How to Realistically Get Into Harvard Medical School

Jvncr

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I know what you’re thinking: scrub “premed” who doesn’t have a clue on what he/she’s doing.

Well, it’s true.

But wanna know what else is true? Many of my fellow premeds have the same question but are too afraid to ask it. Give us your best.
 

glee123

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n=1 from accepted applicant this cycle, honestly it's the same criteria as other top schools with maybe a little more of a focus on "unique" life experiences. Low GPA and MCAT will likely keep you out, but high stats alone are definitely not enough. I also got the impression the interview didn't actually matter that much (this was for a lot of top schools, but for HMS everyone's interview seemed to go great / wonderful etc.) as long as it wasn't a disaster, and they already had a pretty clear idea of who they wanted even before it
 
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I know what you’re thinking: scrub “premed” who doesn’t have a clue on what he/she’s doing.

Well, it’s true.

But wanna know what else is true? Many of my fellow premeds have the same question but are too afraid to ask it. Give us your best.
Have a 3.8+ GPA
Have a 517+ MCAT score
Have research (publications not required, just some evidence of research productivity)
Have > 200 hrs clinical exposure
Have > 200 hrs nonclinical volunteering
(note: of the last two, people who get into the Really Top Schools seem to have hundreds, if not even 1000s of hours of these).
Leadership experiences

SDNers are strongly advised to think about getting into med school, not a particular med school. Your attending salary will be the same whether you go to JA Burns or Harvard, U WA or Miami, Albany or Yale
 
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chaim123

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I know what you’re thinking: scrub “premed” who doesn’t have a clue on what he/she’s doing.

Well, it’s true.

But wanna know what else is true? Many of my fellow premeds have the same question but are too afraid to ask it. Give us your best.

All above + do things you love and not just checking boxes. It shows.
 
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JIMMYJOHNivy

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Have a 3.8+ GPA
Have a 517+ MCAT score
Have research (publications not required, just some evidence of research productivity)
Have > 200 hrs clinical exposure
Have > 200 hrs nonclinical volunteering
(note: of the last two, people who get into the Really Top Schools seem to have hundreds, if not even 1000s of hours of these).
Leadership experiences

SDNers are strongly advised to think about getting into med school, not a particular med school. Your attending salary will be the same whether you go to JA Burns or Harvard, U WA or Miami, Albany or Yale


We've all seen your list of "Top schools". Care to share your list of what the "Really Top schools" are? ;)
 
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Here's my list of what I consider the Really Top Schools, in no order

NYU
Columbia
WashU
Vanderbilt
Yale
JHU
U Chicago
U Penn
Northwestern
Harvard
Mayo
Cornell
Stanford
Case
Duke
Sinai
U VA
BU
Baylor
UCSF
Pitt
USC/Keck
UCSD
UCLA
U MI
Dartmouth
 
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EdgeTrimmer

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Here's my list of what I consider the Really Top Schools, in no order

NYU
Columbia
WashU
Vanderbilt
Yale
JHU
U Chicago
U Penn
Northwestern
Harvard
Mayo
Cornell
Stanford
Case
Duke
Sinai
U VA
BU
Baylor
UCSF
Pitt
USC/Keck
UCSD
UCLA
U MI
Dartmouth
why BU and Sinai and not Emory? Just curious.
 
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Jvncr

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Here's my list of what I consider the Really Top Schools, in no order

NYU
Columbia
WashU
Vanderbilt
Yale
JHU
U Chicago
U Penn
Northwestern
Harvard
Mayo
Cornell
Stanford
Case
Duke
Sinai
U VA
BU
Baylor
UCSF
Pitt
USC/Keck
UCSD
UCLA
U MI
Dartmouth
Should premeds follow US News medical school rankings? If not, which?
 
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Should premeds follow US News medical school rankings? If not, which?

Only ignorant premeds and med school Deans care are about USNWR.

As the wise Med Ed has mentioned in a recent thread, their ranking criteria suspect to the point if being laughable.

In an ideal world, premeds should do their research.
 
