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Debunking Med School Myths

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Debunking Med School Myths

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I hope you enjoy reading this blog post.

If you want my team to help you with your Medical school application, click here.

Debunking Common Medical School Myths

Medical school is more painful than stepping on a Lego

If you’re interested in going to medical school, you might have heard someone say something like this. Medical school has a reputation for being difficult, draining, and expensive. There are tons of rumors circulating, but the reality can be very different. Don’t trust everything you hear.

Sure, there are some harsh truths to acknowledge about how your four years of medical school will go. Knowing what experiences you can expect can help prepare you to make your decision of whether or not medical school is right for you.

This post will break down some of the most common myths and rumors that people hear when thinking about attending med school. I want you to approach your med school considerations with all the information so you can make a strong decision about your path. Let’s dive in!

Myth #1: Getting into medical school is hard

Not just anyone can go to medical school—you have to apply and get in. The application process can be daunting. Depending on where you’re applying, some of the hurdles you’ll have to deal with include pre-requisite courses, extra experiences, good grades, and standardized tests. However, getting into med school is not impossible. You can never guarantee that you will be accepted to med school, but there is a 0% chance you get accepted if you don’t try. If thousands of other people have made it into med school, so can you.

A related myth is that you have to be super smart to get into medical school. This is simply not true. While high grades and high test scores are helpful, many other factors are considered when med schools make admissions decisions. Admissions committees look at elements like extracurricular activities, research, volunteer work, and personal statements.

Some tips on improving your application

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Myth #2: You need a science major to get into medical school

While having a science major may offer you a slight advantage in the content you learn during medical school, you may still succeed without one. Regardless of your major, you need to have some fundamental understandings of science. Additionally, many medical schools have required courses that you must take before you can begin your medical education. The pre-health advisors at your college or university can help keep you on track to apply.

Our advice is to avoid choosing a major that you believe other people would find appealing. Scientific fields remain the most common degrees, but no preference is given to any particular undergraduate programs. Focus on a subject that you are enthusiastic about and you will succeed. This applies to medical schools that take applicants after a few years of college. This is in contrast to medical schools that take applicants directly after high school. For these schools, you generally have to score high on the final high school exam or an entry exam before getting into medical school.

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Myth #3: You have to study all day

There is no doubt that there’s a lot of content to learn in medical school. Your school will provide tons of resources, and there are more that you can find online. Your first two years of medical school will involve studying this material before you move into the clinic for third and fourth years. But it isn’t true that you have to slog all day through your anatomy books and cover all the available resources.

The volume of material covered in medical schools makes it difficult to learn, comprehend, and retain information. The best way to avoid studying all day is to study smarter, not longer. Many first-year medical students lack specific fundamental study skills. Learning about high yield resources and how to study correctly is the first action to take when you kick off your med school journey.

Tips to study effectively

Most new med students still rely on their old methods of studying from their undergraduate programs. These methods won’t support you in the long run. Learn about science-based studying techniques to help you in implementing effective study hours.

If you’re interested in learning more about effective, scientifically-backed studying, you can check out The Match Guy’s How to Study for Exams course.

Myth #4: Everything you learn is important

We all have seen these big and heavy books of medicine, but the truth is you don’t have to learn everything inside them. The myth is that everything you learn in medical school is essential to your career, but that’s false.

There are some lengthy chapters that you won’t even be using during your clinical practice. Whenever we imagine a doctor, we assume that doctor would have learned everything in these books by heart, but that’s simply not true. Doctors are specialized and know a lot about particular subjects, but even a single subject has a lot of information and it is not necessary or possible to read it all. You will be learning and researching constantly throughout your practice—you don’t need to know everything.

Myth #5: You have to be an over-achiever

The thought of starting medical school with a cohort of intelligent, well-rounded, and enthusiastic people can be daunting. You might hear people talking about all the extra reading they’ve done over the summer, crazy bits of work experience they’ve done, and so on. However, imposter syndrome is real and almost everyone experiences it from time to time.

It can be difficult, but you don’t need to compare yourself to others. Everyone occasionally wonders, “Am I good enough to be here?” Remember that you weren’t chosen for medical school by chance; you are there for a reason! Every day, you’ll be in the company of passionate, like-minded individuals, which is a fantastic setting for learning new things and expanding your horizons. Try to focus on your own path and don’t get too caught up in what everyone around you is doing.

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Myth #6: Medical school is boring

Medical school is commonly perceived as boring. Studying all the time might become boring, but remember other myths we discussed above. You do not have to study all day—study smarter, not harder. You also should learn time management skills to make time for your hobbies. Join a club, a sports team, or go out for a trivia night with your friends. Your medical school will likely also host activities throughout the year—pay attention to your emails and take advantage of opportunities that come your way.

