Medical 10 Reasons Why You Should Consider Participating in a Special Masters Program (SMP)

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You’ve completed your undergraduate degree and are looking forward to attending medical school, but are looking for a way to set your application apart. If you have a strong undergrad science GPA, pursuing an SMP can be a fantastic way to do just that.

There are currently more than 75 different science-based SMPs nationwide. There are two different types of SMPs: one-year programs and two-year programs. The one-year programs offer a strong science foundation, while the two-year programs include a research project thesis and/or literature review. Some of these programs are located on grad school campuses while others are offered through med schools themselves. Students attending programs affiliated with med schools take classes with the med students. The advantage of this arrangement is that the credit you earn towards your Master’s Degree may also be used to satisfy some of your med school requirements.

Any coursework that you complete as part of an SMP will be calculated separately on your AMCAS application, as part of your graduate coursework GPA. If your undergrad GPA needs that improvement, an SMP may not be the way for you to go. Look into postbaccalaureate coursework instead.

10 Ways to Benefits From Doing a Specialized Masters Program Before Applying to Medical School
An SMP will allow you to:

1. Gain additional science coursework.

Since these programs are science-based, you will spend the year – or two – immersed in science courses. You will have the chance to increase your knowledge of some subject areas, and possibly get a higher grade than you did in your undergrad class. New and different courses will also be available to you, thereby broadening your science base.

2. Access valuable mentors.

Your SMP professors will be able to help guide you to where your talents most lie. Never thought about research? This may be where you shine. Classes will be smaller than most college lectures, which will give you the opportunity to form relationships with your professors. Their letters of recommendation can be very influential on your med school app. Your professors want you to succeed.

3. Demonstrate that you can excel at the graduate level.

Excelling in your SMP will show the med school adcoms that you have the ability to conquer the demanding science courses in med school. Often the courses that you take will be the same as first-year med school courses, and sometimes with med students. This will give you a chance to take these courses without the additional pressure of med school, and see how you fare.

4. Gain expertise in the area of your interest that may inform and guide your long-term career goals.

Being able to take additional courses in your area of interest can cement your plan to pursue this in med school and in your career as a physician. Interested in pediatric oncology? A two-year SMP can give you the time to do a research project or literature review of the subject. The material that you learn can help you become a better clinician.

5. Earn an additional credential.

Having a Master’s Degree can help your application stand out from the others. It boosts you in terms of life experience and clinical experience. It shows the adcoms that you have motivation, and can show additional research experience. Taking the time to pursue an SMP shows that you have a passion for medicine.

6. Network with other students, medical students, researchers, professors, and other experts in the field.

We all know that building a strong professional network can lead to limitless opportunities. Take time to get to know others in your classes, your professors and others – and let them get to know you. Often a well-placed word from the right person can open doors you thought were closed to you. You never know who the right person might be, so always be well prepared, friendly and offer assistance to others.

7. Gain the opportunity to request current letters of recommendations from graduate or medical school faculty.

This is connected to benefit #6. Giving your professors the opportunity to get to know you, your work ethic, and passion for medicine can lead them to write letters of recommendation that will truly impress the adcoms. Volunteer to work in their labs or on research projects. Ask intelligent questions during class. Find creative ways to make yourself stand out and your letters of recommendation will do the same.

8. Conduct an independent research project at a university, hospital, or medical center.

Doing a research project at a medical facility will allow you to have hands-on experience in this environment instead of a sterile academic environment. You will also have access to possible mentors or others who can guide you in your path to a medical career. Candidates to write your letters of recommendation also abound in these settings.

9. Demonstrate and establish your expertise through poster presentations, abstracts and journal presentations.

Emphasize the role you played in your research project. Any opportunity you have to prove your importance in the project is a positive for you. Having your name appear as a participant in a research project is very important and will make you stand out.

10. Gain valuable life experience and confidence.

Pursuing an SMP will directly enhance your ability to guide patients towards the best resources and most current information available. Taking extra science courses, participating in a research project, and networking will all give you these life experiences and increase your confidence in your abilities as a future physician. Use your time inside and outside the classroom wisely, and this can be one of the best decisions of your academic career.​

An SMP can help you become a more competitive med school applicant in a number of ways. It can set your application apart by highlighting a graduate-level GPA, as well as showing that you’ve had the guidance and endorsement of a mentor. Furthermore, it informs the direction of your career and provides resources and learning opportunities that will result in a year or two of intense self-development and professional achievement.

Do you have questions about how an SMP (or other post-graduate work) may improve your medical school candidacy? Work one-on-one with an expert med school advisor when you purchase our Admissions Consulting Services – build your profile, boost your competitiveness, get ACCEPTED!

Alicia McNease Nimonkar is an Accepted advisor and editor specializing in healthcare admissions. Prior to joining Accepted, Alicia worked for five years as Student Advisor at UC Davis’ postbac program where she both evaluated applications and advised students applying successfully to med school and related programs. Want Alicia to help you get accepted? Click here to get in touch!

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