For a majority of pre-meds, getting into Harvard Medical School would be a dream come true. So what does it take to get into the prestigious Harvard Medical School? We can learn from students who have succeeded in obtaining admissions.

Within the health industry, Harvard is often regarded as the best of the best, the cream of the crop, and the Da Vinci equivalent of medicine. It is a place where brilliant students come together to innovate the field and improve global health. If Einstein or Newton wanted to pursue medicine, this is the institution they would have attended. With this reputation, it is easy to understand why many pre-meds consider it their dream school. Unfortunately, most applicants fail to obtain admissions. In fact, most students don’t even bother with applying because they believe they stand no chance. So how exactly can a student obtain admissions into the most prestigious medical school in the country? What differentiates a student from a sea of overqualified applicants? How do you get into Harvard Medical School?

There is no magic formula on how to get into Harvard Medical School. Predicting admissions into Harvard Medical School is close to impossible because the competition is so tough. For every excellent applicant, there are probably hundreds of others just like him or her. However, there are certain characteristics that seem to be common among a majority of Harvard students.  While imitating those who have succeeded won’t guarantee anything, it can increase the likelihoods of obtaining admissions. Looking at past success stories can give an idea of what types of students Harvard is looking for.

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1. Harvard students have a high GPA and MCAT Score.

This one is a no-brainer. Harvard might as well put high GPA and MCAT score as a pre-requisite for applying to their school. Unfortunately, a high GPA and MCAT score does not help you stand out among the other applicants. A school like Harvard does not use GPA and MCAT score to determine who gets accepted. Instead, they use GPA and MCAT score to determine whose application gets considered or not. According to Harvard Medical School, the 2010 entering class had an average GPA of 3.8 and MCAT score above 35.

2. Harvard students usually have impressive research resumes.

The keyword here is “impressive.” Just because a student conducts research, does not mean he or she will have a better chance at admissions. These days, a majority of qualified undergraduate pre-meds is part of a research team. To stay competitive for Harvard, a student researcher must do something beyond the norm, something that will stand out. Many medical students at Harvard have been published as an author in a research journal or have been part of a particularly innovative project in their undergraduate careers.

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3.  Harvard students usually have notable leadership experience.

As a Harvard doctor, one is automatically going to be in a place of respect and leadership. Harvard wants to accept students that can excel with the responsibility given to them. Most Harvard matriculates have been in significant leadership roles prior to applying to medical school. Try running for president of your school, or starting your own non-profit organization. How about leading a medical mission trip or running a program for inner city kids? To get into Harvard, you need to meet Harvard’s standards. In other words, you need to aim high and do something that will make you stand out against everyone else.

4. Harvard students often have close relationships with well-known physicians and/or professors.

This is important for two reasons. There have been studies that show that students with close relationships with professors have a better chance at success. It is because the professors can serve as mentors and can motivate students to perform to their highest potential; it is a way for students to be accountable.

In addition, having close relationships with faculty members will ensure great recommendation letters. There are way too many pre-meds who ask for recommendation letters from professors they do not know well, simply because they do not know anyone well. Predictably, those pre-meds will receive mediocre recommendation letters. While you may be able to get away with this at other medical schools, you cannot at Harvard.  Harvard strives for the best and one way they can determine who is “best,” is by reading the letters from well-known leaders about you.

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5.  Harvard students are great communicators.

Many pre-meds tend to overlook this trait. They believe that as long as they have high scores and are intelligent, they can become a great physician. However, the best physicians are the ones that not only have knowledge, but can also communicate that knowledge to patients.

Medical schools often determine an applicant’s communication skills during the interview. The interview is arguably the most important aspect of the medical school application cycle. If you are not a confident communicator, consider taking communication classes offered at your school or consider challenging yourself by joining the speech & debate team. Also make sure to participate in mock interviews before you attend interviews by medical schools. Many brilliant students fail to become doctors because they cannot pass the interview. You do not want to be this person. Especially at Harvard, where expectations are high, it is important to work on your communication skills.

These are five traits that seem to be common in most, if not all, Harvard medical students. While there is no manual that spells exactly how to get into Harvard Medical School, it does help to look at profiles of students at the school. If there were one word I could use to describe Harvard medical students, it’d be “unique.” In fact, all the five characteristics listed here are based around that concept. Make yourself stand out. Do not simply do what all other pre-meds are doing, but go above and beyond them.  Maybe one day you can write an article teaching others on how to get into Harvard Medical School.

 

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