For undergraduate premedical students, building a strong resume in preparation for applying to medical school is a longitudinal process that requires careful planning. Whether you are in your freshman, sophomore or junior year of college, there are tangible steps you can take in the new year to best position yourself for your application cycle.
As the new year begins, think about where you are in your journey toward medicine, what gaps remain in your med ical school application and how you will address those gaps in the coming months and years. To help you get started, think about the application resolutions below — one for each undergraduate year prior to senior year — and consider enacting them in your own life.
For college freshmen: “I resolve to plot out tentative educational and extracurricular trajectories for myself.”
As you move into the second half of your freshman year of college, you should be considering potential majors, completing your premed course requirements and getting involved in research and/or volunteer activities that will support your medical school application. Taking time to plot out when you will complete your premed requirements can help you avoid squeezing in these important classes later on.
Take stock of which premedical courses you have already completed, how many are left and when they are offered at your school. Then, make a tentative schedule for their completion.
You should also make a list of majors in which you are interested. Remember, you do not necessarily need to complete a STEM major to be a competitive med school applicant. Review the course requirements for each major, and consider how you will be able to fit your premed studies into the framework of that major and any other additional requirements you might have.
Finally, identify one or two volunteer or research activities you can try out in the coming semester. In light of the novel coronavirus pandemic, remember that these activities may be limited. Look for virtual options, such as compiling data for a research study, volunteering with a crisis hotline or tutoring students who are struggling with virtual learning.
Volunteer and research opportunities within the medical field are in short supply right now, so do not get hung up on having to do something medical. Activities that involve social justice, serving underprivileged populations and improving access to basic living supplies are all valuable alternatives to working within a medical setting.
For college sophomores: “I resolve to identify when I will study for and take the MCAT.”
The MCAT is a significant hurdle for many premed students, especially if they are planning to get their prep and testing done alongside their undergraduate coursework.
Figuring out when you will be able to carve out time to study for and take this med school admissions exam is key to getting your application in on your desired timeline. Lots of students make the mistake of trying to prepare for the MCAT in the midst of a busy semester with a heavy course load, and many thus find themselves inadequately prepared on test day.
Avoid this problem by looking at your long-term course schedule now. Identify times when your academic classes are less demanding, such as during summer breaks, which will allow you to focus more energy on preparing for the MCAT. Consider how much time you think you will need to prepare, what your other obligations during that time might be and when you want to apply to med school.
You should also consider what you will do if you do not hit your target score on your exam day. Will you leave room to take the test again in order to apply within your desired cycle? Or are you willing to apply for a later cycle if you need to retest? Keep all possible scenarios in mind as you hone in on an exam date.
For college juniors: “I resolve to determine which med school admissions cycle I will pursue and to check that I will be able to submit a robust application at that time.”
By the latter half of your junior year, you should have completed most of your premed requirements. You have hopefully cultivated a resume that indicates your interest in medicine. Students hoping to matriculate into med school right after graduating from college will apply during the summer after their junior years. Those who choose to take one or more gap years will apply during a later summer.
At the start of the new year, determine when you want to apply to med school and whether your timeline is reasonable considering your academic record and resume. If you intend to apply in a few months, make sure your MCAT scores and GPA are competitive. Applying with scores and grades that reflect subpar academic performance is less likely to result in an acceptance letter.
If your academic record is not up to snuff, consider applying during a later admissions cycle and finding ways to bolster your numbers in the meantime.
Even if your scores and grades are good, a resume light on volunteer, research or work experience showing your commitment to medicine may warrant one or more gap years. Remember that a med school admissions cycle rolls around every year. Though you may feel pressure to apply right away, submitting a weak application is risky and expensive.
There is nothing wrong with planning for one or more gap years, whether you make that plan for academic or extracurricular reasons, or even because you would like to take a break before diving into the rigor of medical school. Reflecting on your timeline and application readiness as you approach the final months of junior year can help position you to submit your strongest application possible.
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3 Medical School Application Resolutions to Set in the New Year originally appeared on usnews.com