How do I ensure my letters of recommendation are strong?

Try to identify your professors and mentors early if you can so you can be extra intentional about forming a relationship with them. 

Relationships take intention and time, so if you are getting a letter from a professor from freshman or sophomore year, try to reach out each semester to catch up in some way. Catching up can be over email or phone call, but in person gives the best quality if your letter writer can be available to meet with you.

One example of how I’ve reached out to professors from early on in my college career have been sending them articles from current courses that remind me of them/their coursework. This led to invitations to meet up to talk about the articles, which led to one professor even offering to write me a letter before I even had to ask! Keeping in touch and maintaining a relationship is essential if you want to get the best rec letter out of it.

 Do not worry about having ALL extremely strong rec letters! If you simply need one more, it is completely acceptable to ask a professor in whose course you did well. Professors understand that you need letters of rec and often are willing to do so. Obviously, it is best to build a relationship with a professor to get a more personalized letter of rec. The best way I would recommend doing this is office hours. If the class is extremely large, it is hard for a professor to get to know you through lecture alone so it is best to go to their office where you will be much closer to a 1:1 ratio. In smaller courses, in addition to attending office hours, It is good to ask questions before, after, and during lecture to continue to remind the professor that you are engaged with the material.

Can I get a committee letter?

Unfortunately, there is no pre-med committee letter service at our university, so you will need to find individual letter writers. Most students find it most beneficial to obtain this combination of letters:

  • Two science course professors
  • One non-science professor
  • One personal letter: a boss, research PI, volunteer supervisor, or physician you shadowed
    • IF APPLYING THROUGH AACOMAS, a letter from any DO physician you have observed in a clinical setting (shadowed or worked with)
    • IF YOU ARE IN YOUR GAP YEAR, get a letter from the gap year employment supervisor
  • IF APPLYING MD/PHD, a research letter — from an MD or a PhD rather than from a lab manager or student supervisor

Can I ask my professor for a letter of recommendation partway through a course?

It is okay to ask a professor for a letter of recommendation while you are still in their class, but it is probably better to wait until the end of the class to ask, and it is probably too forward to ask a professor before the class or internship begins.

Should I ask for my letter in person?

Try to ask for letters of recommendation in person if you can. It can really help to see the facial expressions of the person you are asking, as emotions are basically impossible to know via email. If you have not seen the professor in a while, you can email to ask if they can have a few minutes for you to stop by. Be very sensitive to their time, and go to ask when they say they are available.

When should I ask?

If you don’t anticipate taking more classes with a certain professor, it’s advisable to ask the professor a few weeks after you’ve received your grade in their class. If your relationship with your letter writer is a little bit more drawn-out time-wise, you should be asking a few months before submitting your application. If you want your letter in by June, March/April should be the latest you contact someone about writing you a rec letter — because May will often be the busiest season for all graduate applications and letters. Remember that you can always submit your primary application without having the letter submitted by your professor, and you only really need your letters by the time you submit secondaries (around the first week of July, but could be later because of COVID delays this 2020 cycle).

What if I can’t ask in person due to distance or other reasons?

If you must ask via email, be very polite and formal, and try to keep the email short and to the point.

When you are writing this email, you can include things you would like them to talk about, remind them of good characteristics you had in their class/in general so that they are able to talk about you in more detail.

Use the AAMC guidelines for writing a letter of recommendation when preparing your email and briefly summarize the important points of the guidelines in your email to the professor.

It can be helpful to follow this rough structure:

 1) Acknowledge they have many other important things to attend to and that you are grateful for their time. 

2) Express what you enjoyed about their class and why 

3) Explain that you are applying to medical school and that you are wondering if they could write you a strong letter in support of your application.

 4) Mention what competencies you believe they would be able to speak on.

 5) Thank them for their time and consideration. Also, ask if they would want to see your resume so that they understand the scope of activities you are involved in. They might also ask for a draft of your personal statement. So, be ready to have one in case they requested it.

                                         ADDITIONAL RESOURCE:  INTERFOLIO

                             for storage and delivery of the letter of recommendation

 

  • It is a great way to store multiple letters of recommendation. The website will directly send a link to professors and will make sure that it is confidential (i.e. you will not be able to see what is written about you). It also has a quality control check before your letters are sent (ex. checking for a signature and official letterhead).
  • While the letters remain confidential, you can decide where the letters will be sent and when the delivery date would be. 
  • Your letter writers only have to submit your letter once to Interfolio, and then you will be able to transfer them to AMCAS easily to be sent out to the designated schools.

Name: Brooke McCollum

Major(s) and minor(s): Biopsychology, Cognition, and Neuroscience major, Biomolecular Science major 

Favorite class you took at Michigan: I really enjoyed all the psych classes I took, but I would say my overall favorite class was either Psych 402 or MCDB 423. Psych 402, Neuroscience of Mental Health, was the most laid back course I took at U of M. I took it for one of my psych electives for my BCN major, and it basically consisted of reading published research articles about neuroscience of mental health (that were not long) and then discussing them in class. Something else that I really enjoyed about the class was not only did it really explore the science behind mental illness, but we also talked a lot about the impact neuroscience research does and will have on the future of mental health discussions and the treatment around it. It was overall a well rounded class and because of that, I learned a ton. Also, there were no exams or quizzes! MCDB 423, Introduction to Research in Cellular and Molecular Neurobiology, was an upper biology lab I took for BCN as well. I really liked this class because I used a lot of the techniques I had learned in my actual research lab, so I actually had a sense of what was going on compared to some other labs I had taken in the past. There were also really cool experiments we did like injected frog oocytes with RNA we had transcribed or growing dorsal root ganglia on plates from baby chickens we had dissected. 

When/How did you study for the MCAT: Took TPR course, studied mid May through beginning of August

When did you take the MCAT: August of the summer before my senior year (August 2019)

What was your pre-med experience: My pre-med experience was very busy but fun and at times extremely stressful, but I would not have wanted it any other way. Throughout my three and a half years, I volunteered through the University of Michigan Hospital and Arbor Hospice. I worked at a research lab and scribed at St. Joe’s Emergency Department and obviously, was an advisor and later on, an E-board member for Pre-Med Hub. 

