Four mistakes that can sink a medical school application

Start with realistic expectations, expert says

Writing in U.S. News & World Report, Jessica Freedman—the former head of admissions at Mount Sinai School of Medicine—shares four tips for putting together a successful application.

Freedman, who now serves as a medical school admissions consultant, notes that medical school remains extremely competitive. In 2014, nearly 50,000 students applied to medical school, and fewer than half ultimately enrolled.

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While many applicants may be surprised at their rejections, Freedman says an objective review of their application materials often suggests they would have been more successful if they made some simple adjustments. Freedman suggests the following mistakes to avoid:

Set realistic expectations. Many applicants simply apply to schools they do not have a realistic chance of attending, Freedman says. Applicants should compare their MCAT scores and GPAs to averages at desired schools. If the numbers don't match up, the school is a reach. Freedman urges applicants to apply to a realistic mix of schools and gain additional academic experience to bolster their application if their scores and grades are not competitive at their targeted institutions.

Go beyond the classroom. "While academic excellence is an essential prerequisite for medical school admission, great grades alone will not get you accepted to medical school," Freedman writes. Applicants should demonstrate their commitment to medicine outside of the classroom. Freedman suggests shadowing a physician, volunteering at a clinic, or assisting in medical research as ways to show interest in the field.

Explain yourself. Showcasing your unique attributes in the written application is crucial for securing an interview. But many students write "uninspired" applications, she says. Written applications should show insight and clearly communicate what an applicant has learned.

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Prep for interviews. Freedman acknowledges that interviewing is a skill and that some people may be less comfortable during high-stakes admissions interviews. Therefore, preparation is key. At a minimum, Freedman suggests that all applicants engage in mock interviews to become more comfortable with the format (Freedman, "Medical School Admissions Doctor," U.S. News & World Report, 3/10).

The takeaway: One expert says the key to a competitive medical school application is to set realistic expectations and find ways to demonstrate your excellence as a candidate beyond your transcripts and GPA.

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