Preparing for Medical School

Karly's Hints

Karly Pippitt graduated from the College of Idaho in 2002.  She then went on to Medical School at the University of Utah.  These are her hints for how to prepare for Medical School.

Try medicine out

  • Participate in an internship, go shadow a doctor -- just do something involved in the medical field to see if it's what you're really interested in. Many people don't find out that they don't like medicine until they are too deep into the biology major to focus on another major.
  • Some opportunities on campus and through the biology major are: West Valley Medical Center in Caldwell (go to the ER), shadowing a local physician in the Treasure Valley, or listen to internship presentation and guest speakers to get a idea of what else is out there.

While at the college of idaho

Freshman and sophomore years

  • Keeping your GPA up is always a good idea, but don't become a total bookworm. Get involved! How you get involved does not have to be medically related. Whatever you do, stick with it. Doing something for a long period of time shows dedication to a medical school.
  • Challenge yourself in the things you do. Do something that pushes you out of your safety zone.
  • Shadow a doctor, participate in an internship. Get yourself involved in the medical field to show your interest and experience.
  • Start saving money, the application process gets a little spendy.

Junior year

  • Start studying for the MCAT early. The best way to study is to study a little bit every week, so there is no need to cram at the end. As the MCAT draws closer, take practice tests! I would almost say that the MCAT is a test of endurance and knowledge. If you realize how intense it is and test yourself in circumstances like the test itself, you will be more relaxed when you actually take the test.
  • As you fill out the form to take the MCAT, think about schools you're considering applying to. Almost all schools accept the AMCAS application as the primary application, but a few don't (i.e., schools in Texas).
  • If you haven't done an internship, now is the time. If you have, think about getting involved in research. Talk to your advisor about setting up a potential honors project for your senior year or find out about local research opportunities. Research does not have to be medically related either. It could be ecology research or icthyology not necessarily molecular biology.

Summer between junior and senior year

  • Fill out the AMCAS application (if you plan to apply during your senior year). The application is all online. It's not too overbearing if you just do a little bit at a time.
  • Make sure you get a transcript before you leave school so you can fill out your course schedule.
  • Work on your personal statement. This is one of the hardest things to write. Think about why you want to be a doctor, why you're applying to medical school, and things that make you unique as an applicant.
  • Look at medical schools (either websites or through a book of medical schools) and decide where you want to apply. Look at things like cost, number of out of state residents they accept, average MCAT scores and GPAs of last class accepted to see if it's feasible to even apply there. Most people apply to around 10-15 medical schools. It sounds like a lot, I know.

Senior year

  • You've sent out AMCAS, and now you're just waiting for secondary applications. Fill out your secondary applications as soon as you can. They can bog you down if you're not careful.
  • Ask your professors for letters of recommendation as soon as possible--they're busy too!
  • Secondary applications get expensive too!
  • Keep working on school, you'll find out you may need to add some classes to accommodate medical school requirements.
  • Participate in a mock interview or practice in front of a mirror before you go to an interview. Stay up to date on current events. You could be asked anything in an interview.

Some things to keep in mind

  • Make sure you know what classes you need to take for certain medical schools. You can always take it in summer school if you have to, but wouldn't it be better to not have to take something if you can help it?
  • There is no magic formula to getting into medical school, don't think that by following in someone's footsteps that got in, you'll make it too. Much of it depends on circumstances beyond your control: the economy, the rest of the incoming class, and what the school is looking for in its incoming class.

Have a backup plan

If you don't get in right after you graduate, what are you going to do? Think about where your application is weak and where to improve it. Maybe you need to do some research, maybe you need to take a few more courses, or maybe you need to get more involved in the medical field. You're going to have to explain how you think you've strengthened your application in the year off.

Some courses I would recommend

  • For almost all medical schools you need a year of general chemistry with lab, a year of organic chemistry with lab, and a year of biology (with lab), usually with at least an upper division biology. You'll also need some humanities credits (usually 1 course is enough), behavioral sciences, and English. Some schools require biochemistry or upper division behavioral science courses.
  • Make sure you check out where you're applying so you know what you need to take.
  • Some courses I really liked and thought were useful were: Molecular Biology, Immunology, Physiology, Analytical Physics and Biochemistry.
  • Some I haven't taken, but I think might be useful are: Microbiology, higher level math courses, more physics courses, more upper division chemistry, and upper division psychology courses.