2016 has begun. You are likely gearing up on your medical school applications – personal statement, activities, etc. In these first days of the new year, I have resolved to be more organized. Let me invite you to share this New Year’s resolution with me as you dive into medical school applications.
Organization in your medical school applications is nearly as important as their content. The process of writing the personal statement and activities, reporting grades, taking the MCAT, asking for letters of recommendation, and submitting secondaries, all while attending to your other responsibilities (class, work, family, friends) can feel very overwhelming. From my experience of applying to medical school, taking the time to create a system of organization greatly reduced my stress level and increased confidence in the content and timing of my submissions.
Here are some simple guidelines to follow when organizing work on your applications:
Create a schedule. You will find a system that works for you. What worked well for me was making a “Master File” in Excel with a timeline for myself on the first page. In the first column I listed AMCAS components (“Personal Statement”, “Activities”, “Personal Information”, “Transcripts”, “Letters of Recommendation”, etc.). In the second column I due dates, working back from my intended submission date (early June when AMCAS submission opens). Finally in the last column I listed the date I had completed each part. I created new tabs in the file for a more detailed breakdown of the timeline, e.g., “Activities” – Activity 1, 2, 3 and their due dates, or “Letter Writers” – Writer 1, 2, 3 and dates to ask for and remind them about letters. Once I began working on secondaries I added school names to the first page, and created new tabs for each school’s secondary with the breakdown of its constituent parts. I later added interview dates, thank you letter submssions, and application status columns for each school. Having a schedule gave me the confidence that I was making good progress and not forgetting anything, and as I completed each task I had the satisfaction of checking off my list. I adjusted due dates if I finished tasks early or needed more time. This gave me a realistic picture of when I would complete my applications.
||Read: Time Management as a Premed||
Know the requirements. Make a list of the schools you plan to apply to and the requirements for each. This will entail some up-front research, but will save you time and money if you find out early that you will not meet the requirements of a particular school, or will give you sufficient time to enroll in an extra class or summer session to complete a class.
||Read: Overall BCPM GPA||
Keep a master list of classes and grades. Though you will painstakingly enter each class, number of units/credits, term dates, and grades into your AMCAS, many schools will ask for this information again in your secondary. Save yourself some time and create a quick reference by making a table with all of your transcript information. It is one extra step that will help ensure consistency between your primary and secondaries.
Centralize your brainstorming. Create a document (Word, Excel, or GoogleDoc) where you keep a list of your ideas. As you begin thinking about who you are as a candidate for medical school and how your academic record, volunteering experiences, awards and honors, extracurricular activities, and personal stories paint that picture, make sure to keep notes. Having them all in one place will be valuable as you develop your personal statement, work on activities descriptions, write secondaries, and prepare for interviews. You will find you can arrange your thoughts both in terms of stories/activities descriptions (and what qualities you demonstrate in each of those), and the qualities that make you an excellent candidate (and the stories that support those qualities).
While this new term promises to be the hardest of medical school yet, and your long road of applying to medical school stands before you, we can both make our tasks less daunting by resolving to create a little order in the process. Happy New Year from Prospective Doctor!
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ProspectiveDoctor.