You are on page 1of 155

We would like to dedicate this book to everyone who has been

told they can't do something and are out there excelling at it


We want to thank several contributing authors who opted to

remain anonymous we are grateful that you want to share your
expertise even without named credit. Thank you to the authors
of sections from the first edition of this guide, which was
published in 2019. We have aimed to expand upon the
wonderful foundation you provided for us.

We appreciate the topic ideas provided by Kryztal Pena, Reza

Fakhraei, Benjamín Gallo, Pediatrician Scientist Collaborative
Working Group, londyloo, Shadi Ahmadmehrabi Miguel
Disbennett María C. Mora Pinzón, MD, Corbin Stinnett, and Ian

The content here is based on these authors' experiences,

therefore, we must recognize that there is no guaranteed
formula for anyone to get into medical school.

However, we hope this guide will help demystify the logistics of

the pre med and application process and put you on the right
track in finding the information that you need.

Send them over to freemedschoolguide

We would be glad to hear from you!

Cover design and ebook formatting done using Canva

by M. Grace Oliver, MD, and Briana Christophers.
R a a Da , MD P D
Re iden in De ma olog S anfo d School of Medicine

J Ca -S d , MD
Ho pi al Ph ician
B a aC
MD PhD S den
R A C a , MD
Ob e ician G necologi ACF S anfo d School of Medicine
R b cca L
MD S den
M. G ac O , MD
Re iden in Famil Medicine Uni e i of Kan a
T c a Ra P d a
MD S den
Sa a B P c , MD
Re iden in Radia ion Oncolog Medical College of Wi con in
A a a Sa , MD P D
Ba ia ic Fo eg S geon Wa hing on Uni e i in S Lo i
Arghavan Salles
Ca a S a , MSc
MD PhD S den
J a Y , MD
Pedia ician

All e name indica ed i h an a e fo T i e

A Aa
DO den
Ta A. B
MD den
O a Da
MD den
E ab J a Da
MD den
B a Da
MD den
Ben Dralle
R a Fa
MD den
E a a Ga a
DO den
ElanaG ATC
B cca G
MD PhD den
Bec Glow
Vc aG d
DO den
La a Ha d
DO PhD den
Ca Ja
MD PhD student
Carey Jans

All e name indica ed i h an a e fo T i e

A a a J da , MD MBA
Re iden in P chia Uni e i of Penn l ania Heal h S em
S a Ka , MS
MD den
P a Ka a a
MD den
R a K a a c
MD MPH den
Jac P ab d L
MD PhD den
Ha L , MD
Re iden in De ma olog Uni e i of B i i h Col mbia
B a Ga Ma
MD den
E "Ra " Na a , DO
Re iden in Famil Medicine Uni e i of Kan a
R c O a, MS
MD den
C A. Sa c ,P D
MD den
B a aT
DO PhD den
Briana To
F T a
MD den
La W d d
PhD den

All e name indica ed i h an a e fo T i e

Why does this guide exist?...............................................................................................10
Is being a doctor the only way to help patients and people?..........................11
When do you need to know you want to be a doctor?........................................13
Finding a mentor..................................................................................................................15

Soul searching reflections before applying.......................................................21

Taking a gap year or many ...........................................................................................22
Considerations for the non traditional applicant.............................................29
Applying as someone from a rural area...................................................................32
Applying as an international candidate..................................................................35
MD and DO: what's the difference?...........................................................................41
Early Assurance Programs..............................................................................................45
Pipeline programs..............................................................................................................48
Early Decision programs................................................................................................50
Brief intro to Canadian medical schools................................................................54
Dual degree programs.....................................................................................................60
Selecting schools................................................................................................................68
Application Timelines and Costs...............................................................................72
Grade point average GPA ............................................................................................74
Letters of recommendation.........................................................................................79
Extracurricular activities..............................................................................................81
Research experience.......................................................................................................90
Summer research programs.......................................................................................93
Personal statement......................................................................................................100

Communicating with schools: when, why how.......................................106
Secondary applications.............................................................................................108

MD interviews.................................................................................................................112
DO interviews.................................................................................................................122
MD PhD Interviews.....................................................................................................123
Making the most of informal sessions...............................................................124
Advice for interviews with current students..................................................125
Interview red flags........................................................................................................127
Interviewing on a budget..........................................................................................130
Post interview correspondence.............................................................................132
AAMC policy on holding acceptances.........................................................134
The Waitlist...............................................................................................................135
AAMC policies for schools.................................................................................138
Second look...............................................................................................................139
Factors to consider................................................................................................140
Declaring deposit...............................................................................................144

Why does this guide exist?

Is being a physician the only way to help patients and


When do you need to know you want to be a doctor?

Finding a mentor
The inspiration behind this guide is a tweet by
RoxanaDaneshjou that said: Any profession that requires
hours of free labor in order to even be qualified to enter a
training program e.g. shadowing in medicine, doing unpaid
research will have disparities in recruiting across socio
economic statuses. Thank you for coming to my TED talk.
Medicine clearly has disparities across racial groups and
socioeconomic groups systemic prejudice and privileged social
structures play a role in these disparities. Applying to medical
school requires insider knowledge, connections and financial
resources, and this shuts out individuals who would have
otherwise been talented doctors. Our patients come from
diverse backgrounds likewise, they deserve doctors from
diverse backgrounds that they can identify with.
There are many different routes to medical school, both
traditional and non traditional. Many spectacular practicing
physicians have stories about someone telling them, you ll
never get into medical school or you ll never be a doctor. If
you want to be a physician, you have to ignore them. As there
are many different paths to medical school, this guide does not
claim to cover all of them, but we hope to encourage you in
your pursuit of whatever path is best for you, and to give you
some ideas to close the gaps that privilege and structural
biases have put in your way. The medical school admissions
process has been shown to disproportionately favor upper
class, cisgender, heterosexual white men. This guide was
designed to help anybody and everybody succeed anyway.

Taking care of patients and providing quality health care
requires a HUGE team, and every member brings their own
strengths see figure . The physician is often the team member
that is most visible or recognizable to people because of their own
experiences receiving care from doctors or even watching
television shows . However, becoming a physician may not be the
right path for everyone to meet their goals. We encourage you to
think about what attracts you to medicine and whether those
skills, tasks, and qualities are actually more in line with what a
physician assistant, nurse, pharmacist or other health
professional does in their day to day roles. Remember. careers
often go in countless unexpected directions, so stay open to new
opportunities and explore your options!
Many personal statements start with a story about how I
wanted to be a doctor since age 6 after event X. First of all,
please do not start your personal statement like that more on
that in the personal statement section . You do not need to have
always known that you ve wanted to be a doctor. However, you do
need to know why you want to be a doctor because it is a long
road paved with loans, sacrifice, and delayed gratification.
For some, the path to medical school began in childhood.
Depending on the type of program you want to pursue, you don t
need to know until about two years prior to matriculation.
An exception to this is Direct Med Programs, or combined
BS MD programs. These are generally applied to out of high
school, similar to a college application timeline. A benefit of
these programs is that you get to skip the MCAT and the arduous
application process, and you may even get to shorten the overall
education process by up to two years. Because of these appealing
benefits, these programs are extremely competitive. Further,
they may not be accessible if you didn t happen to know you
wanted to be a physician in time, or if you didn t know about
these programs. There aren t very many, but as of the time of this
publication, a list can be found here.
This is just one view of the application process. For the
majority of American physicians, applying to medical school
starts about two years before matriculation. For instance, if you
decide to apply so that you would begin medical school the fall
after you graduate from college, you must prepare starting your
junior year. Ideally, you would take your Medical College
Admissions Test MCAT in your junior year to give yourself an
opportunity to take it a second time, if needed. Many students take the
MCAT whether for the first time or retaking it in the summer before
their senior year, though depending on the month and score return
timelines, you risk delaying the submission of your applications. In
general, delays in submitting are not advisable. The early bird gets the
seat in the rising class! During your junior year, you would meet with
your pre med advisor if you have one, start asking around for letters of
recommendation, and put together your personal statement. If your
school does not have a pre medical advisory committee and even if it
does but you would not mind some extra advice check out the Finding
a Mentor section of this guide. There are three major application
services for US medical schools: AMCAS allopathic or MD programs ,
AACOMAS osteopathic or DO programs , and the TMDSAS Texas
medical schools . The exact date changes every year, but they all open
the summer a year prior to beginning of the medical school term you
would be applying for. You would want to submit your application as
early as possible with almost no exceptions, submit on the earliest
possible date , and then senior year is spent going to interviews.
Because of this process, I recommend making a decision to attend
medical school or not by the end of your sophomore year of college
again, if you re not planning to take gap years, which is common and
often beneficial for students .
Prior to the application process, you do need to make sure that you
have satisfied the prerequisites for medical school this is why you need
to know so far in advance whether or not you want to attend medical
school. I always get asked what is the best major for medical school.
Honestly, it does not matter note, a few admissions committees may
give you a little GPA leeway if you are majoring in a notoriously difficult
subject, such as chemical engineering . There is no major that will give a
head start once in medical school, and non science majors often stand
out in the applicant pool because so many students accepted to medical
school were STEM majors in college. As long as you are able to complete
the prerequisites to apply to medical school, the best major is a subject
you a passionate about and can perform well in. A 4.0 GPA in an English
major is generally going to be better received than a 2.0 in a Physics
major. Prerequisites may vary between medical schools, but in general
this example is taken from Johns Hopkins specifically : two semesters
8 credit hours of biology with lab, two semesters 8 credit hours of
general chemistry with lab, two semesters of organic chemistry with lab
8 credit hours , two semesters 8 credit hours of physics with lab ,
calculus and or statistics varies by school , biochemistry varies by
school , social science humanities varies by school . Additionally, a
certain amount of upper level biology courses of your choosing are
often required. Every medical school has a website documenting their
requirements, so check these in advance when organizing your class
schedule and prior to applying.
Another resource to spend some time on is this guide from the
Association of American Medical Colleges AAMC on understanding the
application process. There, you can find a wide variety of topics on
admission officers advice to pre meds, from tips for international
applicants to feedback on social media activity.

By far one of the most important things you can do is to find yourself a
mentor or, really, several . Mentors will give you free and hopefully
good advice.
Note that a pre med advisor will give you advice but is not a mentor.
Additionally, most pre med advisors have never actually applied to
medical school, are not physicians, and might not even give good advice.
That is not to say you shouldn t work with your pre med advisor you
should, and usually have to in order to obtain a pre medical advisory
committee letter that many medical schools require for application but
other mentors are important. The pre med advisor is most helpful for
fleshing out your application timeline and making sure you have the
application requirements MCAT, letters of recommendation, course
prerequisites completed. They often have resources for interview
preparation, professional closets, and application review as well. If your
pre medical advisor does not, check if your college has a more general
career success center with these resources instead.
At minimum, it is good to have two mentors: a more senior physician
attending level and a medical student or resident who has been
through the application process more recently. The process is constantly
evolving in small ways such as how the MCAT is scored, trends in which
courses are required, etc. so having a mentor who went through the
application cycle recently is key. The less experienced mentor will also
have a more empathetic approach to mentorship in many cases since
their own journey through this process was not long ago. The more
senior mentor is more likely to offer large scale advice such as choosing
a specialty, as well as to be able to help connect you within your
community to shadowing, research, or volunteer opportunities.
So if they re so important, then how can one get a mentor? First, make
sure you have a CV or resume ready. We have an example from Dr.
Oliver s pre med CV in Appendix A. There are lots of formats for CVs and
resumes available online and in word processing programs like
Microsoft Word for free.

Next, if there is a medical school nearby, go on to their faculty list

online and start reading. Find someone whose research or scholarly
interests are similar to yours it s okay if you have no formal background
in that area, interest is enough! . If there is not a medical school nearby,
try checking out nearby hospitals and clinics, or #medtwitter on Twitter
to identify physicians you may want to contact. It is very common for
people at all levels of their career to offer to help if you need it, or to
answer any questions you may have. So if that happens, take advantage
of it! Some of these authors most fruitful career connections have been
made electronically. A new, free mentor matching service was recently
founded by author Tricia Rae Pendergrast. Mentors and mentees are
matched based on career field and personal interests. You can apply for
a mentor here.
The hardest part is putting yourself out there, and you will have to
work hard to make connections. But once you have them, the potential
benefits to your career and personal growth are endless! Write a short
and unique email to the person of interest asking them to meet in
person or to speak on the phone. If you have a school work email ending
in .edu, use that email rather than a generic email account, and
especially rather than that email address you made when you were 14
and doesn t resemble your name at all. You know the one... With a .edu
email address, and or with an email address that is just some form of
your name, you will be more likely to catch the recipient s attention.
Most importantly: make sure it isn t a generic email! Mention if you have
read any of their papers or scholarly work. Attach your resume. If you are
more interested in their clinical practice than their research, emphasize
that side. Authenticity is key for maximizing your success in this
process no need to fake interest in anybody s research. See Appendix B
for examples of first contact and follow up emails.
Send two to three of these emails out at a time and wait. Many people
may be too busy to respond immediately, or perhaps ever, but do not be
disheartened! Keep sending emails. If you have not received a response
after a week, you could consider sending a follow up email in case the
recipient just missed your first one. If your follow up does not receive a

response within a week, move on. Persistence is important, especially in

this stage.
Another way to meet people is in person by finding events that may
have potential mentors in attendance. Once again, if you are near a
medical school, try to look up a list of open research seminars and talks.
Attend ones that are of interest to you. At the end, go up and introduce
yourself to the speaker. If you are shy, you can use this script: Hi my
name is X and I am studying Y at Z school I really enjoyed your talk and am
interested in the work you do I know you re busy, but if you have time I would
love to meet with you and learn about your career path Worst case scenario
is they say no, and nothing has been lost. Several of these authors have
successfully used this method ourselves, finding mentors and obtaining
positions in research labs.
A third way to locate mentorship opportunities is through contacting
medical school admissions offices at a school or schools that
you are interested in. Most of these offices have strong relationships
with a group of students who regularly volunteer as tour guides,
overnight hosts, or interviewers, and they are happy to connect you
with someone who can serve as a mentor through the process to answer
questions. These people can also be a connection to more senior level
mentors or to research opportunities, especially if you are located in the
same city and can meet to discuss interests that you might share.
Further, interacting with students or recent graduates of nearby schools
can help you decide if you would be interested in attending that
Let s say you get a meeting. What happens next? Make a plan for your
meeting. First, do background research on the individual reading their
papers, familiarizing myself with their career roles are they clinical?
Research? Administrative? . You can make an outline of what you want
to discuss, including a short list of questions to make sure you ask. You
want to be organized so you don t waste anyone s time, but at the same
time, you want things to flow naturally.
The hardest part of the meeting may be the opening. Here is a script
you could use: Thank you for agreeing to meet with me I m an X student?
Post bacc? studying Y I wanted to meet with you because Z Reasons may
be, because I m really interested in your work in enter relevant work ,"

because I am really interested in your clinical area, or something else

entirely. It s ok to be honest, and if nothing else you can just say because
I am applying to medical school and I was hoping to get some advice
If the meeting goes well, ask if they would mind meeting with you
again in the future. If it goes really well, consider saying, I am hoping to
find mentors to help guide me in pursuit of my goals which you ve
hopefully discussed Would you consider being one of my mentors
The ideal way to really harness a mentorship is to have specific goals:
either short term things you hope to accomplish with your mentor s
help, or general roles you want your mentor to have in your career.
These don t have to all come from your own brain you can brainstorm
them with your mentor, or with a pre med advisor. For example: a goal
can be to diversify your clinical experience, and a general role for a
mentor could be to read, advise, and assist with grant applications.
These specific goals should also include how often and in what way you
will be communicating with your mentor: will you email monthly? Meet
in person quarterly? Have a plan at the start so that you both have
realistic expectations for the relationship, and also so that you don t
accidentally lose touch.
Another form of mentorship that is helpful to learn how to cultivate
in your career is sponsorship, which is more direct inclusion of the
recipient in career advancing opportunities, rather than advice as in
mentorship. Author Dr. Oliver co wrote an article series here describing
the hows and whys of sponsorship.
Soul searching and reflections before applying
Taking a gap year or many
Things to consider as a non traditional applicant
Applying as someone from a rural area
Applying as an international candidate
MD and DO... what s the difference?
Early Assurance Programs, Pipeline Programs, Early Decision
A brief introduction to Canadian Medical Schools
Dual Degree Programs
Selecting schools
Application Timelines Costs
What is o story?

The application process is your opportunity to share with schools

why you want to be a physician, why you will be an asset to their
program, what you envision yourself doing, and how you have prepared
yourself for this path. You have a few opportunities to give them
insight into your life: the personal statement, your extracurricular
activities list, your secondary application essays, the interview, and
communications after you interview. Be intentional about what you
are trying to communicate to the admissions committee at each point
in the process, and try not to be redundant where possible i.e. don t use
the same anecdote from your personal statement in a secondary essay
tell them something new! .
When figuring out what you are trying to share, it is good to spend
time reflecting well in advance of applying. Keep a notebook sticky
note document on your phone or computer with a list of impactful
experiences, anecdotes, specific events, projects, and interests so that
you won t forget them later. Start keeping a journal of answers to some
example interview questions, such as a time you learned from a
mistake, a time you had to handle a conflict with a peer, and a time you
failed and recovered. Take a look at the AAMC core competencies and
write out examples of moments when you have illustrated growth in
each competency and how you might grow in some of them throughout
medical school.
It is important to have several people read your essays both in
medicine and outside of it to give you some thoughts on how you are
presenting yourself on paper.

The decision to take a gap year or years can be made anytime
during your undergraduate career. When deciding if a gap year is right
for you, consider your desire to combine pre medical prerequisites with
your college experience, your finances, and readiness for medical school.
Scenarios where a gap year is appropriate include, 1 you do not feel like
you can balance a full course load and studying for the MCAT at the
same time, 2 you did not do extensive clinical or basic science research
in your undergraduate career and want to apply to a medical school that
emphasizes scholarly work, 3 you want to take a year and chill out
before being in school for the rest of your life, and you go to work at a
museum as a tour guide, 4 you need the extra year to create a financial
plan to pay for the costs during the application process, 5 you have
family obligations marriage, pregnancy, kids, parents that require your
attention at the present time. These reasons are varied, and all are valid.

For those students who do not want to combine pre medical

prerequisite classes with their college career, a post baccalaureate AKA
post bacc program may be an option. Post bacc programs are comprised
of prerequisite classes for medical school, and are open to all manner of
pre health students. These programs are offered at numerous
undergraduate universities, are often scheduled around traditional work
hours, and generally offer financial aid. Some programs are specifically
designed for career changers, and students from economically or
educationally disadvantaged backgrounds and other post bacc programs
are designed for students from groups that are often underrepresented
in medicine. Post bacc programs often last between one and two years. If
you complete too many of your pre medical prerequisites during your
traditional college years, you will not be eligible for post bacc programs.
Beware of Master s level or other programs that appear similar to
post bacc programs, but do not include pre medical prerequisites.
Specifically ask if participants in the program qualify for federal
financial aid FAFSA . Please note that masters programs do not count
towards your undergraduate or science GPAs as calculated by the
AMCAS. Admissions committees recognize that there are many
programs that exist solely to boost applicants GPAs. When considering
different post baccalaureate programs, prospective students should
evaluate the following:
The length of the program varies, usually from one to two years
Whether the post bacc program has affiliations or agreements with
certain medical school programs
Cost of the program, availability of financial aid
Costs of application fees, security deposits, textbooks, etc.
Location and relocation costs
Percentage of graduates who matriculate in medical school
The AAMC has a list of post baccalaureate programs here.

If you ve already completed all of your pre requisite classes, but like
the idea of continuing to learn more and stay in this academic setting,
this may be a great option. This can also be helpful if you feel that your
undergraduate GPA is a weak point in your application and want to show
that you are capable of performing well in higher level courses. Earning
your Master s degree can also allow you to pursue a different interest and
provide a unique perspective in your medical training, something that
can add to the diversity of a medical school class and should be
highlighted in the interview. Examples of programs that previous
applicants have completed and noted by the participants to be helpful
include public health, social work, nursing, biology, literature, statistics,
population health, global health, psychology, and sociology. That does
not in any way limit you to pursuing those degrees, but they are simply
examples of the academic pursuits of current students that have added
to their ability to publish papers, understand social determinants of
health, or add a more humanistic perspective to the basic sciences.
Gap years are an opportunity to demonstrate your growth to medical
schools. These years should be filled with something meaningful,
whatever meaningful means to you. If you are passionate about clinical
research, go work in a lab. If you are passionate about teaching yoga to
children, teach yoga for a year. Ensure your gap year activities align with
your personal statement, and the way you plan to talk about your
interests during your interviews. For example: I a gh oga fo a ea am
a iona e abo e en ion and n i ion and o ld like o o k in medical
ed ca ion o im o e he a doc o lea n abo n i ion

Many applicants between their undergraduate and medical school

years opt for research. Research experience is highly valued by
admissions committees, and may provide valuable letters of
recommendation, poster presentations, and authorship in academic
manuscripts. If your intention is to apply to an allopathic medical
school that emphasizes research in their curriculum, it is in your best
interest to be involved in clinical research or basic science research
outside of the lab classes required by medical schools. If your intention
is to apply to an allopathic or osteopathic medical school that does not
emphasize research, then clinical research is not as essential to be
competitive in your application. Know yourself and the values you are
seeking in your future medical school. If you aren t certain if you value
research for our career and your main value is getting in, that s fine
research will not be a detriment to your application to any medical
school. However, these authors acknowledge the difficulty of
incorporating research into a gap year given that many positions are
unpaid. Seek positions at your nearest university, medical school, or
academic hospital to find paid research positions, or consider applying
to paid research internships through national organizations and
academic hospitals.
Research positions tend to fill quickly. Begin your search for a
research position at least two and as many as six months before you are
ready to graduate your senior year if you know you plan to take a
research gap year. While your search may start on the jobs website for an
academic institution, you need to quickly move to direct contact with
someone in the lab. Most lab websites will provide extensive details
about current and or past research. Write a cover letter email that
expresses interest in a position contributing to their current research.
Include a full CV if requested,, but if you are limited to the one page
resume, tailor it to represent your utility to the lab based on previous
experience. Paid lab experience takes precedence over unpaid, and
experience in similar research areas takes precedence over research in
other subject areas. However, do not be discouraged if you don t have
extensive experience already in similar paid positions. Highlight any
research you have, as well as leadership and organizational experience
that has prepared you to do this work. Everybody has to start somewhere.