Recommendations/advice for current students: One reason I choose to go to Michigan is because of the numerous opportunities that are available to undergrads. I do not think at many other schools I would have had the opportunity to work in a cancer research lab that is run by someone that has their own wikipedia page. Michigan is a research institution, so take advantage of it! Another recommendation I would give is to relax and take a breath every once in awhile. Not only is Michigan as a school stressful, but the pre-med track can amplify this stress. It is okay to take a break and go have fun with friends or do something else you enjoy. 

Classes:

 

1st year

2nd year

3rd year

4th year

Fall

BIOLOGY 173

SPANISH 232

PSYCH 270

CHEM 210

CHEM 211

BIOLOGY 225

MCDB 310

SOC 302

PSYCH 240

CHEM 230

PSYCH 303

CHEM 352

MCDB 436

MCDB 423

CHEM 399

PSYCH 347

PSYCH 402

Winter

CHEM 215

CHEM 216

STATS 250

ENGLISH 125

WOMENSTD 220

CHEM 245

CHEM 246

CHEM 247

PSYCH 230

PHYSICS 235

PHYSICS 236

BIOLOGY 305

CLCIV 385

CHEM 420

CHEM 398

PSYCH 355

none

Spring

PHYSICS 135

PHYSICS 136

Study abroad

PSYCH (3)

HUMANITIES (3)

none none

 

Name: Pooja Polamarasetti

Major(s) and minor(s): Biomolecular Science major, Gender and Health minor

Favorite class you took at Michigan: WS 400: Women’s Reproductive Health. I took this class because it aligns with some of my career goals and because the syllabus looked very interesting; instead of one professor all semester, the class is run by two physicians and each lecture is given by a different guest speaker, including people in fields like law, informatics, global health, sex therapy, and nursing. I started out this class getting the lowest essay grade I had ever gotten and seriously considered dropping it for a W. Before taking this upper-level writing course, I was lacking in writing experience compared to most of my peers (especially as a sophomore in a senior level class). However, I went to the professor to discuss dropping the class and she gave me some great advice: she told me that it would be more beneficial to use the course to bolster my writing skills and learn more about the topics I was so interested in, rather than dropping it to avoid a poor grade. I actually ended up regularly attending office hours, going to Sweetland, and doing essay rewrites to get an A, even after having a failing grade for the first half of the semester. I learned so much more in this class besides the obvious syllabus material in women’s health, and this experience truly shaped my GPA-driven thinking as a college student and pre-med.

When/How did you study for the MCAT: I self-studied the summer after sophomore year using textbooks from The Berkeley Review and online resources (Khan Academy, UWorld, Jack Westin, Reddit). I studied from May – Aug and took it right before my junior year of school started.

When did you take the MCAT: Sept 1, 2018

What was your pre-med experience: I had a pretty good pre-med experience, which I can fully attribute to all my peers and mentors. I had older students sit down with me even before freshman year orientation to help me figure out what extracurriculars I needed to do as a pre-med and what classes I should think about backpacking during orientation. Once freshman year started, I got a peer mentor assigned to me through an organization called MPAC, who I kept in touch with to ask questions and meet with all year. Part of the reason I was so involved in leadership here at Pre-Med Hub was because I knew how inaccessible general advising could be to students, but also how helpful peer advising and mentorship could be. I wanted to pay it forward and served in various mentorship roles, including through PMH, WISE, SLC-ELI, and MPAC, once I felt like I gained enough pre-med experience to be useful to other students.

Recommendations/advice for current students: If I had to do it all over again, I think I would take more risks as a pre-med. I definitely played it safe, from the classes I took to my major to my extracurricular choices. I knew that what I did would ultimately help me make it into medical school, but there are certain regrets that I have. For one, I wish I majored in a subject completely different from what I’d be learning in medical school; I have interests in subjects like Computer Science, Economics, Political Science, and Environment. As a Biomolecular Science major, I definitely learned everything I needed to as a pre-med, but I’m not coming out of college feeling fulfilled as a liberal arts student. Every pre-med is “interested in biology,” but I would encourage you all to explore your other interests as well, because you’ll be learning more biology/biochem than you ever wanted to know in medical school. This post puts it very nicely. I wish I got more involved in research, possibly in a field that is completely unrelated to STEM. I wish I joined dance or acapella groups, instead of sticking to my traditional pre-med clubs. I wish I had more of a life outside of pre-med because I think that would have prevented me from burning out around the time of MCAT and the application cycle.

Classes:

 

1st year

2nd year

3rd year

4th year

Fall

BIO 173

EECS 183

HONORS 240

WS 220

UROP

PHYSIOL 201

CHEM 215 

PSYCH 280 

ANTHRCUL 325

ASIANLAN 115

CHEM 230

WS 432

COMPLIT 100

SURGERY 499

ASIANLAN 215

CHEM 130

CHEM 125/126

CHEM 455

DANCE 100 (hip-hop)

DANCE 100 (pilates)

Winter

CHEM 210

CHEM 211

EECS 280

STATS 250

UROP

MCDB 310

CHEM 352

WS 400

SOC 302

LING 137

ASIANLAN 116

WS 313

MICRBIOL 405

DANCE 100 (intro to popping)

CHEM 216

SURGERY 499

***

ASIANLAN 216

(part-time status)

***I took one upper-level chemistry elective as part of a study abroad in SJTU, China in July between junior and senior year

With all the cancellations in classes, volunteer programs, research labs, and social events, all of you are bound to have a lot more time on your hands. To help you guys out, we decided to make the ultimate pre-med reading list! Bonus: if you’re not much of a reader, we also linked relevant tedtalks by some of these amazing authors.

Gawande is a surgeon, author, and public health researcher. His books explore a wide variety of health topics: from learning to provide good care and accurate patient diagnoses to larger scale economics and policy of healthcare in America. You can read his shorter pieces here and watch his tedtalk here.

“We’ve been wrong about what our job is in medicine. We think our job is to ensure health and survival. But really it is larger than that. It is to enable well-being.”

