Different schools have specific majors or “tracks” available for pre-meds. Even if there is no pre-med specific major, there is usually a “track” of some sort for students entering medical, dental, or vet school. At my school, most students majored in Biology, but it wasn’t mandatory. You just have to get the prerequisites done, no matter what your major is. These are the courses
- Biology – 1 year with lab
- Chemistry – 1 year with lab
- Physics – 1 year with lab
- Calculus – 1 semester is required for most programs
- Statistics – 1 semester
- English – some kind of english or writing class is required
- Caveat, some programs do not accept AP credit and require an English or writing class to be completed at your university.
- Biochemistry (NOT required) – super prevalent on the MCAT, but not necessarily required by most schools
- Psychology or sociology coursework
Letters of Recommendation / Letters of Evaluation
Either a committee letter, or separate letters of recommendation, depending on your university. Make sure to check early! That way, you know if you need to be going out of your way to make sure your professors know your name, which can be difficult at large universities.
- Science professor letter (1-2)
- Non-science professor letter (1)
- Clinician letter (especially one from a DO)
- +/- Committee letter
MCAT and CASPER
The MCAT is a 7.5 hour test that has 4 parts:
- Biological and biochemical foundations of living systems (biology)
- Chemical and physical foundations of biological systems (chemistry and physics)
- Psychological, social, and biological foundations of behavior
- Critical analysis and reasoning skills
501 is technically the average score, with 505 being the average for admission to MD school and 502 as the average for admission to DO school.
When I was studying for the MCAT, remember feeling overwhelmed with the amount of facts I had to know. I felt as if every time I learned something new, something I previously learned would slip away. Some students thrive in the courses, but before you spend upwards of $2,000 on a course, try other things. The problem with courses is that they mainly focus on passive learning. At the end of the day, the MCAT is a reading test, so reading the material you need to know sounds smart BUT the key is in the practice tests and active learning strategies. If I could do it over, I would have focused more on the practice and flashcards. Bringing me to my next point:
Anki for MCAT! The MCAT has SO much stuff on it, it’s impossible to keep in your brain all at the same time, at least without anki.. For those of you who haven’t heard of anki, it is a computer software that is essentially flash cards with a built-in review algorithm for optimal learning. I WISH I had it when studying for the MCAT. What you do is, you go on reddit or the MCAT discord and search for MCAT Anki and download a deck after downloading the software. It can look daunting at first when you see there are like 5,000 cards to do, but you can change your preferences to only see maybe 50 new cards each day (there are SO many youtube videos on how to do this). If you are being consistent with flashcards, you will see improvement.
The CASPer is a test that is meant to assess the applicant’s judgment, professionalism, empathy, collaboration and ethics. It is 80 minutes, and is used by more than 60 US medical schools including both DO and MD. You can think of it as a pre-interview, interview! Basically, it tests how you respond to specific situations and honestly, I never had to take this but after researching about it, it seems very similar to a few questions I’ve come across on the residency interview trail!
This is where i’ve said before, you need HOBBIES, something to talk about other than school! Running, yoga, hiking, knitting and crafts, boxing, paddleboarding, playing an instrument, etc. These are things that you not only need for applications, but also for your own WELLNESS!
School affiliated activities are also great! Ability to show that you supported your university by being involved in extra-curriculars is important because it shows your medical school that you are capable of collaboration and would likely support extracurriculars at the med school as well!
Don’t go overboard and spread yourself thin. I know I’ve said scores aren’t everything (because they really aren’t), but its still harder to get good grades when you have commitments every night.
Personal statement (everyone’s least favorite part, or at least my least favorite part)
This is where you explain why you want to be a physician, what motivates you, and what else you can tell about yourself that isn’t somewhere else in the application.
They say to make it personal, it’s literally in the title, but also not too personal. This leaves you, the writer, walking this fine line of what is too much and what is not enough. Honestly, I’m afraid to go back and read my personal statement. I think I included a personal story about how I grew up knowing I wanted to be a physician, which probably isn’t that original. I remember writing it trying to be the thing they wanted, instead of just being myself. So I’ll leave you with that – TL;DR just be yourself! But with the caveat that I know when writing a personal statement it is SO hard to be yourself when you’re trying to be the perfect applicant. Trying to make your story sound unique, heartfelt, exciting, etc. With this in mind, ignore being perfect and speak your truth, tell your story how you want to tell it!
As for editing, I would have a peer read it, a family member, and someone who is a professional, maybe a mentor or faculty member at your university.
As you’ll hear me say again and again – everyone is on their own journey. Comparison is an act of violence against yourself. Comparing yourself to anyone else is a game without a winner. Everyone’s application is unique, everyone brings something different to the table. What matters is the passion and motivation behind the application, and what makes you YOU!