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detritus

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It’s hard to know what places you’ll have success and what places will ghost you prior to the process shaking out. You should have the stats of course, but you may be rejected for factors that are totally out of your control at this point, so I wouldn’t focus on getting into any one particular school (yes I know, boring). This cycle I had success at places I was sure would reject me, yes Harvard caliber, and was disappointed at a place I was very optimistic about, even post-interview. If you’re dead set on Harvard, I guess doing research/ getting a masters there is the only way I can think you can get a leg up (assuming you already have the clinical experience, etc.). Another thing is revise your personal statement over, and over, and over, and over, and over again. At top schools, they’re pretty much looking for reasons to throw your app away, so don’t let that be something as easy to optimize as your PS. Remember there are lots of great medical schools in the US (Goro listed many of them above) some of them might surprise you and maybe, just maybe you’ll end up liking another school more than you like HMS. Best of luck, nothing wrong with aiming high!
 
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1. be exceptional in every category
2. go to harvard or similar and be very good in every category, take advantage of the network

ideally, and I suspect this is the mode, go to harvard and be exceptional in every category
 
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chaim123

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1. be exceptional in every category
2. go to harvard or similar and be very good in every category, take advantage of the network

ideally, and I suspect this is the mode, go to harvard and be exceptional in every category

I didn't go to Harvard. I wouldn't say that's a requirement. In fact, competition to go from Harvard College to Harvard med is super rough, since I'm sure many if not all of them apply.
 
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gonnif

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The issue with any of the "top" schools, or indeed any school, are simple numbers and luck. In 2018, Harvard had 7613 verified applications and interviewed 948. Assuming at least half are those apps are just thrown in as hope and even another quarter just dont reach needed standards, that is still 1900 highly competitive applications for 950 interview slots. Who read your application? Did something get you thrown out or was it just someone had something that got them in. Did you get that little bit of luck with the right tone with right reader at the right moment? This is truly an Olympic class event where just getting to final round takes everything going more than just right.
 
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I didn't go to Harvard. I wouldn't say that's a requirement. In fact, competition to go from Harvard College to Harvard med is super rough, since I'm sure many if not all of them apply.

Never said it's a requirement, nor is necessarily being excellent in every category, but if you want to maximize your chances it's helpful.
 
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proudofmykids

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I know what you’re thinking: scrub “premed” who doesn’t have a clue on what he/she’s doing.

Well, it’s true.

But wanna know what else is true? Many of my fellow premeds have the same question but are too afraid to ask it. Give us your best.
Donating $5M or $10M ahead of your application would be pretty darn good ensurance.
 
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Lucca

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I've had coffee now and in the interest of being more helpful I think that asking yourself "How can I get into Harvard?" is the wrong question and it's just going to stress you out. A slightly better question is "How can I make myself an appealing candidate such that Harvard will want to recruit me?" and an even better question is "What do I want out of my life and career and how do I prepare myself to achieve those goals?"

The best possible thing that can happen to you in college (or anytime, but college is a pretty natural place for it to happen) is to realize that what you really want out of your career and life is not necessarily advanced by doing the hardest possible thing (like getting into HMS) or having to play into some elaborate rat race or by going into medicine at all even. There are no one-dimensional or easy answers to these questions. I'll try to briefly give my own perspective about this. That said, always try to follow your gut instincts and dont be afraid to try your own path you know will work better for you.

1. figure out what you're passionate about

on a purely practical level, applications to anything academic, maybe even especially medicine, are always helped by articulating a clear vision and demonstrating evidence of acting on that vision, i.e. having an angle. Read my longer post about communicating your narrative in the med school app process here:


In order to articulate a vision you must first have one. What kind of doctor do you want to be? This is a very hard question, especially for a pre-med because so much of medicine is still locked behind the ivory tower of medical education and may be even more obscure depending on what institution you are coming from, your family background in medicine, etc. However, you don't have to answer the harder parts of this question just yet like "GI vs. Cardiology" or "Primary care vs. Specialize" or even "Medicine vs. Surgery". What kind of doctor would you admire? Surely there are people in life you admire, alive or passed. What makes them admirable? Read their biographies if they have them and find out about their lives. If they are alive and nearby, consider taking them on as mentors. Read some online guides about mentorship and getting the most out of mentoring relationships. Show interest and try out new things to explore what gets you excited about working, life. You may discover what brings you the most joy is hanging out with your friends and traveling; trust me when I tell you that you don't need to go to HMS to land a career in medicine that will let you hang out with your loved ones and travel a lot. Work is one dimension of life.