Also, you will be learning exciting content throughout your education. Every lecture might not be riveting, but noting which subjects you find exciting is a great way to think about what specialty to choose. And as soon as you hit your clinical years, it becomes more interesting when you start interacting with patients, seeing different pathologies, and observing different surgeries while the doctors perform them.

Myth #7: You must know your specialization when you start

There is no need to panic if you don’t know what you want to specialize in. Most people enter medical school without knowing their area of interest. It might be advantageous to enter your clerkships with an open mind so that you can sample a variety of specialties before choosing and committing to a line of work that you find fulfilling.

Your interests will change as you rotate in different specialties. Take the opportunity to try everything and you will figure out your way. It’s better to explore your interests as a medical student than to change your mind a few years into a residency.

Myth #8: Medical school is only for the rich

The truth is, depending on the school you wish to attend and which country you want to attend school in, the tuition varies. In the United States, most students rely on student loans throughout med school. These debts can be paid off after your residency or after you get a job. There are ways to pay for med school; never let your dream be stopped by money.

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Myth #9: You won’t be good at diagnosing illnesses

Of course, any doctor needs to be exceptionally proficient at diagnosis. However, it is important to keep in mind that they had ample opportunities to train and practice diagnosis. You will, too! At the beginning, everyone feels like they won’t be able to diagnose. However, you can learn these skills if you’re prepared to put in the effort.

It won’t be enough to read books to learn how to diagnose a patient. That’s why the med school curriculum is divided into two sections: pre-clinical and clinical. In the clinical years, you get a hands-on chance to learn about different pathologies and their diagnoses. You will also have a number of years of residency to continue learning!

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Myth #10: You are too old to start a career in medicine

The idea that it’s “too late” to start prevents many people from pursuing their dream of becoming physicians. A variety of people of different backgrounds enroll in medical school every year. Some came right from undergrad and others have taken time off. Many who take time off come to school with a more disciplined mindset because they have had other opportunities that helped prepare them for the rigor of med school.

You should not let the false notion that it’s too late stop you. If you want to become a physician, you should give your goal a chance.

Myth #11: You will have no hobbies in medical school

Who doesn’t love extracurricular activities? How would you feel working on your hobbies, running your side business, and doing what you love along with your medical studies?

As discussed above, you might have heard the myth of studying non-stop every day. Just as the studying myth is wrong, so too is the myth that you can’t have hobbies or make time to do what you love to do. Time management and prioritization are important skills to master in med school. Managing your time and making time to do activities that you enjoy will help your mental health as you complete your studies.

Myth #12: There’s no time for relationships and friendships

Another myth is that you won’t have time for relationships and friends during medical school. The truth is that friends make your med school experience more exciting. The memories you make with your friends during medical school will stay with you for your whole life. Connect with people who share your interests so you can have people to do things with outside of class.

Additionally, medical school can be challenging. Having friends inside and outside medical school can provide you with strong emotional support to help get you through tough times. There’s nothing like getting lunch with friends after a tough exam or studying together at a coffee shop

Is it all worth it? Is Medical School worth it?

 

It seems hard until it’s done” is a famous saying among medical students. The long hours, challenging classes, and grueling studying can take a toll on even the most dedicated student. But when you see your first patient, hold a baby that was just born, or save someone’s life, you’ll know that all the hard work was worth it.

If you’ve decided that you want to follow your goals of becoming a physician, check out The Match Guy’s Medical School Services. The Match Guy offers everything from personal statement editing to interview preparation and medical school advising to make sure you have the best chances of getting accepted!

Written By: Shariq Azeem

I am Shariq Azeem, a second year med student from Pakistan (Khyber medical university). Along with medicine I enjoy writing blogs and also love to play with python programming.

Edited By: Cody Januszko

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Medical School: Overcoming the most common myths of med school!

Medical School: Overcoming the most common myths of med school!


I hope you enjoy reading this blog post.

If you want my team to help you with your Medical School Application, click here.

Medical School: Overcoming the most common myths of med school!

Medical school is more painful than stepping on a Lego” Have you heard someone say
this to you when you’re aiming for medical school? We all have gone through these statements and myths before entering medical school!

Have you ever delayed your medical school plan because of the myths surrounding it? Indeed, don’t trust all these myths because the reality is different. But to be honest, there are some harsh truths, but they aren’t as bad as the hype behind them!

Medical schools aren’t as bad as you think. This is because you haven’t been to med school yet. You also probably haven’t gone through different experiences of med school. The ride of med school is no less than an adrenaline-pumping roller coaster from application to graduation.

