At the end of the semester, senior advisors and members of PMH E-board took part in an internal Q & A. They answered questions asked by our junior advisors and gave some helpful tips from their personal experience. Below is a summary of the questions and their responses.
This is the first of a continuing series with the Pre-Med Hub.
Q: Do you have tips for writing your personal statement?
- Start creating an outline of what you’d like to write about. Think about the story you want to share and make sure to focus on telling why you want to be a physician. This takes a lot of time and effort so make sure to start as early as possible. Talk to pre-med advisors who give you feedback on your drafts. Look at sample essays online for reference. They can be helpful in giving you examples of good and bad essays.
- Visit Medical School HQ run by Dr. Ryan Grey
- Dr. Ryan Grey is a physician who critiques personal statements that students send in. He emphasizes that the question you should focus on answering is why you want to become a physician (i.e. don’t just list activities you’ve done). He also has podcasts and a youtube channel!
- It’s better to take your time writing your personal statement rather than rushing it so that you can give it to your letter of recommendation writers (if they ask for it). It’s also acceptable to say that you don’t have a personal statement to share and ask to meet multiple times so that you can explain your experiences/who you are.
Q: When should I start writing my personal statement? I plan to take a gap year and apply my senior year.
- It would be helpful to start early, for example, have an outline ready in February and get feedback in March. It’s not impossible to start in March or April, however, it will be more stressful having to balance writing your personal statement while also getting other parts of the application ready.
Q: I’m taking the MCAT this summer. Would you recommend taking any specific courses at UM beforehand?
- Besides thetypical prereqs (gen chem, orgo, physics, biochem, pchem, psychology, sociology), upper-level biology labs are good courses to take before the MCAT because they help you better understand the passages of the bio section of the MCAT. These passages require you to analyze an experiment, extrapolate from the data given, and interpret the information that’s in the graphs or tables. Many upper-level bio labs can make your understanding of the passages easier and expose you to certain techniques that could aid your comprehension of these passages.
- Reading scientific articles and analyzing/discussing the figures and results with lab members or peers could help you get familiar with the analytical skills required for the bio/biochem section of the MCAT.
Q: What do you wish you knew before taking the MCAT and what resources helped you while studying?
- Take some time to familiarize yourself with the logistics of the MCAT. There are a few technical things that are good to know about before test day (ex. putting your phone in a plastic bag, scanning your fingerprint, what the process is for taking breaks, etc.). Knowing these small things ahead of time can help decrease your nerves on test day!
- There’s a great resource called UWorld. It’s an MCAT question bank that many find helpful for studying. Khan Academy is also very helpful, especially for the psych/soc section videos.
- Khan academy psych/soc resource: 85-page document of all the psychology/sociology info you need to know for the MCAT. This was very helpful!
Q: How do you use UWorld?
- I did blocks of 25-50 questions and then identified which sections I did poorly on. It was important to understand why I got questions incorrect. Then, I made flashcards and did a heavy review on the topics I was weakest on.
- Make sure you know what and why you get something wrong. Creating flashcards of the questions you missed is helpful for reviewing content.
- If you are short on time. focus on areas that you are weakest on. Create an excel sheet with all the info you get wrong and the reasons for why you got them wrong.
Q: How do you create your school list and how many schools did you apply for on average?
- The best way to start is to generate a long list of schools whose missions you align with. Aim for about 20-25 schools on your list. Search what their values are (ex: are they research-oriented? Do they care most about community service, public health/policy, underserved communities, etc.).
- UseMSAR. It’s a subscription resource that lists admitted students’ data (such as average MCAT, GPAs, number of students they take in state and out of state) as well as tuition, mission statements, dual-degree programs, etc. for all U.S. medical schools.