2. build a network, leverage it

The main benefit of going to a place like Harvard or its peer institutions is the network. It's the reason rich people are very cavalier about spending 40k a year on elite private education K-12 to maximize their progeny's chance of landing at HYMS and Co. in addition to bankrolling the 50-80k a year it will cost in tuition once they get there. That said, there is a big, big world beyond academic Olympus and lots of passionate, interesting, and hard-working people in it who might be invested in seeing you succeed.

How do you build your network? Business people have written reams about it so I'd start there. But for premeds my short advice would be:

a. go to conferences
b. if you are working in a department on research (and you should be at some point to at least try it out whether its in Public Health, Sociology, Molecular Biology, Social Work, or Theoretical Physics) then the head of the department should know your face and name.
c. Important people in the admin of your institution should also know who you are but please dont cold-email the University president. Easy way to do this is to be involved in student government; harder ways are to start initiatives and lead projects at your Uni and community. This is how you find rare opportunities for broad-scale leadership at your university and to make a bigger impact; it's also how you end up getting nominated for prestigious awards and scholarships. You have to work yourself up the ladder vertically and horizontally. Impress the head of your department and you might get to meet the Dean of your college at the Uni one day. Lead a very successful event or fundraiser and the people who fundraise for the university professionally WILL notice and will want to talk to you.
d. Always remember faces and names. I'm terrible at this, but it's a real skill that is worth developing.
e. Work to build other peoples networks! Connect people who you think should know eachother or are trying to work in a similar space. People appreciate this and will pay it back. This is also a good way to make friends, in general.

3. Do well in school.

It's very easy to make school your side-hustle during UG because there are just so many other things to do. My freshman English professor put it very nicely: "You have the rest of your life to do things that are considered extracurricular now, but you only have one time in your life to become an excellent student." The ability to learn how to learn is worth its weight in gold and University education is still pretty good at achieving that IMO but it requires a lot of effort and engagement on the part of the student, it is not an automatic byproduct of being enrolled at a university (nor is a university the only place to learn this skill).

As a premed, remember that school is your main hustle. Everything else takes second place to being an excellent student. If you need to take time off after UG to build up your CV for med school that is totally OK, but remember that building up ECs and experience is much easier and cheaper than repairing a poor GPA/MCAT score. I focused on school for most of UG and 2-3 EC involvements, and only 1 of those ECs would be considered "exceptional" on its own. I then took 2 years to build my CV to a place where it would be competitive at the kind of med school I was aiming for and it worked out.

p.s.

Maintaining drive and passion is an endless struggle and it doesn't come easy for anyone. You don't want passion that comes easily because it will leave easily. You want passion tempered by a healthy dose of doubt. Don't forget to have lots of fun in college either. College is a good time.
 
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Schedar

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Have a 3.8+ GPA
Have a 517+ MCAT score
Have research (publications not required, just some evidence of research productivity)
Have > 200 hrs clinical exposure
Have > 200 hrs nonclinical volunteering
(note: of the last two, people who get into the Really Top Schools seem to have hundreds, if not even 1000s of hours of these).
Leadership experiences

Ah my favorite quarantine past-time — showing up and causing chaos in these threads. I'll put it out there and say i had only 4 of the 6 things on this list (and the two I didn't have, i REALLY didn't have), but I (to echo what others, esp. @Lucca just said) found something really unique that made me really happy and pretty much dedicated my life to it.

I would argue that the "Applying Sideways" essay about applying to MIT as an undergrad is also relevant for applying to top medical schools ... sure, you can check all the boxes, and if you check them well enough, you've got a shot ... but wouldn't you rather spend that time doing things that make you excited? And if the things that make you excited don't prepare you to apply to a certain medical school, then apply elsewhere where your interests align, regardless of where that school might fall in the rankings.

I have a Life is Good shirt from maybe 8th grade that I wear often when I get stressed about the future, and all it says it "do what you like, like what you do."

How to realistically get into Harvard Med? I don't know.

How to follow your dream of doing medicine at a school that fits your interests? Work hard, which will be far, FAR easier if you "do what you like, like what you do."

good luck!!
 