Before your interview, prepare answers to the following questions topics:

Why you want to go into medicine
Why the research of that lab primary investigator PI specifically
interests you
How you plan to balance studying for the MCAT post bacc
program etc with this job
Social determinants of health
Communicating complicated topics like research studies at a 6
8th grade reading level
How your previous experiences even those not directly research
related have prepared you to do this job well
At your interview, make sure to get answers to the following questions:
How would they describe the culture of this lab?
Are there any upcoming major changes to the structure of the
lab or the project you d be working on?
What level of interaction would there be between the PI, other
research assistants, and you?
Who would be training you in your lab duties?
Are employees in this position able to receive authorship on
published manuscripts?
How many posters are employees in this position given
authorship on, in a given year?
Would you be able to receive a letter of recommendation from
the PI in time for your medical school application?
Would you be able attend conferences with the lab team?
Following your interview, send thank you notes or emails to everyone
you met with. For examples of how to write such notes, see Post
interview correspondence subsection.
Note additionally that there are special research programs you can
consider applying to, such as at the NIH.

While clinical experience is mentioned as something to highlight

in your application on most medical school websites, it can take many
forms. The reason many programs value these types of experiences is
because it shows you have actually been exposed to medicine and
understand something about the career you intend to pursue. Having
clinical experience lends credibility to your application and your
description of why you want to pursue medicine. It is far more
important to be able to speak about healthcare in a realistic way than to
have spent any particular number of hours doing any specific activity.
Clinical experience may include a personal experience in the hospital,
shadowing, supporting a loved one during a chronic illness,
volunteering, or prospective research recruitment in clinical spaces.
Volunteering, work, and research in a clinical setting are all generally
preferred over passive shadowing because they demonstrate additional
qualities such as service, academic rigor, and work ethic.

Shadowing is the most common form of clinical experience, but it is

almost always unpaid, so it is inaccessible for some applicants. For
those who do want shadowing experiences, the most difficult step is
getting in contact with a physician who will allow you to shadow them,
especially if you will be the first physician in your family and don t
personally know physicians already. If you are currently working in an
academic research institution, this process will likely be much easier.
Just start emailing attendings seriously, it's a teaching institution, so
they're used to it to ask if you could set up a time to shadow them,
because you are interested in their specialty and or attending medical
school. If you have met someone in an area you're interested in already,
consider starting there. Otherwise, you can just cold email and you will
still likely get results. If you haven t heard back in a week, send a brief
follow up email in case they just hadn t seen your original email. If no
response again, move on. Keep in mind that you will need to work
around their schedule, not yours, which is a big part of why shadowing
is often inaccessible to applicants. When you have an opportunity to
shadow, dress professionally and have a clear plan before arriving for
how long you will be shadowing. Ask as many questions as you can, for
your own benefit and to make it clear that you are interested in the field.
Physicians you shadow can connect you with physicians in other
specialties, research opportunities, mentorship, and even letters of

Service is an essential component of medical education across all

institutions, and is a highly revered value among physicians. Therefore,
applicants are expected to demonstrate a history and personal
prioritization of service before applying to medical school. Many
applicants feel pressure to participate in several organizations in order
to lengthen their CV. Fight this urge. The adage quality over quantity
applies very well here. Stronger commitment over more time to fewer
organizations will serve you and likely, your community better than
limited involvement with every service project you could find.
Unfortunately, by definition these opportunities will also be unpaid,
and so difficult to fit into a schedule of anyone needing to work.
However, it is very important that you find a way to include
volunteering in your application, so consider it an opportunity to help
causes that are important to you, and to explore areas of interest that
may later inform your medical specialty. But most important of all is
that you serve causes that you are passionate about. It doesn t even
matter if it is strictly related to medicine eg Dr. Oliver spent time in
high school and college knitting baby caps and booties for a local
hospital and women s shelter as long as you are passionate about it.
This authenticity is important for the group you serve, for your
enjoyment of the task, as well as for the medical school admissions
committees. Below are some organizations that our authors have direct
volunteering experience with during a gap year.
Crisis Te Line Crisis Text Line is a global not for profit
organization providing free crisis intervention via SMS message. The
organization's services are available 24 hours a day every day. Crisis
Text Line volunteers work remotely from their homes using a laptop
computer. Crisis Counselors commit to 200 total hours of
volunteering no time frame , serving a recommended 4 hours per
week to meet this requirement. Before you begin as a counselor,
you ll complete a 30 hour training period to give you all of the
expertise you need to successfully and empathetically navigate crisis
intervention. If counselors volunteer for more than one year, they
can request a letter of recommendation. Learn more here.
Americorps Americorps offers opportunities working in healthcare
settings, in rural communities, and in schools. Programs accept
applications on a rolling basis throughout your senior year of
undergraduate classes, and the interview process can be done over
the phone. Beware that these programs are paid with a stipend that
is liveable, but not generous.
AmeriCorps Ci Year places students in underperforming
schools where they serve as mentors and tutors. The program
occurs during a school year instead of a calendar year, which
allows for a summer off before medical school.
While healthcare careers often require long training periods, more
applicants are taking non traditional paths that lead to medicine.
Non traditional applicants can include those who have taken years
between a traditional pre medical undergraduate degree and entering
medical school. These individuals have often l pursued other activities
like working full time, studying something different, and serving in
other careers. Many non traditional applicants have paths outside of
academia that have driven them to apply. We outline below key factors
all to consider to strengthen their applications and to make this journey
a little easier. Applying to medical school and undergoing medical
training will necessitate big life changes. First, we need to ensure this is
the best and most fitting course of action next, we need to fulfill the
medical school admissions requirements. Non traditional applicants
should take special care to ensure they address the following
components of a medical school application:

Financial implications: Applications cost time and money

consider if you can afford the following and look for all possible fee
assistance and fee waiver programs to address gaps: preparing to
apply, submitting re applications, interviewing with schools, and
covering medical school tuition. It should be noted that most
people do not have the money to cover medical school tuition in
whole, or even in part, and there are students who cover both
tuition and living expenses during medical school entirely with
financial aid and or loans. Consider community scholarships and
be informed on AAMC resources e.g. FAP, financial aid . Somebody
is going to get these awards why not you?
Where you'll apply: many students choose to invest in the AAMC's
MSAR to have access to the centralized database of programs so they
can develop a list. Consider reaching out to admissions offices and or
current students if you have questions after checking the website
first! . They are there to help you figure out if their program is a good
fit for you!
Clinical and volunteering experience: Strong medical school
applications reference clinical experience this can include:
shadowing a physician, serving as a volunteer EMT, working as a
hospital scribe, or serving as a caretaker. The challenge many
students but especially non trad students face is the decision about
whether they can afford to spend time on these tasks. Consider your
current schedule and if one of the above roles could be mutually
beneficial. Check out this link from the AAMC for more ideas.
Letters of recommendation
Review school specific guidance for non traditional applicants.
Do you know mentors who could write a strong letter of
recommendation, particularly relating to science
training research? If you have remaining pre medical courses to
complete, consider those professors as potential letter writers.
Pre medical course requirements
What are the course requirements for the programs you are
If you have a few courses to complete, consider completing these
at a local university or community college.
If you have more courses to complete, consider a post
baccalaureate premedical program.
Taking the MCAT
The data suggest that non traditional applicants are capable of
scoring just as well as traditional ones.
It can take more time to prepare for this exam if you haven t been
working in a science capacity lately it s important to take the
MCAT after you ve completed pre medical coursework.
AMCAS begins submitting applications to medical schools in
June, so consider taking the MCAT by the end of May at the latest
to enter the application cycle as soon as it begins.
Special considerations for PhD graduates
NYU 3 year medical program PhD graduate pathway , Columbia
3 year PhD to MD program

In sum, these additional years before beginning one s training can no

doubt add further considerations and pressure in a nontraditional
applicant s journey in medicine. However, those years spent in other
ways can strengthen valuable skills and demonstrate a deepened
commitment to medical training and to serving various communities.
Particularly for those who identify with communities that are
underrepresented in academia, this commitment can be a grounding
source throughout the preparation, application, and training process .
Seek community throughout e.g. Medical School HQ Nontraditional
Premed Discussion and ask for guidance from mentors and peers.
Individuals from rural areas often do not have the types of
opportunities available to bolster an application that other students
may have. However, they do have unique life experiences that can
enhance an application. Health care in rural areas often involves more
autonomy for physicians and requires creative solutions to address
issues like a lack of resources, patients spread across large geographic
areas, and limited internet access. Have these issues impacted you?
Motivated you? Upset you? Your experiences with rural life are an
important component of who you are and what type of physician you
will become, and they can and should play a role in the medical school
application process from start to finish.
Before even beginning the written application, individuals from rural
areas or really, any applicants! who have an interest in working in a
rural area may seek out medical schools with unique programs that can
help them fulfill this goal. Medical schools across the country offer a
wide breadth and depth of rural experiences to their learners. For
example, the University of Minnesota Medical School s Duluth campus
has its entire mission focused on serving the needs of rural Minnesota
and Native American communities. In contrast, other schools offer
distinct rural tracks or curricula to their students, such as the University
of Colorado School of Medicine s Rural Track or the University of
Wisconsin s Wisconsin Academy for Rural Medicine WARM . Both DO
and MD schools nationwide offer these types of programs. Additionally,
many schools offer primary care and community health tracks that may
be appealing to those interested in pursuing a medical career in a rural
area. In general, it s best to check each school s website to see what rural,
primary care, and community health programs are offered to their
When it comes time to apply, the first opportunity to tell your story
about rural life comes in your written application. If you have a
personally important experience regarding living in a rural area, feel free
to include that in your application. For example, one author wrote about
needing to drive a close family member over an hour to obtain an
emergency surgery and the profound impact this had on my motivation
to pursue medicine. Maybe you ve had similar events in your life! Feel
free to talk about these in your personal statement and, if applicable, in
your experiences section.
After you complete your written applications, your experiences with
rural life can provide even more value as interview answers. These
answers, though, may require a bit more explanation than usual for two
reasons. First, rural physicians comprise only 10 of the physician
workforce in the US. Second, the majority of medical school interviews
are conducted at medical schools in urban settings. The practical
implication of these two facts is that you are likely to be interviewed by
someone who doesn t currently work in a rural area, and, perhaps more
importantly, has never spent a significant amount of time living in a
rural area. As an applicant, the onus is still on you to fully explain your
answers in an interview setting. Thankfully, there s a system for that.
The authors of this section highly recommend the S.T.A.R. system for
any students giving interview answers that include mentions of rural
life. In brief, this system requires interviewees to define four key
components of their interview answer the Situation being described,
the Tasks involved in the situation, the Actions you took to complete the
tasks, and the Results of your actions. The Situation portion of this
method is particularly important for rural students, as it allows you to
explain to an unfamiliar interviewer the importance of certain facts or
aspects of rural life. From there, the Tasks, Actions, and Results you
describe can be viewed in an appropriate context, helping your interview
answer accomplish its goal.
Finally, coming from a rural background may impact the final stage of
the medical school application process: getting accepted and going to
medical school! As you go through the application process, it s important
to think about the locations of different medical schools and how they
fit in with your personal preferences. Do you want to live in a large city
or does a medical school in a suburban or rural setting fit your goals?
Conversations with current students about housing, traffic, and other
factors may help guide your decisions in this area. Furthermore, your
potential desire to serve as a physician in a rural area may play a role in
affording medical school. A potential scholarship to look into is the
National Health Service Corp, which covers the entire cost of medical
school with the promise to work as a primary care physician in an
underserved area after residency training. The AAMC also has an
extensive list of similar scholarship and loan forgiveness programs,
many of which exist for those who will later work in rural areas. Some
medical schools even have preferential admissions in addition to
scholarships for students who commit to work in a rural area of that
state after residency.
An international student who wishes to attend medical school in the
United States must be familiar with the unique considerations that
apply to them. In general, international students are non citizens of the
United States that do not hold permanent resident status. Note that
some resources, such as the MSAR, consider DACA students to be
international students due to technical reasons. Each school, however,
may offer a slightly different definition for international student. For
example, some schools view Canadian applicants as US applicants. It is
also important to note that these definitions may change over time.
While it is very challenging to earn admission to US medical school as
an international student, it is certainly possible. Because we recognize
that specific advice is difficult to find in popular resources that pre
meds use, we are providing a few important tips and suggestions based
on input from international students currently enrolled in US medical
Not all US medical schools consider applications from international
candidates. It is a good idea to consult the MSAR and contact schools
directly to confirm whether your application will be read in the first
place. Some international students have accidentally submitted
complete applications to institutions that will not consider their
candidacy and often, they do not receive refunds for the application
costs. Some schools that previously accepted international students
may stop doing so for a given cycle, or begin when they had not in the
past! The best practice, therefore, is to consult the MSAR and contact
schools just prior to applying.
Academic coursework in the United States or Canada is an essential
prerequisite. Virtually all schools that consider international
students expect rigorous coursework in the sciences at US or
Canadian institutions, since it is difficult for admissions committees
to gauge the level of rigor of pre med coursework completed abroad.
Ideally, you should attend a college in the United States. However, if
you completed your university studies abroad, consider enrolling in a
post baccalaureate program in the United States for at least one year.
These programs can either help you complete pre med course
requirements, or simply take higher level science courses. However,
not all post baccalaureate programs will accept international
Engaging with the US healthcare system is imperative. Oftentimes,
as international students, we devote much of our energy to providing
clinical and non clinical service to our home countries. However,
admissions committees are eager to see that you know how medicine
operates in the United States. Therefore, consider pursuing research
activities and clinical volunteering in US hospitals. If possible, take
coursework that explores the US healthcare system as well. For
example, a course that covers the Affordable Care Act, or healthcare
disparities in the United States will show that you have familiarity
with important issues for American trained physicians.
Your personal statement, like anyone else s, must convey why you
want to go to medical school, but with the added burden of
explaining why you specifically want to be in a different country than
your country of residence to do so. Some students approach this by
discussing why studying medicine in the US will benefit the US, their
home country if they intend to return , and why it will benefit them
as a person and as a learner. Here are some questions that can help
you get started:
How does the US healthcare system compare to the one in your
home country, and what experiences do you have that have
revealed these differences to you?
In what ways will pursuing a medical education in the US
empower you to become a leader in the US your home country?
What unique perspective informed by your understanding of
international healthcare systems can you bring to the
Finances are a major barrier. Unfortunately, most medical schools
that consider international students will offer no financial assistance
to pay for your studies. This is perhaps the biggest barrier to earning
admissions to a US medical school. If you have the privilege to pay
out of pocket for your studies, be cognizant and humble about it in
your essays and interviews you may be directly asked about the
finances in an effort to ensure you are aware of the burden it will be.
If you do not have the resources to pay for your education, consider
obtaining loans through a US co signer. The aid policies for
international students change over time, so the best practice is to
contact each institution that you are interested in in order to gain
some clarity about the specific financial considerations that apply to
each. You may also want to consider pursuing the MD PhD track,
which will most often provide assistance to international students.
Note that not all MD PhD programs consider applications from
international students due to grant support stipulations from the US
government. Again, always contact programs that you are interested
in prior to applying to be sure it is even a feasible path for you.
Form a relationship with your pre health advisor as early as possible.
These individuals tend to be knowledgeable about admissions for
international students. Pre health advisors can offer strategic
insights and suggestions about where to apply to, and on how to best
present yourself on your application.
Finally, do not let go of your dream to pursue medicine. The barriers
are difficult to navigate, but remember: it can be done!

Matriculating to medical school and MD PhD programs is possible if

you are a DACA student. It does take planning and support. According to
AAMC there are around 200 undocumented students and residents
training in the U.S. medical schools. Many if not all the DACA medical
students and doctors are more than happy to help with mentorship and
advice during the medical application process. So wherever you may be
in your journey towards medicine, feel free to reach out to Pre Health
Dreamers if you have even more questions outside of this guide.
Post baccalaureate programs open to DACA: Post baccalaureate
programs are usually NIH funded that includes the barrier of not
accepting DACA international students. However, a smart way to
potentially be considered for one of these programs is to reach out to
individual faculty of interest and ask about working with them. Several
scientists with enough funds may be able to sponsor students regardless
of citizenship status. NIH programs are listed here. When trying to join a
post baccalaureate program it also helps to reach out to the students
currently there to see if they know of any other student in a similar
situation, and how happy they are at that program.

Renewing and maintaining DACA: DACA renewals are expensive, so

factoring this cost into your application is a good way to maintain an
honest budget. It is extremely important to renew your DACA on time so
you do not have to be stressed during travel to and from interviews. In
some cases, some schools ask for ID for MMIs Multiple Mini
Interviews .

Mentors: Throughout the process of applying to medical school it is

important to build a supportive community of mentors. This is because
as DACA students, many times there are no centralized resources on
how to get into medical school. This is when it is vital to have people
that can give you mentorship on how to write a resume, cover letter, how
to send out emails, and how to study. Mentors can come from many
different places like #MedTwitter, your own home institution, and even
other institutions. For many mentors they may not entirely be educated
on what DACA is or how it impacts the medical application process, so it
is important for you to be comfortable sharing this information with
people so they can understand how to help you. In this same vein, it is
important to open up to people who you feel are safe. If you do not feel
safe disclosing that your immigration status, then it may be helpful to
reach out to organizations known to welcome undocumented and DACA
students for mentorship. Such organizations that are well known
nationally: Pre Health Dreamers; Mi Mentor.
Schools that accept DACA students: This 2021 list of schools in the US
that accepts DACA students, another place that has this information is
the medical school admission requirements MSAR website, that lists
each school s policies.

Programs open to giving financial aid to DACA students: Even though

there are some schools that accept DACA students, they do not
necessarily fund them. So it is important to check out each individual
school s website on financial aid policy for DACA students, or call them
if they don t have it on their website.

Applying as an MSTP student: Applying to MSTP MD PhD programs is

very similar to applying to medical school, it just requires research
essays as well as a strong research experience. Many of the MSTP
programs consider DACA students similar to the above medical school
list . So if you are applying to MSTP programs, another tip is to also focus
on the research opportunities at each medical school based on interests.
All schools have different strengths, so if you are interested in an MD
PhD it is helpful to have an idea of what kind of research you are
passionate about.

Locations that are supportive of immigrants: External to the academic

strengths of each school, it is also to find out the community outside of
the medical school. Is it a sanctuary campus, city, or state? This is good
to know to understand the climate of where you will be living for the
next 4 8 years. Are there other DACA students currently there? Where do
students usually go? These are just some of the questions to ask schools.

Knowing when to negotiate: General advice to negotiation during the

medical school process is after an acceptance. This is the time when you
have more leverage. Some schools are willing to match financial award

Preparing for interviews: Although interviewers are not supposed to ask

you about immigration status, some of them might. It is a good idea to
be prepared for questions that might come off as offensive without
getting thrown off. A good way to do this is by practicing interview
questions with someone who can give you feedback, such as mentors
who have been on admission committees before.

Mental Health: The application process to medical school can be taxing

on mental health. The added layer of uncertainty of being
undocumented or DACA can add extra anxiety. So it is very important to
have a healthy way to destress, either a strong community that supports
you, and a way to enjoy life outside of academics. You are not alone in
this journey, there are many cheering you on to join this rewarding
career of physicians and scientists.
Traditional also known as allopathic Medical Doctor MD and
Doctors of Osteopathy DO programs are both four year accredited
institutions that allow graduates the ability to practice medicine
anywhere in the United States. Both offer a similar curriculum: two
years of basic science courses followed by two years of clinical rotations.
Both MDs and DOs apply to and attend the same residency positions.
After completing either pathway, graduates are fully licensed physicians
that are on the same footing. The MD route has long been considered the
traditional path but the prevalence of DO programs has been rapidly
increasing globally and in the US.
Historically, there has been a philosophical difference in the
education and approach to patient care between these degrees. The
allopathic approach of MD programs typically focuses on symptom
management, research based medicine, pharmacology, and surgery to
treat and manage medical conditions. In contrast, osteopathic programs
have utilized a more holistic approach, treating a patient as a whole unit
and focusing on preventative care to alleviate medical concerns, as well
as more robust training in complementary and alternative medicine
techniques. Over the last 50 years, the line between the two programs
has blurred as each has incorporated the beneficial qualities of the
other. For the most part, the philosophies and practices of these
programs are similar, however, the DOs dedicate a significant amount of
training in Osteopathic Manual Manipulation OMM . This is a hands
on approach that attempts to allow the body to heal itself by physically
manipulating muscle and fascial strain patterns. This is a great
technique that provides the osteopathic physician another tool to treat
patients ailments. However, this comes at a trade off of spending
slightly less time with some of the other "hard sciences."
Let s highlight some of the practical differences:

Application and Entrance: Both have the same general requirements for
admission. Generally, MD schools are known to be slightly more
competitive and have more traditional track students. Though both
programs admit some of the most competitive students in the field, MD
schools are more likely to emphasize GPAs and MCAT scores while DO
schools have a slightly more well rounded student body that has more
students from non traditional backgrounds. The vast majority of both
student bodies are very similar in age and education background, but
DOs tend to have more students who have non science
degrees backgrounds and who have had previous careers.