This is a memoir about a young neurosurgeon who is diagnosed with terminal lung cancer. Kalanithi discusses his experiences going from physician to patient and shares his ideas about death in his posthumously published book — this one will make you cry!

One of the earliest meanings of the word “patient” is “one who endures hardship without complaint.”

The story of two doctors, a father and son, who practiced in very different times and the evolution of the ethics that profoundly influence health care. Lerner’s is an important book for those who treat illness—and those who struggle to overcome it.

“My dad suspected that his medical expertise had prolonged her life but was even surer that he had helped her mental suffering by letting her know that he was always available, even for the most trivial of problems or questions.”

A “medical mystery:” twenty-four-year-old Cahalan wakes up alone in a hospital room and tells the story of her descent into madness and the lifesaving diagnosis that almost didn’t happen.

“The brain is a monstrous, beautiful mess.”

Groopman writes about how doctors make decisions for their patients and how to avoid erroneous medical thinking.

On average, a physician will interrupt a patient describing her symptoms within eighteen seconds. In that short time, many doctors decide on the likely diagnosis and best treatment. Often, decisions made this way are correct, but at crucial moments they can also be wrong — with catastrophic consequences.

Mukherjee examines the complete history of cancer—from its first documented appearances thousands of years ago through the epic battles in the twentieth century to cure, control, and conquer it to a radical new understanding of its essence.

“Cancer’s life is a recapitulation of the body’s life, its existence a pathological mirror of our own.”

Noah tells the stories of his childhood—the hilarious, dramatic, and deeply affecting moments that created his path from a secret child in apartheid South Africa to the famous American night show host. This book made me cry and laugh out loud!

“Whilst my mother couldn’t give me access to the world, she at least made sure to let me know it existed. A kid cannot dream of being an astronaut if he does not know about space.”

Verghese writes a memoir about his relocation for work and new expanding relationship with his medical intern and tennis partner while they both go through difficult personal experiences. You can watch a tedtalk by African-born Indian author here.

Every year, it takes two full classes of medical schools to replace all the physicians who commit suicide. He described a doctor who filled her car’s wiper fluid receptacle with alcohol so she could drink between errands, and another who injected his bladder with a third person’s urine so he could pass a drug test.

A collection of short stories that demolish the arbitrary borders between psychological realism and science fiction, comedy and horror, fantasy and fabulism. Machado bends genre to shape startling narratives that map the realities of women’s lives and the violence visited upon their bodies.

“I have heard all of the stories about girls like me, and I am unafraid to make more of them.”

A collection of perspectives on a wide array of issues, from food allergies, cancer, and neurology to mental health, autoimmune disorders, and therapeutic music. These experiences are recounted by patients, nurses, doctors, parents, children, caregivers, and others who attempt to articulate the intangible human and emotional factors that surround life when it intersects with the medical field.

“Medicine still contains an oral tradition, passed down in stories: the stories patients tell us, the ones we tell them, and the ones we tell ourselves.”

Written by historian Fitzharris to reveal the shocking world of nineteenth-century surgery and shows how it was transformed by advances made in germ theory and antiseptics between 1860 and 1875. Warning: she spares no detail!

“When a distinguished but elderly scientist states that something is possible, he is almost certainly right. When he states that something is impossible, he is almost certainly wrong.”

In this memoir, Norman describes her sudden and serious decline in health and her experience seeking healthcare, having her pain dismissed, to be told it was all in her head, only to be taken seriously when she was accompanied by a boyfriend who confirmed that her sexual performance was, indeed, compromised.

Women’s bodies have long been the battleground of a never-ending war for power, control, medical knowledge, and truth. It’s time to refute the belief that being a woman is a preexisting condition.

Pioneering psychologist Duckworth shows anyone striving to succeed—be it parents, students, educators, athletes, or business people—that the secret to outstanding achievement is not talent but a special blend of passion and persistence she calls “grit.” You can watch her tedtalk here.

“Nobody wants to show you the hours and hours of becoming. They’d rather show the highlight of what they’ve become.”

A bestseller at the moment! In this memoir, a young girl who, kept out of school, leaves her survivalist family and goes on to earn a PhD from Cambridge University. She was seventeen years old when she first stepped foot in a classroom. The story, based on a true story, is a coming-of-age story full of self-intervention and family ties. 

“The skill I was learning was a crucial one, the patience to read things I could not yet understand.”

Her name was Henrietta Lacks, but scientists know her as HeLa. She was a poor Southern tobacco farmer who worked the same land as her slave ancestors, yet her cells—taken without her knowledge—became one of the most important tools in medicine. The first “immortal” human cells grown in culture, they are still alive today, though she has been dead for more than sixty years.

“What do you know about African-Americans and science?”

A self-help book is always a good type of read. This one is about atomic habits which teaches us how to change our habits and get 1% better every day. Getting 1% better everyday will show tremendous results a lot faster than you think. 

“You should be far more concerned with your current trajectory than your current results.”

A book recommended by Bill Gates! This book explains why we sleep in an interesting way and explains to us how sleep can make us healthier, safer, smarter, and more productive. There are several theories presented in this book. 

“The best bridge between despair and hope is a good night’s sleep.”

This Russian novel focuses on the mental anguish and moral dilemmas of Rodion Raskolnikov, an impoverished ex-student in Saint Petersburg who formulates a plan to kill a pawnbroker for her money. With many psychological themes, it deeply explores alienation, consequences for our actions, and guilt. 

“Pain and suffering are always inevitable for a large intelligence and a deep heart. The really great men must, I think, have great sadness on earth.”

This novel explores moral philosophy from a contractualist perspective as Scanlon analyzes how we define whether something is right or wrong. According to his view, thinking about right and wrong is thinking about what we do in terms that could be justified to others and that they could not reasonably reject. He shows how the special authority of conclusions about right and wrong arises from the value of how we relate to other people. A bit of a dense read, ideal for people interested in morality and how these principles can be applied.

“The reasons we have to treat others only in ways that could be justified to them underlie the central core of morality, and are presupposed by all the most important forms of human relationship.”

