Medical school: The top 10 tips for getting in

MedschoolthumbnailpicThis one is personal for me. I’ve spent the last 4 years with medical school as the #1 priority in my life.  It was tough for me to balance my life in the beginning and pursuing this dream has cost me a few things like relationships with friends/family, girlfriends etc..

As I look back, I could have used my time more wisely, so this is going to be the top 10 list of what I’ve learned in these 4 years and what it takes to get into medical school.

The medical application is usually broken up into academic and non-academic portions. The first 5 points below are academic tips and the last 5 are non-academic.

1. Know what you need to get in. Do you want to go to medical school in Canada? Which one is your first choice? All medical schools have slightly different requirements. Do your research and know exactly what you need to get in. Check out the admission statistics and continually remind yourself of what you need.

2. Maintain the highest GPA you possibly can. The academic portion of any medical school application will rely mainly on your calculated academic average. Different medical schools calculate it differently, but a higher GPA always helps you. How do you do this? Check out points 3-5.

3. Course selection. Choosing a degree and then courses each semester are the biggest decisions you make in the academic portion of your undergraduate degree. Medical school usually treats all degrees as equal, so you have to figure out the best path for you. Choose courses that will allow you to excel. Talk to other students you trust about courses you wish to take and get their opinions.

Do not overload your schedule (i.e. don’t take 5 classes with 5 labs). Some medical schools require a full course load (5 courses per semester) so if that’s the medical school you want to attend, take 5 courses. I had the choice to take more difficult calculus courses or calculus for biological sciences. I took the hard road and ended up struggling. If I could do it again, I would take the easier path.

4. Study as much as possible. I’m easily distracted and find it tough to study for long periods of time. Taping the lectures helps me and listening to them a second time forces me to study for that amount of time.

I make a game out of it. Say there are 11 lectures for a certain midterm. I maybe give myself a quota of 3 lectures per day. I make sure I have at least one study buddy in class and, after I study individually, I go over the material in a group study session before the test. I bombard all my senses to study. I use taped audio lecture, visual PowerPoint with notes and write my own notes.

5. Limit distractions and stay focused. I don’t use Facebook often. I have a few close friends, but I don’t have lots of relationships that I have to maintain. I’m not saying you have to do this, but figure out what works for you. If you want to go to medical school, it’s competitive and you have to make it a high priority in your life.

6. Find a non-academic activity that stands out and makes you unique. Rescue an endangered species off the coast of Antarctica. Build a start-up company out of your garage. Be the lead singer of a semi-successful band that tours all over Canada. Go to the Olympics for Judo. I don’t care what it is, but when you tell someone about it they should be intrigued.

7. Help people. You want to be a doctor to help people right? Then you should start now. Volunteer your time for the betterment of your community. If you focus on making a difference and helping people, instead of it being a hurdle you need to jump to get into medical school, it will be rewarding. Trust me.

8. Learn to relate to the people. Are you comfortable interacting with homeless people who solicit you for change? Can you empathize with addicts, obese diabetics, or the mentally ill? They are all people who need a doctor’s help – probably more than the healthy university students you are used to interacting with. Try to communicate with populations of people who make you feel uncomfortable at this point in your life.

9. Be a leader. Come up with solutions to problems. Set an example. Be a role model. Treat people right.

10. Stick with things. If you start something, make sure you see it through. Obviously you are going to try a few things to find out what you like, but once you make a commitment, follow through with it. Longevity in jobs shows that you are able to stick with something. Medical school is 3-4 years, followed by 2-7 years of residency, so you better be sure you are “all-in” if you are going to commit that amount of your life to pursuing medicine.

If you really want something in life you can get it. There’s always a way.

It’s like a maze you did as a kid; there were always a bunch of dead ends, but one route brought you to the finish. I went to college in 2003 after high school and dropped out. I have a bunch of bad grades from way back that are bringing my academic average down 7-8%. I go from being above the admission average to quite a bit below it, but it doesn’t discourage me; it makes me want it more.

Don’t expect life to be fair and nothing worth anything is going to be handed to you, but if you want it, go get it. I believe in you.


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2 Responses

  1. spomenka says:

    Hi James,

    I am wondering if you study and get you degree at Uvic or you are studied somewhere else? UBC?


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