Tuition: Tuition is more dependent on whether the institution is a

public or private entity than on the degree offered. The average annual
cost of attendance at a public MD school including tuition, fees, and
health insurance was 37,556 for in state students and 61,858 for out
of state students, while private schools averaged around 61,000.1 As for
DO medical schools, there are 31 private schools with an average price of
56,671 and six public schools with a wide range of costs but an average
of 53,005.2 Bottom line: tuition at either school is absurdly expensive,
but a DO school is likely to be more expensive.

Matching into your residency and career field: In the past, MDs and DOs
have had their own separate residency match process. Though DOs have
long been able to cross over and match into MD programs, as of 2019,
these two residency match programs have been integrated and all
medical students from any degree program are competing for the same
pool of residency spots. This has leveled out the playing field for these
two philosophies, practically speaking. Historically, all things being
equal, MDs have been more competitive in matching to more prestigious
residencies, such as surgical residencies, but that advantage appears to
be slowly diminishing with time. Osteopathic institutions more often
emphasize matriculation into primary care fields, such Family Medicine
in comparison to MD schools, but both programs fill positions broadly
across all specialties. More, there is a vast population of MDs that match
into primary care medicine and always a large group of DOs that match
into the most prestigious specialties at the best programs in the United
States. There are still some residency programs that continue to refuse
DOs entrance, but those are becoming less common as DOs demonstrate
their capability in medicine and stigma surrounding less traditional
training paths fades.

What is Osteopathic Manual Manipulation OMM ?

Also referred to as Osteopathic Manipulative Treatment OMT , is a
means of hands on techniques utilized to diagnose and treat acute and
chronic pathologies utilizing patient s muscle, joint, and fascia to re
align areas and to allow the body to heal and provide relief. This is a
technique that looks at the body as one unit that can heal itself if given
the right alignment, rather than completely separate organ systems.
This practice is not voodoo, it does have evidence documenting its
clinical value, and it is a valuable tool to have in practice. Osteopaths do
not rely solely on OMT for treatment they incorporate pharmaceutical,
surgical, and other means as medically indicated.

Can you apply to both MD DO programs?

This should go for any program you apply to DO or MD: for the interview,
have a good reason why you want to be at that particular program.
For DO programs, have a good reason you want to be a DO.
No program is allowed to ask where else you applied.

What are reasons to choose DO over MD?

You have the opportunity to learn Osteopathic Manual Manipulation
OMM . This is another tool that you can use outside of pharmaceuticals
that can be a real asset in helping resolve or alleviate patient s medical
DO schools spend a significant amount of time with hands on learning
of OMM. This helps you feel more comfortable with your clinical skills
and hands on skills with patients.
OMT helps improve your anatomical and musculoskeletal knowledge in

For the interview, remember not everyone there cares about the practice
of OMT or osteopathic principles. Many of the interviewees are
biochemists, physiologists, pulmonologists, etc. that could not care less
about osteopathy just like they could not care less about surgery. This is
true of any interview, where it is important not to emphasize a passion
for something that isn t actually an area of focus for that program,
because it suggests it may not be a great fit for your goals.

In the end, our best advice is to go to a place that you feel a connection to
and you feel accepted for who you are. Find somewhere that will support
you through four of the most difficult years of your life and will help you
retain your empathy and humanity at the end of the grueling process.
If you are a first or second year undergraduate student who is already
certain about attending medical school, many medical schools offer an
Early Assurance Program EAP for conditional early acceptance. Unlike
accelerated BS MD or BS DO 7 year programs which require
applications prior to starting college an EAP allows students to
complete the first one or two years of college courses at an accredited
U.S. College or University before applying to medical school, earlier than
the traditional application cycle after the third year. Depending on the
school, the EAP may or may not be an accelerated program.
To be considered as an EAP candidate, you will need to excel
academically in these courses and will typically need to complete at
least five pre medical courses by the end of your second year. As with all
medical school applications, you will also need to provide a personal
statement, supplementary essays, letters of recommendation, and
details about your extracurricular activities to demonstrate your
commitment to a career in medicine. In some cases, the MCAT exam is
waived for EAP applicants. However, you may be asked to provide high
school transcripts of AP credits or SAT ACT scores in addition to your
college GPA. Additionally, you may require nomination or approval from
a pre medical advisor. Offers of admission are ultimately decided upon
after an in person interview, just as with the standard application
The advantage of applying through EAP is that you have some time as
an undergraduate student to take courses and gain experiences in
research or healthcare before committing to pursuing medical school.
You are also often freed from the pressures of the MCAT exam and
having to apply to multiple schools at once as you normally would be
doing if you were to apply as a junior or beyond. If you are admitted at
this stage, you also then have more freedom to explore advanced courses
related to your personal interests alongside any remaining prerequisite
courses for the remainder of your time as an undergraduate student. The
cons of applying through EAP are largely related to the pressures of
achieving highly during your first years of college.
Contact your pre medical advisor or the admissions team for the
school s you are considering applying to, since requirements vary
widely. Most schools only allow students from their own affiliated
institution or select linked colleges to apply. However, a handful of
schools allow students from any institution to apply for their EAP.
Finally, acceptance to medical school through an EAP may be a binding
agreement. If it is a non binding agreement, you are free to choose not to
commit by your senior year should you change your mind and this will
not impact your applications should you then decide to apply through
the standard application process at a later date. However, some of them
are binding and making this commitment early will prevent you from
being able to accept admission to a different medical school.

U.S. Medical Schools Currently Offering Early Assurance Programs to

Select Applicants at the time of publication :
Albany Medical College
Boston University
Brody School of Medicine at East Carolina University
Campbell University Wallace School of Osteopathic Medicine
Dartmouth University Geisel School of Medicine
Drexel University College of Medicine
Georgetown University School of Medicine
Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine
Michigan State University College of Human Medicine
Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine
Ohio University Heritage College of Osteopathic Medicine
Penn State College of Medicine
Temple University Lewis Katz School of Medicine
Tufts University School of Medicine
University at Buffalo SUNY Jacobs School of Medicine
University of Chicago Loyola Stritch School of Medicine
University of Rochester School of Medicine
Wake Forest School of Medicine

U.S. Medical Schools Currently Offering Early Assurance Programs to All

Applicants at the time of publication :
A.T. Still University Kirksville College of Osteopathic Medicine
Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai
SUNY Upstate Medical University
University of Florida
University of Toledo School of Medicine
As a pre medical student, there are a number of opportunities
available that aim to recruit healthcare providers while providing a
deeper dive into life in the medical field, with the ultimate goal of
improving students chances of being accepted to medical school. These
so called pipeline programs are available all over the country at many
public and private colleges and medical schools, but it can be
intimidating trying to figure out which opportunity is right for you. This
section aims to clarify the differences between a few examples of
pipeline programs. To start, let s go through how to search for pipeline
programs that might fit your pre health interests!
First, take a look at your own institution for opportunities available
within your state or university. Many pipeline programs focus on
recruiting students from rural or urban underserved areas for example,
the University of Nebraska Medical Center partners with public
universities to recruit future rural pharmacists, public health
professionals, and physicians from rural areas, and also has partnerships
that focus on increasing representation of minorities in medical school
and other healthcare careers. It is important to recognize that these
programs vary between universities and states and can have different
focuses: including research, clinical exposure, classroom learning, etc..
With this in mind, consider reaching out to your pre health career
advisor, other pre health students, pipeline program coordinators, or
respectfully e mailing the medical school admissions office if you have
questions about available programs. There are many local pipeline
programs that are region, state, or school specific, so don t hesitate to
seek this information early!
Next, take a look at programs that have a national application process.
A great starting place is the American Association of Medical Colleges
AAMC website, which has a database of summer programs readily
available. This is a broad database with programs that may serve your
needs in other ways too.
If you want to explore healthcare careers over summer break, a great
starting point is the Summer Health Professions Education Program
SHPEP . SHPEP includes opportunities to explore careers in medicine
and health professions like dentistry, nursing, optometry, pharmacy,
physical therapy, and public health. There are 12 SHPEP institutions
nationally located in all regions of the United States, which you will be
able to rank based on your preferences. SHPEP applications open every
fall in November and are due the following February. These programs
explicitly consider factors like being an underrepresented minority,
coming from an economically or educationally disadvantaged
background, or having a demonstrated interest in issues affecting
underserved populations. Your application will require one essay and
one letter of recommendation, so be sure to collect those well before the
deadline in February.
The Early Decision Program EDP allows applicants to receive an
early and prompt admissions decision from their first choice, EDP
participating, U.S. medical school by October 1st of the application cycle.
You must only apply to one school through EDP and the possible
decision outcomes include acceptance, deferred decision meaning you
will be considered with the regular applicant pool , or rejection. This is
different to Early Assurance Programs which you would typically apply
for as a second year undergraduate to receive conditional early
admission to the medical school associated with your home institution.
Instead, the EDP can be considered as a binding contract between an
applicant and their first choice medical school: if you are offered
acceptance, you must agree to enroll in that school. You may not apply to
any other school after receiving an early decision offer, nor may you
accept multiple offers in addition to the EDP.. However, if by October 1st
you receive either a rejection or a deferral from your EDP school of
choice, you are free to apply to any other schools within the same
application cycle.

Advantages of applying via EDP include receiving an admissions

decision early in the application cycle, avoiding or reducing the costs of
applying to multiple schools at once, and alleviating the stress of waiting
for a response since you are guaranteed to receive a decision by October
1st. If your chosen school has multiple campus location options, it may
place you at an advantage to be able to select the campus of your choice
early. Some schools also give EDP admissions a higher priority and or
special consideration for scholarships. Moreover, if you are a competitive
candidate and you have a strong preference for a particular school,
applying via EDP demonstrates your enthusiasm and commitment to
that program s admissions committee.
The biggest disadvantage of applying via EDP is the inherent risk of
losing time with other schools in the application cycle. If you do not
receive an acceptance, you can t begin submitting applications to other
schools until October. Since most schools follow a rolling admissions
cycle, earlier applicants are traditionally more successful. Another
possible disadvantage to consider is being unable to compare financial
aid and scholarship packages from other schools if you were to apply to
multiple schools via regular decision.
Additionally, EDP deadlines will be significantly earlier than with
regular decision. For most participating schools, the primary application
must be submitted by August 1st and all application materials
secondary, MCAT scores, letters of recommendation are to be
submitted by September 1st. Interviews are usually conducted in
September for an October 1st admissions decision. Unlike many Early
Assurance Programs, the MCAT exam requirement is not waived. You
will still need to complete a strong application as you normally would
with regular decision. Therefore, you should ensure that you give
yourself enough time to take the MCAT exam and request letters of
recommendation early if you are planning to apply via EDP.
Most importantly, many schools also require you to be approved by
the Office of Admission to apply through EDP prior to application
services opening for the upcoming application cycle i.e. prior to June .
This may include providing your resume CV, transcripts, and MCAT
scores ahead of time for consideration.

1. Through EDP you can apply to only one EDP participating U.S.
medical school, AMCAS or non AMCAS, by the stated deadline
usually August 1st . Check with your chosen school s admissions
office to confirm participation since many schools do not offer this
option and verify if you need prior approval to submit through EDP.
2. You must not apply through EDP if you have already applied to any
other U.S medical school for the current entering class. You cannot
apply to any other school AMCAS or non AMCAS until you receive
an admissions decision from the school you have chosen to apply to
through EDP.
3. You must attend the school you have applied to via EDP if you are
offered acceptance and follow the individual school s policies. This
may include submitting official transcripts for classes yet to be
completed prior to matriculation following a conditional acceptance.
If you are not accepted through EDP, you can apply to other programs.
Many schools automatically place applicants not selected for admission
through EDP in the regular admissions pool, and so you may ultimately
be admitted by your top choice school even after receiving a rejection
during EDP. However, not all programs will automatically roll over
applications from EDP, so be sure to consult with your institution.

Applying through EDP is a serious commitment that is not without

risk. You should know the school very well and be prepared to justify
your reasoning for choosing to apply early. This may be a lot easier for
alumni who have familiarity with the program and its faculty, though
shadowing with an alumni of your preferred program can also help you
to learn more. Before you apply, you should attend an open house or
prospective student event hosted by your top choice school if at all
possible. This allows you to gain familiarity with the program and its
culture, which you can then demonstrate through your secondary
application materials and interview responses. All applicants should
have specific reasons for wanting to apply to the school beyond it simply
being a dream school. Questions you might consider asking yourself
when you think about applying to a school via EDP include:
Is there a particularly strong connection or affiliation you have with
the school For example: Is this an in state school for you that would
be much cheaper and allow you to remain a member of your home
community Are you a caregiver do you have dependents that require
you to remain in the school s geographic location Are you heavily
involved in local organizations that you would like to continue with
during medical school Are you involved in research within the
institution that you would like to continue during medical school
Is there a unique track global health, rural medicine, etc. or
opportunity clinics, research labs, etc. that you are intent on joining
at the school You should have strong reasoning for why you only
want to participate in these activities at the chosen institution.
Are there aspects of the school s mission that align closely with your
career goals and or values Some schools aim to train clinicians for
their home states, while others pride themselves on training
physician scientists on the cutting edge of research. You should be
able to demonstrate your commitment to and alignment with the
purpose of the institution you are applying to.
Is my application as strong as it can be Some schools offer EDP
advising for you to meet individually with a member of the
admissions team for a consultation on your personal application to
determine if applying EDP is recommended for you.

One of the most common misconceptions about applying through

EDP is that you MUST have a 4.0 GPA, 528 MCAT, and a stellar
application to even be considered. This belief stems from both
admissions offices and application services suggesting that only
outstanding applicants are encouraged to apply through EDP.
However, just as you would with regular decision, consult the entering
class profile for your chosen school and see if your application resembles
their unique matriculant profile to get a better idea of whether students
with similar applications to yours are already there. Even if they haven t,
it doesn t mean you absolutely can t get in. Consider the prior
experiences of matriculants beyond just the average numerical
statistics. While you should have a competitive GPA and MCAT score,
the breadth and depth of your experiences, the narrative of your
personal statement including compelling reasons to attend, and a strong
interview performance are all equally integral in receiving an acceptance
from your top choice medical school through EDP. While much of the
medical school admission process seems to be about playing the odds,
the decision to apply via EDP should be made only if you are certain that
a school is your first choice and you also have a compelling application
for acceptance to that school.
There are 17 Canadian medical schools in total, 14 English speaking
schools, three French speaking schools, and one bilingual school. All
medical schools are very standardized with a strong accredited medical
curriculum, and many of them have strong reputations across the globe
including the University of Toronto and McGill University. All Canadian
medical schools are 4 years except for McMaster University and the
University of Calgary with 3 year programs. From East to West, the 17
medical schools are:
University of British Columbia UBC Vancouver, British Columbia
University of Alberta UofA Edmonton, Alberta English·
University of Calgary UofC Calgary, Alberta English·
University of Saskatchewan UofS Regina, Saskatchewan English·
University of Manitoba Winnipeg, Manitoba English·
Northern Ontario School of Medicine NOSM Thunder Bay, Ontario
University of Western Ontario UWO London, Ontario English·
University of Toronto UofT Toronto, Ontario English·
Queen s University Queen s Kingston, Ontario English·
University of Ottawa uOttawa Ottawa, Ontario English and
French streams·
McGill University Montreal, Quebec English·
University of Montreal Montreal, Quebec French·
University of Sherbrooke Sherbrooke, Quebec French·
University of Laval Laval, Quebec French·
Memorial University of Newfoundland St. John s, Newfoundland
and Labrador English·
Dalhousie University Dalhousie, Nova Scotia English
The first step of deciding if you want to apply Canadian medical
schools is to understand your eligibility, most importantly immigration
status. If you are not a Canadian permanent resident or citizen, you will
be considered as an international school. Among the 17 medical schools,
the ones accepting international students are UofT, McGill, Queen s,
McMaster, University of Montreal, and Sherbrooke. University of
Montreal and Sherbrooke are both French schools. Therefore, if you were
an international student and non French speaking, your options would
be UofT, McGill, Queen s, and McMaster. In terms of approximate
numbers of international students accepted: UofT accepts up to about
10 international students, McGill accepts about two, University of
Montreal accepts about two, University of Sherbrooke accepts only
about one, and there are no official data for McMaster or Queen s.
However, it is important to keep in mind that the exact number can vary
from year to year.
Note that your immigration status can also affect your eligibility if you
decide on participating in the Canadian residency match. The Canadian
Residency Matching Service CaRMS is what Canadians use to match a
residency at the end of medical school and they look at your
immigration status for eligibility. Currently you require permanent
resident status or citizenship in order to be eligible for the match. We
recommend you check out the CaRMS website for more details on this.
There are a few significant differences between US and Canadian
schools. The Canadian schools do not use rolling admission. The tuition
fee for Canadian schools is significantly lower if you are a Canadian
permanent resident or citizen. This is not the case if you were
international students, and the tuition may be comparable between US
and Canadian medical schools. A few Canadian medical schools have
special entry programs, for example, admission for undergraduate
students who finish their second or third year of undergraduate studies,
even students who finished high school. Most schools classify
applicants as in province vs. out of province applicants, and the spots
for out of province applicants are more limited with higher admission
requirements. Some schools have reserved spots for rural or aboriginal
applicants. In medical school, there is also a major difference in the pre
clerkship curriculum. US medical students need to take a board exam
USMLE Step 1 , typically at the end of their second year of medical
school, while Canadian students do not need to have this fulfilled. As a
result, the medical school curriculum in the US is centered around this
test, while in Canada there is a greater focus on clinical knowledge and

The first important part of the application process is to put together

an online application. It consists of multiple aspects, including: GPA, the
MCAT, extra curricular activities, the CASPer test, and a reference letter.
The requirements and weight can be different from what are required for
American school. They will be discussed in detail below.
GPA: The pre interview process for Canadian schools can be quite
demoralizing. There is great emphasis placed on one figure particularly:
your GPA. All medical schools in Canada require a high GPA value in
order to be deemed competitive. While you can still get into a medical
school without the highest GPA, it is often more difficult to sell
yourself on paper to Canadian medical schools because the pre
interview application tends to be minimal relative to the US
applications. Only select schools accept essays or personal statements,
and while most look at your extra curricular activities, they often do not
allow you to say more than a few hundred characters about each activity,
leaving you little opportunity to elaborate on what the experience
provided you. One unique aspect of the Canadian application process,
however, is that many schools provide applicants the ability to have a
weighted GPA wGPA rather than a strictly cumulative GPA cGPA .
Every school varies in how you can qualify for wGPA and what they use
to calculate it, but if you qualify for wGPA, schools will use whatever is
higher and for most, wGPA is greater than cGPA. An example of a wGPA
calculation is using only the most recent two years of your
undergraduate education this is what Queen s University does . In order
to ensure that you are eligible for this boost, you should take some time
to look at the specific wGPA requirements for each Canadian medical
MCAT: Another figure which does not provide much context outside
of strictly being a number is your MCAT score. For the most part, Canada
places a lesser emphasis on the MCAT than the US does. Some schools
do not look at the MCAT, others only look at certain sections, and many
that do use it look at it non competitively i.e., in a way that doesn t
necessarily make your application better than someone else s who
scored lower . Once you reach certain thresholds of MCAT scores,
demonstrating some level of competence, your score no longer matters.
One section, however, that Canadian schools tend to place a larger
emphasis on is CARS. McMaster, for instance, only looks at your CARS
score, and does so competitively. Unlike US schools, however, one
benefit of Canadian schools is that they only consider your most recent
MCAT score, which benefits the many people who improve their score
after retaking the exam.
CASPer: As with some US medical schools, six Canadian medical
schools require the CASPer test: a computer based test which assesses
some of the core competencies expected of healthcare providers. It is
composed of 12 sections, each of which has three questions that you
have five minutes to respond to. Doing well on this test is tricky, but one
issue many students is having sufficient time to type well thought out
responses. so if there is one thing you can work on to improve your skills
for this test, it would be practicing your typing. Many of the skills
required from CASPer are similar to those for interviewing: thinking
broadly, considering all issues at hand, and examining different
perspectives. If you are applying to one of the Canadian medical schools
that require CASPer as well as any of the US schools that accept it, you
can use the same score as long as it was all taken in the same language.
Extracurriculars: Extracurriculars are very important in Canadian
medical school applications. McMaster is the only program that does
not look at extracurricular activities as part of a pre interview review,
but for all other programs it is an essential part of the pre interview
process and in the interview. In Canada there are some key differences
compared to US medical school applications. Specific clinical
experience like shadowing is not considered to be as mandatory as it is
for many US medical schools. Within these experiences, the quality of
the experience is also more important than whatever other marker of
prestige, such as the title status of your supervisor. As mentioned earlier,
there tends not to be a lot of space to talk about extracurricular
activities, so the best way to display clinical experience is with a
diversity of experiences and with your time spent there. It is seen as
better to have fewer different experiences with more time commitment
in each activity, as opposed to spending only a small amount of time
doing many different clinical activities.
Reference letter: some schools require a single reference letter, others
such as all Ontario medical schools require a reference form filled out
by three difference references. There are no specific recommendations
on who should be your references, but generally individuals will seek to
have a combination of individuals that will demonstrate all the
CanMEDS roles.

