Are You Ready for Medical School?
Preparing for medical school is a challenge, but if you are proactive, organized and consistent, it can be done. When things get stressful, remember that becoming a doctor is a long-term goal with a big payoff when met.
Start off by working with your college adviser to make sure you are aware of dates, deadlines and financial opportunities. If there’s a person on your campus who works with health professions students, that’s even better. Seek out people who have been to medical school themselves for advice.
Try to find opportunities to participate in actual scientific research by checking out bulletin boards and elsewhere. Being part of a research project, in however humble of a role, looks fantastic on a resume and gives real-world insight into the professional scientific world.
When it comes to classwork, medical schools are looking for a strong science background, but don’t neglect Humanities, communications and other types of classes because it’s good for doctors to be well-rounded in their educational background.
Admissions boards like to see extracurricular activity on applications, so follow your non-medical interests and join campus extracurricular groups and clubs. You don’t have to join dozens of groups, just show that there’s more to you than grades and test scores. Furthermore, learning isn’t restricted to the regular school year; in particular, many campuses have special summer programs for students considering medical school.
Visits to medical schools are a good idea and a great way to start making contacts wherever you are heading. A cheaper alternative is health professions career fairs.
Preparing for the MCAT Exam
The importance of the MCAT prep cannot be overemphasized because almost all medical schools in the United States and Canada use this test as criteria for admission. Take the MCAT when you are ready and avail yourself of MCAT prep materials; also consider taking a class to get ready.
People already working in the medical field are fantastic resources. Ask around for shadowing opportunities; following a doctor on his or her rounds is an invaluable experience, and many medical professionals like to talk about what they do to people entering the field. Your goal is to find a mentor.
You will need letters of evaluation, so figure out who will write these for you as soon as possible. Give the person writing the letter plenty of time to do so. Letters of recommendation are especially important if you’re trying to explain something that may not look good on the surface such as having taken a leave of absence from your studies.
If you’re going to need information from your parents to receive financial aid, make sure they are in the loop on deadlines. In most cases, you will need to file a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) in the January before the year you are applying to medical school.
Take Care of Yourself
You will be more effective if you are healthy and emotionally balanced, so eat right, work out, and take time for yourself when you need it.