken down into three main categories: Pre-Professional, Thinking and Reasoning, and Science Competencies. You will be gaining and strengthening these skills through your extracurricular activities (shadowing, leadership, volunteering, etc.). Per the AAMC, “one of the biggest misconceptions about the core competencies is that you need to demonstrate all 15 competencies in 15 different ways. Instead, one experience can represent your proficiency across multiple competency areas, and one competency can be demonstrated in countless ways.”
The Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) is a standardized, multiple choice exam which assesses your knowledge of the natural, behavioral, and social sciences. It is divided into four sections as shown below:
For current/future calendars, deadlines, test locations, and scheduling fees, visit here. To obtain answers to frequently asked questions regarding the MCAT, please visit MCAT FAQs.
Fee Assistance Program
The AAMC Fee Assistance Program assists those who, without financial assistance, would be unable to take the Medical College Admission Test® (MCAT®), apply to medical schools that use the American Medical College Application Service® (AMCAS®), and more.
The Fee Assistance Program provides reduced MCAT registration costs, waives all AMCAS application fees, and also provides access to official MCAT study materials valued at over $250. This includes question banks, practice tests, and a subscription to MSAR ($36). For application and more information, visit here.
There are multiple available resources that can help you prepare for the MCAT. The AAMC offers prep bundles which include questions banks with hundreds of practice questions. It also offers full-length practice exams, which are highly representative of the actual exam. To learn more about the AAMC prep resources, visit here.
Some students may use other resources beyond those offered by the AAMC to further maximize their study. Khan Academy is a great free resource, they offer videos and thorough explanations of high yield concepts for the MCAT.
Some students also choose to take MCAT prep courses, which can provide further resources such as full-length exams, question banks, and in-person instruction about successful test-taking strategies. The downfall to these prep courses is that they can be expensive (>$1,500). Common prep courses are The Princeton Review, Kaplan, and Exam Krackers. These sources also offer separate resources that can be purchased without paying for a full prep course. Before purchasing any prep materials, check with your institution to find if they offer their own MCAT prep course, as some schools have this option for their students.
Study plans are unique to each student, and there are countless pieces of advice that dictate what is required in order to make a certain score. What is important is that the individual be capable of assessing themselves and reforming their strategy as needed. AMCAS provides a sample guide on how to structure your studying.
“One way that I have found to reduce the time spent relearning past material is to embed review into my daily life. Working as a tutor is a great way to keep you fresh with the material and serves to bolster your application."
Do please take note that a significant portion of medical schools operate on a rolling admission framework. This means that applicants are considered for admission
in the order that their applications are received. Therefore, submitting your applications as early as possible gives you the greatest opportunity to be considered for an interview, and the more opportunities for interviews the higher the likelihood for acceptance. Timing is paramount.
This is one application that you will send to all the schools to which you are interested. There are different application systems; how and where you choose to start your journey as a doctor will guide your decision. The systems are AAMC (for MD), AACOMAS (for DO), and TDMSAS (for Texas MD). You may choose to apply through all of them to increase your opportunities for acceptance. The process is long but can made much easier through diligence and well documented extra-curriculars.
A completed primary application includes:
Secondaries are applications specific to each school. Because secondaries are more specific, it is recommended that you research the school’s mission statement. Once you’ve sent your primary to each school, they will review your primary and decide if they will send you a secondary application. Just as primaries, the due dates for your secondaries depends upon each school, but early is always better. Prewriting your secondaries is common practice and can be a great boost to sending in your secondaries in as early as possible.
The Personal Comments Essay section of the AMCAS application is your opportunity to tell medical school admissions officers who you are and what makes you unique. Be genuine.
Letters of Recommendation
Pick people that can genuinely write you a strong recommendation; professors that know your strengths and potential and can speak on them.
For more information, visit here.
Medical School Admission Requirements (MSAR)
This is a $28 one year subscription for annually updated detailed reporting on medical school statistics. Through the Fee Assistance Program, you can get this subscription for free. The MSAR provides the most recently matriculated class’ statistics and framework for coursework at each school. Helpful for determining early on which schools you might want to apply. The class statistics can help guide your undergraduate academic goals.
For more information, visit here.
Medical School Interviews
MMI (Multiple Mini Interviews)