The interview period can be as early as November of the application

cycle, but most schools conduct their interviews from February to April.
People usually say interviews are the make or break factor for many
schools because a lot of weight is usually put on interviews. Let s first go
over the format of the interview. Each Canadian medical school has
their own style, but they can be broken into three general categories.
1. Multiple Mini Interview MMI : MMI is the most popular style of
interviews in Canada. MMI consists of different stations in a
circuit. Applicants are required to read the question outside the
station, and then enter the room to interact with, or be observed by, a
single rater. Then, the applicants will move on to the next station
following the same steps until the end of the circuit. The specific
number of stations for the circuit varies among different schools, but
there are typically about 10 stations. The common ones are
behavioral questions about concepts like conflict resolution, critical
thinking questions that ask your opinions about a policy or evaluate a
piece of new information, or questions assessing your ability to
explain a quote, painting, etc. Other common formats include
interacting with an actor actress, answering questions after watching
a video or listening to an audio clip, or even working with other
applicants in a group setting. As MMI is evolving over the years,
essentially any kind of question may appear during the interview.
2. Panel Interview: Panel style interview is the most traditional
format, and very few schools use this format now. Essentially, the
interviews are structured, standardized, and conducted by an about
three personal panel typically, consisting of a physician, a
community member, and a senior medical student.
3. Mixed/Modified Type: Some schools will modify the format of
MMI to fit their individual needs. Some use a combination of MMI
and panel interviews. An example would be the University of
Toronto s Modified Personal Interview MPI style which involves
four interview stations for 12 minutes each. Each has a theme to it,
but the interview is one on one in each station and aims to be

Although the format can be variable, all interviews were designed to

evaluate the various abilities and skills that form the basis of the
Physicianship curriculum, which in turn references the CanMED roles
developed by the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada.
For MD PhD applicants, there are usually additional interviews to
assess the suitability for the PhD component of the program.
Keep in mind that you are interviewing the schools as well. It is a
great time to learn about the school s curriculum, talk to current medical
schools about their experiences, and visit facilities or even the city. If
you decide to apply to Canadian medical schools, you can go to their
website for more detailed information. Best of luck!
A myriad of dual degree programs exist out there with each serving
their own purpose for graduates. There are both allopathic and
osteopathic options to pursue a business, public health, law degree and
many options you could create your own. Some of the options include
combining an MD or DO degree with a PhD, JD Law , MBA Master of
Business Administration , MPH Master of Public Health . These
programs can be a perfect opportunity to have a shorter time to degree
and prepare you for a particular career trajectory. We share these
considerations for you to think about because choosing medical school
was already one big life decision and deciding on a dual degree program
is an even greater commitment.
1. Finances: This topic is first because you have to be realistic about
the cost of not only applying and any additional exams, but also the
financial situation that you will be in once you have completed the
degrees. This being said, some dual degree programs may cover
tuition and provide a stipend for the additional years of doing
research. Other degrees may require you to take on more loans to
cover tuition. Make sure to do your research and ask about any
scholarships that may be available for that program.
2. Interest: Applying directly into a dual degree program has
narrowed your interest somewhat by the time you have started
medical school. But as you progress through the preclinical years and
clinical experiences, you may find your interests changing because
you did not know about other things that one can do in research,
patient care
and healthcare. What do you see yourself doing several years down
the line? Do you need the second degree to do that? Do you need the
medical degree to do that?
3. Timing Would another time be better to get that other degree?
Think about the other options you can pursue further along in your
career. You could take a leave of absence from medical school after
the preclinical years and pursue the degree then. Perhaps doing the
degree is more feasible when you are a practicing physician
especially since some programs offer night classes.
4. D a ion Think long and hard about committing to the many
additional years in the undergraduate medical education phase of
your training. Not only is the training environment important, but
also the ability to live your life fully in the way that you want to
during the time you will be enrolled. Some factors people may
consider include the difference in salary, the work expectations, the
ability to move, and how training would affect their family.

Dual degrees open many opportunities, but make sure these are the
right opportunities for YOU! The next few sections have information
about some dual degree pathways, but be aware that these are not the
only options, so do your research.
A physician scientist is someone who bridges the worlds of academic
research and clinical practice; their research could be in the basic
sciences, translational applications, clinical trials research, medical
device design, epidemiology, or other fields like public health or history
of medicine. After training, one s career might be 100 research or 100
clinical practice or somewhere in between.
One way to train as a physician scientist is to join a medical scientist
training program MSTP . These are programs that operate under a
training grant T32 from NIGMS National Institute of Health to support
students. The recognized MSTPs are listed here. There are also MD PhD
and DO PhD programs that are not funded by the NIGMS. However,
training through an MSTP or MD PhD Program is not the only way to be
a physician scientist, as you can do research in medical school, join a
research track residency some of which will allow you to simultaneously
get a PhD , and or to participate in research as a fellow and attending.

For the primary application you will be required to submit the usual
personal statement and two additional essays for MD PhD programs.
One essay focuses on why you want to be a physician scientist 3,000
characters , while the other gives space 10,000 characters for you to
elaborate on your significant research experience s . Use these essays as
opportunities to highlight how you have prepared for a career in
research and what you envision for yourself down the line. For more
information, refer to the AMCAS guide to applying to MD PhD
Interviews for MD PhD programs can vary widely: MD PhD interview
day can be completely separate from the MD day s or you may
participate in an integrated interview day with MD and MD PhD
candidates. Either way, they almost always last just one day. Be sure to
pay attention to the format listed on the program s website or in their
communications to you. The MD PhD interviews can take the form as
informational interviews with faculty, an interview with someone on
the admissions committee or program director, a group interview with a
subset or full admissions committee present. The MD interview may
also vary in makeup. Interview days are long and taxing be sure to
dress comfortably, prepare, and enjoy yourself! See the the section
starting for more details.
Please note that many programs will ask about your ideal goals for
how you plan to split your research and clinical time. 50 50 is not a
viable answer. MD PhD programs often want to hear that you want to
do 70 research, 30 clinical even though in reality, that is not what
happens with the majority of their graduates .

Some thoughts on attending MD PhD programs:

The most important thing to consider when deciding if to pursue an

MD PhD: What matters to you? For more advice and things to consider,
consult these articles by Skip Brass, MD, PhD and Aimee Payne, MD,
PhD: Perspective: Three Crucial Questions When Applying to MD PhD
Programs, Finding Nirvana: Paths to Becoming a Physician Scientist, Is
an MD PhD program right for me? Advice on becoming a physician
The DO PhD application process looks very similar to the MD PhD
application process. Osteopathic schools will also want to see an
extensive research background via undergraduate lab work ideally with
several presentations and or at least one associated publication , a
Master's degree, or research related employment. Experience with
osteopathic physicians such as shadowing may exemplify sincere
interest in the osteopathic principles specific to a DO school, however
this is not always required.
Before applying to a DO PhD program, consider contacting the
program director several months in advance. Scheduling a meeting or
phone call with the director is a good way to make sure that you are a
competitive candidate. This early contact will also give you time to
strengthen your application by filling in any gaps that they may ask you
about. This is also a good time to research and even reach out to
laboratories of interest at the institution so that you can have a list of
possible mentors by the time interviews begin.
While some programs list minimum GPA and MCAT requirements
for dual programs, we encourage you to talk to the program
administrators even if you fall short of one of these requirements.
Strong research interest along with clinical experience can boost an
application. The DO philosophy focuses on looking at the whole person
and all aspects of their life, and this is often mirrored in their
admissions team. Being a well rounded person with clear passions for
medicine, research, innovation, and service may overrule a lower score.

Early contact with a DO PhD program director will clarify the specific
applications process for your school of interest. You will likely first
apply to the DO program and indicate on the application that you
would like to pursue the dual degree. Most graduate programs are
willing to accept the MCAT in place of the GRE for dual degree
applicants, however, be sure to ask about this requirement in advance.
While some DO programs still emphasize community medicine, as a
PhD candidate you may indicate interest in a more specific, often
research related, clinical interest. Maintaining this specialized clinical
focus as a physician scientist facilitates a more targeted research
trajectory. You will probably find out whether you are accepted to the
DO school well before the application deadline for the associated
graduate program, giving you plenty of time to prepare for this part of
the application process.

While focusing on the medical school application, it is important to

indicate why you are interested in attending an osteopathic school
specifically. The essay portion of the application is a good place to
demonstrate your knowledge of osteopathic principles. Use the medical
school essays to focus on why you would like to serve your community
as a physician; there will be plenty of space to delve more heavily into
your research background in the graduate school application. Once you
are accepted into the medical school, you will be instructed to continue
with the application to the graduate program. Keep in mind that you
will be held to the same standards as a PhD student at this interview, so
be prepared to discuss the following in detail: your previous research,
the principles and methodology used, what you would contribute to the
university's scholarly activity, and your overall career goals.

The interview process for DO PhD programs will look much like those
for MD PhD programs. You will be asked many of the same questions
listed previously in this guide, however you will likely also be asked why
you chose DO PhD vs MD PhD. Be prepared to explain the value you
think that osteopathic training will bring you as a physician and as a
When applying to MD PhD programs, the AMCAS application
requires two additional essays: the MD PhD essay and the research
statement. Their content will overlap of course if you re applying to
pursue a physician scientist career path, but take full advantage of the
opportunity you have to allow each essay to say something unique about
you as an applicant.
The research statement is fairly straightforward: describe your
experience, how it has informed your decision to continue doing
research, and why you need the MD PhD program s training to continue
to do research the way you hope to do. After all, lots of physicians do
research without the PhD. Why do you want it? The essay content can
really begin to blur when you start writing your personal comment and
your MD PhD essay. The exact wording on the application points out a
distinction in their respective purpose by saying the personal
comments essay is an opportunity to distinguish yourself while the
MD PhD essay is space to state your reasons for pursuing the In the AMCAS instructions you will also notice that
these essays are of different lengths: with the personal comments
section having 5300 characters and the MD PhD essay being limited to
3000 characters. Therefore, it is critical to use these word counts to your
advantage. Now, we won t give you an exact formula about what to write,
because of course that is up to you, but here are some tips to consider.
The personal comments essay will be read by both the medical school
admissions committee and the MD PhD committee. Spend time
illustrating a side of yourself that is not already apparent in the rest of
your application. You might want to avoid talking too much about
research here, since you will get more detailed in the MD PhD essay. If
you bring up your research, tie it back to your motivations to become a
physician. You need to convince the committee that the medical
training is important for you, which is why you did not apply for a PhD
only. You are more than your research and will also shine as a future
physician, and this generous word count is the place to go into detail
about that.
On the other hand, the MD PhD essay is close to half the length of the
personal comments essay. This means that your approach should be very
targeted in what you write with those 3000 characters. Again, leave the
details of your research experiences for the research essay, because the
MD PhD essay is where you will now show them why they should want
you as a future physician scientist. This essay is going to be more
important to the MD PhD program committee than it will be for the MD
side; we recommend that you imagine yourself talking directly to them.
Be sure to address clearly how you think completing both the medical
and scientific training aligns with your goals for the future. This could be
about what field you see yourself working in, the way that you will
incorporate findings and observations from your patients into research
questions in the lab, or even how it could better prepare you as a future
clinician educator. It s OK if you don t have concrete examples yet of how
you think your career will play out honestly, no one really does , but be
open about your curiosities and where your medical and research
interests intersect. Really explain why you require the combined
experience of a program rather than doing an MD and PhD separately.
You can even bring up examples from your scientific and non scientific
life that have given you insight into how you, as an individual, want to be
spending your time. Completing an MD PhD program is a long and
rigorous choice, so be sure to convince them that you are all in for this
Applicants on average apply to 15 20 medical schools. If you are a
highly competitive applicant you may be able to apply to fewer and still
maintain a good chance of acceptance. If you are less competitive, you
may have to apply to more. Pre med advisors and mentors will be able to
guide you in how many schools to apply to based on your specific
application, but expect to apply to at least 15. A valuable but unofficial
tool is a template created by Student Doctor Network user WedgeDawg.
It uses your academic and testing statistics, research experience,
extracurriculars, teaching experience, and other metrics to
comprehensively recommend how many schools you should apply to. It
also breaks down the plethora of schools into categories. For example,
osteopathic medical schools fall under one category, allopathic schools
are broken down by competitiveness into their own categories, and your
state schools are in another. Be mindful that the results of this
calculator are inexact and unofficial, so don t let it be the only resource
you use!
An important factor in deciding which medical schools to apply to is
state residency. State schools accept a majority of their classes from in
state candidates, which gives you an advantage in the application
process. State schools also have lower tuition for in state residents.
While most osteopathic schools are not state institutions, many do take
residency into account to them, it seems more likely that you want to
attend school close to where you grew up or have family, so many
programs will have a section for out of state applicants to describe what
ties they have to the state.
Don t discount proximity to family and friends when deciding where
to apply. Medical school is stressful as is, and being far from your social
support network may be difficult. Additionally, if you have a special
interest, it is worth pondering if a certain school would enable you to
pursue that interest. It may behoove you to be closer to a city, or in a
more rural environment, depending on any special interests you may
Next you should examine your competitiveness as an applicant to
your schools of interest. You should review the median GPA and MCAT
scores of matriculated students at the schools you are considering and
see how you compare to them. For allopathic schools, a reliable source
for this information is the Medical School Admission Requirements
MSAR website which provides a comprehensive listing of U.S. and
Canadian medical schools with each school s profile showing specific
admissions requirements along with their applicant and accepted
student data. This is a free tool, but the free version has limitations. For a
fully comprehensive look at schools requirements, there is a paid
version. Before you pay, ask your university s premedical or career office
if they have purchased a copy for students to use. For osteopathic
medical schools, the ChooseDO Explorer tool can be a great way to
determine where your statistics lie relative to students at a given school.
This tool is free, and comparable to the MSAR all you need to provide is
your email address, first and last name, state, and when you plan to start
medical school. You can also take advantage of the career fairs organized
by the AAMC a few times per year to talk to the admissions officers of
MD programs.
Cost should also be a factor in deciding where to apply. As stated
above, in state tuition will provide significant cost savings over out of
state or private schools. Also look into availability of financial aid and
scholarships. Some people may try to dissuade you from considering
cost at the application stage you ll be a doctor, you ll pay it off! but
student loan debt is a significant burden on physicians that may affect
your future lifestyle, specialty choice, and job choice, so you should at
least think about it. Most osteopathic medical schools are private
institutions, and therefore do not offer in state tuition. Further, the
application to each school involves a primary application fee, a
secondary fee, and further fees if you receive an interview. It is
imperative to look at your application critically, as it would be a waste of
money applying to too many schools beyond your target range. A few
reach schools are reasonable, but an entire application cycle of reach
schools is not.
Some other factors to consider in choosing which schools to apply to:
How do you learn best? Lecture format versus small group learning? Will
you be happy having to attend mandatory lectures? Do you want strong
research opportunities? Are you interested in a focus on primary care?
Just be honest about your interests if asked. Other elements to compare
are religious affiliation, a school s mission or values, and affiliations
with hospital systems or other programs.
There are many reasons that students choose to apply to DO programs
over MD: some apply because the GPA and MCAT requirements are
sometimes lower. Some apply because they want to learn about
Osteopathic Manipulative Medicine. Some apply because it is the
closest school to their home. Still others apply because they like the
philosophy that Osteopathic schools often proclaim and embody:
holistic patient care. Whatever the reason for applying, there is more to
choosing a DO school than simply applying.
When you are selecting which DO schools you will apply to, all of the
usual considerations apply. Make sure you are applying to programs that
will fit your needs for example if you would like to focus on rural
medicine then the school must offer rural medicine rotations in
locations you would want to live. Make sure you also consider the
tuition amount of each DO school. DO schools are private and, therefore,
tend to be more expensive for both in state and out of state students.
Cost is an important consideration for many medical students, and
students should look at the price carefully before selecting a school since
debt affects future lifestyle and specialty choice for many students.
Students must also consider the reputation of the DO school. There
are many schools with long standing reputations which are well
respected. However, there are also many new DO schools that have
opened up in response to the physician shortage. While these schools
might very well be excellent, they are not yet tested and some have yet
to even be accredited . Be cautious, because these schools will not have a
reputation among residencies and their curriculums are new. It is
harder to tell if the school will be successful long term without a record
to fall back on. It isn t just word of mouth popularity that we are
referring to here; the concrete measures of success you can look for are
board exam pass rates and percentages of their fourth year students that
successfully match into residency If those numbers are not available or
are significantly lower than those for other schools you are applying to,
this need not be an automatic dealbreaker, but it is worth thinking
about and is widely used as a red flag
In addition to new schools opening, many existing schools are
opening satellite campuses Be sure you understand what is the
relationship between these two campuses and how content will be
delivered Every student has a different learning style, and content
delivery between campuses will vary from school to school Some of the
ways will be conducive to certain learning styles, but some will not be
Be wary of this fact and make sure to inquire about content delivery
during your interview For example, some schools with satellite
campuses only have in person lecturers at the main campus, and the
students at the satellite campus teleconference into that lecture, and
this might be something you would hate
DO schools are historically thought of as focused on primary care
education However, that is no longer always the case Investigate what
opportunities each school has relative to the specialty that interests you,
but be aware that most people change their mind about their intended
specialty at least once Make sure to also ask questions during the
interview about the school and what their priorities are You want to
end up somewhere that can support your chosen career For example, if
you are interested in a traditionally competitive specialty, make sure the
school supports your taking both the COMLEX and USMLE Also,
recognize that schools with two campuses might have different
priorities on different campuses, such as a rural focus on the rural area
campus Take this into account when applying
Finally, take a moment to read each DO school s mission statement
Make sure your values align with this statement DO schools will expect
you to answer interview questions about why you chose their institution
and what you like about the Osteopathic philosophy Make sure you can
answer those questions confidently and honestly
Use the Student Doctor Network medical school application cost
calculator to estimate how much the application process will cost,
including MCAT test preparation and interview travel Take it now to
familiarize yourself with some of the fees, and then come back to it when
you are more certain of the services you will utilize and schools you are
interested in Furthermore, get familiar with the AAMC fee assistance
program to see if you qualify At some point, however, debt will be
accumulated with medical school tuition, so you will have to consider
how much debt and risk you are willing to take on and how early
Also, be informed about being in control of your finances and having a
financial plan early on part of that plan is having debt There are many
resources online for managing debt after medical school, but it is
important to at least know in advance of applying that this is a very
expensive path to take However, part of our goal in creating this guide is
to make the application process more accessible and successful for
people from all backgrounds

The application process to medical school is e pen i e However, you

can plan ahead to ave yourself money and time For MD schools, you
may want to try out the Student Doctor Network medical school
application cost calculator to estimate how much the application
process will cost, including MCAT test preparation and interview travel
Use it now to familiarize yourself with some of the fees, and then come
back to it when you are more certain of the services you will utilize and
which schools you are interested in
Before taking the MCAT, we recommend that you look into the AAMC
fee assistance program to see if you qualify This program gives many
benefits to low income students, including both MCAT prep materials
and primary application fee waivers You must apply months in advance
from when you intend to use it, so be proactive and apply if you qualify!
The MCAT exam itself is a large expense you can find the registration
fees here Once it comes down to sending in applications you will need
to be prepared to pay quite a bit for the AMCAS primary application
submission cost and fee for every additional application you send You
can also secure application fee waivers for the AACOMAS application if
you are applying to DO schools Be sure to take into account finances
before you have a final list of schools you will apply for, because the
more you include the larger the cost, and most of us do not have a
limitless budget For the secondary application, each school sets its own
fee to submit, so this may also factor into how many secondary
applications you end up pursuing Usually this fee is listed on the
website Remember, debt is almost inevitable unless you have someone
else to pay these costs for you, so you will have to consider how much
debt and risk you are willing to take on, and how early in the process
Some loans will allow you to defer payments until after graduating
medical school, but if not be mindful of how this will impact your
finances as you go through medical school i e , a time where you will
have no significant income Also, be informed about being in control of
your finances and having a financial plan early on part of that plan is
having debt There are many resources online for managing debt after
medical school, but it is important to at least know in advance of
applying that this is a very expensive path to take Part of our goal in
creating this guide is to make the application process more accessible
and successful for people from all backgrounds and we must provide
honest answers about the process and ways to address potential
problems Ultimately, like any other big decision, applying to medical
school has risks and benefits, and the cost is definitely one of those risks
However, physicians are generally well compensated, and it is not often
an issue to eventually overcome any amount of debt incurred during the
training process
Grade Point Average GPA
Letters of Recommendation
Extracurricular Activities
Research Experience
Summer research programs
Personal Statement
Your GPA is an important part of your application Given the
sheer volume of applications medical schools receive, GPA and
MCAT scores often serve as an initial screening tool for admissions
committees to narrow down the applicant pool For medical school
applications the GPA is further broken down into overall, science,
and non science GPAs The average GPAs for medical school
matriculants in 2017 2018 was a 3 71 overall, a 3 64 science, and a
3 79 non science, per the AAMC None of this is to say that a below
average GPA will be prohibitive to medical school acceptance While
some schools may utilize a hard cut off in reviewing applications,
most schools will view your GPA in the context of your GPA trends,
the level of difficulty of your areas of study, and your MCAT score
For example, a below average GPA freshman year with steady
improvement thereafter shows personal growth and commitment
to improvement GPA is also viewed in the context of your overall
application, including your ties to the area ie in state versus out of
state for public schools , letters of recommendation and offered
commitment to special programs such as rural medicine
To put overall GPA in concrete numbers as of the timing of this
publication in 2019, per the AAMC, a GPA above 3 8 is excellent A
GPA between 3 5 and 3 8 is considered competitive, that is an asset
on your application A GPA between 3 0 and 3 5 will likely require a
demonstration of an upward trend over time, as well as an
otherwise strong application Basically: if you bombed freshman
year general chemistry but improved your grades since then, don t
lose hope! However, an application including a GPA below 3 0 will
be difficult to get past medical school admissions committees If
this is your situation, consider an academic gap year to raise your