I am sure, after reading this, you would be able to overcome the myths surrounding the med
school. And would help you do med school the right way. Below are some of the most common hyped myths that discourage many from deciding to go to med school. Let’s dive in.

Getting into medical school is hard

Whenever someone thinks or decides to pursue the medical profession, the first thing that comes to mind is getting into med school. Just as you can make it to other schools, you canmake it to med school as well. Yeah, things for medical school can be different, but not impossible. If someone has made it into med school before, so can you.

Although no school can ever guarantee acceptance to school at 100%, impossibility won’t prevent you from being accepted.

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Structural, Language, and content editing. 5 Schools.

The other related myth of med school is that you must be super smart to get into medical school. This myth is not valid. While you need to have above-average grades, many other factors are considered when medical schools make admissions decisions.

A student’s MCAT score is only one of many factors considered in medical schools. There arethings to consider, such as extracurricular activities, research, GPA, personal statements, etc. Getting into medical school also depends on which university you are applying to. Every university has its prerequisites which you have to complete.

Here are statistics of med schools in the US in case you are applying.

Some tips on making your admission smooth:

I have to study all day:

No doubt that there’s a lot of content involved in medical school which you have to go through. The books are huge, and there are tons of resources to study. But it isn’t true that you have to snob all day through your anatomy books and cover all the available resources.

Many first-year medical students lack specific fundamental study skills. The volume of material covered in medical schools makes it difficult to learn, comprehend, and retain. Learning about high yield resources and how to study correctly is the first action to take when you kick off your med school journey.

Medical School Advising
1 Hour Premed Advising related to all aspects of the Medical School Journey.

Tips on doing effective study:

Most premeds or anyone who starts their med school still rely on their conventional method of studying. These methods won’t support you in the long run. Learn about the scientific based studying techniques to help you in implementing effective study hours.

To learn more about these science best techniques, you can watch these following videos:
Still, if you want to learn more about studying for your exams, then there is no better place than learning from the Match guy website study course.

You need to major in science to get into medical school.

This isn’t always the case. While having a science major may offer you a slight advantage, you may still succeed without one. But wait, you need to have some fundamental understanding of science. Pick some science-related courses. This will benefit your MCAT as well as your medical school application.

No preference is given to any particular programs.” Indeed, while science remains the dominant degree, medical school entry statistics illustrate the diversity of disciplines held by successful candidates.

Admission to medical schools is not based on the field of study; you can be a student of the arts who takes the requisite scientific electives or a student of the sciences who takes the required arts electives.

Given that all degrees are equivalent, avoid choosing a major you believe people would find appealing. Instead, focus on a subject you are enthusiastic about, and you will succeed. Too many students have said that they are pursuing a degree that is not their top choice but that they believe the medical schools need it.

You will have no extracurricular activities in medical school.

Who doesn’t love extracurricular activities? How would you feel working on your hobbies, running your side business, and doing what you love along with your medical school?

As discussed above, you might have heard the myth of studying 12 hours daily. But that is wrong. A skill to master in your med school is time management and prioritization. With time and your focus management, you can find time for what you love. This will not only help you focus on your hobbies but help you cope with exam stress at the end.

If you still don’t believe how you can manage time with med school, head over to these youtube channels and see how the medical lads have been working their time while doing content
creation.

You have to be a type-A achiever.

Imposter syndrome is real. The thought of starting university with a cohort of intelligent, well rounded, enthusiastic people can be daunting. You might hear people talking about all the extra reading they’ve done over the summer, crazy bits of work experience they’ve done, and so on. But don’t worry, it’s not always as it seems, and you don’t need to compare yourself to others.

Everyone occasionally wonders, “Am I good enough to be here?” Remember that you weren’t chosen for medical school by chance; you were there for a reason!

It may take some getting used to the switch from small fish of small pond to big fish of big pond, but it is usually for the better. Every day, you’ll be in the company of passionate, like-minded individuals, which is a fantastic setting for learning new things and expanding your horizons.

Clarify your specialization

Most people enter medical school without knowing their area of interest. It might be advantageous to enter the workforce with an open mind so that you can taste a variety of specialties before choosing and committing to a line of work that you find fulfilling.

You will rotate across many hospitals and specialties during your clinical years, allowing you to truly experience life in each one and choose whether it is genuinely what you want to do.Some students are unaware that they do not need to specialize immediately after graduation.

In short, there is no need to panic. You will figure it out your way.Your interests will change from time to time as you rotate in different specialities.

Medical school is only for the rich

This tale has some truth to it. Yes, attending medical school costs a significant amount of money. Medical school tuition alone is more expensive than the average cost of other degree programs. Then there are various extra costs and lab expenses to consider

Depending on the school you wish to attend, the tuition varies. You can also apply for scholarships in addition. Utilize every chance to work toward your goal! But most students throughout rely on financial student loans. These debts can be paid off after your residency or after you get a job. But never let your dream be stopped by money.

