Now that my application process is coming to a close, I thought I would give my fellow URM pre-med folks a little insight into the process before you make the plunge into applying to medical school. This was my second time applying, so I have learned a lot about the do's and donts when pursuing medical school. Although this list is not exhaustive, it highlights a number of important tasks that must be considered before applying to medical school. 1. Make sure you have the numbers! I think many of us jump into the process thinking that ADCOMMs are going to let us slide right into their schools with mediocre MCAT scores and GPAs. I am sorry to say this is far from the truth. More and more URMs are scoring in the upper twenties and thirties nowadays, so there is becoming more and more competition between URMs to fill fewer slots in med school classes. Most schools place their MCAT cut-off at a minimum of a 25 and some at 27. Check the most recent MSAR (Medical School Admission Requirements) book to find out the minimum score for each section of the MCAT at your schools of interest. If you don't meet their MCAT criteria (your score is not within a certain range), you are NOT a competitive applicant for that particular school. If you think you may need help preparing for the MCAT, enroll in a Kaplan or Princeton Review prep class. There is no guarantee that you will improve your MCAT score, you get out of it what you put in. 2. Get that science GPA UP! Don't think that a 3.0 gpa in the sciences is enough. I don't care how well you network with individuals in the Multicultural Resource Center, they can't help you if you don't meet them half-way. If your scores are low, think about doing a post-bacc or postponing graduation to re-take some pre-reqs. 3. You DO NOT have to be a science major. Your major does not matter. You will not be at a disadvantage if you choose to major in something outside of the Sciences. Undergraduate is your chance to explore other interests. I suggest you take the opportunity. Don't stress yourself out feeling like you have to pursue a science degree. Just think! If med school doesn't work out, you will be stuck doing research, teaching, or doing something completely unrelated to your major. The science job market is really suffering right now. 4. Clinical experience is a must! You can be the chair of your BSM committee; President of Student Government; volunteer at a homeless shelter every week; and had numerous research experiences and publications; but if you haven't been in the clinic interacting and/or observing physicians and patients, then you have no clue what it is to be a physician. Believe me, you will be asked about your clinical exposure during your interviews. 5. Do some research. You may not think you will never need to do research in your future career as a physician, but many ADCOMMs are looking for future physician scientists. Furthermore, many specialty residencies are starting to incorporate 1 to 2 years of research in their programs. There are a multitude of paid summer research opportunities for URMs throughout the country. 6. Get to know people in the Multicultural Resource Centers at the schools where you plan on applying. They can give you tons of advice and input about applying and preparing for medical school. Plus, you wouldnt believe how much of a leg up you will have by networking at your schools of interests. Oftentimes, those same individuals that you will meet also serve on the admissions committee of the school. But REMEMBER, many schools have a policy where individuals involved with admissions are restricted from advising students whose application is already submitted to AMCAS. I suggest you call the Multicultural Resource Center before you submit your AMCAS application. 7. APPLY EARLY! Get your AMCAS application out in June or July. Dont wait until October to submit your AMCAS. Since most schools are rolling admissions, the sooner you submit your AMCAS, the sooner you can finish your secondaries, interview, and get an acceptance. As the upcoming med school class fills, ADCOMMs become more and more selective about whom they admit. If you plan on applying in June, then you MUST have already taken the MCAT, written a personal statement, completed or in the process of completing all of your pre-reqs. When you apply, do your research and apply to a broad range of schools. Usually I suggest that an applicant apply to 3 dream schools, 3 schools where the applicant feels he/she will be a good fit, and 3 safety schools (i.e. your state schools). NOTE: Med schools will not consider your application until you have received your MCAT scores. 8. Ask for your letters of recommendation (LORs) EARLY! Give your recommender a couple of months to write you a letter, and make sure you ask them to write an EXCELLENT letter. You will be surprised by how many Faculty members use LOR templates or write unsupportive letters. Also, make sure you give them a copy of your transcript, personal statement, extra-curricular activities, and a brief statement about your background and future aspirations. This will give your recommender more insight about who you are as a person and what you plan on doing in the future with your medical degree. If that person is unwilling to write a supportive letter, FIND SOMEONE ELSE. 9. Save your MONEY! Applying to medical school is an EXPENSIVE process. The last thing you want is to have to limit the number of schools you apply to because of insufficient financial resources. If you are economically disadvantaged, AMCAS offers a Fee Assistance Program (FAP) to individuals who would be unable to take the MCAT or apply to medical schools without financial assistance. Applicants who are approved for fee assistance receive a reduced MCAT registration fee, a waiver of $490 for submitting the completed AMCAS application to up to 12 medical schools, and possible waivers for supplemental application fees. Dont depend on the FAP; not everyone who thinks they are economically disadvantaged will qualify. 10. Dont RUSH it! The following is the most valuable advice that has been given to me that I would like to impart on you: Apply when you feel you are your BEST applicant. Dont feel like you have to go straight from undergrad into medical school. Applying to medical school can be an emotionally, physically, and financially draining process. If you are not confident that you have adequately taken care of STEPS 1-9, take some time off before you apply. Have a contingency plan. This is not a race! You will not be behind your peers by deciding to take a few years off to improve your application before applying to medical school. What matters most is that give yourself the best chance of becoming a successful applicant! I assure you that if you take heed to these 10 IMPORTANT STEPS to applying to medical school, you will be well on your way to becoming a physician. Good Luck!