Fig e G ade Poin A e age GPA acco ding o AAMC

The MCAT is a multiple choice, computer based exam It consists of

four sections: Biological and Biochemical Foundations of Living
Systems, Chemical and Physical Foundations of Biological Systems,
Psychological, Social, and Biological Foundations of Behavior, Critical
Analysis and Reasoning Skills
It is scored out of 528 132 per section For applicants of the 2018
2019 cycle, the average MCAT score was 505 6 For matriculants
students who were ultimately accepted to medical school , the
average was higher at 511 2 Source for this info and other trends for
medical school applicants here
While the MCAT does test your knowledge of facts and information,
it is especially a test of how well you can read and process information
Much of the questions have to do with reading charts and figures
These authors found that a good way to practice for this is reading
scientific literature and interpreting figures This is absolutely a
necessary skill that is often not covered completely in MCAT prep
books, and there are many YouTube videos and articles teaching how
to do this online

The MCAT is only offered from January through September

Registration costs change annually, and are over 300 However, the Fee
Assistance Program can reduce this Note that the Fee assistance
program also includes other benefits that help reduce the cost of
application fees
Make sure to register for the MCAT early You can register up to six
months in advance This allows you to book a testing center close to
where you live, and avoid having to travel out of the way on test day

There are variety of courses, tutors, and book series that exist for
medical school applicants, but they are by no means necessary for your
success on the MCAT The cost is prohibitive to many students, but
there are high quality, affordable materials out there Contact your pre
medical advisors, your local library, students at your college who have
already taken the MCAT, or your school s career success center to see if
anyone has test prep books available to borrow, or even for sale at a
reduced price Khan Academy has also made a series of free videos
covering relevant tested material in partnership with the AAMC

The tests are held at private testing centers, so your experience at any
testing center will be different To be sure of what to expect, you can call
the center ahead of time and ask about their procedures and setup,
and or speak to any classmates or friends who tested there recently
Most testing centers will have lockers for you to place your belongings
including your cell phone switched off, any snacks or lunch, water, etc
You won t be able to drink water or snack while in the exam room
The testing room will have rows of desktop computers where you will
take the test There will always be a surface given for you to write scratch
work on Sometimes it is a pencil and scratch paper, and other times it
may be an erasable whiteboard and marker Many centers also provide
noise cancellating headphones at every station, as well as audio
headphones for any audio connected to test questions
Every time you enter the testing room, you will have to show
government issued ID like a driver s license and provide a signature
Proctors may use a metal detector to scan you prior to entrance, and
check your pockets Test takers wearing their hair in certain styles such
as large buns or dreadlocks may also have their hair patted
Depending on your test location, proctors may be strict about sitting
at your test station upright with both feet placed on the floor Consider
practicing sitting this way during all of your MCAT practice to get into
the habit and avoid any potential interruptions during your exam by
persnickety proctors

You should receive your score around four weeks after taking the test
Make sure to save a copy of your official score report you will be asked for
it even after you finish medical school
Your MCAT score is only one of a multitude of factors being assessed
Keep in mind that it is only one part of your application Even the best
schools admit students with a large range of MCAT scores There is a
growing body of work demonstrating the inaccuracies of trying to identify
quality future physicians with this exam, particularly when those future
physicians come from underprivileged and or underrepresented
If you want to compare your score to that of current students at schools
you wish to apply to, many schools will list the MCAT scores of their
previous incoming class For example, the 2017 incoming class at UCLA
had the following MCAT statistics Source :

25th percentile 505 the average score for all people

applying to medical school in 2018 2019
50th percentile 514
75th percentile 518
See how wide a range this is
The specific requirements for letters of recommendation vary
between medical schools Generally two or three letters are required,
with at least one from a science professor and one from a non science
professor Many DO programs require a letter from an osteopathic
physician If your college or university has pre med advisors or a pre
med advisory committee, you will typically need a letter from them as
well Some schools offer to write a committee letter on behalf of your
application this letter is typically written by the pre med advisor s as a
way to compile a highlight reel of who you are as an applicant
academics and otherwise and provides quotes from the other letters of
recommendation in your packet For more details about the committee
letter process and advice, see here Depending on the requirements for
the medical schools you are applying to, letters may also be obtained
from research directors, physicians you ve shadowed, faculty advisors for
extracurricular activities, or volunteer coordinators
When seeking letters of recommendation it is important to ask early
Professors and physicians are busy often with requests for letters from
other applicants too and if given a short deadline they may be unable to
accommodate your request for a letter You should make the request for
a letter of recommendation at least one month before it is due to be
submitted ideally two months if possible You should ask for letters
from professors who know you well from active class participation,
small group settings, or office hours as you want the writer to be able to
highlight your unique qualities and skills Generic letters of
recommendation will not help your application It is best to ask for the
letter of recommendation in person If an in person ask isn t possible,
email is an acceptable alternative When asking for a letter of
recommendation, also request to meet with the writer to review your
application and requirements for the letter Bring a copy of your CV and
be prepared to discuss why you want to go to medical school, what
makes you a good applicant, and which features of your application or
experience with this letter writer you d like to be highlighted You may
also want to follow up after your meeting and provide the letter writer
confirmation of the due date and any supplemental information that
might be helpful to them as they are writing: e g your finished personal
statement, a short statement about your future career goals, a list of
examples they can include about projects course papers, and the list of
AAMC Core Competencies An example of a helpful guide for your letter
writer can be found in the Appendix
Specifically ask the professor after your conversation if they feel they
can write you a strong positive letter of recommendation rarely, there
have been cases of strong negative letters If they say no or seem
uncertain, you d rather hear no at this point than to have a poor letter of
recommendation included with your application Thank them for their
honesty, and find someone who can say yes Specifically ask the person
after your conversation if they feel that they can write you a ong
po i i e letter of recommendation Rarely, there have been cases of
strong but negative letters If they say no or seem uncertain, you d
rather hear that at this point than to have a poor letter of
recommendation included in your application Thank them for their
honesty, and then go find someone who can say yes
In your application to medical school, it is advisable to waive your
right to read the letters of recommendation The medical schools to
which you apply can see whether you ve waived this right or not, and
will put more weight onto letters that are confidential It is a red flag if
the letter is not confidential, because the question arises if you perhaps
unduly influenced the content of the letter
In addition to the personal statement, the extracurricular activities
portion of the application is an area which allows you to share your
experiences and paint a picture of who you are and what qualities you
possess that will make you an excellent medical student, and ultimately
You want to include significant experiences that highlight your
accomplishments or that had an impact on you Don t include high
school activities unless you have continued to engage in that activity in
college One pitfall in extracurricular activities is treating them as a
checklist of must haves for your application Quality of extracurricular
activities is far more important than quantity You want to show
consistent participation and, when applicable, leadership roles
You do need to have some clinical experiences among your
extracurriculars These can be shadowing, volunteering, community
outreach, or research Admissions committees want to see that you ve
explored the field of medicine and are committed to it, and having
actually spent time in clinical settings lends credibility to your pursuit of
medicine By no means do you need to have experience in all these areas
to have a strong application An ongoing volunteer or research
experience throughout two years is going to be looked at more favorably
than a dozen one off shadowing or volunteer experiences
Expanding on extracurriculars can be hard, especially when AMCAS
asks you to only highlight those that are most meaningful, but this is the
spot where you, every part of you, really gets to shine A common mistake
is that the personal statement is the only important written section You
should spend almost as much fine tuning the Activities section as you do
your personal statement How you highlight your activities will quickly
tell admissions committees what you value and how well you will
integrate into their community as a medical student Additionally, many
of your interviewers will read your description and will base questions
and thoughts about your candidacy based upon what is included in this
section It is incredibly important that this section accurately portrays
your interests and that you detail your role in these activities This is not
the section to be shy Some general tips before we jump in This section is
an elongated CV resume Similar to those, you want to use active
vocabulary to describe what you did in these roles That is, use high
impact verbs like managed, directed, oversaw to clarify your role in an
activity in a few characters rather than more passive verbs like helped
with, was part of, etc that minimize what you did and are less
interesting to read

Including a job experience highlights work ethic, dedication, attention

to detail, reliability, communication skills eIf you were working part or
full time throughout college, this employment might also help to explain
a less than ideal grade point average or fewer extracurriculars Be sure to
spell it out, i e I worked 20 hours a week at Colectivo Coffee for two
years during my undergraduate career I was in charge of X,Y, Z, and
flourished in this dynamic, fast paced environment where social skills
build social capital Regular customers whose orders I could recall always
smiled, silently sharing a look of gratitude for being heard and
remembered This passage demonstrates the show don t tell technique
in applications The writer for example is showing their skill at
interpersonal interactions, communication skills, memory, social
awareness etc , which are all valuable traits in a medical school
applicant Any job can be acceptable for this section However it is best if
this job was one you held for a longer period of time, particularly if you
leave out other activities in favor of including the description of this job
As you write your application, you might say all of these experiences
are meaningful, aren t they That s why this is such a tough task for
applicants Your selection can speak volumes to application committees,
and it s really important that you pick the three that are most important
to you, not the three that you think are the most important to the
committee Truly which ones you will light up about when asked
Which ones are you most proud of What are the most prepared to speak
about If possible, try to have some diversity between the three activities
so that you will have different things to say about each of them with that
larger character count these activity descriptions are afforded Also try
not to just repeat things you said in your personal statement Each
section of text is a fresh opportunity for you to show why you will be an
amazing doctor, so don t miss out by repeating yourself
For author Olivia Davies, they were volunteering at a free clinic,
teaching English in Spain for a year, and working as a facilities
management specialist for the Center for Healthy Minds Richie
Davidson s Neuroscience Lab All three allowed her to show different
aspects of her personality and talk about different skill sets About the
facilities management position she states, I didn t do any research, and
yet I got to work with the researchers to create a research conducive
space, team up with numerous contractors to remodel a house into a
workspace, collaborate with key stakeholders to satisfy various goals, and
demonstrate my ability for fine detail and collaboration I also had a few
fun side projects from this position up my sleeve that I knew would make
for great conversation should an interviewer want to talk more about this
For author Priya Kantesaria, she selected three very different activities:
her medical shadowing experience, her work with global health, and her
leadership running model United Nations Conferences Of the three, she
was asked most frequently about Model United Nations She used the
space to discuss why she was passionate about international policy,
what she did in this role, and how her efforts made an impression on the
students she worked with This experience was also what she used to
answer questions like what do you think your biggest strengths and
weaknesses are By tying responses to interview questions back to her
most meaningful experiences, she was able to draw focus to activities
described in her application

International volunteering experiences are common among pre

medical students These experiences are somewhat of a double edged
sword You have taken a great leap, volunteered abroad in some capacity,
and certainly have stories to tell about your time there However, it s
incredibly important from the very beginning that you understand the
complicated ethics of volunteering abroad Some of author Olivia Davies
favorite articles about this are:
Ethical Obligations Regarding Short Term Global Health Clinical
Experiences by DeCamp et al published in the Annals of Internal
Medicine, 2018
Why A Surgeon Taught A Non Doctor To Do Brain Surgery by Vicky
Hallett published for NPR s Goats and Soda, 2017
Why Doctors Wonder If It s Time To Rethink Fly In Medical Missions
by Joanne Silberner for NPR s Goats and Soda, 2019
The truth is most of the experiences that exist, and many of those
that you have been or will be a part of actually fall somewhere in
between ideal and less ideal An important consideration is what is
my role in this experience and is it possible that in your intent to do
good, you may have caused a larger disturbance When assessing a
potential activity to participate in or deciding to mention in an
application, ask yourself and the program sponsors if YOU are the
greatest beneficiary of this time there, or if it is the people you are
ostensibly going there to help When writing about global health
experiences, the key is how you reflect on them to demonstrate your
awareness and personal ethics
Mo e Ideal Your experience was longer than a week, through a
sustainable program that is dedicated to training locals, soliciting
community feedback and buy in, encouraging locals to be first and senior
authors on manuscripts etc If you happened to be a part of one of these
amazing organizations PLEASE be sure to highlight these things as you
witnessed them I e I was specifically drawn to this program because of
its commitment to sustainability

Le ideal a fly in experience By fly in we mean too short to actually

effect change, somewhat not sustainable, somewhat disruptive to the
local community Try to avoid these if you can, but if you ve already been
on one, how do you highlight the impact work without coming off as
unethical, ill informed, or worse: exploitive If you find yourself unable
to highlight this appropriately, it is better not to include it If you find
that the experience opened your eyes to the negative consequences of
short, fly in trips, you could use this as an opportunity to show personal
growth or highlight how you would want to do things differently in the
future, but this must be done carefully

Longer experiences are more ideal to discuss These can be research

years, extended periods of service, or shorter travel periods which
culminated after year old efforts Describing these experiences should
include why you were interested in the opportunity global work, what
your role was in preparation and execution, and what you learned from
the experience Important topics to consider is how does this project
work without you there Your experience should be framed in a way that
includes equity and sustainability For example author Priya Kantesaria
spoke about her effort with organization ChangeALife Uganda She spent
two years working with the Ugandan team to develop a health
curriculum and had video calls with the headmaster and community
doctor to ensure what was being developed was culturally sensitive and
relevant She completed this section by writing how her efforts will be
continued in the community without the need for future trips since the
trip not only included her educating local students, but giving lesson
plans and training teachers there as well

Do Incl de Activities you were passionate about In the eyes of the

admissions committee, your health related activities are not the most
important They want you to include activities where you developed
leadership experiences, invested time, and developed varied skill sets to
bring to medical school Include activities that you have invested a
significant amount of time in i e a year teaching English in Spain,
debate club, greek life , activities that highlight a unique skill
photography, writing, painting, piano, choir , and activities that speak to
grit determination marathon training, club sports, yoga The most
important thing about the activities you include is that you can speak
about them thoroughly and with enthusiasm Passionately discussing
the arts, sports, or business club you helped run will speak volumes more
than glossing over the five hours you spent shadowing an ER physician
Lastly, this should be personalized and feel like an opportunity to show
who you are one author included being a sports fan at her university in
her top three activities because it truly was, and this was the most
commonly discussed piece of her application in all interviews and per an
interviewer highlighted that college was more than a resume builder
Do No Incl de It s important not to stuff your activities section with
random, meaningless things Interviewers can and will ask you about
any and all experiences on your application If you are unable to describe
why this experience was important to you, what you learned from it, and
detail what you did with your time in that activity, it is better not to
include it Having quality entries to the activities section is more
important than filling every potential space you are
given Examples: Teaching Abroad, from author Olivia Davies: During
the academic year of 2013 2014, I taught English abroad in Spain I was
paired with Spanish students ranging in age from 12 16 at a secondary
school in Madrid Because of my extensive science background, I was
chosen to serve as an assistant in biology and technology classes in
addition to the students English language classes My Spanish students
showed me that engagement and enthusiasm motivate Serving as the
head teacher for their microbiology unit allowed me to incorporate my
passion for the subject matter as well as complement the textbook s
material with information from my own coursework Drawing parallels
between the bacterial shapes on the board and the organisms that cause
common infections brought the classroom to life

Including some type of clinical experience within your applications is

strongly recommended Application reviewers will want to see that you
are actively interested in healthcare, and often look that you have some
experience working for or shadowing doctors All types of clinical
exposure is good, but you will want to seek and write about the
experiences that make readers see that you have seriously considered the
field you are applying for
Only list experiences with physicians you ve built rapport with and
prior to including them on the application, confirm that they would
be comfortable being listed as a reference on your medical school
application Some schools will reach out to these doctors supervisors,
and you want to make sure they not only are aware of you, but could
speak about you if prompted
Don t worry if you don t already know a physician to shadow Your
nearest hospital s volunteer office can be a great resource for
identifying shadowing opportunities You may also reach out directly
to local physicians practicing in specialties that are interesting to you
Another great contact is your own physician Many of them may have
a friend or contact who would be interested in helping students get
clinical experiences While a cold call or email may feel intimidating
to you, physicians expect such requests Shadowing is an established
step on the path to becoming a doctor, and many physicians enjoy the
opportunity to share their vocation Just remember to be polite in
your request and gracious for the physician s consideration Try to
shadow the same physician more than one time this allows you to
build a relationship and shows application committees that you were
invited back into that setting i e that you were respectful, social
aware, etc Hint: this can be the physician you ask to be your
Send follow up emails or cards after shadowing to thank physicians
for their time and the experience this helps build rapport,
demonstrates engagement, and is professional It also ensures they
will remember you if they are called for a reference OR if they cross
paths with you in your future medical student career
Keep a log of your experience and the things you learned as you go
through it It will not only be helpful when trying to draft your
application, but will keep those memories fresh come interview
Within the application be sure to include what you did through the
experience and what you learned from it If you were shadowing, use
this time to show how you learned about the life of the doctor If you
also took vitals, spoke to patients, etc: describe the skills you
List physician shadowing as more than one activity While you can
shadow a few different physicians, it is not a good use of another
activity slot to list this multiple times Simply explain in the text
which specialties you shadowed and what you learned by shadowing
interprofessional teamwork, discipline of medicine, the value of
patient relationships Only list the physician you worked with the
most as the reference, but feel free to include the names of the other
physicians you shadowed in the body of the text
Ask for a letter of recommendation from someone who you ve
shadowed less than 6 times over the course of a year A physician
you only shadowed may be unable to write you a letter which is strong
ex: includes specific examples, descriptions about your qualities
However, if you worked with them one on one for extended periods of
time and you believe you operated with a level of independence, you
can consider it
E am le
Physician shadowing in College from author Priya Kantesaria
As a College Intern, I shadowed the daily schedule of a pulmonary,
critical care and sleep medicine physician Within the hospital, I
completed clinical rounds in the Intensive Care Unit and hospital floor
and was able to observe hospital procedures including intubation,
bronchoscopies, cardiopulmonary resuscitation and advanced cardiac
life support Within the office, I was able to converse with patients,
record basic vital signs, identify different lung auscultations , and
operate fit durable medical equipment My experience with Dr
helped me visualize the clinical aspects of healthcare and exposed me to
the important socio cultural aspects that impact quality of care Through
my experience, I gained a realistic view of the day to day life of a
physician, while exploring three distinct but fascinating fields of
Most schools will expect you to have some research experience, but
research experience is not required for most medical schools Note,
however, that some schools value research more highly than others and
most schools will at least expect that you have tried it One indication of
whether a school values research highly is if a required research project
is present in their medical school curriculum, which is usually available
on the school s website It may also explicitly state that the program is
seeking applicants with research experience and skills It is important
that you participate in research if you are interested in it and if you are
willing to commit the time to understand your project and be able to
speak about it Research can be clinical or laboratory based, and ideally is
based on your own interests Note that if you are applying MD PhD, it is
expected that you have extensive research experience, as it would be if
you were applying to obtain your PhD

We won t lie to you: there is still a bias favoring traditional STEM

research in medical school admissions However, this bias is rapidly
shrinking and programs are realizing that it is more important to pursue
your passion and build research skills i e critical thinking,
communication, teamwork than it is to complete a project involving ion
transporters We recommend appealing to that mindset when applying
to medical school in the way you sell your research experience Like
every other activity you have listed, it is important to weave your
research into the narrative of your application, both through the
personal statement and interview Medical schools will be more inclined
to see the value of your research and of you as a medical candidate if
you explain your research with enthusiasm and curiosity The most
impressive research is done out of genuine interest, and medical school
admi i ill k he diffe e ce A h D G ace Oli e had b h
cie ific a d STEM e ea ch a a e med de a d he
l ima el g m e e i i he medical ch l i e ie ab he
STEM k beca e i a i e a d he fel m e a i a e
ab i Thi i ef m de ih cie ce e ea ch a d if
e e ed i h he i di c i ee ide f
medici e cie ce e i ad a age Remembe medical
ch l l k ha e a di e e de b d i each cla em ha i e
a kill a d e e ie ce ca add he medical ch l Al a
kee i mi d ha he ke hi g i de c ibi g e ea ch a d
h e l a ac i i d a a e med i ela e i back h i
make a g ea ca dida e f medical ch l a d l ima el a g ea
d c Pa i make a g ea ca dida e i i ii e e a ddi e
make a g ea ca dida e e ea ch kill f a make a g ea
ca dida e