Pro tip: Aside from scholarships, applying for student loans is another way to help finance your
med school journey

I’m afraid I won’t be good at diagnosing illnesses

Any doctor needs to be exceptionally proficient at diagnosis. You’ll devote much time to studying how to identify different diseases and symptoms. You can learn these talents if you’re prepared to put in the effort. Everyone at start feels they won’t be able to diagnose until they start real interaction with patients.

It won’t be enough to read books to diagnose a patient until you start your clinical practice. That’s why the med school curriculum is divided into two sections; pre-clinical and clinical. In the clinical years, you practically learn about different pathologies and their diagnosis.

Everything you learn is important:

We all have seen these big and heavy books of medicine, but the truth is you don’t have to learn them all. The myth is that everything you will learn in medical school is essential, but that’s false. Everything you learn is not important.

Even there are some length chapters that you won’t even be using during your clinical practice. Whenever we imagine a doctor, we assume he/she would have learned all these books by heart. But it’s the opposite of it. Yes, even a single subject has a lot of books, but it is not necessary to read them all

Medical school is boring

Medical school is commonly perceived as boring. Well, that is not totally the case. You might get bored all the time during your study as your productivity decreases, but during your school time, you might find interesting things happening around you. 

Won’t you find your cadaver lab interesting during your pre-clinical years? Honestly, it’s enjoyable. And as soon as you hit your clinical years, it becomes more interesting when you start interacting with patients, seeing different pathologies, and observing different surgeries while the doctors perform them.

I am too old to start the medicine.

The fact that it’s “too late” to start prevents many people from pursuing their dream of becoming physicians. Many thoughts go through their heads, including: Will I be able to finish it; will there be classmates of my age; will I get along with them? Well, there is no rivalry in the medical field.It’s always you vs. you rule.

You can have your bachelor’s degree and pick medicine as your career. Or, in case you have taken a break after your bachelor’s, it’s still not too late to start. Give a chance to your dreams

There’s no time for relationships and friendships.

Another myth you hear is that you won’t find relationships and friends during medical school. Well, friends make your med school more exciting. Especially, the memories you make, you would remember it for your whole life.

Apart from these things, medical school might be challenging, and you could lag. However, you can get over it and get through the difficult period if your friends provide you with strong emotional support. Make friends and seek out enjoyable company often.

It seems hard until it’s done.” is a famous saying among medical students. The long hours, challenging classes, and grueling studying can take a toll on even the most dedicated student. But when you see your first patient, hold a baby born healthy, or save someone’s life, you’ll know that all the hard work was worth it.

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How to Study for MCAT

Medical School Blog

How to Study for MCAT

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MCAT Study Materials: How to Study for MCAT? 100th percentile MCAT Experience

If you’re interested in attending medical school, you are almost certainly dismayed that you have to conquer the MCAT to stand a fighting chance with the highly competitive admission process. This blog will breakdown exactly what you need to do to tackle the MCAT and what resources you should use.

What is the MCAT?

The MCAT is the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT), administered by the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC). As implied by its name, the MCAT is the standardized exam required for medical school admission, including allopathic M.D. and osteopathic D.O. programs in the United States, Australia, Canada, and the Caribbean Islands. You’re also eligible to take the exam if you are applying to podiatric (D.P.M.) and veterinary (D.V.M.) programs.

When should I take the MCAT?

You must take the MCAT to apply to these health professions schools, so definitely in time to get your score back before you apply, which usually happens in the fall before the year in which you wish to matriculate. It often takes a month or two after the exam before you receive your score. In addition to that time frame, many students like to have additional time so that they may take the MCAT again if they aren’t satisfied with their score the first time around (see “When should I retake the MCAT?”). And finally, you should take the MCAT when you feel prepared. This means that you’ve ideally taken all the introductory-level biology, general and organic chemistry, physics, biochemistry, psychology, and sociology courses that the MCAT covers, and that you’ve had time to prepare specifically for the MCAT (see “How long does it take to prepare for the MCAT?”).

What is the average score on the MCAT?

The MCAT is scored in a range from 472 to 528, with each of the four sections being scored from 118 to 132. In 2022, the average score was 501.6, but the average score for matriculants was 511.9.

What score should I aim for on the MCAT?

It depends! As with all exams, the higher the score, most likely the better, but you will define your target score based on your desired medical school(s). You can subscribe to AAMC’s free Medical School Admission Requirements (MSAR) page to find the average MCAT score for your desired medical school(s). You can aim to achieve that score, and you don’t have to surpass it—after a certain point, there are diminishing returns and that time is probably better used to dedicate to other parts of your application.