Adapted as a film by the same name, this book follows the lives of three female African American mathematicians working for NASA in the 1960s. The novel explores themes of discrimination and racial segregation as the three protagonists are overlooked on account of their gender and race but are later shown to be pioneers in math and engineering. One of these women, Katherine Johnson, just recently passed at age 101.

“Their path to advancement might look less like a straight line and more like some of the pressure distributions and orbits they plotted, but they were determined to take a seat at the table.”

Name: Peyton Goethe

Major(s) and minor(s): Double major in Neuroscience and Psychology

Favorite class you took at Michigan: Split into science and non-science, below.

Non-science: AAS 245: Islam in Africa, with Dr. Rudolph Ware — something I didn’t know much about but has contributed greatly to the person I am today

Science: PSYCH 345: Human Neuropsychology—arguably what inspired my interest in combining Neuro and Psych fields of study, awe-inspiring to see the intricate mechanisms that help dictate our behaviors and daily lives

When/How did you study for the MCAT: Take summer off from classes to study. Try to truly immerse yourself in the content by doing daily practice questions/ passages.

When do/did you take the MCAT: January 2021

What was your pre-med experience: My pre-medical experience was far too competitive. The people surrounding me in most of my classes made me feel that since I didn’t come out of the womb wanting to be a doctor, I wasn’t a “real pre-med.” My own struggles with an inferiority complex definitely contributed to that, but nevertheless, it wasn’t an environment in which collaboration or compassion was encouraged. That led to some irresponsible academic choices (i.e. 19 credits, including taking Biochemistry, Genetics, and Animal Physiology and RETAKING Orgo I at the same time)—to this day, I cannot articulate what motivated me to make such a ridiculous schedule that looks like a joke. I think it might have been a combination of my response to the competitive nature of my surroundings as well as my unrealistic expectations of myself in order to be a physician. I always wonder if I was trying to self-sabotage myself from truly pursuing medicine on some level due to my feelings of inferiority. 

Recommendations/advice for current students: Find a niche of people who inspire you to grow, but not because they make you feel bad about any aspect of yourself—also, find close friends who can, for example, veto unfeasible schedule choices to prevent you from spreading yourself too thin when you’re not in the right headspace. Make time to decompress in whatever way works for you. Get involved in things that motivate you to pursue the career you’ve chosen. 

Classes: Again, before you look at my class schedule, please see most of this as a guide of what NOT to do. I retook four classes because of how irresponsibly I scheduled my classes. I did two spring and summer semesters and one summer half-semester. I had to do a whole M.S. degree just to have something besides my abysmal cumulative and science GPA—nothing wrong with getting an additional degree, but debt is debt. If I didn’t have to improve my academic performance, I would’ve much preferred getting an M.P.H.

However, there is also something to be said in regards to forgiveness. I look at this schedule and genuinely laugh, still shocked that I made it out of some of these semesters. I do my best to avoid festering on the subject of my previous academic shortcomings and focus on where I am now—in a job I love that challenges and teaches me on a daily basis and has significantly affected the healthcare professional that I will become.

  1st year 2nd year 3rd year 4th year

Fall

CHEM 130

CHEM 125

SPANISH 231

ENGLISH 125

UC 107

ANTHRBIO 368

BIOLOGY 172

PHIL 359

PSYCH 345

PSYCH 326

BIOLCHEM 415

BIOLOGY 226

BIOLOGY 225

BIOLOGY 305

CHEM 210

PSYCH 356

AAS 246

BIOLOGY 222

MCDB 421

MICROBIOL 405

PSYCH 402

Winter

STATS 250

SPANISH 232

PSYCH 290

PSYCH 211

UC 108

BIOLOGY 171

BIOLOGY 173

CHEM 210

CHEM 211

PSYCH 240

CHEM 230

PHYSICS 135

PHYSIC 136

ALA 472

PSYCH 250

PSYCH 413

AAS 245

ENGLISH 317

PHYSICS 235

PHYSICS 236

 

Name: Daphne Samuel

Major(s) and minor(s): BCN

Favorite class you took at Michigan: AnthrBio 363: Genes, Disease and Culture

When/How did you study for the MCAT: Studied from May 2017 through Jan 2018, Took the in-person Kaplan course fall 2017

When did you take the MCAT: Jan 2018

What was your pre-med experience: I think my pre-med was kind of brutal. I definitely had to put in a lot of effort in things that I couldn’t see the end of. The pre-med community I had around me was competitive and I found myself looking around, comparing myself to other uber-smart students rather than looking ahead at my goal of being a physician. I looked to other non-medically related organizations such as my student ministry and my a cappella group for community instead and found so much solace in the fact that being pre-med did not have to be my life. 

Recommendations/advice for current students: Find a community that supports you regardless of whether you become a doctor or not. You need balance, and they will be the first ones to put things in perspective when it seems like nothing is going your way. 

Classes:

  1st year 2nd year 3rd year 4th year

Fall

CHEM 210

CHEM 211

GTBOOKS 191

PSYCH 250

UC 150 (FY Sem)

BIOLOGY 225

PHYSICS 135

PHYSICS 136

PSYCH 230

PSYCH 326 (Research)

STATS 250

ANTHRBIO 363

BIOLOGY 226

PSYCH 308

PSYCH 326 (Research)

PSYCH 347

BIOLOGY 305

PSYCH 423 (Research)

PUBHLTH 200

Winter

BIOLOGY 173

CHEM 215

CHEM 216

HONORS 232

PSYCH 240

**

MCDB 310

PHYSICS 235

PHYSICS 236

PSYCH 326 (Research)

PSYCH 337

WOMENSTD 220

ANATOMY 403

ANTHRCUL 344

PSYCH 330 (Sem)

PSYCH 401 (Sem)

NONE (I graduated)

**Summer between 1st and 2nd year: Took the equivalent of CHEM 230 (pchem) at Oakland University

Building a List of Schools

 

Coming up with a list of schools is a time-consuming but essential process to gearing up to apply in the upcoming cycle. Being strategic about the schools you apply to can give you a great advantage during the process, and even improve your chances of getting in

 

  • The best way to begin making a list of schools is to start a google sheet of every school you are interested in, charting GPA, MCAT, applications they receive per year, OOS-friendly, etc. Then, start narrowing down until you get to the number you want!