Ma ch l ha e g am i hi hei de a me
de h a e i e e ed i d i g e ea ch Seek he e g am
fi H e e if a e l ck e gh be eighb i g a medical
ch l ca al eek ge a ii i e f he lab he e
Ma f d f de g ad a e e ea ch a i a hi ill e i e
al ead ha e a me i a ecific lab T fi d e l k
lab a ie a ch l i de a me a e i e e ed i I i
a ia e c ld email m l i le i e iga le i g hem k f
de i e k i hei lab a d a k if ma mee Be e
i cl de a e me CV i h email Ti f a fi c ac email a e
i he Fi di g a Me ec i
I i e im a mee i h he PI f a lab bef e j i i g i a d
ma ime ill be ki g i h a d c al g ad a e de
i he lab e ha e e m e di ec l ha ill i h he PI I i
e emel im a mee h ill be ki g i h bef e
c mmi i g he lab I i e emel im a mee hem fi Wha
i m ch m e im a ha he ic f e ea ch a e a ici a i g
i i he me ae ki g i h A g d me ill hel lea
ab e ea ch gi e i de e de ce a d gi e m e i ie
be ma ci a d e e ai hich a e al ed highl b
medical ch l Ma de make he mi ake f d i g e ea ch
check a b ih de el i g a de a di g he jec he a e
ki g he me h d he a e e f mi g Be e de a d
ha a e d i g i he lab Thi i h i i im a ha e a
i e me h ca each ab he jec
A he i f e ea ch i cli ical If al ead had a
h icia a a academic i i i i i highl likel ha he
a ici a e i me f cli ical e ea ch Thi ge e all i l e cha
e ie a d da a c llec i a d a al i If hi i me hi g ae
m e i e e ed i ab l el a k if ca be i l ed
Ma ime de g ad a e e ea ch j b a e aid Thi i
fea ible f ma de ma ch l ha e g a a d f di g
i ie If ca immedia el fi d ch i ie email
he Academic Fell hi Re ea ch Fell hi de a me a
ch l I i al e fec l acce able le me k ha
ld like be c m e a ed Ma ch l al all a ici a e
i e ea ch f cla c edi if hi i f i e e L k f cla e
ha i l e Di ec ed Re ea ch a k academic ad i hich
a ea ca b ai e ea ch c edi ha ill c ib e ad
deg ee a d ec ime i ched le f e ea ch
Wha i a mme e ea ch p og am
Many universities, research institutes, governmental research entities,
or biotech pharmaceutical companies may offer summer research
programs. These programs are designed to provide undergraduate
students and or post baccalaureates with exposure to research. Most of
these programs will focus on biomedical or bench wet lab research, but
some may provide opportunities for clinical or social sciences research as
well. Programs hosted by universities are usually competitive, with
applications open to undergraduate students from any institution.
Generally, these programs range from eight to twelve weeks in length.
Many are paid opportunities! Often these programs may provide a small
stipend typically 3000 5000 , and some include room board as well.
However, the length, financial incentives, and housing situations vary
between programs, so be sure to check this out as you are applying to or
choosing a program. It is not unusual that these financial factors would
have a significant role in your deciding how you spend your time off from
school, but we hope that this guide can help you spend time in a fun,
resume building way that doesn t assume you can afford to support
yourself for months with no income.
Wh con ide a mme e ea ch p og am
Summer research programs can be a great way to gain exposure to
research not otherwise available at a student s home institution. For
some students, this might spark a long term interest in biomedical
research or confirm whether or not a research heavy track e.g.
MSTP,MD PhD, DO PhD is right for them. For example, a student who
has not previously been involved in research may choose to partake in a
summer research program to get their feet wet and try out a research
experience before seeking a longer term research experience during the
school year. Students uncertain about the role research will play in their
future medical careers might use summer research programs to better
assess their interest in research. Additionally, with many medical
schools informally requiring research as a part of the application
screening metrics, it is helpful to have an example of research to discuss
in your application and in interviews.
Similarly, for a student with prior research experience, a summer
research program can provide exposure to a different research group or
environment than their current or previous experiences. Importantly,
summer research programs can provide research experiences for
students enrolled as undergraduates at institutions with limited or
minimal research opportunities. When hosted by a governmental
research institute e.g. National Institutes of Health or Centers for
Disease Control or a pharmaceutical biotech company, a summer
research program can provide students with exposure to careers in
medicine and biomedical sciences outside the traditional academic or
private practice routes.
Summer research programs can also be a great time to try out a new
city or get the feel of a different type of university as you prepare to
decide where to go for medical school. Being comfortable and happy in
your environment can be vital to supporting your mental, emotional, and
physical health during the challenging times of medical school, so
summer research programs can be a great, short term way to learn
whether you can thrive in a large city vs. a smaller town, far from or near
to your family, at a small college vs. a large institution hospital network,
in a mild climate or changing seasons, etc. before you make a longer
commitment to spending your medical school years there!
Summer research programs can also be a great time and opportunity
for networking. These programs often provide ample exposure to faculty
at the host institution, and you can take this opportunity to get to know
these faculty, identify mentors, and make connections at schools you are
interested in applying to for medical school. The faculty you get to know
through summer research programs may often be able to provide advice
for you as you go through the application process, and you could also ask
them for letters of recommendation when you have a good experience in
a program or strong relationship with a certain faculty person!
Participation in a summer research experience can open doors to
other application boosting opportunities including clinical exposure,
presentation opportunities, and publications. Programs targeting those
interested in physician scientist training these are typically branded as
pre MSTP will often build in weekly clinical shadowing experiences into
the schedule. The student may shadow their research supervisor in the
clinic and have the chance to get to know patients with the disease they
are spending the summer studying, or the student may get to rotate
through multiple specialties. This depends on the program. Many
summer research programs hold a poster symposium at the end of the
program, allowing all participants to gain experience presenting their
research. Some participants even generate enough data to submit
abstracts of their work to national meetings, including undergraduate
targeted meetings such as the National Conference for Undergraduate
Research or professional, field specific meetings. Other participants may
even earn authorship on the publication. If earning authorship during a
summer research program is an individual s primary goal, the student
should make the research mentor aware of this early to increase the
likelihood of contributing to an established project more likely to be
published. Not only can you list participation in a competitive summer
research program on your application, but you may also end up including
the significant clinical shadowing experience, your oral or poster
presentations at national meetings, your supporting authorship on a
published manuscript, and a letter of recommendation from your
summer research mentor. Now that s a lot of bang for your buck!
Authors Carey Jansen and Jacelyn Peabody Lever, current MD PhD
students, included their participation in summer research programs as
one of their 3 most meaningful experiences on their applications to
medical school. Carey participated in the WFIRM Summer Scholars
Program as the Kiersten J Sump Fellow, and Jacelyn attended the UMN
Pre MSTP Summer Research Program.
The excerpts from their applications below show how one may leverage
this type of experience on a medical school or MD PhD application:
Carey Jansen s AMCAS entry about the WFIRM Summer Scholars
Program as the Kiersten J Sump Fellow:
Experience description: Under the mentorship of Dr. Christ, I
worked to stimulate regeneration of skeletal muscle to combat
volumetric muscle loss. The project uses a rodent model with
keratin hydrogel delivery systems. Relevant skills included
microtomy, cryotomy, immunohistochemistry, histology,
microscopy, aseptic technique, rodent surgery, rodent pre and
post operative care, functional testing evaluation through
electrostimulation , rodent euthanasia, and tissue explant.
IACUC AALAS training was completed. After 10 weeks, I
presented my work orally and in poster form. Additionally, my
work has contributed to abstracts presented at NCTERMS Oct
2013 , Society for Biomaterials Apr 2014 , and BMES Oct
2014 .Most meaningful experience remarks: My experience at
WFIRM was profoundly transformative. At the conclusion of
the summer, I had the incredible opportunity to meet the
mother of the young girl in whose memory my fellowship was
named. She was a source of great encouragement and wisdom. I
learned that her daughter, who had suffered from a congenital
heart condition, had aspired to be a cardiologist so that she
could fix her grandfather's ailing heart. Her mother told me
that she saw the same qualities in me that stirred the
establishment of the fellowship: the recognition that the
absence of symptoms does not constitute a cure and that
anyone can change the world. My time with her left a lasting
impact. I will not forget her wisdom and insight that
investment in research represents hope for the Kierstens of the
future. Coupling my summer of deeply engaged translational
research with Kiersten's spirit, I am renewed in my
commitment to the critical importance of biomedical research
and renewed in my dedication to serving through both science
and medicine as a physician scientist.

Jacelyn Peabody Lever s AMCAS entry for the UMN Pre MSTP Summer
Research Program:
Experience description: Investigated immunomodulation of
agmatine on macrophages in a Cystic Fibrosis CF
microbiology lab. Identified agmatine binding receptors on
macrophages to help elucidate how agmatine hypersecreting
Pseudomonas aeruginosa is interacting with the CF patient's
immune system. Discovered that agmatine induces lung
inflammation through 2 adrenoreceptors via intratracheal
injections into NFB reporter mice. Conduced ELISA on
agmatine stimulated macrophage supernatants to show role for
2 adrenoreceptors in agmatine response. Quantified 2
adrenoreceptor and 5HT 2C serotonin receptor expression
levels on macrophages following stimulation with varying
levels of LPS and agmatine via western blotting."
Most meaningful experience remarks: After realizing a passion
for the scientific process following my first research experience
studying phage, I became interested in pursuing a more
translational project. When I chose a small liberal arts college, I
was not interested in biomedical research, so I did not see the
limited biomedical research opportunities as an issue upon my
enrollment. However, after conducting basic science, bench
research for a year and falling in love with the process of
discovery, I knew that a summer research internship in
translational medicine would be beneficial to elucidating my
planned career trajectory. Working in the laboratory of a
physician scientist and shadowing him in his CF clinic, I
observed how perfectly the lab and clinic
complemented each other. My PI s research questions were
inspired by observations in the clinic and his practice was
improved by science. From this experience, I cemented my
dream to pursue academic medicine and have a career that
balances patient care, research, and teaching. I presented my
research at the All Campus Poster Session at University of
Minnesota, Midstates Consortium at Washington University,
St. Louis, the National Conference on Undergraduate Research
at University of Kentucky, Posters on the Hill in Washington
DC, and Celebration of Scholars at Carthage College. I was also
awarded the 2014 Intern of the Year.

Whe e can I find mme e ea ch p og am

Many of these opportunities can be found via web searches. The
AAMC maintains a list of summer research programs. The National
Institutes of Health keeps a similar list, and provides information about
their own summer program can be found here, while the National
Science Foundation s Research Experience for Undergraduates program
can be found here. maintains a list of opportunities as well,
including highlighting opportunities for NIH funded investigators to
apply for supplemental funding to support summer research experiences
for undergraduates in their laboratories.
Many university departments or career services offices may also
maintain lists of summer research opportunities both inside and outside
that university e.g. Cornell, University of Washington, Emory, Princeton,
Georgia Tech . Media sources may also publish information on summer
research experiences e.g. here in Scientific American or here by the
Journal of Young Investigators , and professional societies may keep a
database of opportunities related to that discipline area of study e.g.
here from the American Psychological Association or here from the
American Astronomical Society . An example of an industry sponsored
program is Amgen Scholars.
Wha ill I need o appl o mme e ea ch p og am
Much like applying to college, many applications for summer research
programs will require several components. Typically, programs will
require a personal statement, transcript, and letters of recommendation.
It can take a few weeks to gather all the necessary components of your
application, so give yourself enough time before the application
deadlines to submit a competitive application. The majority of summer
research program application deadlines fall between January and March
for programs in that calendar year. However, some programs will have
earlier or later deadlines. Most of the summer research programs are
competitive applications, so it would behoove you to apply to 8 12

Your program, national research organizations, and nearby

universities and or academic medical centers each have their own
unique sets of research positions and fellowships. Check carefully
wherever is conveniently located to you to see what opportunities await.
On the primary application you are given space to elaborate on your
personal statement currently called the Personal Comments section on
the AMCAS to the admissions committee. This is your opportunity to
tell your story, so don t be afraid to be personal this is about you! You
have 5,300 characters including spaces and some limited formatting to
communicate your motivations and show off how awesome you are.

The AAMC notes that this is a chance to answer questions like Why
have you selected the field of medicine? What motivates you to learn
more about medicine? What do you want medical schools to know about
you that hasn t been disclosed in other sections of the application? This
is not the time to give a summary of your resume that s what the other
sections are for. In addition, you may wish to include information such
as: unique hardships, challenges, or obstacles that may have influenced
your educational pursuits and comments on significant fluctuations in
your academic record that are not explained elsewhere in your
Many applicants find it helpful to anchor their personal comments
around a salient experience, narrative, or theme and describe life events
that have prepared them to be a future physician. Remember that the
personal comment is fair game during interviews, so be ready to talk
openly about the topic s you choose to include. If you don t have any
heroic stories about medicine, don t worry, you don t have to. Some
applicants try so hard to have a cool story to tell that they blow things
out of proportion and seem disingenuous. Honesty and personality are
key here, not dramatic narratives worthy of an episode of G e Ana om
Many topics in medicine can elicit strong feelings in ourselves and
others, and there are two very different schools of thought on how to
approach such topics in your personal statement and or interviews.
This part requires a caveat if your opinion would be controversial
because it entails denying anyone medical care they want for any
reason other than it goes against prevailing medical science: the rest of
this section does not apply to you. You should keep this to yourself
while you reevaluate the morality of this opinion.
On the one hand, the case could be made that any program that
would not accept you because of your views on abortion, for example,
is not a program you would want to be a part of. It can be exhausting to
be surrounded by people who don t share your values, and for many of
us, our values are powerfully incorporated into our individual identity.
To hide any element of that can feel like a betrayal of those values.
However, it can also be argued that it is more important to get
accepted than it is to shout all of your views from the metaphorical
mountaintops. You can t go be the amazing doctor you re meant to be
with these values and bring them into the field if you don t get
accepted into medical school, so some believe it is arguably not worth
it to miss out on that even if it requires silencing yourself to an extent.
Ultimately, we are not here to judge you for the way you prioritize
representing your beliefs in this process, and there is no single right
answer we can bring you. You will simply have to weigh how
important it is to you to represent everything regardless of any
professional blowback you might face.
Don t write it all at once give yourself time to think through all
the topics you could write about, and don t procrastinate
Write about your passions: what makes you unique? Where do
you see yourself in your future career? How have your
experiences informed who you are and prepared you to be a
Make a few different drafts: you may have to try different
strategies to write about the same topic use anecdotes, try
different examples
Trust your gut: ultimately this is what you want to say about
yourself, so stay true to that
It s ok to write about something emotional: it can be a good idea
to be vulnerable and show how this plays into your desire to
become a physician. Tread carefully between telling your
authentic story and seeming melodramatic, or implying
anything problematic.
Be careful with what an anecdote might communicate about
you, and that it isn t overly cliche. It s awesome that the kind
emergency medicine doctor who helped your grandma after she
fell made you first interested in medicine, but unfortunately
things like that have become so common that admissions
committee members joke about that type of story. Further, be
wary of making a narrative sound more impressive than it
actually was. If you spend ⅔ of your personal statement talking
about how impactful it was to work with blind orphans in
Guatemala, it would be concerning for the admissions
committee to then see you were only there for a three day
mission trip because you likely didn t actually do very much in
such a short time and it makes it seem that you re really having
to stretch the truth to sound interested in medicine.
Find some people in your life who know you to get some eyes on your
draft. Emphasize what you want them to focus on, because some people
will be better at telling you if your draft sounds like you, and others are
better at editing for spelling/grammar/flow. It is ok to go through several
drafts! You want to show the best of yourself, and it is very difficult to do
that in one try. Write something, and then give yourself a few days
without looking at the draft before you go yourself and read it again with
fresh eyes. You may also want to keep sentences or anecdotes that you
decide to not use for your personal statement in a separate document
because it might be better for your secondaries, or for interviews.
Communicating with schools: when, why, how
Secondary applications
A B ief O e ie f he AMCAS ACOMAS A lica i Ti eli e

As you will most likely be submitting applications to many

schools, it is important to stay organized and on top of your
deadlines. One way to do this is to create a spreadsheet of your
schools and their associated materials and deadlines. Using the
"filter" tool in Microsoft Excel, you can organize your schools by
deadline and prioritize by which is due first.

Here is an example of an Excel spreadsheet to organize schools from
author Carina Seah:

The number one mistake that students make is not sending their
applications in a timely manner.   Your primary application materials
should be ready before the submission date opens. We strongly
recommend you submit everything the day the primary application
opens, or at least within the first two weeks of the application opening.
Once interview invitation slots are filled, they’re filled, and you don’t
want to not get one just because your application was too late for them
to see how great you are.

We can divide communication with programs into two phases with

different expectations: pre-interview and post-interview. This section
will focus on pre-interview communications; post-interview will be
discussed later on.
The name of the game with medical school applications is “the
sooner the better.” Things come up, but try your best to stay on top of
your applications and travel arrangements to avoid any emergencies.
When calling, check normal office hours. When emailing, be
cognizant of any upcoming holidays that might disrupt a timely
answer. Typical etiquette is (for non-time sensitive matters, for which
calling is best): if you haven't heard back in a week, re-send the email.

The admissions staff exists not only to select the next M1 class from
among applicants, but also to help people become applicants. If you
have an ad i i ela ed question that you can’t find the answer to
on the school’s website or in any emails or documents they have sent
you as part of your application, reach on out. If the question isn’t
admissions-related, it can wait until interview day.

Special note: some students, upon hearing that secondary

applications for a program they’ve applied to have been sent out to
some people but not yet to them, opt to contact the program to
reiterate their strong interest. If you haven’t heard from them anyway,
then perhaps you have nothing to lose and an interview to gain by
reaching out.

Assume that everyone you interact with at a program could impact

your admission decision. The person answering your phone call
deserves your respect and good manners as much as the admissions
director themselves, so act accordingly. For non-urgent matters, just
send an email so staff can answer it when it is most convenient, or refer
the question to someone else if necessary. Double check for typos, the
correct spelling/title/salutation of the person you are contacting, and
that your question is clear. For urgent or complicated matters, call so
that it can be worked out more efficiently.

A secondary application is a second application that is offered by
schools that have decided to evaluate your candidacy further. Note that
these vary across schools--some will just ask for some clarifying
information, while many will expect several additional short essays. It
can be daunting to complete these, because they typically come around
the same time and require quite a bit of writing; but there are ways for
you to prepare yourself in advance for success!
Work smarter, not harder: try to group the essays into “themes”
(example of failure, example of teamwork, diversity/working with
someone different than you, why are you interested in this school)
and then be strategic in identifying where there is overlap between
applications. One way is to write the shortest essay about a
particular topic first, and then use this as a starting point for
drafting longer versions for applications that allow you more
Picking what to write about: In advance, come up with a list of
anecdotes or topics that you can write about for your own
experiences (this will also be useful for interviews). You don’t want
to be redundant with your personal statement because this is an
opportunity to show something new about yourself.
Be creative:  Look around for some inspiration for examples of traits
that you may not have thought of initially. Check the AAMC Core
Competencies, ask your mom, ask someone who worked with you
on that volunteer project you did. With the amount of work most
pre-meds have done before applying, it’s easy for things to blur

Stick to the limit: Keep the word/character limit in mind as you
are writing so that you don’t have to spend a lot of time cutting
out words just to get back under the limit. Use the limit as a
way of determining how much detail you can go into and what
information you should prioritize.
Consider pre-writing your essays: you can find the prompts for
some schools online which can make it easier to start planning
what you might be writing about. Start brainstorming, writing
outlines, finding overlap between applications and then start
writing! Remember there is often a lag between submitting
your primary and receiving a secondary application so use this
time efficiently. Even if the topic ends up not being the same to
a previous year, you can probably still end up using what you
wrote for another school’s application or for interviews.

Secondary applications can be sent at any point after your submit

your primary application. If you apply by the priority deadline (usually
in June) do not expect to get a secondary application until July. If you
apply later, then the secondary can arrive any time after that. Some
schools will wait until other parts of your application are in before
sending a secondary while others send requests almost immediately
through an automated screening process. For this reason, it is very
important to be checking your email consistently and to check your
spam folder. Some people recommend submitting a secondary
application within two weeks of receiving the email; this is not a hard
rule but it gives you a sense for how quickly you may have to turn these
around. That being said, do not rush through these applications! It is
more important to spend time and make sure you have edited

Other considerations:
There is a cost associated with secondary applications, so you
will have to plan accordingly (some schools do offer fee waivers
in specific circumstances)
Typically you will be copying and pasting your essay into an
answer box, so double check your formatting and spacing
Check each school’s application website for details about when
they send out secondary applications and when their final
application deadlines are
Stay organized--this will help you set goals and priorities to
stay on track. Try using a spreadsheet to track your status for
each school:

School Name
Primary Submitted
Secondary Received
Secondary Topics and limits
Secondary drafted
Secondary submitted
Interview Offer
Follow-up Correspondence

Interview Day: MD, DO, MD PhD
Making the most of informal sessions
Advice for interviews with current students
Interview red flags
Interviewing on a budget
Post interview correspondence
Many schools still use the traditional interview format. In this
format, candidates sit with admissions team members and speak about
their experiences and goals in a small setting. The person interviewing
you could be a practicing physician, a professor, a researcher, or a
medical student. The traditional interview typically lasts a 30 minutes
to one hour.
The content of these interviews can vary significantly, but be
prepared to tell your story: why do you want to be a doctor? What
inspires you? What future do you envision for yourself? Some may ask
about challenges in healthcare. They do not expect you to have an
MPH, but they may expect that you have some thoughts on challenges
such as caring for un or under insured patients, diminishing
reimbursements to physicians, the burnout epidemic, etc. Still others
ask questions such as these, or some other unexpected question to see
how you react to things you weren t able to prepare your script for.
You should be able to talk about what specialty you might be thinking
about, if there is one. No one expects you to stick to that, but it shows
you have at least thought about it. If you have done research, be
prepared to talk about it succinctly and coherently. If you cannot, that
will be a red flag suggesting you weren t actually really involved in the
work. Some interviewers will ask questions about life, and may ask
about your biggest personal challenges and successes. Do not shy away
from talking about important, meaningful experiences you have had; a
superficial response may be read as you having lack of insight or
maturity. Even if you made a huge mistake or encountered a major
obstacle in your path, showing how you overcame that and learned
from it shows your ability to manage adversity and can impress the
interviewer. In many cases, the interviewers are the ones you represent
who you are as a person to the admissions committee. You want to give

that person the tools he or she needs to be an advocate for you.
Some schools use blinded interviews, in which case the interviewer
may know nothing about you besides what you tell them during the
interview. Even when schools do not use blinded reviewers, sometimes
interviewers have not had a chance to fully review your file. That means
you need to be able to summarize your whole application in a very brief
statement. If you think through that in advance, you won t be stunned
when the person gives you the dreaded Tell me about yourself. A great
response to that question includes some personal information, such as
where you grew up and where you live now, as well as what you
consider to be the most important, relevant details of your application.
The latter might be any organizations you have worked with,
meaningful work you have done, impact you have made on others, etc.
In addition to knowing the ins and outs of your application, be
prepared to speak about the things that make you unique outside of
academics and the experiences listed in AMCAS. Interviewers often
want to get to know you as a person, not just as a future medical
student. What are your hobbies? What do you do with family and
friends? How do you relieve stress? How do you plan to keep
participating in these activities as a medical student? This shows time
management and maturity, as well as makes you a more personable
applicant. We so often forget that we are a whole person, not a robot
boxed into the world of medicine, and it s some interviewers top
priority to get to the root of who you are.
Most interviewers will give you an opportunity to ask questions. Be
prepared for this, and reserve questions for later in the day. These
questions show that you have thought about the school and any
opportunities or challenges you foresee there. If you know who your
interviewers are in advance, you can use this opportunity to ask
questions about their ideas or careers. If you can look up the
interviewers in advance and prepare two or three questions for each,
you will be able to fill the time and also show interest.

