If you’re not how to make your medical school application stand out, you are not alone. Whether you are a reapplicant or a first-time applicant, it’s very important to make your med school application stand out from thousands of qualified applicants. In this article, our admissions experts share their thoughts on how to make your med school application personalized and unique.


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Article Contents
9 min read

Why Does Your Med School Application Need to Stand Out? How to Make Your Application Stand Out: Academic Strengths How to Stand Out: Clinical Exposure How to Stand Out in Med School Applications: Extracurricular Diversity FAQs

Why Does Your Med School Application Need to Stand Out?

Competition to get into medical school is higher than ever as the number of applicants increase, and you need to make sure that your application is not just good, but impressive. Med school admissions committees comb through thousands of applications every cycle, and often see candidates with similar backgrounds and experiences that check all the medical school requirements. All schools evaluate applicants in their own way, but unfortunately, there’s no one right answer to how to get accepted.

“Although there is no set formula or algorithm for what makes a successful medical school applicant, certain factors play a bigger role than others. In addition, each school is unique with respect to what they value and what they put more emphasis on … there is no simple formula for who gets in and who does not.” – Dr. Neel Mistry, MD, University of Ottawa Faculty of Medicine.

 

So, how do you crack the med school admissions code and truly stand out?

The truth is that every single applicant wishes their application was stronger. Some may be wondering how to get into medical school with a low MCAT, others may be wondering if they have enough extracurriculars, while others wish they could include more research experience. Do not make the mistake of wondering how you compare against other applicants.

This is the first key to standing out: focus on YOU.

“Highlighting the parts that make you unique is key. For instance, you may have a unique experience with healthcare (personal or family encounter), a unique non-clinical experience (i.e., working with refugee families, being an Olympian, discovering the Titanic), so on and so forth. Truth is, it does not really matter if what you did is relevant to medicine or not. Remember to highlight what makes you YOU and why your prior experiences will make you an exemplary doctor.” – Dr. Neel Mistry, MD.

 

Next, we’ll cover the three core parts of your medical school application, with tips and advice from our MD and DO experts on how you can make your med school application stand out and showcase who you are.

Are you interested in learning how to make your medical school application stand out? Watch this:

How to Make Your Application Stand Out: Academic Strengths

The obvious answer to showcasing your academic strengths is having a high GPA and impressive MCAT score. Bottom line, these aspects of your application are important, because they show admission committees that you can handle the medical school curriculum.

“MCAT and GPA are important as screening tools. They won’t be the end all for you to get in or be rejected from a school, but they are often that first look. Doing well in undergrad, maintaining a solid academic record, and a high MCAT score shows schools that you can handle rigorous academics. However, the other pieces of your application are what differentiate you from a crowd and will ultimately be why a school chooses to accept you.” – Dr. Monica Taneja, MD, University of Maryland School of Medicine.

 

In a sea of applicants with 3.5+ GPAs and high MCAT scores, though, how do you stand out? Let’s explore a few other ways to demonstrate academic ability beyond your grades and test scores.

Research

Research-intensive medical schools, such as the Ivy League medical schools, or Stanford medical school need to see that incoming matriculants have participated in quality premed research opportunities and gained skills necessary for this important aspect of medicine. Even one quality research experience and track record indicate impressive and much sought-after qualities like attention to detail, critical thinking, analytical skills, curiosity, and more.

If you have gained sufficient and quality experience in every other area, research might be just the right thing to make your application stand out for med schools that don’t place as much emphasis on research. You will have experience in your application that not many applicants to these schools have. Plus, it’s another way to demonstrate how your values and interests align with a school’s mission.

“I liked public health research, so that’s what I involved myself with. I was passionate about working with low-income patients, so I sought an opportunity to do that. As you apply, activities that you are passionate about and can show longevity are more important that one-off things that just check a box.” – Dr. Monica Taneja, MD.


Teaching or Mentoring Experience

Experience as a tutor, teaching assistant, or mentor, especially in scientific or health-related subjects, indicates your ability to communicate complex ideas and your dedication to helping others succeed. Paid or volunteer experience is one way to demonstrate both your academic strengths and commitment to others.

