by Recent Admittee to Stanford, Harvard & UCLA Medical with $1,000,000 in Funding!The average acceptance rate for U.S. medical school is 7% and the top 10 schools average 2.5%. Without a doubt, the process is tedious and incredibly challenging! Thankfully for you, our very own Director of College and Medical School Admissions, Nadine Jawad was recently admitted to Harvard Medical School (3.8%), UCLA Medical School (3%), and Stanford Medical School (2%) where she will start this fall. And she received over $1,000,000 including the prestigious Knight-Hennessy Scholarship to fund her time as a medical school student at Stanford. As you start preparing for this long, arduous journey for medical school applications, there are some common mistakes and issues that many medical school applicants frequently face. To help, Nadine is providing responses to the most frequent questions that will help get you on the right track to a top U.S. medical school:
- Where do you start with the application cycle? How do you figure it out all out? The first step is getting set-up on AMCAS and beginning a general application. This is known as your “primary.” You will need your primary statement, activities section, and letters of recommendation to complete this section. Start early! The earlier you submit your primary, the earlier you can get going on the school-specific secondaries.
- What’s the key to a memorable Primary Statement? Don’t try to do too much. What we mean is this is a chance for you to build a comprehensive narrative; this is NOT a chance to regurgitate your resume. Rather, focus on who YOU are, spending time talking about your journey and pathway to medicine, and outline how your medical degree will help you complete your life’s mission. The key to a successful primary statement is nailing your narrative.
- What’s the strategy for selecting medical schools? There is a tool offered via AAMC called “MSAR” that can help you select schools based on your GPA, MCAT, interests, location, etc. This is a great tool that will help you navigate through hundreds of schools and find the 15-20 schools that are a priority for you.
- How do you attack secondaries? Create a spreadsheet with the following fields: name of the school (prioritized in terms of dream school to safety), location, academic requirements (average GPA, MCAT), application requirements (including secondary question prompts), date secondary received, goal date for submission. I had a rule of thumb of attempting to submit the secondary with 7-10 days of receiving it from the medical school. Of course, life may happen. For Stanford (the school I ended up going to), it actually took me a few weeks to turn it around (so don’t stress!)
- What timeline is appropriate for early bird/strong applicants? I submitted my primary the first week it opened up. However, with all that is happening in the world, don’t put too much pressure on yourself. Just remember, however, the earlier the better (especially for schools with rolling admissions).
- Do you have any tips for the activities section? Remember to focus on the things that make you human. For example, I used one hobby in my section in addition to my other more volunteer and scientific activities. Also, you can group together activities if you need more space. For example, I merged all of my medical shadowing and volunteering experiences into one section and I explained that in the description. It then opened up the opportunity for me to describe my unique hobby.
- How do you offset or mitigate a lack of research, publications or volunteer activities? Focus on the honest reality of what makes you, you. If there are other things you did like starting a business, taking care of someone in your family, or working two jobs, then these are all real-life examples that show your tenacity and work-ethic, so don’t be afraid to list them. It truly is a holistic process and not everyone has the ability to undertake those more typical medical school-oriented activities.
- What’s the best approach for recommendation letters? Reach out to recommenders early, especially with the ongoing pandemic. They will appreciate it and you will feel less stressed. You may aggregate the letters on the platform Interfolio, but since the AMCAS is open, you might simply decide to go straight through the AMCAS website. However, Interfolio is a great way to store your letters for the long-term, so definitely look into it.