Pre-meds frequently make mistakes that put their chances of gaining acceptance to medical school at risk. Below, I have summarized the most common missteps I have seen over the last decade first as a Harvard pre-med tutor and now as an admissions consultant. All of these errors, or “deadly sins,” can be avoided with a combination of understanding, diligence, and attention to detail.
I. MCAT: Uneven Score
Though you may believe standardized testing is a money-making monopoly that does not test your ability to be a doctor, it is a necessary evil. And as much as they hate to admit it, medical school admissions committees pay attention to the score. Interestingly, an applicant who scores 6 14 10 is worse off than one who scores a 10 10 10. Admissions committees are looking for consistency and generally want an even score above 30.
II. Recommendations: “Famous” Recommenders
Think of recommendations as a way for the admissions committee to find out what you are really like. But remember that can go both ways. Recommendations are notorious for making or breaking an application; one luke-warm or (cringe) outright negative recommendation can sink your chances of becoming a doctor.
Focus on obtaining recommendations from individuals who know you well as opposed to big-name professors you have met once after class. A glowing recommendation from your advanced biology teaching assistant whose office hours you visited weekly will be much stronger than a two-line recommendation from your dad’s famous researcher friend who you met once at the mall.
III. Personal Statement: Quote Introduction
Many applicants like to start the personal statement with a quote. Quotes feel creative and interesting. Yet, after reading hundreds of personal statements, I can attest that starting with a quote rarely works. Instead of creative, quotes usually appear trite and even a bit cheesy. Skip the quote and use an anecdote instead.
IV. AMCAS Activities: Space Fill
In general, medical school admission committees place more weight on activities that show leadership and dedication over a period of time. Admissions committees look down on repeats and “fluff” activities. Don’t fill the space just to fill the space. It is better to include ten stellar, long-term activities where you held a leadership role than fifteen activities that you performed for a semester.
V. Secondaries: Oops! Wrong School
Let’s face it, secondary essays are a hassle. Who knew you had to write this much to get into medical school? Most applicants wisely create ten secondary essays that answer the most common questions and then cut and paste them into the applications. However, pasting the Harvard answer (with the Harvard name) into the Yale application will not win you any friends in New Haven. Be sure to proof read your essays to avoid such embarrassing mistakes.
VI. Interviews: Check the Suit
When on the interview trail, always carry your suit onto the plane. Luggage can get lost even on direct flights. I once landed in Washington, DC for an interview, and my bag ended up in St. Louis. I didn’t show up to the interview in jeans, but trying to find a new suit in five hours led to incredible stress. Have everything you need in a carry-on bag including shoes, socks/stockings, jewelry, and toiletries/cosmetics.
VII. Waitlist: Contact a No Contact
When you are waitlisted at a school that requests you do not contact them, please do not contact them. No phone calls, e-mails, or letters. No friend of a friend making a call on your behalf. If you would like to be moved from the waitlist to the rejected list, feel free to give the school a call.
The medical school admissions process can certainly be daunting, but it is a necessary hurdle to cross. Avoid these Seven Deadly Sins and you are seven steps closer to getting in.
Disclosure: Compensated Affiliate.