 

MSAR MSAR MSAR ! ! !

  • Buy the MSAR! This will be your best investment all cycle, and it costs $28 for 1 year or $36 for 2 years
  • The best time to buy it is after you receive your MCAT scores and are ready to begin the application cycle
    • Without your MCAT score, the MSAR will not be as useful and it may also expire earlier in the interview cycle.
  • It is also helpful to have MSAR as long as possible in the school year to help you look up school information before interview days and making final decisions between acceptances (if you are thinking about only getting a one year subscription)

 

Distributing Your School List: 

  • If you are an average applicant, make sure you are not applying to mostly schools that are considered “safety” or “reach.” You want to distribute your list using MSAR where a majority of the schools you are applying to are “target” and then have a couple “safety” and “reach” schools.
  • “Safety” →  above 75%
  • Target” within 25-75% for GPA and MCAT
  • “Reach” below 25%

 

Secondaries

  • Most applicants apply to 20+ schools
  • Although sending in the primary application just requires ~$40 and a click of a button, completing each school’s secondaries can be a super expensive and tough process (~$70-$200 per secondary and several essays). 
  • Before you send your primary off to a school, ask yourself whether you will have the time and energy to complete the secondary. You may even want to do some brief research on what the secondary prompts have been in previous years (no guarantee they will repeat). Some schools have over a half a dozen essays, or a really long or odd prompt so you will not want to apply unless you are very invested in the school’s mission and program.

 

Tuition:

  • In-state schools are usually much cheaper (especially public medical schools
  • Some out of state (OOS) school’s will consider you an in-state resident (you’ll get to pay in-state tuition) after you’ve attended their institution for a year or two.
    • Check out school tuition policies to see if this could apply to you! 

 

Relevance: 

  • More important than metrics, extracurriculars, letters, and essays — the schools that you target can have the greatest impact on your success in a given application cycle. 
  • Most students spend months cultivating the perfect school list: doing internet research, talking to current students, and seeing advisors.
  • Make sure that you would be willing to attend every school on your list. In all reality, you may only get into your last choice – would you be ready to go there? 

 

Geographics: 

  • The first thing to consider is the geographical location of the school you will want to attend (Urban/Rural/Suburban, region of choice, etc.) 
  • Many MI medical schools, for example, are much more likely to interview and accept Michigan residents
    • If you are from the state of MI and want to stay here, the 6-7 schools in Michigan will be your best bet: focus your applications here.
  • Do your research if you’re applying to an out of state (OOS) school
    • Some OOS schools only accept applicants with strong ties to the school/region/state. 
    • Take a look at the map on MSAR to see what states the school typically takes students from. 
    • If a school shows a preference for in-state, think critically about if it’s worth spending time/money applying to that particular school. 

 

Yield: 

  • Look into how many applications that school receives each cycle. Some schools are notoriously “low-yield,” which means they receive much more applications (12,000+) or have much fewer spots (<50)  than the average school . 
    • Some examples: Drexel, George Washington, Georgetown, Temple, Boston University, Mayo, Jefferson, Tufts, etc …
  • This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, just make sure your entire list aren’t only low-yields.

 

School Focus: 

  • Read school’s missions to find out what their focus is on: examples include:
    • Research (Cleveland, Stanford, Michigan…)
    • Comprehensive Patient-care (Central, OUWB…)
    • Public/global Health (George Washington, Emory…)
    • Community Service (Rush, MSU…)
  • Some schools are better for known for some specialties than other schools
    • IF you have an idea of what specialty you might want to go into, MSAR provides stats on what kinds of specialties their matriculants eventually go into → this is a great tool! 

 

Age of Applicant: 

  • Taking a gap year before medical school is more and more common these days. This puts anyone applying directly out of undergrad at a disadvantage when it comes to the application cycle. 
  • This is not to discourage those of you that feel ready for medical school after your junior year of college.
    • You can still maximize your chances by applying smart

 

 

Application season is quickly approaching and you know what that means… It is time to start thinking about rec letters, brainstorming ideas for your personal statement, and understanding what the next year is going to look like. In this updated, AMCAS timeline blog, we will be breaking down what each component of the medical school application is as well as the time frame associated with it so that you’re in a position to succeed.

The AMCAS application’s opening date has not yet been released for the 2021-2022 cycle. However, AMCAS tends to open near the start of May each year. For instance, for the 2020-2021 application cycle, the AMCAS application opened on May 4, 2020, and applicants were able to submit their AMCAS application beginning on May 28, 2020, at 9:30 am EST. The period between when the application opens and when submission becomes available is important, as this is when you will be inputting all the information into your primary application. This includes general demographics, your course history and grades, activities and descriptions, and your personal statement. It is helpful to have some of this written up during the winter semester so you do not get burned out in May!

January – March

April

May

June

August to March

April (2)

May (2)

  July

 

 

January – March 

Attend workshops/advising hours to get all of your questions answered!

Newnan, Career Center, and multiple workshops go on throughout the month!

To find more out about them, subscribe to the Pre-Health Newsletter  through Newnan, and the Med-App Canvas Page !

Finalize a list of schools to apply to 

Get a subscription to MSAR (Medical School Admission Requirement) – the best resource for acceptance statistics. 

Check out-of-state schools to see if they have a preference for out-of-state/in-state applicants.

Ensure that all of the schools you’re applying to are ones that you are passionate about attending! 

Avoid too many reach schools! Be realistic, and choose schools that you have the best chance of getting into. The application process is stressful and expensive, so make the most out of your time, money, and energy!

Begin gathering application materials! 

Request Letters of Recommendation (LORs)

  Brainstorm who you will ask to write your letters of recommendation and keep these guidelines  in mind when doing so. Interfolio Dossier is a great resource that allows you to store all of your letters. This particular resource stores your letters for multiple years, allowing you to use the same letters for future cycles in addition to the upcoming one. 

Prepare Personal Statement (PS)

Start brainstorming ideas for your personal statement (you can start this at any time, it’s great to keep a record of any memorable experiences during shadowing, internships, jobs, etc). It is very likely that you will have to write several drafts.

