Planes2Doc's Ultimate Guide to Maximizing Your Medical School Application (High School)


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Jul 23, 2012
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*Approaching Pre-Med as a High School Student*


It's really never too late to start pre-med. If you are in high school, and know that you want to be a doctor, then you can do some things to help either strengthen your application for the future, or maybe you can even get into medical school earlier! Now you must ask yourself an important question... Are you doing this for yourself? Do you want to be a doctor? Are you doing this for yourself, and not for your parents? If you answered "yes" to these questions, then keep reading.

As a high school student interested in medical school, you can do help kill numerous birds with one stone. How exactly would you do this? You would do this by doing extra curricular activities in high school that would be helpful for three different things... Either applying to a BS/MD program in the near future, applying to medical school once you're in college, or improving your college application in general. Based on what I've been reading on College Confidential (things sure have changed since I was in high school :pompous:), high school students take part in lots of extra curricular activities these days. So even if you change your mind in the future regarding medical school (which is bound to happen for many of us), then you'll still have activities that will help pad your college applications (and knock out any potential community service requirements) anyhow. Here's a look at extra-curriculars you should involve yourself with:

-High School Extra-Curricular Activities-

1. Volunteering - Volunteering is a given. Whether you want to go to medical school or not you probably want volunteering on your college application. I'm guessing that students are now being expected to do it for more competitive schools. I also hear that it's a must for applying to BS/MD programs. Now if you're looking to pad a multitude of applications (undergraduate and future medical school) or apply to BS/MD programs, then you should probably find yourself a hospital volunteering gig. If you want something to maximize any future application, I would do something I call a "universal" volunteering activity. This means that it's a common activity like hospital volunteering which you can do just about anywhere in the country (more on that later). Unless you genuinely care about doing something, I wouldn't do something very specific like a medically-related camp because that's something that would be difficult to continue depending on where you end up going to school. Now why do I say this? If you're applying to medical school as a traditional undergraduate, you're told not to include activities you did in high school unless you continued them through college. Hence why I mention doing "universal" activities. Even if you go away for college and volunteer at a completely different hospital, you can still lump those hospitals together, thus giving yourself a very long overall commitment which extends into high school. Now, you should only be volunteering as long as you can handle it on top of your coursework. Getting into a good undergraduate institution should be your number one priority. But since there is a greater emphasis on ECs nowadays anyway, you should consider doing this anyhow.

2. Shadowing - If you have BS/MD ambitions, then I suggest you find physicians to shadow. This will help your BS/MD application, and show that you know what you're getting yourself into. I'm not sure whether you would include this on your future medical school application, so I'd probably go light on the hours. Maybe 30 or so maximum. Perhaps some high schoolers can shed light on this. If you do not want to go for a BS/MD program, then I'd recommend skipping shadowing. It's an entirely passive process, and it's doubtful that it will help your college application. You're better off spending that time volunteering since more hours will look better.

-BS/MD College Programs-

What exactly are these programs? These are programs offered by colleges where assuming you meet a certain MCAT score and grade point average, you're guaranteed admission into the school's medical school. Some programs are eight years, and some are shorter as well. The schools that offer these program often range wildly in terms of US News rankings. Generally, a lot of "weaker" schools tend to have these programs. Let me give you an example of this.

I'm from Illinois, and the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) has a BS/MD program. As an undergraduate institution, UIC is ranked significantly lower than top Chicago schools Northwestern University (it has its own joint program which is incredibly difficult to get into) and the University of Chicago. Also, UIC is ranked lower than the University of Illinois Urbana/Champaign, which is Illinois' flagship campus. So what's the point of the BS/MD program at UIC? It helps attract students that would have gone to schools like Northwestern University and the University of Chicago to instead attend UIC. Schools all over the country are able to entice students to attend them instead of higher ranking institutions. I personally know someone who attended the Northwestern University seven year medical school program instead of Harvard University.

Attending such a program has quite a few advantages. Assuming you maintain the minimum required stats, you're guaranteed a spot in medical school. You don't have to spend all of your undergrad worrying about getting the highest grades possible, and doing a large number of extra curricular activities. There are disadvantages too. If you had your heart set on a different better ranked institution, you won't attend it. Here in Chicago, there is a large difference in the ranking between UIC and Northwestern University and the University of Chicago. Someone who had their heart set on the latter two might feel unhappy attending a lower ranked school.

So it's your decision. Is it worth the security to go to into one of these programs, or is it better to roll the dice and try to get into the medical school of your choice? There are countless of very qualified applicants who don't get into any schools. So don't get too ahead of yourself. You're not a special snowflake. It's a competitive process out there. Well actually, very competitive! So think long and hard about doing a BS/MD program.

As I mentioned earlier, you should be volunteering and shadowing to get into one. Even if you change your mind about doing or are ultimately rejected from a BS/MD program, these ECs will still help pad your college application, and future medical school application as long as you did a "universal" volunteering gig which can be continued as a college freshman.

-Choosing the Right College-

A common question people ask is whether going to a more prestigious school is better or not. There's no straight answer for this. It really depends! For instance, a 3.90 GPA at Podunk University will look better than a 3.20 GPA at Harvard. Thus, you should take the difficulty of the school into consideration. Some institutions have horrible reputations when it comes to the pre-med curriculum. You might want to avoid these. Also, unless your heart is set on being an engineering major, it might be best to steer clear of it since engineering majors typically have lower GPAs due to the difficulty of their coursework (please correct me if I'm wrong).

You should go somewhere where you will be happiest, and know that you will succeed. Just do your homework on colleges, and you should be fine. If you have a hard time deciding between two or three, you might want to find out about how their pre-med curriculums stack up. That should be the deciding factor.

-In Conclusion-

And once high school is done, it's on to college. If you got into a BS/MD program, then congrats! :soexcited: If not, then you've got a lot of work to do!

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