Being a Competitive Applicant
While the following discussion is oriented to pre-med students, the advice is relevant to students applying to any of the health professions.
During college, the successful premedical student completes several important tasks, including:
- the selection of a personally challenging and appealing major
- the timely completion of all required premedical courses
- the pursuit of advanced coursework in areas of special interest
- the establishment of an ongoing relationship with an informed premedical advisor
- participation in a variety of extracurricular activities and experiences
- the mastery of both course content and academic skills
- the balancing of intellectual development and social and interpersonal growth
[source: "Medical School Admission Requirements (MSAR)" AAMC]
A strong academic record:
- Mastery of the basic science requirements
- Broad and successful exposure to the humanities and social sciences
- Ability to read and understand sophisticated material in ALL subjects, not just science (especially important for those taking a test like the MCAT)
- Commitment to being a lifelong learner, one who pursues "mature and independent scholarship" (e.g., independent study or honors program)
NOTE that AP and dual-enrollment credits in the basic science pre-requisites often will not be counted by programs as having met requirements for admission.
A firm and clear motivation for the health professions:
- Activities that show care for your fellow human beings and their welfare
- Evidence that you understand the role of a DDS, MD, DO, OD, PA, RN, PT, PharmD, DVM, etc., from direct personal experience. i.e., accumulation of clinical experience hours
Outstanding personal qualities:
- Evidence of character traits such as maturity, stability, integrity, responsibility and accountability, reliability and dependability, resilience and adaptability, self-discipline, judgment, honesty, perseverance, intellectual curiosity and enthusiasm, leadership, etc.
- Evidence of compassion and empathy for others, such as by doing meaningful service work (e.g. exposure to diverse peoples, familiarity with cultures other than your own, etc.)
- Having relationships with faculty members or health professionals who know you well enough to write a letter of evaluation
- Good interpersonal skills, including communications skills such as writing, speaking , and listening
Consider what type of evidence you will have for these "intangibles"
Medical and professional schools are interested in well-rounded applicants, those who have shown interest in and ability to work with people. Service to humanity is one of the highest ideals of medicine.
Get involved in internships or volunteer; on-campus activities (if related to health care, that's a bonus, but not necessary); take on leadership positions in student or community organizations, athletic teams, or in student and residence hall government; volunteer with hospice, or spend time at the retirement homes or convalescent centers; tutor underprivileged children in the community. Letters of recommendation from your activities' supervisors can be important additions to your application.