Your PS should be personal to your own journey to medicine! Brainstorming hard and writing extra pages will never hurt you, because you will need this material and introspection during your interview trail and beyond.

Think about what 15 activities you’d like to include in your application, and which 3 you’ll pick for your most-meaningful activities. You will have to calculate hours and gather contacts—e.g. volunteer supervisors, presidents/advisors of student organizations, bosses at employment—and find emails/phone numbers for each one. 

It might also be beneficial to ask one or multiple of your contacts for these most-meaningful activities for a LOR.

Prepare for the MCAT

Ideally you’d like to have your score by the time the application opens, so the latest that many people recommend scheduling your test date is in early April (it takes a month for the scores to come in).

With that being said, you can take it later and submit your primaries without your MCAT score – if you’re confident that you did well on the test. 

If you are unsure about which range of schools you will be applying to, choose one “throwaway” school where you will apply regardless, to submit AMCAS and begin the verification process on the first submission day. After receiving your score, you can add schools to send your primary to (adding schools shouldn’t delay verification). 

(During 2021, this can be slightly delayed- the last cycle’s last date for accepted MCATs was June 20).

APRIL

Request official transcripts as soon as you finish winter semester courses.

This can be done through wolverine access or in-person at your academic advising center. It is usually not beneficial to wait to apply until spring/summer semester courses are graded because this will delay your application.

Make sure you get transcripts from ALL of the institutions that you attended and all semesters! This includes community colleges you might have dual-enrolled at in highschool.

Final edits on personal statement and find new editors.

    Try to have at least 3 people read your personal statement: peers as well as adult mentors; many recommendation writers will ask you for a rough draft of your PS to learn more about you.

We do not recommend paying people to edit your PS because there are many resources available for free: including Sweetland and other pre-health students and mentors. You can also come in to our PMH peer advising hours if you want an extra person to look over it!

Learn More

Get chemistry exemption letters if you need them

Newnan states the following: “If you do not have A.P. credit, but you place directly into organic chemistry, you are entitled to a chemistry placement letter. Some schools may not accept this letter and instead will insist on courses taken on a college campus. It is also the case that some schools will not accept A.P. credit for chemistry.”.

Continue with Requesting Letters of Recommendation (LORs)

A general rule of thumb is to have:

  • 2 or more from science professors
  • 1 non-science professor
  • 2 extracurricular-based LORs
  • if possible, one from someone with a professional degree
                                            

                                                                       MAY    

Begin filling out your primary application

Input everything (demographics, activities, personal statement, etc) into your primary application

Release MCAT scores to various systems

AMCAS will open on May 4

Can begin submitting AMCAS on May 28

Take CASPer test  and submit it to schools that require it

Some DO schools have supplemental essays (secondaries) within AACOMAS while others will send a separate invitation after the submission of your primary application

                                                              JUNE

Submit primary application (by the end of June) 

Verification takes 3-5 weeks

Applicants who submit their materials first will be reviewed first, get secondaries sooner, interviews sooner, etc.

That being said, it is not required that you submit the first day possible; just make sure you are within the first two-ish weeks to make it into the first verification batch.

Submitting on June 1 vs. June 15 shouldn’t make too much of a difference, but the earlier the better!

Verified applications won’t likely get sent to medical schools until the last Friday of June. Therefore, there is no real difference between clicking submit on the first day or a little bit later, especially if the quality of your writing will improve.

DO Schools begin receiving and processing application from AACOMAS in mid-June

Take the time to pre-write secondaries, especially if you have other summer plans! Most can be found online, here, or on reddit/sdn: https://www.prospectivedoctor.com/medical-school-secondary-essay-prompts-database/

 Begin preparing for interviews

                                                              July 

Probably the busiest time of the application cycle! 

Start to receive secondaries → best if you can submit secondaries within two weeks of when you receive. Some schools have hard deadlines, but others don’t care if you wait longer. However, submitting earlier demonstrates your interest in the school (as long as your essays are still high-quality).

Once you submit secondaries, relax! You’ve done all you can at this point.

 

                                               August – March 

Interview season commences! You can hear back anytime during these months, so don’t put yourself down if you don’t receive early interviews. Some schools, including Michigan, interview in-state applicants last so you may not hear back until winter semester. Post-interview decisions are usually made between one week to several months. If you placed on a waitlist or alternate list, you may not hear back until the very end of the cycle.

FAFSA opens in October! Fill it out early if possible because more funding is available at the beginning of the financial aid cycle. Start filling it out listing the schools which you’ve heard back from, because you can only have a maximum of 10 schools on FAFSA. You can also submit to one or two schools, and add more as applicable in later months.

Send updates to schools that you are still interested in later in the school if anything significant has changed on your application—new job, fall transcript, publications, etc. 

You can select “plan to enroll” for any school that you have been accepted to.

 

                                                                    APRIL

Apr 15: you must narrow down your “plan to enroll” to your top three schools.

Apr 30: you can begin to select “commit to enroll” for your top school, at which time all other schools that you have received an acceptance or waitlist offer are notified that you will not be attending (they will not know which school you have chosen instead, though).

Consult with pre-med advisors about a back-up plan if needed

                                                                   MAY

Review admission and financial aid offers

Attend second look and Admit-weekend activities

At this time, you will tend to see the most movement on waitlists.

  • Medical schools may accept students off their waitlist until the day their incoming class begins its academic year → most waitlist acceptances occur shortly after accepted students have committed to enroll
  • You may withdraw from a waitlist at any time during this period.
    • It is generally considered that you should withdraw from any waitlists that you don’t plan on attending after you are accepted to your top choice school. This will open up more slots for people who are on those waitlists with you.

 

                                                           July

  • You will need to make a final decision about which school to attend.

This timeline is specifically for the 2020-2021 application cycle for regular decision applicants. Please keep in mind that dates may change slightly depending on the application year.  Aim for early at every stage!

AMCAS Timeline (MD)


AACOMAS Timeline (DO)

Pre-Med Hub has teamed up with representatives from four different Greek Life organizations for this blog post! Keep reading for more information.