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Ah my favorite quarantine past-time — showing up and causing chaos in these threads. I'll put it out there and say i had only 4 of the 6 things on this list (and the two I didn't have, i REALLY didn't have), but I (to echo what others, esp. @Lucca just said) found something really unique that made me really happy and pretty much dedicated my life to it.

I would argue that the "Applying Sideways" essay about applying to MIT as an undergrad is also relevant for applying to top medical schools ... sure, you can check all the boxes, and if you check them well enough, you've got a shot ... but wouldn't you rather spend that time doing things that make you excited? And if the things that make you excited don't prepare you to apply to a certain medical school, then apply elsewhere where your interests align, regardless of where that school might fall in the rankings.

I have a Life is Good shirt from maybe 8th grade that I wear often when I get stressed about the future, and all it says it "do what you like, like what you do."

How to realistically get into Harvard Med? I don't know.

How to follow your dream of doing medicine at a school that fits your interests? Work hard, which will be far, FAR easier if you "do what you like, like what you do."

good luck!!
It wasn't meant to be an ironclad rule...just what I'ved heard from successful SDNers. Small n and not meant for publication either
 
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BluMist

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Also surprised that UW and UNC did not make the list, but they do have strong in-state/in-region preferences and primary care mission.

Here's my list of what I consider the Really Top Schools, in no order

NYU
Columbia
WashU
Vanderbilt
Yale
JHU
U Chicago
U Penn
Northwestern
Harvard
Mayo
Cornell
Stanford
Case
Duke
Sinai
U VA
BU
Baylor
UCSF
Pitt
USC/Keck
UCSD
UCLA
U MI
Dartmouth
 
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newaccount4decisionss

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S tier "Top 5"- Harvard, UCSF, JHU, Stanford, UPenn
A tier- Columbia, Mayo, UCLA, Wash U, Cornell, Yale, UMich
B tier- NYU, Duke, UW, UPitt, UChicago, NW, Vandy, Sinai, UCSD, Baylor
C tier- UNC, Case Western, Emory, UW-Madison, Keck, Boston, Rochester, etc
 
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Engrailed

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OP, there was an interesting thread by a current HMS student a while ago. This might help answer some of your questions.

 
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gulli_97

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Ah my favorite quarantine past-time — showing up and causing chaos in these threads. I'll put it out there and say i had only 4 of the 6 things on this list (and the two I didn't have, i REALLY didn't have), but I (to echo what others, esp. @Lucca just said) found something really unique that made me really happy and pretty much dedicated my life to it.

I would argue that the "Applying Sideways" essay about applying to MIT as an undergrad is also relevant for applying to top medical schools ... sure, you can check all the boxes, and if you check them well enough, you've got a shot ... but wouldn't you rather spend that time doing things that make you excited? And if the things that make you excited don't prepare you to apply to a certain medical school, then apply elsewhere where your interests align, regardless of where that school might fall in the rankings.

I have a Life is Good shirt from maybe 8th grade that I wear often when I get stressed about the future, and all it says it "do what you like, like what you do."

How to realistically get into Harvard Med? I don't know.

How to follow your dream of doing medicine at a school that fits your interests? Work hard, which will be far, FAR easier if you "do what you like, like what you do."

good luck!!

Finding something unique and exciting is the hardest thing for pre-meds to figure out. Matriculating straight from college with some unique passion or extracurricular? Not very common. It is far easier for premeds to have tangible checklists of I need to do this and that in order to get into medical school and unfortunately this is the route they take.

Additionally "spending time doing things that make you excited" may not always be something that can contribute to a med school application. When I was in college that was drinking and watching sports LOL
 
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Yankees27

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S tier "Top 5"- Harvard, UCSF, JHU, Stanford, UPenn
A tier- Columbia, Mayo, UCLA, Wash U, Cornell, Yale, UMich
B tier- NYU, Duke, UW, UPitt, UChicago, NW, Vandy, Sinai, UCSD, Baylor
C tier- UNC, Case Western, Emory, UW-Madison, Keck, Boston, Rochester, etc
Your so-called "B" tier absolutely belongs in the "A" column, and no way is Emory at the bottom.
 
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Lucca

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I’m going to have to sit down and go across SDN to define all the acronyms you guys use. There should be a page here where anyone can look up the acronyms most commonly used in SDN.

