Current Student Stories
Sam Hankins, pre-med student at UNCW, shares his experiences about determining a pre-health profession and applying for medical school below. His article was featured in the Spring 2012 Pre-Health Pulse e-Newsletter. To share your student story, fill out our Share Your Undergraduate Experience Form.
"Thinking about going to medical school? The first thing you should do is to make sure that this really is the best decision for you. Becoming a physician is a lifelong commitment; it would be unfortunate to figure out medicine is not for you after taking all the time to be accepted into medical school.
The best ways to really see what it is like to be a health professional are shadowing and volunteering. Two of the most common places to volunteer in Wilmington are New Hanover Regional Medical Center and the Cape Fear Clinic. The volunteer applications can be found on their websites, and it is really easy to get involved. Volunteering helped solidify my decision to apply to medical school, but it could easily change another person’s mind. Through volunteering or your own personal connections, you can meet physicians and begin to shadow them. Not only are these activities good tests to see if becoming a doctor is right for you; they are also ones that medical schools expect you to have. How can you know that you want to go to medical school if you have never been in a medical setting or if you have never shadowed a doctor?
Once you have committed to attending a medical school, and taken the MCAT, it will be time to apply to medical school. There are several steps to this process. Before taking the MCAT, you must register on www.aamc.org and pick a test date and site. This registration (email, username, password) will also be used to access your primary medical school application. The application processing service for your primary application is called American Medical College Application Service (AMCAS). The primary application opens around the beginning of May and can easily be accessed through www.aamc.org. In this application, you will enter your biographical information, your grades, your activities, and your personal statement. You will also select the individual medical schools to which you want to apply. On June 1, you are permitted to send out your primary application to all of your selected schools.
Several weeks (and in some cases, months) after the primary application is submitted, the secondary applications will start to come in via email. Secondary applications are school-specific and you may not receive them. Some schools send secondaries to all applicants, while others are selective and do not send secondaries to candidates who do not have a good chance of being admitted. These secondary applications typically consist of essay questions that may ask why you are interested in medicine or the school. It is important to diligently approach each and every secondary, but at the same time, it is important to get them done relatively quickly. If you are applying to a lot of schools, these will start to back-up if you are not actively completing them. Take note: some secondaries also have due dates. One of my secondary applications required me to complete it within two weeks.
After you have sent your secondaries back to those schools, it will be time to wait for interviews. Interview season runs from July through March. It is plausible that you could submit a secondary in June and not receive an interview invite until March. It is also possible to get an interview invite within days of a secondary submission. Sometimes you will be able to schedule these at your convenience; other times, the schools have scheduled interview dates.
Applicants can prepare for interviews by visiting http://www.studentdoctor.net. This website collects information for each school by previous student applicants who interviewed, not by the schools or pre-health advisors. These applicants list how they prepared, how they thought it went, and specific interview questions that were asked. It is extremely helpful to note which questions are asked over and over. A common technique is to reflect on how you would answer these questions and practice them, with a friend, advisor, or even alone.
After interviews, there are three possible options regarding your status. You can be rejected, accepted, or waitlisted. The first day a school can inform an applicant is October 15th. Similar to secondary applications, it can take awhile to hear back froma school. Despite how stressful this experience can be, once an acceptance comes along, it is worth it!
As for my experience, I submitted my primary application in early June 2012, applied to 20 schools, and received 20 secondary applications. I submitted 16 secondaries and received 6 interview invites. My earliest interview was in August and my latest was in November. From the schools where I interviewed, I have received 1 acceptance, 1 waitlist, and nothing from the other schools. For those who are in the process of applying to medical school, I wish you good luck. Despite how stressful this experience can be, it is definitely worth the trouble."