This is a lil something my cousin who's applying this year sent me. Quite an interesting read... Thought those of you that are going through the process this year would find it useful. I know I always wondered how adcoms looked at apps when I was a pre-med. This guy, while not very PC, tells it like it is... Advice to Undergraduates Planning to Apply to Medical School Al Davies, M.D. I am writing to you with the assumption that you are in college or thinking about going to college. My goal is to assist you so that a very few years down the line your application for residency or fellowship will come across my desk, implying that you will have been successful getting into medical school. If you think in this long term view you will be more successful, but even if you are not you will have a larger understanding of why you were not. So, let?s just take a moment to ask you what you think I want to see years from now when you are applying for a position as a physician in a large clinic or medical school faculty? What do you think would make you stand out? What qualities and experiences would I want to see? What do you think I would want to avoid, and what would be severe enough to have me discard your application out of hand? I take applications very seriously. I have seen all kinds - applications for college, medical school, residency, fellowship, faculty positions, hospital privileges, private practice positions, pharmaceutical industry positions, and high tech companies. There are themes that run across these applications, themes you should know about. Themes you should try to meet, and themes you should try to avoid. Note, that I am not asking what qualities do you think a doctor should have. Why would I not ask that? Well, because applications are a very poor way of finding that out. That is why there is so much personal evaluation of people as they go through education and training, so that the application is only one small part of a much bigger evaluation process. Interviews are important in the early years, but later observation by your mentors becomes the biggest factor. Let me give you an example. When I am evaluating an application for a residency in Internal Medicine there is no factor more important than what a Professor of Internal Medicine said about you as a medical student. Now, take that back down to the level you are currently suffering to overcome - college. We need to know that you have the capacity to learn massive amounts of data, so what your mentors say about your cognitive skills is vital. Who are your mentors? They are your college instructors (in the form of grades and recommendations), and the MCAT folks. So, I have you beginning to think a bit about how you want to end up, and perhaps you are beginning to see that what you do now will be on that silly little application I see five or ten years down the line. How, what and where you do it is the key. Point # 1. Think about what you should look like on paper 10 years from now, then make yourself reflect that goal. You will need to show me that you can memorize. In the first year of medical school you will be expected to learn more facts that the average college graduate has learned in the entire preceding life. Your acquisition of new terms will bring in a vocabulary larger than the one you already have, even if you already speak several languages. In that year you will not eat, or sleep without a pressing urge to keep up with the new knowledge flooding your brain. I got so much in the habit of using every available moment to learn that I studied even in the bathroom. Now, many years later I have an incredible urge to pick up a text before I go into the bathroom because I am conditioned to use every spare moment. The time - honored method of testing your capacity to learn masses of facts is to look at your organic chemistry scores. You need to understand the subject, but beyond that question, it is the first and sometimes only specific course you will have taken before applying to medical school which really presses you to learn en masse. In a more general sense, committee members look at how well you took on a difficult college and successfully completed it on time. If you took seven years to get through Podunk Community College, and you obviously struggled, and you have no reasonable explanation for taking so long other than that you learn slowly, plan on getting a cold shoulder on Decision Day, the day the committee decides your fate. So, why is it so necessary to learn so much so fast? You probably heard your friends tell you it is just a hazing, a trivial rite of passage you wouldn?t really have to do if medical school faculties weren?t so filled with Neanderthals. That is ignorant bunk. Medical school faculties are filled with honed professional teaching machines who won?t waste time or money on your silly self unless you grow up. You really, really do need to be able to learn massive amounts of information. The reason you have to is that the amount of information a doctor must carry in order to be effective and responsible is incredibly massive. Yes, there are reference texts for all sorts of things, but remember that as a doctor you must be able to remember the important stuff off the top of your head. If you have forgotten something, and you forgot you forgot it, you are in real trouble when Mrs. Jones is crashing in respiratory failure in the middle of the night and you are the only doctor who can help her. Bodies are complex, and until they stop being that, doctors will have to learn massive, massive amounts of stuff. And, by the way, the first year of medical school is the easiest. Just wait. The first year is a vacation compared to your internship. But, I get ahead of myself. Part of this is not just a question of cognitive capacity in this area where doctors really do have to be unusually talented. Part of it is that you have to be able to show by persistent action that you are motivated to do it. How many business people change their jobs after a few years? How often do soldiers get reassigned to new tasks? How many people do what they do for the rest of their lives without a major career change. The statistics show that as many as 60% of Americans will have a major career change within the first decade after do achieving career status. For doctors it is thought to be under 3%. Doctors have to be dedicated. They have to stick to it. Sticking to it means you have to like it. You have to like learning. You have to like being pushed, being under pressure. If you don?t find, do yourself and your imaginary patients a very big favor, and do something else. And do me the favor of not feeling guilty when I see your application, detect your lack of pluck and dedication, and I throw your application in the pile labeled "No," which is short for "No Way On an Earth Inhabited by Oxygen - Breathing Mammals." I don?t want you killing people because you got tired, or decided on your own that it wasn?t really important to know that stuff. I know lots of nurses, pharmaceutical reps, biomedical engineers, and so forth who aced an exam, but didn?t? t like having to do it semester after semester. These are fine professions, and many people choose them out of preference, but it is a hard cold fact that many people in paramedical jobs are there because they enjoy parts of medicine yet don?t want to put in the effort to be a doctor. That is perfectly OK, and you should not feel at all ill - at - ease if you feel that way. If you do, be kind to yourself and the admissions committees, and move on to other things. Point # 2. This is the Big Leagues. Don?t mess with it if you ain?t willing to sweat it out. Lest you think I am being arrogant about the superior intellect of doctors, I would point out that I don?t think doctors are doctors because they are the smartest people on earth. It is true that the dumbest doctor has to be smarter than the average bear, but I am less addressing some generic idea of smartness than I am pointing out the reality that there are personality features, specific intellectual requirements, and a whale of a lot of motivation which are mandatory. We, the members of the committees, didn?t make it that way. That is the way it is, and we are trying to find the right people to meet the task. Somewhere along the line someone will ask you why you want to be a doctor. As an undergraduate you are free to cough up some platitude. That you recognize that the reason must be primarily selfless is good. Have you ever wondered what kinds of answers medical students give to that question if asked in a residency interview, or what a resident says during a fellowship interview? Well, the truth is that we rarely ask that kind of soppy question, fortunately for both you and us. By the time you are a doc your level of work and dedication is a non -verbal testament to what you are about. You will have become an embodiment of your dedication and motivation. Your daily routine will be to make significant impact on the lives of people. Little girls , their fathers, and their grandmothers. You will make a difference. You simply can?t not. So, when someone asks why you want to be a doc, first ask yourself whether the person asking is a physician (as opposed to a Ph.D. advisor for pre - med students). Compare,"I want to help people" with "I am intrigued by digestive, lung, and cardiac function, and want to apply that intellectual drive to improve the health of the good working people of Southern Nevada." Guess which will get that peanut? Don?t try to out - idealize an idealist.