 
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Finding something unique and exciting is the hardest thing for pre-meds to figure out. Matriculating straight from college with some unique passion or extracurricular? Not very common. It is far easier for premeds to have tangible checklists of I need to do this and that in order to get into medical school and unfortunately this is the route they take.

Additionally "spending time doing things that make you excited" may not always be something that can contribute to a med school application. When I was in college that was drinking and watching sports LOL
("you" used here is the general you, not coming for your throat @gulli_97)

Let me clarify — I found something unique and exciting, but it can be exciting to you without being unique ... your approach to it makes it unique. If the thing that makes you happy is global health, then maybe you'll focus on maternal mortality in India while someone else is curious about vaccine distribution in sub-saharan Africa, and you each do research on that, and pursue global-health related internship opportunities, and maybe start a club or join a club, and maybe you want to learn a local language from the region you want to work in, etc., etc. All of these people are doing something not unique — they're all doing global health. But their own approach is unique and it shows a passion.

Maybe you like teaching! You tutor a lot, volunteer in pediatrics, maybe an art class or music class so you can teach in the hospital, take a year with TFA, work in local schools — this looks unique for everyone, but find an interest and pursue it.

These follow a checklist. But they make the checklist unique. I personally don't enjoy hospice volunteering, so I volunteered at Planned Parenthood even though the more common opportunity in my town is with a hospice care center. This aligned with some of my other interests, and I was able to talk about that. You don't need to cure cancer, or know your future speciality, or be stunningly unique. But even when you follow the checklist, if you're not finding opportunities you enjoy, then find different ones if they're available! Basically, people make themselves miserable following checklists that make them unhappy and then bemoan their lack of a unique story. Just do things that make you happy and your passion will come across.

As to your last comment — yeah, not everything you "do that makes you excited" can contribute to an application. And not everything you have to do to apply will make you overjoyed. I like watching netflix and playing board games, and I didn't like orgo. But I also like the volunteering opportunities I found, and I like the research I do, and I like my extracurriculars, many of which have no relation to medicine but have made me a more rounded person.

You can like your jobs and like your leisure, and you SHOULD make sure, for your health, that you have time for both.
 
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("you" used here is the general you, not coming for your throat @gulli_97)

Let me clarify — I found something unique and exciting, but it can be exciting to you without being unique ... your approach to it makes it unique. If the thing that makes you happy is global health, then maybe you'll focus on maternal mortality in India while someone else is curious about vaccine distribution in sub-saharan Africa, and you each do research on that, and pursue global-health related internship opportunities, and maybe start a club or join a club, and maybe you want to learn a local language from the region you want to work in, etc., etc. All of these people are doing something not unique — they're all doing global health. But their own approach is unique and it shows a passion.

Maybe you like teaching! You tutor a lot, volunteer in pediatrics, maybe an art class or music class so you can teach in the hospital, take a year with TFA, work in local schools — this looks unique for everyone, but find an interest and pursue it.

These follow a checklist. But they make the checklist unique. I personally don't enjoy hospice volunteering, so I volunteered at Planned Parenthood even though the more common opportunity in my town is with a hospice care center. This aligned with some of my other interests, and I was able to talk about that. You don't need to cure cancer, or know your future speciality, or be stunningly unique. But even when you follow the checklist, if you're not finding opportunities you enjoy, then find different ones if they're available! Basically, people make themselves miserable following checklists that make them unhappy and then bemoan their lack of a unique story. Just do things that make you happy and your passion will come across.

As to your last comment — yeah, not everything you "do that makes you excited" can contribute to an application. And not everything you have to do to apply will make you overjoyed. I like watching netflix and playing board games, and I didn't like orgo. But I also like the volunteering opportunities I found, and I like the research I do, and I like my extracurriculars, many of which have no relation to medicine but have made me a more rounded person.

You can like your jobs and like your leisure, and you SHOULD make sure, for your health, that you have time for both.

This is great! I wonder what it takes to go from that next step - let's say the enjoyment of work from being a TA to pursuing something like TFA. Do students do this for med school apps or because they are truly passionate about teaching? Why don't they just become a teacher?

