Med Student Mentor: Getting a Head Start on the Application ProcessAug 28, 2014
Want a better chance of getting accepted to med school? Ann Diggins, director of student and educational affairs, University of Nevada Medical School, advises giving yourself plenty of time to complete the med school application process. From tips for arranging your class schedule to accumulating volunteer credit to fine-tuning your final submission, Diggins explains how starting early can bolster your chances of success.
Announcer: This is the show by med students for med students; it's the Med Student Mentor on The Scope.
Interviewer: Applying to med school can be an overwhelming and challenging process, and you know we're really here to help so for the next couple of minutes we'll be interviewing Ann Diggins who is the Director of Student and Educational Affairs for the University of Nevada School of Medicine, and we'll just be asking her generally about the broad strokes of the application process. So Ann thank you so much for being here.
Ann: Happy to be here.
Interviewer: All right so first walk me through the application process. So if I'm applying like what exactly do I have to do beforehand, and during, the process?
Ann: There's really three parts to the application process, and the first is the actual application itself, and our Medical School, along with most in the U.S., use MCAT's, The American Medical College Application Service. That's a national application and processing organization affiliated with medical school. So it's a pretty long application process, and students should give themselves plenty of time to fill that out, and make sure they're providing the level detail and accurate information because medical schools do use this as the basis for their entire admissions process. That begins for our school June 1 and continues until November 1st. In addition to MCAT's there is also... There are letters of recommendation, they are very important to applicant's to submit from professors, physicians, other people in health care who have supervised them and can comment on their readiness and preparation to become a physician.
There's also a personal statement, which is another very important part of the application, which is the student in the student's own words describing for the admissions committee how they have prepared for a career in medicine, and why a career in medicine is a fit for them, and a big part of the MCAT's application is obviously submitting their metric information. So their grades and their college level courses, their test scores on the MCAT, the Medical College Admissions Test, and those metrics are very important to be evaluated for admissions processes as well.
Interviewer: All right, so you mentioned that students should spend a lot of time on their application, how much time is a lot of time?
Ann: I always tell students that you should be ready, you should've done your prep work prior to that June 1 date that you can actually enter MCAT's, and begin entering information, and then I think students should give themselves four to six weeks to complete their part of the application. So if you were applying to a school like us who the applications November 1st, if you can get your application to us by the middle of July then we have more time to process things, and you are potentially eligible for an early interview.
Interviewer: By that June 1st date you should really have already had your letters of recommendation and all of that stuff ready to go?
Interviewer: So you mentioned then the MCAT, when should students looking to apply be thinking about taking the MCAT?
Ann: I think that is really dependent on a student's preparation, and coursework, and their academic readiness for medical school, but certainly I would say that a student should not take the MCAT any later than the summer in which they're applying.
Interviewer: Your course selection then affects when you take the MCAT, and of course when you apply to medical school. How would you suggest to a medical student, a pre-med student that they load their courses, heavy front loads, sort of distribute evenly through the first three years? What would your advice be?
Ann: I think distributing the science course load evenly through the first years is the best strategy for most students. Students can get themselves into trouble if they are taking too heavy of a science course load too early, they might see a dip in their GPA. So I think pre-med student's need to balance themselves between challenging themselves academically and making sure they're getting the coursework that's preparing them for the MCAT, and for medical school curriculum, but make sure they're balanced in their approach.
Interviewer: Tell me when in my undergraduate years can I apply to med school?
Ann: We really want you to be finished with your Bachelor's Degree by the time you would begin medical school. For most students' they can start the application process at the end of their junior year of college.
Interviewer: What do you find is the hardest part about the process, and what concerns do you see in most applicants?
Ann: I think the personal statement can be challenging for applicants. It's very intimidating to have to put into one page all the reasons why you have decided to become a physician. That personal statement is really the student's voice during the evaluation and discussion of the student's file. Making sure that you're accurate, but also concise, and that you tell a story that is interesting to read but doesn't go on too long can be real challenging. And so students need to give themselves plenty of time, and plenty of editors to take a look at that personal statement so that it's an accurate reflection of your best self.
Interviewer: Tell me if you could give pre-med and medical student's one piece of advice what would you tell them?
Ann: Academics are important but it really needs to be balanced with clinical experience. Admissions committees want to make sure that medical students coming into med school really know what they're getting into and are certain that medicine is a fit for them. The only way that can happen is by having adequate volunteer and clinical experiences both shadowing physicians and working in ideally a variety of health care settings. Students don't need to know what kind of physician they want to be coming into med school but they should really understand that working with patients on a day to day basis is what they want to do for their career.
Interviewer: Thank you so much for all the advice Ann, and thank you so much for joining me here today.
Ann: Thank you so much.
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