“I really enjoy working with students, so I did a lot of volunteer medical school mock interviewing for my graduate and undergraduate schools.” – Dr. Monica Taneja, MD.


Scholarly Achievements

Achievements such as awards, scholarships, or honors in your undergraduate studies reflect your academic excellence and dedication. Recognition in science or healthcare-related competitions can also be notable.

Advanced Degrees or Coursework

Pursuing an additional degree, such as a special master’s program or taking graduate-level courses in areas relevant to medicine (e.g., public health, biochemistry, genetics) can set you apart by showing a deep commitment to your education and a broad understanding of healthcare.

How to Stand Out: Clinical Exposure

How many clinical hours for medical school do you need? While a substantial number of anywhere 100 to 150 hours is recommended to all applicants, just meeting the number is ultimately not enough to stand out in your medical school application.

While getting a premed job is an excellent start, you need to demonstrate that you gained the necessary qualities of a good doctor from your clinical exposure. Not sure what qualities you need to highlight? Start by reviewing the AAMC Core Competencies for medical students, or the CanMEDS Roles for applicants to medical schools in Canada.

To demonstrate these qualities in your med school application, focus on these key aspects of your clinical experiences:

Your Impact and Patient Interactions

Patient interaction is crucial. If you didn’t interact with patients, your impact is minimal. Admissions officers are looking for examples of how you interacted directly with patients and that you had an impact on their care and well-being. Think about any notable patient interactions or bonds you formed in the course of your work or volunteerism.

“I had extensive experience working in all domains, especially mentoring refugee families as part of a non-profit organization. This taught me the ins and outs of human interaction, but also how to support individuals in their most vulnerable moments, similar to medicine.” – Dr. Neel Mistry, MD.

 

Your Growth and Learning

Clinical exposure is meant to have an impact on you, not just your patients. Reflect on the lessons you learned, realizations you had and what treating patients has shown you about yourself. These can be powerful stories of self-reflection, personal growth and your journey as a premed student.

“Doing so will demonstrate to the committee that you are someone who takes time to learn from your mistakes and improve on past experiences. Showcasing a mindset that embraces constant development and self-growth is key to success in any field.” – Dr. Neel Mistry, MD.

 

“Rather than just talking about the situation itself … really talk about what you learned from these situations/experiences and WHY it made you a better person/candidate.” – Dr. Jaime Cazes, MD.

 

Your Relationships

Working in clinical settings exposes you not just to patients, but other healthcare professionals who can serve as mentors and references. These individuals can be strong recommendation letter writers for you, and they can speak to the relationships you’ve built in clinical practice and your ability to work as part of a team.

“I think my references and life experiences made me stand out. Through my strong references, the committee was able to get an idea of who I truly am as an individual. This aspect is so key to making a good doctor.” – Dr. Neel Mistry, MD.

 

How to Stand Out in Med School Applications: Extracurricular Diversity

When it comes to your extracurriculars for medical school, once again quality stands out more than quantity or experience ‘type’. Here’s where you can really let your passions and personality shrine through. By participating in activities that you genuinely enjoy, you’ll get more from the experience and have more fertile soil to dig in when crafting your application.

“I don’t think students should pick activities that would ‘look good’ or ‘stand out’ on an application. They should focus on those things they are already doing/interested in that highlight why they’d be a good fit.” – Dr. Justin Stacer, DO, ATSU-KCOM.


Also keep in mind that while showing an interest in medicine is important, your interests outside of medicine are the ones that can make you stand out from other applicants. And non-medical extracurriculars can still showcase you have the qualities of a strong future medical professional.

“In the end, committees care more about your growth/maturity developed from an experience rather than 'what' the experience is specifically, and they want to see that this will make you a stronger candidate for their institution and the profession as a whole.” – Dr. Shaughnelene Smith, DO, Kansas City University.