What is the structure of the MCAT?

The MCAT is a computer-based, multiple-choice exam that takes 7.5 hours to complete—almost the length of a typical workday! It consists of four sections.

Which MCAT study materials should I use for each section?

The Critical Analysis and Reasoning (CARS)

The CARS section is often considered the most challenging section, but don’t worry! You can prepare for the CARS section and the skills you learn for the CARS section—such as synthesizing the most important information from a given set of data—will be valuable for future clinical encounters in medical school and beyond. Prior knowledge, in the conventional sense, is not necessary for this section; CARS does not test facts. Because of that, it is especially important to practice with sample passages and questions.

Science Sections

The Biological and Biochemical Foundations of Living Systems (Bio/Biochem) and Chemical and Physical Foundations of Biological Systems (Chem/Phys) sections are the traditional science sections on the MCAT. The same resources are helpful for both exams. Unlike the CARS section, these sections require fundamental knowledge in biology, chemistry, and physics, knowledge that is typically covered in the introductory classes in each respective subject in college. However, it is worth having resources to summarize and review the content, as well as resources for practice questions, as with the CARS section.

Psychological, Social, and Biological Functions of Behavior (Psych/Soc)

The Psych/Soc section is a relatively new section that is generally considered to be more straightforward. Some students have found this is the section they require the least preparation for, with introductory college classes covering most of the material well even before the dedicated MCAT studying period.

How should the MCAT study materials be used?

More is not necessarily better! Though we have suggested several resources and there are many more out there, you should not use too many resources. Prioritize the resources you do decide to use. Figure out which resources you would like to use to learn the content for each section and which resources you would like to use to practice questions.

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Which MCAT assessment tools should I use?

In addition to learning content and practicing questions for each section, it is important to take full-length practice exams. This will provide a feel for the actual MCAT, build stamina for the exam, and allow you to assess your progress.

The AAMC exams are most useful for these purposes. You can take the AAMC Sample Test first, as it does not offer a score, only a percentage correct. This exam can be used to learn what it feels like to take the whole exam in one setting. AAMC Exams 1-4 are the most predictive exams for your score on the actual MCAT and each costs $35. Exam 1 should be taken in the first 2-3 weeks of studying. Don’t take the exams more frequently than a week apart as it takes a day just to review the exam and it takes time to see your score change. These exams are assessment tools, not practice tools like question banks

Finally, if you have additional time, you can also take the Next Step and Princeton Review exams, keeping in mind that they are more challenging and less representative.

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How long does it take to prepare for the MCAT?

This also depends! We would recommend that you take a practice exam about once every week and that you take the five AAMC exams. So, five exams mean five weeks. If you’re adding the Next Step exams or want to space out the practice exams, then you might want to take 7-8 weeks. Two months is a good amount of time to study for the MCAT, especially if you can dedicate that period to studying. If your study period is too long, you risk forgetting some of the material you learned at the beginning of your study period or even burning out. This is just a guideline, however, and you can adjust the amount of time to your schedule and your needs.

Remember, also, that you’ve been preparing for the MCAT through all your pre-medical courses all along!

What are some strategies for the MCAT?

One of the most important strategies for the MCAT is to start questions from Day 1. A mistake that is often made is to separate studying time into content time and then question/assessment time. Students sometimes feel that they should learn content via traditional didactic content—i.e., books, videos, podcasts—before they attempt any questions. But questions are the best way to learn in the first place. Questions prime you to learn the content more efficiently.

When you review the questions you’ve answered, you can use a method called
active reviewing. In this method, you go through all your questions first, simply marking correct and incorrect, without looking at the explanations. Next, go through and redo the questions you got wrong, just to make sure it wasn’t because of a simple mistake. If you still get the answer wrong, it is likely because of a content issue, and you can review the topic using the above resources. This makes the information more memorable as your brain is primed to learn it.

Another strategy you can use to structure your study time is
subject spacing. This means you alternate the topics you study throughout the day. For example, you can start the morning with CARS, which would wake you up, then switch to the science sections, then psych/soc, then CARS again before lunch, before doing the same thing after lunch. This method allows you to cover a subject multiple times throughout the day, which helps you to consolidate the information. It also forces you to change focus, keeping you awake through a long study day.

Finally, we will address
notetaking, or rather, limiting it. Students often take too many notes, as if in doing so, they will remember everything they write down. But the best way to learn is through active learning and copying notes from your resources is not active. Active learning involves recall, as with doing questions or flashcards. If you take notes, do so sparingly, focusing on topics/questions you’ve missed several times.

When should I retake the MCAT?

