The binder, worn but well-loved, measured well over an inch thick. “Here are my daughter’s achievements,” Mom said as she proudly handed it over. Her daughter silently died a little death from embarrassment. A quick glance through told me that the list of achievements dated back to the fifth grade – nine years of scrap-booking.
“Which of these experiences should we include in her application to medical school?” Mom asked.
When you’re applying to medical school, you want your experiences to to show that you’re well-rounded, that you’re community-oriented, that you have experience in, ideally, multiple medical settings.
Of course, you also want a competitive gpa (3.65 or higher) and a strong MCAT (32 or higher).
You want to be taken seriously
Above all, you need experiences that help you stand out, that help you validate your motives and claims about “why do you want to be a doctor?” in your application.
You want to be taken seriously, so your experiences need to be focused from within your adult life — usually college. High school or earlier experiences are not a good idea to include in your application.
What are medical schools looking for? The key to the Experience Descriptions section of your application lies within your personal passions.
Be honest about your genuine passions
Let’s say you/your son or daughter is a tennis player. An enthusiastic, hard-working, committed, kick-ass, college team-leading tennis player. This is an ideal example of a good experience to include in your application.
In contrast, let’s say you “heard from someone” that it’s a good idea to include tennis in your application to medical school. Perhaps cousin/nephew Johnny got into medical school, and your aunt/sister said, “The interviewer talked about tennis the entire time.” So, well meaning and well intentioned, you squirt in “tennis player” as one of the experiences. And maybe, just maybe, to fill the space a bit more, you add in a little stretch of the imagination. You know, a small embellishment, nothing serious. “Active in the tennis club.” Well, ok you went once. That’s not so bad, is it?
Fast forward to the interview. The interviewer greets you excitedly and asks, “So, is your forehand or your backhand stronger?” “Do you use an Eastern or semi-Western grip?” “Who’s your favorite top pro?” “Hasn’t Federer’s career been amazing?”
Uh oh. Trapped. Embarrassed. You realize, too late, that the interviewer sought-out this applicant specifically because of the perceived love of tennis. What started as innocent common ground quickly turned into something much more serious.
So the moral of this story is to be who you are in your experiences:
music for the musician, spanish for the spanish speaker, int’l clinic for the underserved
and so on….
Be passionate in your experiences. And be who you are.