This week, an admissions officer from UMass Medical School came to visit and talk about medical school and the application process. Being a pre-med student, I attended, and I'm glad I did. The information was invaluable, and it let me know exactly what kind of things can make me stand out as an applicant. Getting into medical school is extremely competitive, so it’s important to take certain steps to strengthen your application. Here are some of the biggest takeaways from the meeting in terms of what you can do as an undergraduate student to stand out.
First and foremost, study hard. The average gpa of incoming students at UMass Medical School is above a 3.7. That means you need to have mostly A's in order to be considered. You need to do very well in your science courses specifically, including biology, general and organic chemistry, biochemistry, and physics. The material you learn in these classes is also included on the MCAT, a standardized test for pre-med students. Therefore, it is important you learn this information and retain it.
Show your commitment to public service. Medical schools want so ensure they are accepting those who are empathetic and caring towards other people and their community. Find places locally where you can volunteer and give back. In Amherst, there are plenty of opportunities. MASSPirg is an organization dedicated to social issues on campus. Through them I learned about a lot of volunteer opportunities. One such example is Not Bread Alone, a community soup kitchen program for underprivileged people. There’s also the Amherst Survival Center, which offers food as well as other services for underprivileged people as well. I’m sure there are more, all you have to do is ask.
Find a medically-related or academic activity to get involved with. Find a research opportunity with a professor on campus. Volunteer at a hospital. Take a class to become an EMT. Shadow a professional. Medical schools want to see that you’re academically motivated and have had patient interaction before they accept you.
Ask for help. I learned that many people go to their first pre-med advising appointment during their junior year. This is too late to begin. You must start going either your freshman or sophomore year so you can get advice and implement it as soon as possible.
The last bit of advice we received was a bit surprising. It was to read. Whether it be fiction or non-fiction, you must read. The people who do best on the MCAT are English majors because they have the best reading comprehension and analysis skills. But, you don’t have to be an English major to do well. It’s recommended to read a book a month to develop these skills over time.
Getting into medical school seems very daunting. But by preparing early and meeting with an advisor, a lot of the stress can be alleviated, and you can find success. Good luck!