This depends both on your goal score and what you can do differently the next time you take the MCAT. You can consider retaking the exam if your score is significantly lower than your target score or if your score is imbalanced across sections (i.e. 129/122/130/128). It’s important, however, that you can demonstrate a significant score increase the next time around, at least 4-5 points. You can take the MCAT up to three times in a year, up to four times within two years, and up to seven times total in a lifetime. Remember that schools can see every time you’ve taken the exam and every score you’ve received.

How do I register for the MCAT?

You can register for the MCAT through the AAMC website:
https://students-residents.aamc.org/register-mcat-exam/register-mcat-exam.
You will need to create a free AAMC account first.

How much does it cost to register for the MCAT?

The MCAT is expensive, costing $320 to register for the exam. There is a fee assistance program (https://students-residents.aamc.org/applying-medical-school/applying-medical-school-process/fee-assistance-program/) through the AAMC, and often there are other programs through your college.

The MCAT journey is stressful, expensive, and intense. We hope that this blog post has made it a little less so and gives you a solid footing to start your MCAT journey.

Myan Bhoopalam

Myan Bhoopalam graduated summa cum laude from the University of Pennsylvania as a Roy and Diana Vagelos Scholar with a triple major in Physics, Biochemistry, and Biophysics. He also concurrently completed a M.S. in Physics during his 4 years at Penn. He is currently a 4th year medical student at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. He is pursuing a residency position in Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery.

Ashley Zhou

Ashley Zhou graduated with honors from Duke University as a member of Phi Beta Kappa, majoring in Neuroscience and minoring in Chemistry and Cultural Anthropology. She is currently a 4th year medical student at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. She is applying into Ophthalmology for residency, with plans for a fellowship in Pediatric Ophthalmology.

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Secondary Applications for Medical School

Medical School Blog

Secondary Applications for Medical School

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Secondary Applications for Medical School

Secondary supplemental applications play a vital role in medical school application process. The best way to tackle this additional component is to fully understand what is being asked and how to properly answer the common essay topics that are asked within the supplemental application. This post will provide you with an overview of secondary applications along with multiple essay prompt examples you may encounter during the application cycle.

What is a medical school secondary application?

 

When students apply to medical school, they submit a primary application which includes a personal statement, grades, activities, leadership, and MCAT scores. Upon receiving this primary application, medical schools will follow up with an invite to complete a secondary supplemental application. This supplemental application is school-specific and delivered to an applicant via an email – the same email you used in the AMCAS or AACOMAS applications. In some emails, the schools will send you directions to gain access to a portal. In the portal, you will find supplemental requirements asking for more information such as additional essays, paperwork (such as residential ID), background checks, access to other required exam scores, and other tasks.

Please note: Some medical schools may not have a secondary application/component, so do not always expect one.

What is the purpose or goal of the secondary application?

 
It’s essentially a way for schools to learn MORE about you through their specific questions either about your experiences, abilities, or your interest in their school. It is an INTEGRAL part of your application since it serves as another opportunity to showcase yourself and your personality beyond the primary application and statistics.
 

Do all schools automatically send you a secondary application?

No, some schools will screen applicants before sending a secondary application, whereas others send every applicant a secondary one. Please beware that there may be schools not present on here that apply to what is being said:

Schools that Automatically SendSchools that Screen First
AlbanyEastern Virginia
SinaiUCSF
SUNY UpstateUC Riverside
MeharryUCSD
NYUCooper
Penn StateUC Davis
U MinnesotaU Washington
SUNY DownstateU Kentucky
HowardWestern Virginia U
LoyolaUC Irvine
StanfordUC Riverside
Michigan State 
Weil Cornell 
Morehouse 
Marshall 
U Arizona 

NOTE: Do not try to pick schools depending on whether they require a seconding or screen first vs. automatically sending. You should try your best to pick schools based on your interests and focus on their mission, vision, organization, and opportunities.

Secondary Applications

It includes Structural, Language, and content editing for 5 Schools.

How time-consuming or intensive can secondary applications be?

 
Some secondary applications can be very intense with lots to do, whereas others can be simpler and less time-consuming. This depends on the length of these applications, where some may have a small number of additional questions like 1-3 while others have more such as eight essay prompts with about 300 word limit for each. Thus, it is important to plan accordingly on how much time you should dedicate to each school’s secondary and to stay organized without missing or forgetting to submit information.
 
It is also important to pay attention to the word limits they give you, so you do not spend extra time writing more than you can submit since they can be strict about these limits. (I mean, imagine how many applications they go through, and would they want to read more than they have to? Doubtful.)

Do secondary applications have a deadline?