 

Leadership

Leadership is a key part of your application, and an easy way to stand out in medical school admissions. Leadership is often demonstrated through your community service, volunteerism or academic pursuits. And while it’s a good idea to include these activity types, think of other areas of your life where you’ve demonstrated leadership, too, such as your work or extracurricular pursuits.

It is necessary to have activities in the main categories of volunteering and clinical experience … Beyond that the categories are less important; however, there are some schools that highly value other areas like work experience, so you should try to match your activities with the schools you are applying.” – Dr. Monica Taneja, MD.

 

Personal Passions

Many applicants wonder how to show their “diversity” to medical schools. The answer is to share your authentic self. Share your passions outside of medicine. Do you have an intriguing hobby? A long history with a club or organization? Do you have a cause that’s close to your heart? These experiences can speak volumes— and they don’t need to be directly related to medicine.

“[During my studies] I also continued to participate in my hobbies including photography, which came up a lot during interviews!” – Dr. Monica Taneja, MD.

 

“Finding things that you are truly passionate about is great. It can be easy for people to look through your application and spot the ‘CV stuffers’ … I would highly recommend participating in activities OUTSIDE of academics or medicine as these truly do make you seem well rounded and are amazing opportunities for you to look to for stories, or lessons learned that you can talk about on your application or interviews … it is usually good to have meaningful experiences to draw on from each area of your life and some areas include family, friendship, academics, hobbies, extracurriculars, volunteering, mentoring, etc.” – Dr. Jaime Cazes, MD, University of Toronto Temerty Faculty of Medicine.

 

Depth over Breadth

Commitment to an activity is far more important than maxing out the number of activities entries on your application. One strong and meaningful entry is better than 10 flimsy ones. Med schools want to know that you have follow-through and dedication, since medical school is a long and tough path!

“We always emphasize quality over quantity and the same is true for the medical school admissions process. While it is helpful to have activities under every category, this does not guarantee admission. I have seen students who only have a handful of activities … gain acceptance into medical school and others with a fully filled [activities entry] who are unable to gain admission … The admissions committee loves long-term involvement, so an activity that you were involved in for longer often has more weight over a similar activity that you only did for a short period of time.” –Dr. Neel Mistry, MD.

 

FAQs

1. What can I do to make my medical school application stand out?

The key to making your medical school application stand out is focusing on what makes you unique and highlighting the experiences you have that are different from other medical school applicants.

2. Why does clinical experience bolster my application?

Clinical experience is the number one indicator that you have experienced a career in medicine firsthand. Since patient interactions are at the center of being a physician, having clinical experience assures admission committees that you have test-driven this career.

3. Why do I need to have leadership qualities to stand out?

Demonstrating leadership in your application signals that you can take on responsibility, initiative, and that you can work independently and in a team.

4. WHAT CAN HELP ME WITH THE WRITTEN PARTS OF MY MEDICAL SCHOOL APPLICATION?

Crafting a strong personal narrative in your written application is important to impress admission committees. Don’t rely on AI or writing services to tell your story for you! There are professional services such as a medical school admissions consultant who can help you sharpen your writing skills.

5. HOW CAN I SHOW MY DIVERSITY IN MY APPLICATION?

Think you have nothing special or unique to talk about in your diversity medical school secondary essay or other components? Your journey to medical school was undoubtedly filled with exciting challenges and experiences. Your experiences do not need to be “big” to show you are diverse.

6. How can volunteering and community service make me stand out?

It’s important to admission committees to see that you get involved in the community you might be serving as a physician. Additionally, community involvement hones your communication skills, social awareness, and empathy.

7. What other experiences can make me stand out?

Be creative! A second language, a unique experience, a memorable skill or interesting hobby can be the thing that makes you memorable.

8. HOW DO I DECIDE WHAT EXPERIENCES TO HIGHLIGHT?

If you’re not sure where to start, do some brainstorming and self-reflection. Ask yourself why you want to become a doctor, what is driving you and what are your most meaningful experiences.

To your success,

Your friends at BeMo

BeMo Academic Consulting


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