On Medical School Applicants Avoiding Trite Activities

Med School Applicants, Admission to Medical School, Med School Hook
Medical school applicants should differentiate themselves from other medical school applicants to optimize their case for admission to elite med programs (photo credit: SBAmin).

We often hear from parents and students a line that goes something like this: “But we heard the direct opposite from an admissions officer!” Oh (in a tone of faux surprise)? Of course, we’re not surprised in the least. Admissions officers at our nation’s elite universities so often don’t tell it like it is. Rather, they are marketers for their schools. This is true of undergraduate admissions officers. It is true of business school admissions officers. It’s true of law school admissions officers. It is true of medical school admissions officers. We sense you get the idea.

When Other Medical School Applicants Zig, You Should Zag

And it’s true of the American Medical Association, too. Today, we came across a piece published on the AMA’s website by Brendan Murphy entitled “Beyond the MCAT: Here’s what else med schools are looking for” that we thought we’d share with our readers. In the piece, Murphy writes, “Students with low MCAT scores ‘may be able to get in with their match to the mission and their grades alone,’ [Director of residential admissions at A.T. Still University School of Osteopathic Medicine Deanna] Hughes said. ‘Our mission is to serve medical underserved communities. We are looking for students who have exposure to underserved populations whether that’s in a mission trip or going out and feeding the homeless. That kind of a capacity to serve—if we could see the heart of the student—that is just as important as a test score.'”

Med School Applicants Should Partake in Original Activities, Not Hackneyed Ones

But if a medical school applicant heeded this precise advice, well, they’d be feeding homeless folks at homeless shelters and going on mission trips in faraway lands to demonstrate the depth of their humanity. And in spite of what the director of residential admissions at the particular osteopathic medical program Murphy cites in his piece said, we wholeheartedly disagree with this advice. Now don’t get us wrong, it’s a wonderful thing to feed homeless folks at homeless shelters. It’s a wonderful thing to hand at vaccines in West Africa. But if you’re doing these activities to improve your case for admission to our nation’s elite medical schools, well, don’t.

Because feeding the homeless, while wonderful, is cliché from the vantage point of medical school admissions officers. It’s not original. It’s what so many other medical school applicants do when such a big part of the medical school admissions process is about differentiation. And foreign service trips? Act locally. There are problems to tackle in an applicant’s own neighborhood. One need not fly across the world to help people in creative ways — and when one acts locally, it doesn’t convey the wealth of the applicant. Even if it’s free to go on a service trip in West Africa, it invariably conveys that the applicant can afford to spend his or her time helping people in faraway lands. That invariably serves to render an applicant less likeable than an applicant who helps people in their own neck of the woods.

We Help Med School Applicants Present as Interesting

Are you a prospective medical school applicant seeking to differentiate yourself from the pack? If so, we offer a one-hour evaluation at Ivy Coach in which we’ll help figure out what your hook can be come the time you apply to medical schools — and how you can demonstrate that hook through the prism of your college activities and summer plans.

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