Over the course of my undergraduate career, I have had discussions with countless pre-med students. From these conversations, I have concluded two things about them. First, they don’t sleep. Second, many of them have no idea what it takes to get into medical school. Wait, what? No idea what it takes to get into medical school? It cannot be. Aren’t they supposed to be experts?
They should, but unfortunately, not everyone is. Sadly, there are a lot of myths going around in the pre-med society. I don’t know how some of them got started, but I am here to dispel a few of them. It is my hope that this list will save a few pre-meds from unnecessary headaches and heartaches. This is my list of the 10 things every pre-med should absolutely know.
10. Letters of Recommendation matter. A LOT.
If you are a pre-med student, one of your top college priorities should be to get to know your professors. Believe me when I say your letters of recommendation are important. Some admissions counselors will argue that it is the most important factor behind your GPA and MCAT. If you do not personally know a professor, it means you will have at best, mediocre letters of recommendation.
9. Your major has no affect on medical school admissions.
Medical schools do not favor biochemistry majors. Medical schools do not favor science majors. Medical schools do not favor non-science majors. Medicals do not favor art, economics, history, or English majors. So what major do they favor? None! Your major itself does not matter for admissions at most, if not all, medical schools in the US.
8. Cleaning beakers and flasks is not considered research.
Medical schools do like to see students participating in research. Unfortunately, many students equate research with working in a research lab. Sorry to break it to you, but cleaning beakers and flasks all day is not considered research, it is considered cleaning. If you are going to work in a research lab, make sure your boss is willing to give you actual research opportunities.
7. Retaking a class does not replace your former grade.
Yes, the old “it’s all right if I fail a class because I can retake it” strategy. Unfortunately, if you retake a class, both your former and new grade will be calculated into your medical school GPA.
6. Taking pre-requisites at a community college does not look good.
Many pre-meds take their required science courses at community colleges because it is generally easier. They think it will have a better effect on their GPA. Unfortunately, medical school admissions counselors are smart. They do not condone this kind of practice. While taking one or two classes might be overlooked, any more can hurt your medical school chances.
5. A double major has no affect on medical school admissions.
Some pre-meds think having a double major will guarantee acceptance into a medical school. This is just wrong. Again, your major itself does not matter. It does not matter whether your science or non-science major, whether you have one, two, or three (although three does sound impressive) majors. What really matters is how you do in the classes you take. I would take a higher GPA over a double major any day.
4. Shadowing a physician for a few months is not enough clinical exposure.
You must have clinical exposure to get into medical school. If you do not, medical schools will question your commitment to medicine. However, doing the bare minimum is not going to work either. You have four years to work on your extracurricular activities. Work on them! And you can get the best clinical shadowing.
||Read: Why should you volunteer?||
3. Great extracurricular activities do not compensate for a low GPA and MCAT score.
I cannot tell you how many times I have heard something like this: “My GPA is really low, a little below a 3.0, but I am hoping that my great extracurriculars will get me into medical school.” No, no, no, and no. No matter how great your extracurriculars are, unless you found a cure for cancer, it will not compensate for a low GPA. If you have a low GPA and great extracurriculars, you are doing something wrong. Quit your extracurriculars and study more.
2. Just because you go to Harvard, it does not mean you will get into medical school.
This is one I have heard a lot too. Many pre-meds think that because they go to an elite school, they should be guaranteed a spot into medical school. While going to Harvard does look good, you need to maintain a good GPA and MCAT score to be competitive. I would much rather take a great GPA from a no-name school, then an average GPA at Harvard.
1. Less than half of all applicants are accepted into medical school each year.
I am not saying this to scare anyone, but to let everyone know, getting into medical school is not easy. According to the Association of American Medical Colleges, less than half of all applicants each year get into at least one medical school. Matriculants to M.D. medical schools in 2012 had an average GPA of 3.68 and an MCAT score of 31.2.