 

It varies for each school but usually within a few weeks of receiving the secondary. An ideal golden rule is to submit within two weeks of receiving the application. But always remember to check what the actual requirement is! The earlier you submit, the better you will be because now your application is complete and open for review by the school. Additionally, most schools accept students on a rolling basis.

What is the average cost to submit a secondary?

There is usually a fee that needs to be paid upon completion and submission of each secondary. The price ranges from $30-250 (with the average being about $75 per school). However, it is possible to get fee assistance from AAMC if you qualify. Be sure to check, because you can save a lot of money! Please note that a few schools may request you to pay the fee before even getting the secondary application.

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What are some common secondary essay prompts?

Why our medical school?

Good Example Response:

 Growing up in Alabama has connected me with the culture and people in the Southeast United States. Living here my whole life has strengthened my ties to the region and its various opportunities. My college career has been focused on understanding the medically underserved from volunteering over 200 hours at Birmingham Central Hospital, witnessing healthcare in South Sudan, especially in the circumstance that led to my grandmother’s death, and my medical mission trip abroad to the Dominican Republic. Though my experiences have been international, empathy and benevolence are prevalent emotions that push physicians to help the medically underserved, which can be witnessed even in the localities of AL. These incidents caused me to reflect upon the underserved in this world and take a step to help those in need by volunteering at food banks and homeless shelters. All these experiences in which I volunteered, shadowed, and learned have allowed me to reflect on what kind of doctor I want to be in the future, and I believe that (insert medical school)’s mission statement and goals will help fulfill my future endeavors of serving the medically underserved in my home state. (This example ties the student’s experiences and home state affiliation with the medical school’s mission – to help rural/underserved and ideally be an in-state student. Pay attention to a school’s mission statement and do your best to relate some answers to them)

Weaker Example:

I would like to attend a medical school in either an underserved or rural environment. If I were to become a physician, I would most like to practice medicine in these regions due to a general lack of available doctors and medical attention. I am particularly interested in Southern states due to my background and personal comfort with the region’s society and culture. The program at (mention medical school) satisfies this requirement of mine and will make me a happy student if I get accepted to attend. (This response is vague all around. You can specifically mention your direct ties to the state in which the program is located and/or the medical school itself. Always give anecdotes and specific details instead of blanket generalizations. There are many medical schools in the Southern United States, as opposed to only a few in a particular state and even fewer in a specific city/town. The more granular you can get, the better your connection will be with the intended reader/interviewer.

  • Why are you interested in pursuing medical school specifically (as opposed to other health fields like nursing, PA, PT, etc.)?
  • Good ExampleResponse: Originally, I had never entertained the thought of being a doctor. I was an engineer at heart, so I figured I would become an engineer. I came to Virginia Tech with that mindset, not medicine. I just did not believe that it was the right path for me, but I knew I wanted to be involved in the sciences, so I chose to do BME. I naively believed that I could make a quick and lasting impact in the world through my engineering degree. I became involved with the Engineers Without Borders chapter here at Virginia Tech. I quickly became a project lead for the South Africa program and had the opportunity to travel twice to the community for whom we are building a solar-powered water distribution system. I witnessed my impact upon the community and how grateful they were for our support. My mere presence made a lasting impact. It was also in South Africa when I visited my first orphanage. Most of the children had a cleft lip or, in the case of one young girl, a dietary restriction, but those medical issues were enough for prospective parents to turn away from them. This experience highlighted the importunate of personal connections, and my shadowing and volunteering opportunities have solidified that notion. Currently, I am in an engineering position, and I see what I lack. Each day is unfulfilling as I am unable to form a bond with those who I help. This proves that medicine is my calling.
  • What motivated you to become a physician?

  • Please select the experience that has been the most meaningful in influencing your desire to pursue a career in medicine

  • Good Example Response: Volunteering at Northside Hospital’s Cancer Resource Center greatly moved me to pursue a medical career. I worked with prostate cancer patients and helped them secure resources offered by the hospital. My most memorable experience was with my first patient, a young man clearly unwilling to discuss personal matters with a volunteer. I told him I was there to help, and he gradually opened up to me. After we discussed upcoming movies, he told me he desperately needed help. Once I signed him up for a support group and financial aid, he thanked me and relaxed. This experience was extremely meaningful because it was the first time I had strongly connected with a patient. I had actually helped him, and this sense of gratification made me feel truly passionate about joining the medical community. Because of this experience, I learned to actively listen to patients and understand their problems beyond their medical issues. I hope to use this knowledge and empathy to effectively treat patients and further enrich the efforts of a medical unit moving forward.

