Building Your Resumé for Medical School
June 12, 2019
Building Your Medical School Resumé
When it comes to working on your medical school application profile, you don’t have to be a fortune teller to predict that your GPA and MCAT score will matter greatly. But the important application components don’t stop there. Though your scores are undoubtedly significant, the experiences and passion on your medical school resumé have a huge impact on your admissions outcome. Demonstrating that you are interested, dedicated, and involved in your community in a way that reflects your love for medicine is a must. From working at a local clinic to traveling abroad for medical research, there are many ways to show, rather than tell, the admissions committee that you deserve a coveted MD spot.
Long story short, you do not want to go into the extremely competitive application process without a standout medical school resumé. This doesn’t mean that you have to run off and pursue a hundred different extracurriculars across all fields within medicine. Even if you focus on one area - such as your love for working with children - and develop volunteer experiences, internships, and research positions around pediatrics, you can boost your application. If you’re looking to expand your activities but have no idea where to start, we’ve got you covered with ways to build your medical school resumé and grow into a must-admit candidate.
Your GPA and MCAT Score
While grades and scores are not the only deciding factors in the medical school admissions process, they do matter...a lot. Your numbers are at the top of your medical school resumé, and naturally the first thing the committee will notice. How well you fare throughout college is viewed by admissions committees as predictive of your future academic performance in medical school and on the Step exams. Start planning your pre-med courses and put maximum effort into them from your freshman year of college because the medical school applicant pool is no joke. It’s important that you stay connected with your pre-med advisor and take full advantage of their experience. Enroll in courses which apply to medicine and play to your strengths, instead of choosing fun humanities classes and filling up valuable spaces in the process. Your cumulative, science, and major GPAs will all be scrutinized. If they don’t make the cut, you won’t get your foot in the door.
Getting a good MCAT score is equally crucial, as the top medical schools sometimes have a cutoff point. The average MCAT score for admitted students in 2018 was 508. If you want to get into a good MD school, aim to score at least a 515 on the MCAT to remain competitive. Preparation is the key. Leave yourself a minimum of 3 months study time, more if you will only be able to study part-time. Create a study schedule and stick to it. A 515 on the MCAT won’t happen automatically, so give yourself plenty of prep time. The MCAT is not something you want to cram for overnight.
Making a good first impression with GPA and MCAT is all the more important in a process as cutthroat as medical school admissions.
Internships and Work Experience
One of the best ways to highlight your capabilities as a strong medical school candidate is through clinical experience and patient exposure. Don’t just randomly seek jobs at every hospital and clinic in your area. The work you do has to be deliberate, showcase commitment, and come from a genuine love for the field you’ve chosen. Many positions can build specific skill sets. For example, you could work as hospital scribe, someone who assists the on-call physician in the emergency department by documenting and gathering information. This position will also build your written and oral communication skills, which are highly useful and valuable in medical school.
When you start building your profile, shadowing doctors on their daily rounds - especially ones whose work aligns with your specific interests in medicine - is a great way to improve your medical school resumé, and also to get a sense of the kind of work you’d be doing in medical school and beyond. Keep in mind that while shadowing provides you with a good initial exposure, more active clinical work where you are gaining hands-on experience is far more valuable.
Participating in the day-to-day clinical routine gives you a chance to learn how hospitals and doctors operate on a regular basis. And as a physician, you will interact with a lot of patients, so medical schools will expect you to have some experience with patients already.
Depending on the exact area of your work, internship, or shadowing experience, you can get a sense of the daily bustle and time crunch many doctors are under. It’s valuable to understand how jobs are delegated in a hospital, or even how the logistics and paperwork are processed.
Volunteer Work and Community Service
The field of medicine has always been associated with altruism. When you do become a doctor, selflessness is going to be a part of your profession. You have to show on your medical school resumé that you are ready and willing to share your time and knowledge with others by volunteering in your community. Top med programs want their graduates to become doctors who have the intellect and emotional capacity to help people.
If you look around, you’ll find that volunteering opportunities are plentiful. You can initiate a blood drive to help victims of a hurricane. You can train as a volunteer EMT and experience how emergency healthcare is provided on a case-by-case basis. You can raise funds to bring medical care to people in your community who cannot afford it. Do something that appeals to your interest, reminds you of why you wanted to become a doctor in the first place, and helps out in a cause that you truly care about.
Research is the combination of curiosity and a dedication to finding answers. Many medical schools want to admit applicants with the potential to change the future of medicine. Not all research needs to be within a science discipline, you can find opportunities to help with clinical research or public health research at a local university or lab in an area of your interest. Find a way to ask a question, pose a hypothesis, and develop a systematic approach to finding the answer. If you can, find labs relevant to your specific interest in medicine. For example, if you could be part of a OB/GYN lab researching the role of estrogen in post-menopausal women, or you could be in a more cardio-focused lab, studying the underlying mechanisms of vascular stiffness in pulmonary hypertension.
You’re going to conduct a lot of research in medical school so it’s best to start early and show admissions committees that you have what it takes. You can strive to quantify your findings and build your medical school resumé. If your team gets their research paper or article published in a journal, you’ll be a published author as well! As an added bonus, your research work is a chance to connect with the professor or doctor in charge and gain a recommender who will attest to your potential as a doctor.
You will not sound convincing in your medical school essays or interviews if you haven’t actively pursued learning what it’s like to work in medicine before you get started on your applications. A strong medical school resumé should demonstrate that you made the effort to seek work, volunteering, and research opportunities. Your medical school resumé should show your passion and commitment to the field of medicine. Ultimately, the combination of the two, written out cleanly, explaining your role and what you achieved, can impress medical school admissions committees and help you appear as a competitive applicant in this grueling application process.