March 31, 2020

How Do Ordinary People Get into Medical School?

How Do Ordinary People Get into Medical School?

 Odds are, you’re an ordinary applicant, but there’s a secret, surefire way to stand out.

Odds are, you’re an ordinary applicant, but there’s a secret, surefire way to stand out.

By: Ryan Kelly

Pretend you’re on the admissions committee for a competitive medical school.

From the following candidates, who do you see as having the best shot of getting in?

Applicant A

GPA: 3.6 / MCAT: 505

New York resident and first in family to graduate college

Applicant B

GPA: 3.8 / MCAT: 508

Hopes to become a primary care physician in rural Arkansas

Applicant C

GPA: 3.7 / MCAT: 512

California resident who has spent two years doing research

Who has the best shot of getting into medical school?

  • Applicant B has the best combination of numbers and a purpose in medicine
  • Applicant A’s numbers are a slight concern, but they’re considered disadvantaged, which gives them a bonus
  • Applicant C has the lowest shot, despite solid numbers, because he has nothing to differentiate himself, without learning more about him

In other words, Applicant C is an “ordinary” candidate.

He’s not a part of the three broad groups of candidates who typically get into medical school:

  • 6200 applicants each year have GPAs above 3.8 and an MCAT of 514+
  • 11,000 are under represented minorities and/or disadvantaged
  • 3,600 are from “heartland” states where there’s only one medical school

Sorry, but if you’re not a part of these groups, your chances are significantly lower.

How Do Ordinary People Get into Medical School?

THERE’S A SOLUTION – The Capstone Project.

Remember Applicant C? Turns out that he was the founder of a non-profit that teaches Alzheimer’s patients how to swim.

Before, he was ordinary, but now medical schools look at him and say, “Wow, what an addition he would make to our incoming class!”

We have delved deeper into how to build a Capstone Project in past articles, but here’s the gist:

a.) Find a problem to solve

b.) Evaluate your resources

c.) Innovate

For Applicant C, his steps looked like this:

a.) Alzheimer’s patients often lack opportunities for safe exercise, which is shown to improve cognitive function and slow disease progression

b.) He was a competitive swimmer who could network with indoor swimming facilities, and his neurology clinical trial gave him access to patients

c.) He combined elements a) and b) by designing a swimming curriculum, recruiting participants, and stepping out of his comfort zone

In short, admissions committees want candidates with initiative who leave things better than they found them.

You might not be a swimmer or a neuroscientist, but we all have communities we’re a part of, and we all have resources we can draw upon. Sure, a Capstone Project is hard, and it takes time. But it’s the clearest path for ordinary people to get in!

Want to see some more examples? Here are 3 Outstanding Pre-med Capstone Projects to Inspire You!

Your To-Do List for Building Your Own Capstone Project:

  • Identify needs or problem areas in three of communities/activities you’re a part of (ideally beyond your family or immediate friend group).
  • Make a list of the resources at your disposal to fill these needs; brainstorm at least one solution for each problem area.
  • Recruit some friends to help with the planning and execution.
  • Set up a meeting with administration or supervisors to discuss the feasibility of your plans; give yourself a deadline for launching the project.

Good luck developing your Capstone! It’s guaranteed to reap great rewards during the application process and transform you from ordinary to extraordinary.

In the comments below, let us know if you have ideas for capstones that you want to bounce off us, and we’ll respond to you personally!

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