I find the checklist does help students gain somewhat superficial experiences of different jobs which can be a good or bad thing. Maybe it creates this lack of a unique story but it also allows students to obtain, again superficially, the different traits that make up a doctor. I saw on the Harvard med page about a student who was a professional opera singer that then decided to pursue medicine. Very unique story and I am sure she crossed off the checklist but I wonder why she wouldn't continue through with the opera? Maybe she got bored, who knows. But if you truly have no deep passions outside of medicine, then maybe medicine is truly your calling. On the other hand, my thought process may be extremely convoluted.
 

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But if you truly have no deep passions outside of medicine, then maybe medicine is truly your calling.

yeah but that's exactly what i mean — the teaching example is better phrased as "like working with kids" and maybe you then want to do pediatrics or something, but you can still enjoy teaching ... maybe want to be a med school professor, but medicine is important to you as part of that context

I'm literally saying what you're saying. If the things that make you happy are related to medicine, then do them, but only do the ones that make you happy! Don't shadow a trauma surgeon if you don't care about trauma surgery! Don't volunteer in a pediatric ward if you hate kids! Work in global health research when available if you like global health. If you don't like any part of the checklist, then find a version of it you do like, or reassess your goals. Maybe you like teaching and think you want to be a doctor, but you hate the clinical experiences, hate the shadowing, love the teaching part ... so you go on to be a teacher. Premed doesn't have to be box-checking if you find variations of things that check the boxes that you enjoy.

Maybe this is a hot take, but my totally uneducated opinion is that not liking what you do as a premed does not bode well for liking what you do as a doctor. That doesn't mean you can't be frustrated at the system, do some things because you have to, etc., but if you don't like ANY of it?? If you can't find things that make you happy in medicine ... then, to paraphrase and invert your comment, "if you truly have no deep passions [in] medicine, then maybe medicine [isn't] truly your calling."

Try your best to do what you like, like what you do. That's 100% my point — if some of what you like is even tangentially medically related, then it will help you!!
 
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bonedoc5576

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In the spirit of offering advice to the futures doctors of America, please don't think you have to go to Harvard to have a successful career in medicine.

Reputation of the institution is far less important than some here would have you believe.

S tier "Top 5"- Harvard, UCSF, JHU, Stanford, UPenn
A tier- Columbia, Mayo, UCLA, Wash U, Cornell, Yale, UMich
B tier- NYU, Duke, UW, UPitt, UChicago, NW, Vandy, Sinai, UCSD, Baylor
C tier- UNC, Case Western, Emory, UW-Madison, Keck, Boston, Rochester, etc

Trying to parse reputation in this way suggesting "added value" is just plain silly and inaccurate as in reality there is very little difference between the likes of UPenn, Michigan, Duke, or Emory

Far more important considerations than "ranking" are location and fit, but the most important consideration ought to be cost.

Although others will surely disagree, no medical school, not even Harvard is worth going into hundreds of thousands of dollars of debt to attend, particularly with the historical trend of diminishing physician salaries not expected to improve, and likely to worsen.

As the wise GORO has stated many times, there are over 25 "top" schools.
 
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BlackMathMajor

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Have a 3.8+ GPA
Have a 517+ MCAT score
Have research (publications not required, just some evidence of research productivity)
Have > 200 hrs clinical exposure
Have > 200 hrs nonclinical volunteering
(note: of the last two, people who get into the Really Top Schools seem to have hundreds, if not even 1000s of hours of these).
Leadership experiences

SDNers are strongly advised to think about getting into med school, not a particular med school. Your attending salary will be the same whether you go to JA Burns or Harvard, U WA or Miami, Albany or Yale

If OP wants to get into Harvard specifically rather than simply a top-20 school: that is a crapshoot. However, I'd say that for 'em to have a solid shot at that goal they'd need:

3.85+ GPA, preferably 3.9+
523+ MCAT
Research productivity, publications preferred
1,000+ hours of clinical exposure
1,000+ hours of nonclinical volunteering

Altruism like Peace Corps, Teach for America or military service, or a previous career as a police officer, teacher in an inner city school district, clergy for an impoverished community, or something like that is excellent but not strictly necessary. Same for Division I, Olympic, or professional athletics or noteworthy performance on a national or international level in any endeavor.
 