    • Describe a challenging situation you have overcome.
    • How can you add to the diversity of our program? What have you learned from your experiences?
    • Address any weaknesses and how you overcame them.
    • If you have any academic inconsistencies you would like to address, please do so here (MCAT, grades, etc.).
    • Good Example Response: The transition from a high school to a college curriculum was challenging. In my experience, high school classes relied on memorization skills, while my college curriculum required memorization and a more comprehensive understanding of application within these subjects. I was also struggling with time management as I was working two jobs while taking challenging classes. Unfortunately, I did not learn my lesson until the end of my sophomore year. Despite spending endless hours on classes and extracurricular activities, I saw my grades plummet because I had not been focusing my limited time on truly understanding the material. To succeed, I turned from the easier route, cleared up my schedule, and dedicated my time towards comprehensively learning the problems before me. The changes did not happen overnight, but I believe I turned my life around. I have made great strides in terms of academic achievement, and I am confident that through this experience, I understand what is necessary to succeed in medical school.
    • Weaker Example Response: I scored very poorly in my earlier undergrad classes because they were different than what I anticipated. It took me a long time to adjust but eventually, I was able to bring my grades up. Hopefully, I will not repeat these mistakes in medical school and will put my best put forward.(This response leaves loopholes in your character and is not detailed enough to be worth mentioning at this level. Try to be specific about the setbacks, how you resolved any weakness, and anyway you can reassure they will not hinder your performance moving forward. You use “hopefully” as if you can
      • not control and prevent the mistake again)
    • Address other things you would like to talk about that are not available in the rest of your application
      • Good way to add updates since secondaries can be submitted weeks to months after submitting your primary AMCAS application
    • If you have already graduated, what have you done since undergrad?
    • If you have previously applied to our medical school, what is new to your application?
    • Describe a significant leadership position you had and what you learned from it or what it meant to you.
    • Describe how the COVID-19 pandemic may have interrupted activities on your application and what you learned from it.
    • Where do you see yourself in 5 years after graduating from medical school?
    • What is your greatest non-academic achievement?
    • Tell me about yourself (sometimes asks for an interesting fact that someone would be surprised to know).
    • What characteristics do you think are important for a physician to have? Pick one and give an example of a time you embodied it.
    • What will be your support system in medical school?
    • Where do you see yourself most likely practicing medicine?
    • What do you believe is a physician’s role in the community?
    • ** There will sometimes be questions specific to those doing a dual degree such as MD/PhD or MD/MPH etc.
    • Please describe your interest in public health and how you wish to combine it with your career in medicine.
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What else can be found on the secondary application besides essay prompts?

 

Some in-state schools will ask you to upload proof of in-state residence. This could be an ID, background check, or medical documentation. It may just be some paperwork that needs signing that is specific to the school prior to a potential interview invite.

What are schools looking for in the responses to the additional essay prompts found in the secondary application?

 

They want to know you are mission compliant and a good fit for their program. Check the website and try to incorporate the school’s mission without going overboar

How can I manage the plethora of secondary applications that I will be receiving?

 

Do your best to stay organized. One thing you can do is make an Excel sheet with the following information:

  • list of school names

  • when you received their secondary

  • when is the due date (if they gave you one)

  • what other requirements they ask for

    • CASPer
    • Snapshot
    • Duet
    • AAMC Preview
    • Residential ID

  • when you have completed/submitted everything

 You can proactively find previous year essay topics on forums like Student Doctor Network (SDN). Usually, they are the same from year to year with possibly slight changes so that you can plan accordingly through this. If the exact questions are different, your prepared answers may be useful to answer these other questions or even help answer questions from other schools since themes and ideas are generally repeated among secondaries.

What are the “do’s” of writing a secondary?

 
  • Do make each essay specific to the question/prompt being asked
  • Do have others proofread your essays just like your personal statement
    • Make sure there are no errors
  • Do use a spreadsheet to organize which essays and other details for the application that goes along with each school
  • Do take breaks to give yourself the best creative juices to answer the secondary essays
 

What are the “don’ts” of writing a secondary?

 
  • Don’t cut and paste parts of other essays without making sure your essay is sensible once finished
  • Don’t simply repeat information from your primary application or other secondary essay prompts
  • Don’t go off-topic from the prompt – directly address the question being asked
  • Don’t take too long to complete and thus end up submit late
  • Don’t sacrifice quality for speed (ex: answering 3-5 prompts a day in higher quality is better than 15-20 poorly written ones that do not offer value to you as an applicant).

Written By: Varun Yarabarla

Varun graduated from the Georgia Institute of Technology with a Bachelor’s in Biomedical Engineering and is currently a 4th-year medical student at PCOM and will be applying for an Anesthesiology Residency this upcoming ERAS cycle. He has helped numerous pre-medical students and medical students with writing their personal statements, improving their interviewing skills, and providing many tips about the application process.

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