Phi Chi

Writer: Pragathi Pathanjeli

Phi Chi is one of the oldest professional fraternities in the world. At the University of Michigan, Phi Chi is one of a few co-ed fraternities on campus, and the only one with a chapter for medical students at the University of Michigan Medical School. The diverse brotherhood works to ensure that all of its members are well-rounded applicants by providing access to academic resources, talks from medical school students and doctors, volunteering opportunities, and a large network of Phi Chi alumni for informative and career-related purposes 

 Not only have I been able to meet some incredible people as a part of Phi Chi, I have also been able to take-on leadership roles and be a part of rewarding experiences such as planning a 5K, getting trained in Basic Life Support, and getting involved in the community via many different volunteer opportunities. By-far, the most useful resource that Phi Chi has provided me with are med-school talks, where I’ve been able to learn more about the application process from medical students in Phi Chi, and The University of Michigan’s philosophy from members of the Office of Medical School Admissions. 

Our Rush process officially begins the week of MLK day with the following events (see image below). For more information, visit our website under the Rush Page and come to our info sessions!

phichiumich

MED

Writer: Sydney Edwards

MED is the newest pre-medical fraternity on campus. It is a pre-health, co-ed fraternity that consists of mostly pre-medical students with a few pre-dental or pre-pharmacy students. We work to host social events, volunteering events, and professional development events to help our members develop themselves personally and professionally. We have many E-Board and committee chair positions, and each brother gets to choose a committee in which to participate.

This fraternity is very new, so there have been abundant opportunities for leadership within the brotherhood. We recently appointed two mental health chairs for the fraternity, and I feel that this position is one of the most important within the brotherhood. Mu Epsilon Delta provides resources for its members, ranging from professional development days featuring talks from doctors and medical students to biweekly support groups for brothers to talk about their lives in a nonjudgmental setting. I have found people to study with who have helped me learn much better than going at it alone. We help facilitate study groups for members to get to know their peers and excel in their classes. The mental health and academic help are two highlights of this fraternity for me. Additionally, I love the distinct personality of this fraternity. Each pre-medical frat has its own personality, and I feel that my own personality and aspirations fit very well with other individuals as well as the group as a whole. I also find that the time commitment is manageable, and the requirements are very fair.

Rush schedule 

  • Information Session 01/23 7:30-8:30 in Room D at the Michigan League
  • Meet & Greet 01/24 7:30-9:30 in Psych Atrium at East Hall
  • Speed Dating 01/28 8-10 in Hussey Room at the Michigan League
  • Application due 01/31 by midnight
  • Interviews 02/03 and 02/04 by invite

MeD WEBSITE

 

DEM

Writer: Judy Huynh

DEM is the nation’s premier professional pre-health co-ed fraternity dedicated to serving the community and uniting students of diverse backgrounds with an interest in varying health fields through leadership, professional development, and brotherhood. Our fraternity consists of members interested in medicine, dentistry, physical therapy, and public health to name a few. The Alpha Iota Chapter of Delta Epsilon Mu at U of M started in 2016, so we are fairly new but established enough to have lots of professional, leadership, and volunteer opportunities. Our national philanthropy is Camp Dragonfly Forest which is  a summer camp for kids with autism and other special medical needs. 

I knew I wanted to join a pre-health professional fraternity because I think learning about different health professions is beneficial to understanding and appreciating the health field. I made a lot of great friends through my fraternity, and I love knowing I can rely on any of them to help me with questions about the MCAT to which classes I should take. Besides e-board, we have many opportunities for leadership such as education chair, fundraising chair, DMUM committee, and others. We regularly volunteer with Ronald McDonald House and World Medical Relief. We cater our professional development events to what the fraternity wants so we have had doctors come in to talk and med school application panels. From my experience, the best thing about DEM is that I honestly feel that I can talk to any of the members and not feel judged at all.

We only hold rush in the fall because rush season takes up a big chunk of time so we want to use the winter season to get to know our new members. If you’re interested, I highly recommend you reach out to me or keep an eye out for our fall rush!

Keith Manning

Product Management

Edna White

Support Staff

PhiDE

Writer: Catherine Marudo

Phi Delta Epsilon is  one of the oldest co-ed professional pre-med fraternity on campus. This has created a vast and diverse alumni network with past-members now as current med students and residents all over the country. PhiDE is great in that is able to act both as a professional and social fraternity. Members are given the skills and knowledge needed to be successful pre-med and med school applicants through diverse workshops like: MCAT, application, backpacking, interview, and many more! Equally as important as professional development is Phamily. We are all phamily in PhiDE. Sure the resources and connections we have are great, but what truly sets us apart are the bonds of friendship and mentorship we form with each other. What better people to have in your corner than the kind and amazing people who have and are still going through this pre-med journey with you. Our members also follow the mantra “facta non verba – deeds not words.” One of the key values of PhiDE is service. PhiDE’s partner charity is the Children’ Miracle Network and fundraising events happen throughout the year for CMN. 

PhiDE has given me friends that I will carry with me for a lifetime and has made my college experience so incredibly amazing. I would not have confidence in my ability to succeed and kick butt in medicine without the mentorship, love, and support of every single person I have gotten to meet in this fraternity. I am excited to see what the future holds for PhiDE and encourage all pre-meds looking for a phamily on campus to come check mine out…we’re pretty amazing.

PHIDE WEBSITE

 

Keith Manning

Product Management

Edna White

Support Staff

 

Looking forward to next application cycle, one consideration prospective applicants have to think about is what type of schools to apply to, a big distinction between medical schools is the degrees they offer: MD and DO!  Our Pre-Med Hub staff decided that making  an  series of easy-to-navigate charts would be a great resource for all of you who don’t yet know the difference between the two, or haven’t made a decision about which ones to apply to.Please feel free to reach out or drop into advising hours for more specific assistance based on individual circumstances.

A special thanks to guest blog contributors Cindy and Daphne!