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If OP wants to get into Harvard specifically rather than simply a top-20 school: that is a crapshoot. However, I'd say that for 'em to have a solid shot at that goal they'd need:

3.85+ GPA, preferably 3.9+
523+ MCAT
Research productivity, publications preferred
1,000+ hours of clinical exposure
1,000+ hours of nonclinical volunteering

Altruism like Peace Corps, Teach for America or military service, or a previous career as a police officer, teacher in an inner city school district, clergy for an impoverished community, or something like that is excellent but not strictly necessary. Same for Division I, Olympic, or professional athletics or noteworthy performance on a national or international level in any endeavor.
Well, with a median of 520, and a 25th %ile of 516 for acceptees, I don't think that a 523+ is really needed. I agree with the other comments.
 
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BlackMathMajor

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It's not strictly needed; I'd meant to outline an applicant who is solidly within the top half of Harvard acceptees and probably more like the top quarter. That person's got a 523, a 3.9, might've served in the Peace Corps...

Having a good chance at acceptance to any one school is a whole nother ballgame than getting into any top-20 school. You could have a 10 percent chance of admission to a given top-20 school...but apply to 15 schools, get 15 shots on goal, and it's likely some of those are going in.
 

chaim123

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Did you go to a top undergrad school? Public or private? No need for details, I’m just curious as to the type of undergrad schools HMS students went to.

Over 80 different undergrads. From top to little places you've never heard of. I went to a middle of the road private.
 
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chaim123

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What types of extracurricular activities did you do? Did you take a gap year?

You can PM me if you want more information (don't want to derail this thread), but there are people here who took 0-10+ gap years, having done a whole range of activities from research, to advocacy, to clinical work, to entirely different careers. I personally didn't take any gap years.
 
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iIiiiiiIiiIiII

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If OP wants to get into Harvard specifically rather than simply a top-20 school: that is a crapshoot. However, I'd say that for 'em to have a solid shot at that goal they'd need:

3.85+ GPA, preferably 3.9+
523+ MCAT
Research productivity, publications preferred
1,000+ hours of clinical exposure
1,000+ hours of nonclinical volunteering

Altruism like Peace Corps, Teach for America or military service, or a previous career as a police officer, teacher in an inner city school district, clergy for an impoverished community, or something like that is excellent but not strictly necessary. Same for Division I, Olympic, or professional athletics or noteworthy performance on a national or international level in any endeavor.


I only had one of these (6000+ hours of direct clinical exposure as a non-trad) and my app was closer to what Goro first outlined. I was accepted to HMS this cycle.

I think a lot of people repeat the advice - do NOT pick things if the only/main reason is "my app will look good/I need this to get into Harvard Medical School" - but the "why" is less clear. The main things I'd recommend are to give your best effort at what you are doing, and choose things you actually like doing so it's easier to give your best effort. People will notice your enthusiasm and competence and opportunities will follow. Writing strong essays and giving compelling interview answers will follow. This happens because you got engaged and gave it your all, instead of thinking of it as a boring checklist and a soulcrushing grind. I got those 6000+ hours because I really liked my job and felt like I learned so much not only about what it meant to be a good clinician, but how to be a good colleague, caretaker, team member, and more. This showed in my essays and LORs.

I also majored in a humanities field because I wanted to, and this major was a huge talking point in my app and interviews. Based on what other HMS students and faculty have told me, I think the most important aspect is your narrative and having a set of compelling identifiers (in addition to ballpark minimum stats and hours - I am by no means minimizing this). Things like being known as the applicant who is "the EDM producer" or "the philosophy teacher" or "the paraglider" or "the slam poet" (random things off the top of my head, not linked to real-life examples). And none of these identifiers need to have "world-class" or "top of the field" or "national/internationally known" attached to it. My major was my main identifier and I didn't win any awards or gain national fame. I just talked about how my work in that major made me a better person and set me up to be a good clinician in the future.
 
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BlackMathMajor

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I agree with you. I don't in any way mean to diminish your accomplishment; however, there are lots of strong applicants like yourself that get rejected from HMS every year. Some of it, from our perspective, essentially boils down to luck. Excellent grades, test scores, and extracurricular activities only serve to stack the deck in our favor - but you don't need a 4.0 from MIT, a perfect MCAT, and a first-author Nature paper in order to get into Harvard.
 
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