Applying to Medical School

5 Do’s of Primary Applications for Medical School

Here’s a list of ProspectiveDoctor recommendations for working on primary applications for medical school. Start writing your personal statement at the end of May. Just kidding – April Fools!

  1. Work on your personal statement. It is now the beginning of April, and if you’ve been putting it off, now is a perfect time to start working on your personal statement. This process takes longer than you may think. You may have to start several times before you come up with a statement that you feel strongly represents you, and you should give yourself time to thoroughly edit. If you have already started your brainstorming and writing process, consider setting aside your statement for a few days to work on something else and returning to it with fresh eyes. || Read Brainstorming Your Personal Statement ||
  2. Ask for letters of recommendation. Give your letter writers ample time to write shining reviews of you. Note that your letters do not have to be in before you submit your secondary applications, however, your file will not be considered “complete” until all of your letters have been submitted. Therefore, for you and for them it may be helpful to provide a soft deadline of June-July for when you plan to submit your application. || Read Letters of Recommendation for Medical School ||
  3. Select a diverse list of schools. Your school list should not be an afterthought, but rather it should be well-researched and reasoned based on a variety of factors, including the individual academic programs, school location, your relative “competitiveness” at each school, tuition, etc. You can take a gamble and apply to only top 20 schools, but understand that you can dramatically improve your chances of matriculating by applying to a broader range of schools. Each school that receives your primary application adds cost, and the secondaries add additional fees and time. Do not wait until the day of submitting to work on this important part of your primary. ||Read Selecting a List of Schools ||
  4. Have someone else read your essays. Give your essays to a friend, parent, writing teacher, or premed advisor for input. Ask them about your selections for “most significant” activities. Ask them about the tone of your writing: do you sound arrogant, humble, too self-deprecating? Is your language appropriate or too casual? Are you sufficiently descriptive? Or are you too general and write in clichés? Are you communicating your intended message? Take the time now to ask these questions of someone you trust, and your application will be better for it. || Read Weekly Weigh-In: Personal Statement Writing Process ||
  5. Find a thread in your application. While you still have 2+ months to refine your application, try to find a common thread that ties together your activities, personal statement, and interest in a medical career. For example, maybe you are a runner: you coached a high-school team, joined a college running club, and volunteered with a teen girls’ running group. Of course you did other things too, but these activities paint a picture about who you are as a person outside of research in a basic science lab or shadowing a doctor. If you have such a thread in your experiences – based on a skill or interest – then use it to talk about the more routine areas of your application. Maybe you learned that fitness has the power to change both physical and mental health, and as a physician you will be sure to incorporate your love and knowledge about running into your practice. Having such an angle gives you a personality on paper and makes you relatable to a reader. || Read A Sample Personal Statement ||

Emily Singer

Emily is a writer for She graduated from the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA and is currently a general surgery resident at Ohio State University. She is a graduate of Stanford University, holding Bachelor’s degrees in Economics and Russian Languages and Literature. After graduating in 2009, Emily worked as a research analyst at a health policy consulting firm and a research scientist studying green products chemistry at a San Francisco-based startup. Emily’s interests include health policy, medical education, and global health.

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