If the problem is one of academic preparation (GPA, admissions test scores, course selection), you should seriously consider enrolling in some type of post-baccalaureate program. These include: traditional post-baccalaureate programs, science enhancement programs, special master’s programs, and special programs for non-traditional, minority, and/or disadvantaged students.
For more information concerning post-baccalaureate programs consult AAMC (these programs are also useful for other health professions).
The answer really depends upon your confidence level, grades, and MCAT or professional exam outcomes. Typically students apply to 10+ schools, dividing their applications into “high end,” “most likely,” and “safety.”
Keep it simple – you don’t need to have a groundbreaking story. Don’t say you want to “help people” …everyone says that? At least word it creatively or have a unique story to back it up.
You don’t have to choose the profession closest to a doctor (e.g. PA, nursing). Saying something completely unrelated to medicine is okay, but tie it together by relating it to a skill that is useful in medicine.
Make sure you research the school ahead of time, and remember where you are. Talking about a different school is quite embarrassing (it happens!).
Again, this is where it’s useful to do some research beforehand. Having an idea of what you would get involved in if you were a student at the school is great to talk about.
Actually choose a weakness. Do not say “I care too much” or something to that affect. However, don’t say anything terrible, like “I have a blatant disregard for ethics” – that would be concerning. How you phrase it makes all the difference. Saying “I have a tendency to over-commit myself” sounds better than “I over-commit myself all the time.” You could also add an example of when you’ve broken this trend.
Share a positive way in which you handle stress. This could be as simple as listening or playing music to extracurricular activities such as golf, running, or lifting weights.
Always have at least one question for the interviewer. Even if it’s just asking why they chose this school or what they like most about the school. It gives the impression that you are engaged and invested in the process.
The important thing is that you have some sort of outlet. It doesn’t matter so much what it is.
Remember that being a leader can take on many forms. You may lead by example or you can lead by guiding others in discovering their own path. Provide examples that involve teamwork as well as organizational leadership.
This is meant to be a general idea. Do you think you want to practice in a hospital? A rural setting? Academic medicine? Don’t appear too set on a specialty. No matter how much experience you have in a field as an undergrad, it’s completely different when you’re working as a provider. Be humble, and don’t appear close-minded. If you do have an interest in a specific field, saying “I’m thinking of _____, but I’m keeping an open mind” will be better received than “I want to be a _____.”
Take time to formulate an answer that demonstrates how you balance your study and work habits with your personal life and activities. Interviewers want to see that you have a well-rounded schedule that allows time for personal activities as well as time spent studying.
Use your common sense. They are looking for you to show you can reason well under pressure. If the interviewer challenges your answer, it most likely doesn’t have anything to do with what you said. They are probably trying to see how you act under stress. As a general rule of thumb, stick to your instincts and don’t be easily influenced by the interviewer’s challenge.
When you walk in the door, you have one shot at a first impression. Be confident and have a firm handshake.
Maintain eye contact (but don’t forget to blink).
Don’t be afraid to pause before you answer a question. Say “That’s a good question” if you need time to think. It’s better to regroup before answering than to start talking right away without a clear idea of what you want to communicate.
Rid yourself of nervous habits. They can be very distracting and noticeable to the interviewer.
Stick with what you know. If you’re asked a question about healthcare or a specific field of medicine, don’t be afraid to say you’re not sure. The person will probably know if you’re making something up.
Answer the question fully, but do not feel that you have to take up the entire allotted time answering the question. If you finish before time is up, the interviewer will likely have a follow-up question to keep the conversation going.
Likewise, if you take the whole time to answer a question and/or get cut off at an interview station mid-sentence, don’t get too flustered. This happens quite often and it comes with the territory of MMIs.
Use professional language. Try to limit saying “like,” “ya know,” etc.
Don’t shy away from what makes you unique. The things you love to do or that you are passionate about that have nothing to do with medicine can be the things that make you stand out!
Be somewhat knowledgeable about other health professions and degrees. Sometimes an interviewer will ask if you’ve considered a different but related degree, and it looks a little suspect if you don’t know anything about a very similar degree (e.g. MPH interviewees who are interested in hospital administration will be frequently asked if they’ve considered an MPA instead).
Don’t let your guard down. Ever. Even students who aren’t interviewing you (e.g. tour guides) can easily mention something to the admissions office if an interviewee says something a little off. Be professional.
There are no hard and fast rules for writing an effective personal essay. The process will be different for everyone, especially because the goal of the essay is to give admissions officers some insight into your individual goals and circumstances.
Keep this in mind as you write - what aspect of yourself do you want to convey? Is it your compassion? Your diligence? Your prior experience in health care? Most of all, start working on the essay early in the application process. Time will allow you to develop and revise your ideas. Remember: the personal statement should make you stand apart from other candidates so it is best to AVOID formulaic essay topics and themes.
Any essay that claims, "I was born to be a doctor," or "Friends always tell me I should be a doctor," or "At age ten I knew I wanted to be a doctor" are common ploys that tell your reader little more than the fact that you really want to get into med school. They know that already. Spotlight your specific personality, not a destiny that seems larger than you.
It sounds naive to have your whole life mapped out already, and even more so if it takes on some angelic quality. The "When I grow up, I want to be a...and save the rainforest" tells your reader nothing significant about you.
This is a fairly common essay if you have blemishes on your academic record that you feel uncomfortable about. Devoting too much of the personal statement to excuses or interpretations of your transcript is repetitive and virtually worthless. State a problem briefly and then move on to statements about what you do. Refrain from asking admissions officers to "count this as significant" and from stating that something "shouldn't count." It is the readers' job to make these decisions. They have requested a copy of your transcript, along with lists of your extracurricular activities, for precisely this reason.
This essay rehashes your various activities and usually sounds like an itinerary: "And so I did this for three years, and it taught me this, and then I did that, and it showed me that." Your readers usually know what your activities mean, and a catalog can become blurry in the readers' mind. It's better to focus most of the essay around an activity that offers sincere and deep insight into you.
Videotapes may have been cool for college applications, but medical school is a lot different and a lot more serious. No pictures, art, photos, or interpretive dance are necessary or appreciated.
Any essay that claims, "You probably don't get people like me very often..." is almost inevitably wrong. Don't tell your readers that you're unique. Show them. Instead of a catalog of adjectives, offer them a clear snapshot of yourself and your interests.
While it's often useful to discuss the influence on your life that someone has had, don't devote your whole statement to a celebration of that person's achievements in the face of difficulty. Your AMCAS essay should be about you.