Here are some common interview questions you will want to prepare
What has been the biggest challenge you have faced so far?
Tell me about yourself.
What are you most proud of?
Why do you want to be a doctor?
What do you think is the biggest challenge facing physicians
Tell me about your research/clinical exposure/other broad
categories of activities.
What is your biggest strength?
What is your biggest weakness?
Tell me about a time when you made a mistake.
Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
How would your friends describe you?
Have you ever disagreed with other people you are working
with? If so, how did you resolve the disagreement?
How will you manage your interests outside of medicine
with a career in medicine?
Are you interested in doing research?
What questions do you have about our institution?
Why would you want to leave wherever you currently
live ?
If your best friend described you in three words, what
would they be?
You ve shadowed a number of physicians. What are traits
you saw in these physicians that you would like to emulate
in your future career? What are things you saw that you
wouldn t want to do?

Some interviewers may ask inappropriate indeed, illegal questions
about your plans to have a family. You do not need to answer those
questions, and you may want to consider whether you want to go to a
school where people ask those questions. How you handle the question
will depend on your comfort, but you can always say something like, I
intend to focus on learning as much as I possibly can during medical
school, or, I am committed to being the best physician I can possibly

The MMI is an interview format consisting of more short interviews

in replace of a traditional interview format. Applicants typically rotate
between eight to ten rooms. In front of each room, there is a prompt
that will explain what is inside the room and what you are expected to
do for this section of the interview.
You will often have two minutes outside the room to read the
prompt and gather your thoughts. Some schools allow you to take notes
on given scratch paper during this time. At other schools, you may not
take notes.
Upon entering the room, there will be a member of the admissions
process. This could be an admissions officer or faculty member, but at
some schools, this is a former patient or a member of the community.
You will have approximately eight minutes inside the room to discuss
the prompt or complete the activity.
The MMI has been adopted by many schools for the following
It allows candidates to be evaluated by a larger number of
people, reducing the chance of an interview resting on
whether you happen to click with your interviewer
It allows schools to choose scenarios that they care most
about. For example, a school that highly values research
might ask you to discuss what kind of evidence a doctor
might need to adopt a practice, and a school that values
advocacy and policy may ask you to evaluate current
governmental healthcare policies.
It can decrease the role bias plays in selection.

Keep in mind that different programs have different types of
interviews, and that not every MMI will use all or any of these room

1. Ethical scenario
Sample question A patient comes to you with a terminal disease
wishing to only pursue alternative medical treatments. How would you
counsel the patient?

Here, the admissions committee is looking to see how well you can
think on your feet to consider an ethical issue and approach it from
multiple angles. It is important to understand that there are MANY
answers you can give, and oftentimes there is no "right" answer,
because the point isn t to see if you know the right answer.They want
to see that you understand the complexity of issues and can
communicate these intricacies well.

In most MMI rooms, there will be one admissions member sitting

across from you. At some schools, the admissions member is instructed
not to respond to you and not to speak back. At other schools, the
admissions member will actively ask you questions and continue the
conversation. A good tip is to ASK beforehand. At every school, there
will be a quick explanation session as to how the MMI works. This is a
good time to ask if you should expect the admissions member to ask
you questions or if you should prepare to spend the time answering the
question yourself unprompted.

In the time allocated for you to read the prompt, take your time to read
it. Two minutes should be more than enough time to go over it slowly
and gather your thoughts. First, figure out if anything is unclear. If you
are confused about the wording of something or feel like you need
additional information, you should absolutely ask the admissions
committee member inside the room. Some questions you might want

to ask for this sample question are as follows: Has the patient alread
been full educated about the current standard of care or Does the patient
have an religious or cultural beliefs that are informing their desires Not
only will this help clarify the situation for you, it also shows you have
put some thought into the specific information you would need to
approach this question as a doctor.

Next, center your thoughts around a general idea. Here, your idea might
be I ill ensure the patient has been adequatel educated or tr to educate
the patient to m best abilit and after this the ultimate choice is up to
them Now, gather examples or reasons you believe this. Compelling
examples can be drawn from experiences you have had or articles you
have read. One example here may be, While I as shado ing e had to
spend a lot of time educating patients about things the had read on the
internet I found hat as most effective to navigate these discussions as to
be non confrontational never treat the patient like ou kne better than
them and al a s approach it from the perspective of anting the best
outcome for the patient Bringing your personal thoughts and
experiences makes for a much more compelling discussion.

2. Group Teamwork Activity

Sample scenario You are paired with another student. You are given a
simple picture to draw and the other student will have a blank sheet
and a pen. You will sit on opposite sides of the room and cannot look at
each other, but may verbally communicate with each other. You must
explain the picture so that your partner successfully draws it on their
sheet of paper. You will have five minutes to complete the drawing and
three minutes to evaluate your communication with members of the
admissions committee.

The purpose of this room is to evaluate how well you work in a team,
how you think on your feet, and how effective a communicator you are.
Keep in mind that you can be either the giver, giving instructions in
this room, or the receiver, who receives and must follow the

instructions. The committee is looking for candidates who are
thoughtful and clear, and can also take into consideration what the
other person needs to be successful. Remember that the goal is NOT to
finish the puzzle. It is better to do a good job slowly and effectively
communicating your way through than to panic and feel like you will
not get done. Oftentimes, the puzzles are not solvable in five minutes,
because again, the point is not to finish the puzzle, but rather to see
how you approach it.

Some tips for this room are to think about being as clear as you possibly
can. What information does the other person need? Make sure you are
constantly checking in with the other person and clarifying. For
example, if you are the giver, asking something like, Can ou describe
hat ou have in front of ou helps give you an idea of where to begin.
As the receiver, saying, Just to clarif that s a straight line to ards the
right so no I have a square helps explain to the giver where you are at.
Providing the big picture is also a good idea, such as We are going to be
dra ing a rabbit or Ne t e ill be dra ing the ears

The last three minutes of the room will be spent talking about your
communication and reflecting on what you could have done better. Try
to think of something you think you did well, something you could have
improved on, and then compliment your partner on one thing they did
well and suggest one thing they could have improved on. This can be
specific, ie, When e dre the heel I think ou could have been more clear
about ho big it should have been or general, like, I appreciated ho ou
gave me the big picture before starting each ne task

3. Actor
Sample Scenario You are a rotating medical student. On your last
rotation, the attending used a racial slur that you felt was
inappropriate. You want to address this with him. He is in the room.

This room aims to test your communication skills. Inside the room will
be an actor who will play the role indicated in the scenario. You should
expect the actor to respond to what you say. Think about how you
would approach this situation in real life. Put yourself into the scenario
and pretend that the actor is a real person.

Here, the admissions committee is looking to see how you approach a

challenging social scenario. Remember that here, listening is just as
important as what you say. In fact, what the actor says will give you
insight as to how to respond. Don t spend too much time on small talk,
and get right into the issue, then take cues from the actor as to how to

One tip is to use as much collaborative language as possible. Rather

than accusatory second person language ie, instead of you focused
statements, try to use we . So for the example above, saying something
like We value inclusivit and diversit and I believe that e can do a better
job using more inclusive language It might be helpful to focus on "I"
statements. eg: When ou said insert statement I felt insert feeling
This concerns me because

Another good example for how to tackle an actor scenario is provided


4. Rest Station
Most MMIs will have a rest station where you can use the bathroom
and grab a drink of water. Use this time to relax and mentally prepare
for the next station! Once each station has ended, let it be over. Don t
carry worries about what you should ve done differently into the next

5. Traditional Interview
Some schools will have a traditional interview built into the MMI
rotations. This could be just for one rotation, or take up a double
rotation slot which would be an 18 minute interview . This is
conducted like a regular traditional interview where you are expected
to go over your experiences and your goals with a member of the
admissions team.

6. Writing Prompt
Some schools may also include a writing station. This will include a
prompt at a computer, and the same time alloted for the speaking
interviews. There is not the time to go back and change your mind, so
choose an idea and run with it!

Always introduce yourself! There is no need to rush straight

into answering the question.
You don't need to use up the whole time if you are satisfied
with your answer; you won't be penalized for that. Sometimes,
a shorter but more thoughtful answer is better than a
rambling, long answer.
Before leaving the room, thank the interviewer for their time,
the same way you would at the end of a traditional interview.
At some schools, you are permitted to bring a watch inside,
which may help you structure your two minutes of
brainstorming. Or, it may stress you out! Try it both ways to
see how you feel about it. Keep in mind, though, that some
schools do NOT permit watches.

The first thing you should do is go over some practice questions.
Some resources for this are below. Take some time and go over them. It
may help to write out a list:
1. Things you should consider or questions you have after reading the
2. The main point you want to get across
3. Personal experiences anecdotes that will help support your answer
to the question
4. Other evidence you can use to help support your answer
5. Other perspectives on the issue
6. After you ve done this for a few questions, try it out verbally. Can you
structure a coherent discussion on this without writing anything
7. Make sure you try this out with a timer. It helps to feel how long two
minutes of brainstorming is, and how long eight minutes of talking is.

10 MMI sample questions

MMI practice questions from a Canadian Medical school
The University of Minnesota s MMI presentation given during the
interview is available online here. It provides an example of how the
MMI works at this school, including how the rotations are set up, with
sample questions.

When interviewing for a DO school, recognize that it will be very
similar to MD school interviews. You are interviewing for med school
either way. The interview format will still vary based on the school and
the schedule will be similar to most MD school interviews.
However, there are a few themes that come up in most DO school
1. Ethical Critical thinking question: you may be asked a hypothetical
ethical question scenario for a holistic review of the applicant.
However, most schools aren t paying attention to the answer itself
as long as it isn t horrific so much as they are paying attention to
your ability to think through a complex question with no
preparation. They want to know that you can think through a
complex problem in a time sensitive situation, as well as verbalize
your thought process.
2. Question about DO philosophy: most DO schools will ask you why
you applied to a DO school. Make sure to have an answer for this
that is more than just stating I agree with the philosophy and
definitely not anything remotely like Because my GPA was too low
for MD schools. A good tip is to look up the school s mission
statement before the interview and plan to answer relative to this
statement. There is no wrong answer besides an inauthentic
3. Holistic review: know that DO schools will tend to look at your
whole application rather than just your scores. They will also ask
you about all parts of your application, so be prepared to talk about
all materials that you submitted in your application. To do this,
make sure to review your application beforehand so you remember
what you submitted.
It is important to be prepared for all medical school interviews, but
hopefully, these tips will help you do the extra preparation required for
a DO program.

Most MD PhD interviews consist of a medical school interview
which could be MMI or a traditional interview with multiple
additional research interviews with researchers structured like a
traditional interview as described above . The interviewer will likely
ask you to describe your research experience and ask in depth
questions about your research. They will also ask you why you want an
MD PhD, rather than just an MD or a PhD. One common question I
was asked that you should consider is that, as an MD PhD, you are
splitting your time between two professions, yet have to compete with
individuals doing one or the other full time. What will you bring to the
table that is unique once you enter the field as a physician scientist?

To prepare for this interview, here are some questions to consider:

What research do you do?
How independent were you in working on this project?
Explain a time when your research experiment failed.
What did you do next?
If you still had another two years to work on the same
project, what experiment s would you want to do next?
Explain to me how technique X that you used works.
What research topics are you excited about that you want
to learn more about?
Why do you want an MD PhD as opposed to just an MD or
just a PhD? What unique perspective will you have?
If I say hypothetical situation X , what information
would you want to know or what experiment would you do
next to explore this further?

Be sure to be able to talk about your research comfortably and be OK

with not knowing the answer to a question. A good strategy if you are
caught off guard by a question is to be honest, say “I am not sure,” and
then continue with information you do know related to their question
like "I know that xyz occurs in this context so perhaps something similar
would happen…" or “I would need to get background information into

xyz and that would help me answer your question because..." You don't have
to have all the answers but you should be able to talk about your
science and show that you can think on your feet.
This interview is also an opportunity to talk to Principal
Investigators PIs about their work, so be sure to look up their recent
papers projects and have a few questions prepared about what they are
currently working on. Background reading is a must with these
interviews. Some PIs will want to have a general conversation about
what they do, while others may have slides of data to show you.

The informal sessions presented during interview day and or the

evening before provide the main opportunity for you to ask questions of
current students. These can consist of student led tours, lunches, pre
interview dinners socials, etc. For the most part, these students are
eager to help you with your decision, whether it be to attend their
school or not. Note that these questions are usually best asked one on
one with a student, rather than with an administrator or faculty
member. Some sample questions you may want to ask:
What is your class schedule like? Is it lecture based, group
work, etc?
Are you able to stream classes from home or watch them later?
Is class attendance required?
How much clinical exposure do you have in M1 M2?
How prepared did you feel to take Step 1?
What has your experience been with finding mentors?
How competitive is your class with each other?
What kind of global opportunities exist for medical students?
How affordable is it to live here?
What is the diversity of the patient population you serve?
What are some activities you enjoy in this city?
How supportive are your faculty? Are they accessible?
What is your favorite thing about this program?
If you had to change one thing, what would it be?
This is also a great chance to see how these students interact with
each other and what the dynamics of their class are. Would you want to
be a part of a group of students who interact with each other in that way?
Oftentimes, a school attracts the same types of people each year, and the
interactions that you will have should you go there would be quite

Growing numbers of schools have also begun to offer interviews with

current students of the program. These students selected to do such
interviews are vetted by the office of admissions at their institutions
and, if correctly utilized, can be an advocate for you in the admissions
process. There are many things to consider when looking at the student
interview. The first question is, should you take the opportunity? These
interviews are typically not mandatory but can often be a useful way to
share more about yourself as an individual and candidate. If you have
the time and the opportunity, we say go for it! Current students who
conduct the interviews will typically submit a rubric or statement to the
admissions committee about the conversation and, most importantly, an
assessment of whether you will be an appropriate fit for the institution.
Please note that there are institutions that have student interviewers as
a more formal part of their interview day, and the opinion of these
students is weighed equally with that of the faculty member to make an
admission decision.

Current student interviews allow for candidates to get a behind the
scenes look of what a student at the school is like. Student interviews
will generally be more casual, but do not make the mistake that you
shouldn t put your all into the interview. They will typically ask similar
questions to traditional interviews including: what makes you
interested in this institution? Why did you apply to medical school over
any other professional schools? Why are you interested in going to
school in this area? What extracurriculars have you done and how does
it make you a better medical school candidate?. With that in mind, be
mindful about unnecessary embellishments or exaggerations.
Although tempting, student interviewers typically have a better
understanding of the extracurriculars on your application, and have
recently gone through the process. Some schools give these
interviewers access to your AMCAS personal statement and
extracurricular statements, so be prepared to be asked about the
nuances of your application.
Student interviewers also will offer you the opportunity to ask
questions. This is a perfect time to get a better understanding about
student culture, the atmosphere of the institution, etc. Although they
will answer honestly, be aware that these interviewers may share the
content of your questions. Save your most informal questions for the
students who will run your tour join you for lunch. Often the
interviewing student is on clinical rotations where as students who
join tours and meals are in their pre clinical years. Consider this when
deciding what questions to ask which people.
A current student interview is a unique opportunity to allow the
program to learn more about you, while in turn to give you a chance to
learn about their current students. If you discuss your interests,
activites, and passions enthusiastically and genuinely, these
interviewers can be an incredible advocate for your acceptance. Giving
institutions more information about you and all the ways you are
unique is rarely detrimental to your application!

While we of course hope that everything will run smoothly on your
interview day, sometimes unfortunate situations arise. In general, any
situation that makes you uncomfortable not just interview day
nervousness can be a red flag about a program. Some of these red flags
can be well intentioned blunders, like faculty only wanting to talk
about themselves. Some are more serious and should definitely be
watched out for. The likelihood of encountering one of these more
serious scenarios is not high, but we want to make sure you understand
what options you have if something does happen.
On the more innocuous side, sometimes faculty or even students will
spend the entire interview talking about themselves, or only addressing
one aspect of your application and not getting to a comprehensive view
of who you are as an applicant. In this instance, there are a couple ways
to delicately steer the conversation back to where you want it to be. You
an use something your interviewer is saying as a jumping off point to
discuss an impressive aspect of your application. Alternatively, if your
interviewer is only talking about themselves, asking questions about
their career and role in medical education can show you re engaged in
the conversation and interested in them, and by extension in that
program. If they re researchers, asking questions about their work can
also show your curiosity and is also a great chance to tie the
conversation back to some previous experiences you ve had i.e. have
you ever tried ? Because when I was in lab we observed . .
There are also specific lines of conversation interviewers are usually
told are off limits things like what other schools you re applying to,
where else you ve interviewed, or if you ve been accepted anywhere.
While these are illegal questions, unfortunately some interviewers
will still ask them outright or will hint at wanting to know. There are
several different ways to go about addressing this situation: one option,
if you re comfortable with it, is outright telling them that you don t
want to answer the question and or that you know they re not allowed
to ask that. However, if you re uncomfortable being that direct, you can
also give a vague non answer, like, I m applying to a wide range of

programs in a lot of different states. Usually when an interviewer realizes
they re not going to get a straight answer to these questions, they don t
push it.
Another line of illegal questioning that is important to address is
interviewers asking applicants, especially female presenting applicants,
whether or not they want a family or how they plan to balance career and
family or in any other way implying that an applicant s desire to have a
family would conflict with their medical career for what it s worth, it is
possible to do both . This occurs with increasing regularity if the
interviewer knows you are married and or already have a child or children.
How you answer this type of questioning is up to you, but giving a vague
answer, like I plan to focus on learning as much as I can in medical
school, or I am committed to being the best physician I can possibly be,
can be a good way to politely but firmly end that line of questioning.
Whether or not you report these instances is always up to you usually the
admissions coordinator has told all interviewers to not ask about these
topics, and so would like to know if someone who regularly interviews for
them is ignoring that guidance. Additionally, if an interviewer makes you
uncomfortable by pressing one of these lines of questioning, that
information can also be included in a report to the coordinator if you re
comfortable disclosing that. While we don t anticipate this regularly
occurring in any interviews, an egregious violation of professionalism or of
the ethical interview practices could be reported to the AAMC.
So how does this all affect your decision making process? Ultimately,
your interview day is a time to show off to schools all the reasons why they
should accept you, but it s also a good time to start evaluating whether or
not a program would be a good fit for you. Any of these aforementioned red
flags could make you want to rethink whether or not a school is
somewhere you d like to attend. However strongly you weigh any of these
is ultimately up to you. Sometimes interviewers act against the best
guidance they ve been given by the school. Sometimes people just have a
bad day and don t seem very welcoming or ask you good questions.
However, if something an interviewer says makes you uncomfortable,
that s a valid reason to reconsider whether a program is a good fit for you.
Additionally, if you see multiple red flags, that might be a sign that there s
a more systemic cultural problem at that school. Red flag behaviors also

aren t limited to just faculty current students also can provide a very
good window into what your life would be like at that school, and
whether or not you should consider it. If they seem unhappy with their
curriculum or the way things are run more so than you d expect from
just someone having a bad week then that might be a sign you don t
want to attend. Even if you just get an indescribable bad vibe from the
students or interviewers, that is a completely valid factor to consider
when you re making your decision.