DO AVG MCAT SCORE – 2018

Applicants: 502

Matriculants: 503

DO AVG GPA – 2018

Applicants: 3.46

Matriculants: 3.56

 

 UM  AVG MCAT SCORE – 2018

MD Matriculants:  513.3

DO Matriculants: 506.2

UM  AVG GPA – 2018

MD Matriculants:  3.71

DO Matriculants: 3.48

 

MD AVG MCAT SCORE – 2019

Applicants: 506

Matriculants: 512

MD AVG GPA – 2019

Applicants: 3.58

Matriculants: 3.73

What is MD?

 

MD stands for Medical Doctor

Philosophy: closer to the idea of a traditional science-based approach, most of the emphasis is placed on the diagnosis and treatment of a patient.

  Applicants describe themselves as more “technoscientifically” oriented — driven by intellectual and technical challenges of medicine. Applicants may be more likely to pursue dual degrees with a PhD or are looking for careers as physician scientists. Many MD schools focus more on discovery and innovation than the average DO school (they have well-established research programs that draw applicants interested in pursuing academic or scientific medicine). 

There are 33 DO schools total. We only have 1 option for DO school in MI (albeit a great one).

What is DO?

 

DO stands for Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine

Philosophy: holistic approach to health and considers how all parts of the body influence each other; DO schools put a heavy emphasis on prevention and osteopathic manipulative treatment.

This means mind, body, spirit are all thought to be connected. Takes into account multiple aspects to a person’s wellbeing, not just physical healthcare as what usually first comes to mind upon hearing “health”.  Osteopathic physicians focus on prevention, tuning into how a patient’s lifestyle and environment can impact their wellbeing. The focus is not on just treating symptoms.

Applicants describe themselves as more “socioemotionally” oriented — driven by patient-care aspect of medicine. Applicants are more likely to be women, or from rural communities or inner cities (underserved populations or underrepresented in medicine). DOs focus a lot on producing primary care physicians or physicians who practice in rural/underserved areas, which plays into the way they look for potential students (those with a background here could understand the needs of future patients in those areas).

There are 147 MD schools total.  In Michigan alone, we have 6 MD programs which may place higher preference on in-state applicants and have lower tuition rates.

Previously, MD students could only match with programs that were accredited by the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME) and DO students could match with residencies that are accredited by either the ACGME which meant they must take the USMLE—or the American Osteopathic Association (AOA).

In July of 2020, the accreditation councils  will merge to form, allowing MD and DO students to apply to any residencies. Everyone, including DO students, will use the ACGME’s National Residency Match Program, the NRMP.

 

Pros vs Cons of MD/DO

MD

More options for residency programs and medical schools. Many MD schools are also well established — all of the oldest schools in the country are MD — so these particular schools can have better reputations when it comes to conducting research and matching into a specialty.

Many of the “top” MD schools are in big cities, which tends to correspond to high costs of living.

DO

Less statistic driven; more holistic approach to admissions.

Extra training (additional 200 hours of training learning manipulation techniques of the musculoskeletal system called OMM) means having an extra tool in your tool-belt. Learning OMM means having a strong overall knowledge of anatomy and physiology and being able to think beyond medications when treating patients.

DO schools tend to be areas that are less metropolitan, which tends to mean lower living costs aside from tuition.

Although public DO schools have a comparable cost to public MD schools, there are  more private DO schools than public.

There are very few public DO schools, so MSUCOM is unique — this explains its significantly lower tuition for in-state applicants.

Often newer schools, so less research funding, opportunities to do research, and grants or scholarships available. However, for those DO schools affiliated with an undergrad institution, like MSUCOM in relation to MSU, opportunities may be higher to find research.

Many MD schools have newly evolving curriculums to focus more on preventative care, public health, and even OMM. This may reduce the edge that DO applicants have during match in the future (big effects have not been seen yet).

Often medical students have to take both the COMLEX and the USMLE exams in order to match into a residency program.

DO

Requirement:

5300 character personal statement (recently increased from 4500 characters)

 

Must shadow a DO:

Look for UM alumni currently attending DO school or recently having graduated from it in UCAN

System:  AACOMAS

$195 for first application, $35 for following

Schools are often more flexible with secondary fee waivers

Timeline:

 1. Opens May 1 for submission

2. Very fast verification (~2 weeks)

3.Cycles run faster (faster interview cycle and begin acceptance notification faster)

4. Cycles run longer (secondaries may be accepted up to March/April for some schools, but since it is rolling admission, it is better to submit earlier)

5. Formal update process in Jan and April through AACOMAS for academic updates

Deposit:

Depends on the school, but frequently non-refundable

$200 – $3000

MD

Requirement:

5300 Character Personal Statement

Can shadow MDs as well as any other health professionals (interesting ones might be DOs, NPs, PAs, etc. to see the intersections between each career)

System:  AMCAS

$170 for first application, $40 for following

Timeline:

1. Opens May 1 for completion

2. Opens June 1 for submission

3. Verification takes longer (6-8 weeks) before secondaries start rolling in

4. No formal update process through AMCAS, so you will have to research and reach out to individual schools about updating

Deposit:

Depends on the school, but frequently refundable

$100 – $150

Common Misconceptions about DO vs MD:

DO schools are a safety/backup to MD programs. Not true because a lot of considerations go into choosing the best school for you: location, cost, interests, goals, experiences, etc.

Getting a DO degree means you can’t specialize. Although DO program curriculums are often set up to focus on primary care, DOs can actually match into any residency, which means the same specialities and opportunities are available to them if desired.

Another misconception is that you NEED to use OMM in future practice. You don’t have to if you really don’t want to, or go into a specialty that wouldn’t benefit from its usage.

Some think DOs are like chiropractors, which aren’t licensed to do surgery/give drugs. This can affect the mindset of DOs not being “real” doctors. Although there is a focus on OMM in DO curriculums, DOs aren’t limited to using their hands. They’re licensed to give medications, perform surgery, etc just as an MD, but are trained to use OMM as an intervention before those routes are taken— which can be beneficial  to the patient’s healthcare as it can alleviate the need for invasive procedures down the line, stronger drug effects and dependencies, or higher medical bills.

MDs make more money than DOs. Not necessarily true, as salary is mostly determined by the specialty you choose to go into.