Qualities Medical School Admissions Committees are Looking for in Applicants

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Throughout your medical school primary and secondary applications, you will want to highlight the following skills and qualities.

Leadership. This is a key quality that separates physicians from other members of a healthcare provider team. Throughout your application, you will want to showcase your ability to lead a team in order to accomplish a common goal. Consider the role you play within a group and how you help bring out the best in other team members. You don’t need to be the captain of a sports team or a club president to be a highly-effective and persuasive leader. Rather, you need to be able to articulate how your influence and openness promote the best outcome(s) in a collaborative environment.

In what meaningful experiences did you show your leadership abilities? Did leadership come naturally to you, or did you work to get to this place? (Both things are great!) How did you support your team? Did you encourage collaboration or independence? Did you feel supported by your team? Did you experience any pushback, and how did you handle that if you did? What did you think about these things at the time? How did you feel? What did you learn that you will incorporate into your leadership style in the future?

Teamwork: Medical school and the practice of medicine are often team endeavors. While we’ve encouraged you to showcase your ability to lead a team, you will also want to show your ability to work collaboratively and productively with others. Highlight instances where you have shown humility and elevated the voices of others. Think about your most effective team experiences and what you learned about yourself from working with those teammates.

During what meaningful experiences did you work with a team or collaborate with others successfully? Were you working with people unlike yourself? Was there a struggle for balance in the beginning? Any confusion? What did you appreciate about your team members? How did they influence and impact you and your actions? Did one or two team members step up in a way you admired? What did you think about these things at the time? How did you feel? Have you had experiences with teams that were unsuccessful? What did you learn (remember: failures can provide great insight too!)?

Critical and creative thinking. The practice of medicine requires constant engagement with problem solving, from interacting with patients to coming to a diagnosis and treatment plan to driving research and innovation agendas. You will need to ask good questions and consider the interplay of multiple variables. Showcase the critical thinking skills you’ve already developed, as well as your ability to stay calm when faced with complicated issues.

In what meaningful experiences did you utilize critical thinking and problem-solving skills? How did you determine the best course of action? Did you approach something one way at first and then correct yourself? What did you think about these things at the time? What did you learn? How did you feel?

Intellectual curiosity. Medical school is academically rigorous, and schools want students who can not only handle the workload, but will elevate the classroom discourse by engaging deeply with the material. And, beyond school, medicine is an ever-evolving field. Throughout your career, you will be asked to take on new challenges and employ innovative thinking. Just demonstrating a record of academic success is not enough. Rather, you will want to show the admissions committee examples of situations where you went beyond what was required to better comprehend a topic. Keep in mind that you can demonstrate intellectual curiosity in an academic environment but also beyond it—at work or in your participation with a charity or hobby.

In what meaningful experiences did you demonstrate intellectual curiosity? How have you gone above and beyond the expected to better understand a topic? In what ways have you pursued additional knowledge or sought out learning opportunities? How have you taken your interest to the next level? How did it make you feel?

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