Medical Tips for Getting into Medical School When Your Parent Is a Doctor

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There has been an interesting shift in medical school admissions for applicants whose parents are doctors. In 1989, these applicants were 15% more likely to get into medical school. Ten years ago, students who had a physician for a parent were still more likely to get accepted into medical school. Ten years later, the opposite is true. These applicants are less likely to get into medical school. Those who are accepted have some interesting similarities (read on to learn what these are).

Four ways to show you really care about medicine​

The adcom might think that you’ve just fallen into this career path because it’s what you’ve been exposed to early on. Or maybe you think it’s your only option because your parents are pressuring you. Or perhaps you think it’ll be easy to get in because your parents did it.

If you are the child of a physician and are applying to med school, you need to do the following:

1. Demonstrate an independent interest in medicine​

Rather than working at your parent’s private practice or exclusively assisting them locally or abroad, you should seek out clinical experiences that you have a genuine interest in and do them on your own. Find mentors, and work in research by seeking opportunities at your undergraduate institution. Develop trusting relationships with science faculty. Ask for their advice, which can lead to opportunities through their connections.

2. Go above and beyond the average activities required of an applicant​

Because you have an unfair advantage in having access to opportunities that other premed students do not, you can set yourself apart by seeking out leadership, community service, research, and clinical activities as early as possible and putting in more time than the average applicant to demonstrate your commitment.

You do have something to prove because privilege warrants responsibility Be sure to acquire plenty of hours in community-based volunteer work for an underserved community – the unhoused, poor communities, linguistically-isolated families, immigrants, or the elderly aging in place. Practice listening without imposing a point of view or judgment. Practice conveying their struggles and stories on their terms to others. This deepens understanding and projects empathy.

3. Clarify your unique career goals and academic interests in your application essays​

With a front row seat to your parent’s medical practice, you understand what the profession entails on a daily basis. Having witnessed the hard work and sacrifices that are required, you must articulate how and why you are personally well-suited to this profession. The more specific your career goals and academic interests, the better; the details will help you because they will come across as more authentic.

Practice speaking from the point of view of a future doctor rather than as the child of a doctor. The latter will be disclosed on the AMCAS and AACOMAS applications. Both applications ask about parents’ professions and incomes. However, if you speak for yourself, on behalf of yourself and your pursuit of medicine, you will be much better off.

4. Apply because you genuinely want to become a doctor – not because of family pressure​

In essays and interviews, it is fairly easy to identify the applicants who are applying for personal reasons and those who are doing so because of family pressure. If you are maintaining a legacy rather than entering medicine because it is your calling, you will inevitably display a lack of motivation, usually throughout each step of the process. These attitudes will reveal themselves in the language you use in your essays and in microexpressions during your interviews.

What motivates you in this pursuit? Practice explaining your interest in medicine from a space of self-awareness and compassion. Read books written by doctors or professors of bioethics who are leading voices in medical perspectives, morality, ethics or health equity: Paul Farmer, Abraham Verhese, Siddhartha Mukherjee, Kay Toombs, Atul Gawande, Rita Charon, Rafael Campo, Ricardo Nuila, and Jasmine Brown – to get started.

Examine your motives and be ready to voice them​

If you are applying for a combination of reasons, it can help to identify and sort these reasons so that they don’t surprise you later. When we are not aware of our emotions, we can surprise ourselves. In the stress of the application process, surprises can lead to ambivalence or mixed signals that will derail your application. Take some time to examine your motivations and assess whether they are strong enough to see you through a lengthy application process.

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