The medical school interview trail can be an expensive process.
Typically, the more schools you apply to the more expensive that
process will be. However, there are a few key strategies for you to
implement in order to cut down the cost of medical school interviews:
T an o a ion Travel costs can easily drive up your total expenses.
But you can keep your travel costs down if you plan ahead.
Scheduling your medical school interviews in blocks based on
geography will save you airfare, bus fare, or gas money. The less back
and forth travel you need to do the better. For instance, if you live in
NYC and plan to interview in the Midwest, try to schedule the
Midwest interviews for the same week. One plane trip will likely be
cheaper than multiple. Another way to cut down on costs of
transportation is to use buses when feasible. Bus companies such at
BoltBus or Megabus often have one way fares for as low as 1 each
way. Though the bus will likely take much longer than a flight, if
your schedule is flexible and allows for the additional travel time,
consider using this cost efficient alternative. When booking your
travel, weigh driving vs. flying. Is your car reliable enough for a 10
hour drive? Is that preferable to a 250 plane ticket cost, once you
factor in gas money and time spent on travel? If you fly, remember to
check multiple websites to get a good price. Also consider airports
that are near ish, if the price difference will be large. Plane tickets
tend to be cheapest 52 days ahead of the date of travel, and
cheapest when purchased on a Tuesday or a Wednesday afternoon.
Lodging Hotel fees quickly add up as hotel costs usually start
around 80 per night. Staying with friends or family is a great
budget friendly housing option for medical school interviews. You
give yourself the opportunity to catch up with friends or relatives.
Even more, family and friends are likely to feed you for free, which is

a two for one cost savings. Most schools will offer a program where
you are able to spend the night before the interview with a current
medical student, usually a first or second year. Not only is this a
great way to save money, but it s also an opportunity to ask
questions to someone who will not be interviewing you and will
have no stake in your acceptance. You re able to get the most honest
feedback in this setting, and the students volunteer to host, which
means they re usually very friendly. If staying with a student at the
program is unavailable, you have lots of other options. AirBNBs are
often going to be cheaper than a hotel room, but be sure to carefully
factor in how much farther you will need to travel to get to your
interview to avoid issues. Even cheaper than rentals by owner are
websites like CouchSurfer. Also see if you have any friends or family
in the area, even if you haven t talked to them in a while!
Food: You will inevitably have to eat on your medical school
interview trail. Airport food and restaurant stops for meals are a
quick way to spend a lot of money. Though it will likely be
impossible to avoid eating out altogether, you can cut down on the
cost of food by packing snacks or homemade meals for your
travels.Clothes You don t need to have a new outfit for each medical
school interview. In fact, it is quite common for applicants to rewear
the same outfit throughout the medical school interview process.
Discount department stores like Ross, TJ Maxx, or Burlington often
carry great designer suits at affordable prices. Second hand stores
like Buffalo Exchange are also great to check out for affordable
interview attire. Finally, check with your undergraduate institution,
as many have professional closets you can borrow from.

The thank you note is a subtle, underappreciated art. It s hard to
know how much it affects anything the admissions process, but
thanking people for their time is rarely a bad idea either way. Most of
the people you encounter during your interview will be volunteering
their time.
When crafting a cute and personalized thank you note or a quick and
eco friendly thank you email, there are several opportunities to take
advantage of in addition to thanking those awesome people for
volunteering their time and hopefully singing your praises to the
admissions committee. This is a way to stay salient in an interviewer s
mind; they meet a lot of people, and probably interviewed several
people even just in the day they met you. It is also a way to reconnect
from afar by bringing up something positive from your interview: an
aspect of the program that impressed you i ea d eh
dedica ed The Be P g a E e i ca i g f de e ed c i ie ,
a hobby you connected over I ea e j ed di c i g ic c i g i h
, or even an element of their career you admired c i e
g a ack ec c i e ge ie a i e i e .
All of this shows you were 1 paying attention, 2 are nice, and
maybe even 3 are insightful. Plus, you thanked someone who gave
their time to you when they didn t have to, so that s all good. Keep it
short and sweet. If you don t get a response especially to a paper card ,
don t take it personally. Different programs have different policies
about what they are allowed to send to you in the way of post interview
correspondence. Some may write even if you don t reach out to offer
to answer any questions you still have, and whether or not you actually
had any more questions: come up with some if someone offers to
answer them. Positive interactions like that are important to utilize
plus you ll get to learn more about a program you re presumably
interested in, which could help you decide if it s the right one for you.

AAMC Policy on Holding Acceptances
The Waitlist
Application Updates
AAMC Policies for Schools
Second Look
Factors to Consider
Declaring Deposit
After interviewing, it is possible that the admission committee
will vote to place you on a waitlist. This is not a rejection and many
candidates are accepted off of waitlists to various schools. You may
be accepted or rejected off of a waitlist any time up until August, but
most schools finalize their classes by July. The majority of waitlist
movement occurs starting May 1st, when accepted students must
narrow down their decisions to just one school. Keep in mind that
you must narrow down your accepted offers to one school by the
April 30th deadline but may remain on any waitlists. Once you
commit to enroll at a school, you must withdraw all waitlist offers
and may no longer be considered on a waitlist.
Different schools have different procedures for waitlisted
applicants. Some schools will not consider any updates and will ask
that you do not contact them. Other schools may ask for updates
monthly, or even biweekly. Regarding potentially moving from
waitlisted to matriculated, some schools have the list in a rank
order, and as spots in the rising class open they will be offered to the
waitlist in the order of that rank. Note, this rank has already been
made prior to any updates. Others will keep the waitlist as a pool to
select from each time as spots open up in the rising class, and so
application updates may play a pivotal role. If it is not clear what
the policy of a school is, do not hesitate to ask.

After interviewing, it is possible that the admission committee will
vote to place you on a waitlist. This is not a rejection and many
candidates are accepted off of waitlists to various schools. You may be
accepted or rejected off of a waitlist any time up until August, but most
schools finalize their classes by July. The majority of waitlist movement
occurs starting May 1st, when accepted students must narrow down
their decisions to just one school. Keep in mind that you must narrow
down your accepted offers to one school by the April 30th deadline but
may remain on any waitlists. Once you commit to enroll at a school,
you must withdraw all waitlist offers and may no longer be considered
on a waitlist.
Different schools have different procedures for waitlisted applicants.
Some schools will not consider any updates and will ask that you do not
contact them. Other schools may ask for updates monthly, or even
biweekly. Regarding potentially moving from waitlisted to
matriculated, some schools have the list in a rank order, and as spots in
the rising class open they will be offered to the waitlist in the order of
that rank. Note, this rank has already been made prior to any updates.
Others will keep the waitlist as a pool to select from each time as spots
open up in the rising class, and so application updates may play a pivotal
role. If it is not clear what the policy of a school is, do not hesitate to ask.

If a school asks for updates, you should send regular emails

reaffirming your interest in the school and updating the school about
any activities you are involved in. Important updates include, but are not
limited to: newly accepted publications, awards or honors,
presentations, submitted abstracts, outreach events, employment. You
may spend a sentence or two thanking the school for their continued
consideration of your candidacy and confirming that you are still
interested in the school, then discuss any updates.

One common update many waitlisted students send is a Letter of
Intent. This should be sent only to the school where you would
matriculate if given an offer. In the letter, you should express your
intent to matriculate if given the opportunity, and provide reasons why
that is the one school you have chosen. You may choose to include any
updates to your application in this letter as well. The reason programs
might like this is because they want any extended admissions offers to
be accepted, so they know from this that if they were to send you one
that you would accept it.
Some schools also will allow additional letters of recommendation to
be submitted. This can be helpful especially if you have worked closely
with a new faculty member, physician, etc within the time since you
submitted your primary application. Follow the same guidelines for
letters of recommendation as described earlier in this guide.

For many people, reapplying is part of the path to medical school. For
some, reapplying multiple times is part of the path. As you can see in this
study from the AAMC, there are yearly fluctuations in the number of
first time and repeat applicants but overall the trend is that there are
lots of them. Oftentimes, admission or rejection to medical school comes
down to the fact that there are more qualified applicants than there are
spots, and there may not always be a substantive reason that you weren t
selected this year. Take the time you need to grieve, then start forming
your action plan.
An important note is that, barring any extreme personal
circumstances preventing you from attending this year, reapplying is not
a good option unless you received zero acceptances. Not only does it go
over very poorly with admissions committees to know you chose to
reapply rather than attend the medical school s you were accepted to,
we don t recommend the added time, cost, and effort. All medical schools
in the US are accredited by the ACGME or the AOACOA and will enable
you to become a physician, and the differences in one program versus
another are not going to be great enough to be worth declining an
acceptance in favor of reapplying.
Some medical school admissions officers will meet with you to
discuss your application following a rejection or the end of the
admissions cycle. Call each school you applied to and see if this is an
option, even if it s just a discussion via phone or email. Express your
continued strong interest in attending this program, and that you
would like their input on your application so that you can improve for
the next cycle. Common concerns in rejected applicants may include:
poor interview, low MCAT score, low GPA especially in the sciences ,
and lack of clinical experience. Be prepared to accept criticism without
defensiveness, especially if you intend to reapply to this program.
However, it may have just been an issue of more applicants than they
could accept, and you may not get a clear answer about why you
specifically were rejected. Truly, there may not have been a clear reason.
In these cases, consider asking then what the weakest area of your
application was. It may not have been a dealbreaker, but it could give
you a direction for what to focus on between now and the next cycle. If
none of the medical schools you applied to will provide this
information and even if they did , consider asking any friends or
classmates who are in medical school or recently graduated these same
questions. Also ask them to take a look at the list of programs you
applied to. Sometimes an unsuccessful admissions cycle was a matter
of applying to too few programs, or to programs that were too
competitive for your application. Not everybody can or needs to
attend the number one medical school in the country. Everyone who
graduates will still be a physician, and the reputation of the medical
school matters significantly less for residency and future jobs than the
reputation of undergraduate program did for medical school
applications. This is not the time for ego, it is the time for pragmatism.
When deciding what to do between now and the next admissions
cycle, take a look at the Taking a Gap Year section of this guide for tips
on areas to consider and how to get into them. Be realistic about what
you need to do to eat and be financially solvent between now and then,
and then fill in the remaining available time with targeted efforts to
improve the weakest areas of your application. Many people choose to
retake the MCAT or science courses before reapplying, but be realistic

about whether this extra time and expense is likely to result in an
improved score for you. Make sure you have a plan for what you will do
differently to ensure improvement. On the other hand, choosing to
spend time on clinical exposure or research experience is a guaranteed
improvement in these areas.

The AAMC has specific guidelines, often referred to as Traffic Rules,

that govern when and how schools can offer admissions decisions to
applicants. The full list of guidelines can be found here, but the
important points for applicants to know are:
1. Schools cannot offer any acceptances before October 15 other than
Early Decision Programs, which must notify students by October 1
2. By March 15, the number of acceptances a school has offered has to
be at least equal to number of expected students in the first year class
3. By May 1, all applicants should only have one remaining acceptance
offer they re holding on to ie, applicants must decide by May 1
4. Before April 30, schools must give applicants at least two weeks to
accept or reject an offer of admissions. After April 30, schools must
give applicants at least five business days to make a decision on an
offer of admissions ie, make a deposit . If it s within 30 days of the
schools orientation, they must give applicants at least two business
days to make a decision.
5. Schools use deposits as a method of having accepted applicants
secure their spot in the entering class. These school deposits other
than for Early Decision Programs can t be more than 100 and must
be refundable until at least April 30.
Depending on your financial ability to do so, if you get into multiple
schools you might choose to make deposits for more than one program
to secure your seat in their entering class prior to May 1st. This allows for
more time to make a decision, but also it is not a requirement when
deciding between programs.

Additionally, if you re holding onto an acceptance from a program
you know you won t be attending, informing that program frees up that
spot so that it can be offered to another student. While the AAMC
doesn t have enforceable guidelines about informing programs within a
timely manner if you know you won t be attending that institution, it s
good practice to do. The admissions process is stressful for all
applicants, and by being courteous you make it so that another
applicant can be offered the chance to be a doctor as soon as possible.

After you get your acceptance to a school, you may be invited to

return for a second look." It s the chance for you to 1 learn more about
the school and speak with the students there, 2 meet some of your
future classmates even meet potential future roommates if you re
looking for them , 3 decide whether you can see yourself thriving in
this school if you are deciding between more than one school.
Second look is informal and can be a lot of fun. There may be social
activities such as a dinner or reception the evening before that allow for
low stress opportunities to interact with current students, faculty, and
other prospective students. Many schools will also offer tours of the
hospitals if they weren t given on your interview day. They also may
highlight some faculty by providing sample lectures so you can get an
understanding about what a typical lecture period would be like if you
choose to attend their school in the fall.
If you haven t already, make sure you re part of the Facebook group
for your class. Not only is it the place for you to chat with your potential
future classmates, you ll also be able to get some helpful updates from
clubs events, as well as ads for housing and textbooks from
upperclassmen. Oftentimes, people also end up posting looking for
roommates with similar interests.
Quick note about the social activities: oftentimes, evening events
involve alcohol. It goes without saying that discretion is expected.
Sometimes administrators from the admissions committee stop by to
join the fun!

When you get there: have fun! See if the current students seem happy
with their decision and ask them any questions you might have about
their experience so far. You ll be in their shoes soon, and they will
provide honest opinions on the pros and cons of their school.
Bring your family or significant other if possible. It s great of have a
second set of eyes and ears to help provide advice, especially from
someone who has your best interests at heart. They will also be given
separate sessions which provide additional information to share with
you to help guide your decision making process.
Also consider taking time to explore the city if you re not from the
area. Medical school should have some balance between academics and
your personal life, and you want to make sure you re in an area where
you can thrive, not just as a student, but as a person.

Consider what you saw and how you might fit into that school. If you
have a list of must haves, did the school check all of the boxes? If no
school does, weigh what s most important to you and use that to gauge
your decision. If you are still unsure, you may even try reaching out to
the school and ask to sit in on a lecture or connect you with a current
student to chat further.
Ask advice from current students or friends who are going through
similar situations. Sometimes talking out loud can help in making

Choosing a medical school is challenging. Each school you

interview with will have pros and cons that need to be weighed based
on your personal preferences. There are many important items to
consider including, but not limited, the ones below. These aren't
presented in any particular order of important; you need to decide
which things will affect your happiness the most, and then choose
Do students have access to mentors? Is this a formal program or are
students seeking out faculty on their own? Do current students feel
that faculty are approachable for mentor/mentee relationships?
Even if you’re not interested in or planning to complete research
during medical school, it’s still important to have mentors to help find
activities that suit your interests, plan for residency applications, and
offer advice throughout the process. Being at an institution where
students feel generally supported by the faculty is important for your
success as a student and can help build the platform for a successful
career in medicine.

Are lectures in the pre-clinical years available to watch from home?

What are the required rotations like? Do you have to participate in
rotations outside of the main campus? If yes, is there any
transportation provided or strong access to public transportation? Are
the pre-clinical years lecture-based or team-based?
Although the content of medical school curricula are very similar,
each school has some unique features regarding content delivery.
Knowing the way you learn best can help you determine what’s
important for you, especially in the pre-clinical years. If you have a
family or other personal commitments, make sure you understand if
there are requirements for away rotations that might pull you away
from those commitments.

If you have a specialty in mind prior to starting school, does the

school you’re applying to have a clinical program in that specialty? If
you're strongly considering a specialty, having a program at your
institution, or at least a strong department, is helpful for finding
mentors, pursuing research, and ensuring that you’re prepared for
residency in that field. It can be challenging to locate opportunities

without a home program, and it will create more stress and pressure for
you to prepare yourself for what is to come.

What is the cost of tuition? Did you receive any financial aid or
scholarships through the school? What is the cost of living like?
Many students will take out loans that cover the entire cost of
tuition plus an additional loan for living expenses each year. Although
this is possible regardless of the total tuition burden, these loans accrue
interest during your schooling, residency, and beyond which makes
every dollar borrowed equate to several paid back in the long run. If a
school is not a great fit, don’t compromise based solely on tuition since
doctors who graduate from that school are still successfully paying
their loans, but if it’s a tough call between two institutions, this may be
an important factor.
Also consider the cost of living in a particular city. It may be more
challenging to meet your needs in a more expensive location. Ask
current students how they are managing on their budget and make
sure that you feel comfortable managing with something similar.

Are there certain activities/hobbies that you need access to? Are you
hoping to stay close to family? Do you have a significant other who
needs to find a job in a certain sector?
Although it’s only four years, having an environment you enjoy being
in for medical school is so important. If you don’t enjoy life in the big
city, steer clear of those programs. If you need the hustle and bustle, it’s
appropriate to choose the school where you can find the best balance
between work and your personal life. Other location considerations
include weather, proximity to family and friends, the needs of your
family, diversity of the population, etc.

Are there extracurriculars that I’m interested in? Is the school
diverse? Do students spend time together outside of class? Are
students competitive with each other?
If you have specific interests such as health disparities, LGBTQ
issues in medicine, global health, advocacy, etc., ensure that your
prospective school has opportunities for you to participate. Most
schools will have organizations for all major specialties, but they may
not have groups, mentors, or other students that focus on your other
interests. It’s also important to consider the diversity of the student
body, faculty, and community as a whole as well as how students
interact with each other. It’s important to be at a school where you are
comfortable with the learning environment and people around you.

How did you feel on the interview day? Do you feel like you would be
friends with the current students that you interacted with?
One of the most important, if not the most important, things to
consider is how the interview made you feel.   Medical school will be
your home for four years, and you want to be comfortable in the place
you choose. It’s like having a second family - where can you see yourself
building that? Schools have unique personalities, and it’s ideal if your
own matches.

Once you have chosen a school, they will require that  you sign and
submit a form stating that you plan to enroll in their upcoming class.
Often, this will be accompanied by a small deposit ( $500) which will
hold your seat. Not every school with require this, so don’t be alarmed if
you’re not prompted to pay anything.
At this time, ensure that you also reach out to any other schools that
accepted you and inform them of your decision. Many other students
are hoping to get off of wait-lists, and you can pass those opportunities
on to others by declining an offer that wasn’t right for you. The longer
you delay declining offers, the longer other students are waiting. Don’t
rush into the decision, but be respectful of your peers who may be on
the waitlist when you have solidly chosen a school.

At this point: kick back, relax, and do whatever you love doing in your
spare time! You've finally made it.

There are so many barriers to getting into medical school. We don’t
have the power to make every research opportunity out there come with
a living wage, or to level racial biases in MCAT scoring, but we do have
the power of experience. From incoming medical students who just went
through it themselves to attendings with years of experience on
admissions committees, this diverse set of authors came together to
bring the pre-medical community our collected advice with the goal of
making the medical school admissions process more accessible to
everyone, but especially to people without the privilege of friends or
family in medicine/robust pre-medical advising/etc. We ourselves are a
diverse set of people, and we’re doing this because we care about seeing
the future of medicine become more diverse, because that’s how
medicine gets better for our patients.

We see your effort, and we’re proud of you.

A: CV Example
B: Example Emails for Seeking Mentors
C: Example Emails for Guiding Writers of
Letters of Recommendation
D: MCAT Study Plan Examples
Dear Dr. Daneshjou,
My name is X and I am a student at Y College majoring in Z, and I am
interested in going to medical school. I’m emailing you because I am
fascinated by your work in studying (insert the subject of their work or
practice you are most interested in). I read your paper, “Title of paper”,
and I am excited about this field. I would love to meet with you to talk
about your work and get some advice. My resume is attached.
Looking forward to hearing from you,

Dear Dr. Daneshjou,

My name is X, a student at Y College interested in going to medical
school. I’m emailing to follow up regarding my email from (insert date
of first email). I’d be very interested in speaking with you some time
regarding (insert their subject of clinical practice or scholarly work).
Looking forward to hearing from you,

1 1
Dear ______,
Thank you for agreeing to write a letter of recommendation for me! I
have included as much information as possible below to perhaps
assist you in writing about me. Please feel free to use as much, or as
little of it, as you find useful. Also, please do not hesitate to contact me
for more information if needed.

In my application I am hoping to convey myself as a self-motivated

student with a genuine passion for research and medicine, a sincere
ambition to improve the lives of others, and an innate capability for
creative problem solving, and I hope that your recommendation can
support that.

Rationale for pursuing an MD/PhD:

I believe an MD/PhD will allow me to impact the greatest number of
people in the greatest capacity. I am frustrated with the lack of
urgency I have witnessed in translational academic research and
believe that witnessing and treating patients hands-on inspires this
urgency. At the same time, I believe that research has the ability to
impact a far wider patient population than just medicine alone.

1 2
Personally, what I view to be my attributes:
I am ambitious and optimistic about my future impact.
I am self-motivated and work extremely hard
I joined the [ ] Lab in my freshman year and work almost every day,
spending over 15-20 hours a week in lab, and up to 40
hours/coming in on weekends when necessary, in addition to
maintaining a full undergraduate course load and a concurrent
master’s degree. I will have received both degrees in 4 years, and
will likely be a coauthor on 3 published papers by the time I have
I have attended [ ] conferences as well as the [] annual meeting,
where I presented a poster, and have a uniquely high level of
understanding of my work for an undergrad.
I genuinely love science and medicine.
In my spare time, I read scientific literature, I’m actively engaged
with scientists through twitter, I listen to the Science/Nature
podcast, etc.
I’m always the person in class asking questions, wanting to hear
more from the speaker, emailing my professors outside of class with
cool articles I’ve found, contacting speakers who have given guest
lectures to meet for coffee outside of class
I am passionate about science communication and science

1 3
Your unique insight on me:
As my research mentor and supervisor, I think you have the most
unique insight as to who I am as a person and how I have grown as a
researcher in the years you have known me. I went from not knowing
how to pipet to understanding how to design experiments/test
hypotheses relatively quickly. I think you can speak to my ability to
critically evaluate experiments and come up with strategies to
troubleshoot or re-design experiments. I also hope that you can vouch
for the many hours I spend in lab despite the amount of class I have,
and how I genuinely enjoy being there.

I believe you can also speak to my curiosity–for example, me asking

you questions about topics I hear about in lectures that I attend, or
asking you why we pursue a specific experimental plan rather than
alternatives. I also think that you can speak to my love of science in
general, and how that has spurred personal projects to combine my
love of science and storytelling to spread information about research
to the general public. Additionally, I hope you can speak to my role as a
teammate, working together with [ ] and [ ], and how I interact with my
labmates, mentors, and peers.

Finally, because you are a researcher, I hope you can speak to what you
believe my potential in the field is, and how you may be able to
imagine me contributing to research in the future. Bringing in my
contributions to the [ ] project, [ ] project, etc here would be very

Once again, thank you so much! Please let me know if you have any
further questions. I am once again honored by your willingness to
write this letter for me.

1 4