After deciding you want to go to medical school, ask to meet with your university’s pre-med advisor. Your premed advisor should act as your advocate and mentor when planning your coursework and related extracurricular activities.
But to get the most out of the relationship, you need to do your part. Meet with your advisor frequently and be prepared to ask questions. Preparation is important to get the most out of your first meeting. Here are six good questions to ask:
1. How many matriculation students are enrolled this year and how does it compare to previous years?
2. How many prep students in the middle and high school classes applied to medical school last year, and how many applied after a gap year?
3. Can you tell me how many students got accepted into medical school?
4. Can you share with me a typical timeline for a prep student graduating in four years?
5. Are there specific additional courses recommended for the MCAT?
6. How much flexibility do students have to reschedule their class schedule?
These are the questions I want well-informed prep students to ask at their first meeting. Follow up with additional inquiries based on the responses you receive.
You are trying to discern the percentage of students who go into medicine from the first two questions because a large percentage of students get discouraged and look for other careers.
For example, if I learned that 500 prep students started their freshman year, but only 100 actually applied to medical school in their junior or senior year, I would ask the prep advisor what common reasons they think might be. If the answer is vague, such as study habits, I might ask other questions, perhaps asking how many students change majors after their first year.
It is critical to ask a freshman if he or she can enroll in a science course in a lab during their first year. You might mention that you understand that freshmen often have difficulty completing two challenging laboratory science courses.
Bottom line: If you really want to go to medical school, don’t let yourself be eliminated. If you know that students often get a C in tough science courses, please let the advisor know that you are considering taking them in the summer.
You may choose to double up later in your undergraduate program, but I strongly advise against doing so in your first year. I can’t tell you how many applicants have told me they wish they knew this before enrolling in a freshman program.
For the next year or two, stay in close contact with your matriculation advisor and be sure to ask for recommendations from the committee. Some schools will still let you collect all letters of recommendation, but most larger schools will prepare a committee letter.Your advisor will want you to provide the professor’s name and list Activities and research experiences.
Sometimes advisors will know who received the letter in a timely manner and who wrote it well. For example, if you are deciding between rwo chemistry professors, an advisor may help guide you through that decision.
Even if the committee writes large letters, individual ones are attached. Our committee has read all individual letters of recommendation and believes that the closer to the source, the better the information.
Discuss with your advisor what the committee expects in terms of evaluation. For some it’s pretty global and not very helpful. Other schools may rank for community service, medical experience, academic skills and areas of study. There may be 10 or so items, such as written communication skills, oral presentation skills, timeliness, interpersonal skills, cooperation skills, etc. They may have each letter writer fill out a form, or the committee may only have one.
You want to rank high on the charts for each category. If you don’t know what to expect or what categories the committee evaluates, you’re at a distinct disadvantage.
Some universities have special ties to specific medical schools that may offer you an edge. If there is a medical school associated with your undergraduate school, you may have an advantage if you are selected for an interview.
Find out where previous graduates attended medical school and ask your advisor to share contact information. This way, you can reach out to these students for tips and guidance. Seniors who are currently applying to medical school may also have good advice.
Your advisor should be familiar with medical school requirements and help you navigate the online database of medical school admissions requirements. Be sure to plan early so that you can take courses required by medical schools to which you may apply.
Give your advisor the best chance to get to know you as a person and they will do their best to help guide you into your future career as a physician.