Monday, June 10, 2013

How to Get into Med School The Second Time Around

This guest post sheds some light on those of you who are reapplying to medical school: 

The first time you attempted to go to medical school, things didn't really work out so well. For whatever reason, you either did not make it there, or you left before you could finish. Now, you are ready to try again. If this sounds like you, check out these tips, because the process may not be as straightforward as you think.

Brush Up
If it's been some time since you last attended a college course, you need to brush up on those hard sciences. This will facilitate success on both your application and your eventual coursework. While you may not need to take every single class over again, you should pay particular attention to those courses in which you didn't do well. Perhaps you didn't get into medical school because your grades were low, and now you have an opportunity to fix these problems. To save money, find out if the school will accept community college credits. It's key to remember that med schools are looking for big improvements. If you earned a B in Organic Chem, shoot for nothing less than an A. Simply upgrading to a B+ won't do much for you.

Study, Study, Study
The MCATs are a huge part of getting into medical school, so you must be prepared. Remember, in order to score well on the MCATs, you also need to sharpen your writing skills. Enrolling in a class specifically designed for medical school students is the smartest thing that you can do. If you took the MCATs the first time you tried to get into medical school, think about what might have gone wrong on that particular exam. Even if you did well, your score should improve, at least marginally. The last thing you want to do is get better grades and more life experience, but do worse on your MCAT.

Gain Practical Experience
Speaking of which, how can you help yourself if your grades are low and you don't think they're going to improve? In all honesty, it will be tough to get into medical school with sub-par grades. Furthermore, it may be a sign that you won't do so well once you're there. However, if they are hovering somewhere that you still think you have a shot,, adding on more practical experience could certainly be of help. Try to attain an internship in your desired field. Since you probably have a bachelor's degree in an associated field, look for job openings that require the use of your skills. When medical schools see that you have practical experience in the field, it's a sign that you're serious and can see yourself there everyday. However, this can definitely reach a point of diminishing returns. If you've already got great internships, part-time jobs and more on resume, consider something big. How about a year volunteering in a medical clinic in Africa? You want to stand out - don't let yourself fall between the cracks of generic candidates with a 3.56 GPA, a few years as a CNA and 29 on the MCATs.

Set Realistic Expectations
Knowing what schools you can reasonably get into is a major part of succeeding in your application endeavor. For example, when your grades and MCAT scores are just average, you are probably not going to get into the top medical school in the country. Of course, you can still submit your application, but you should have some more practical choices lined up in there as well. Talk to your college adviser or find out if the campus career center has any information to offer you. You want to be sure that you are applying to a wide enough range of schools that you actually get into one of the programs you want. You may need to apply to international schools in the Caribbean if you really want to be a doctor.

Stepping Stones
Sometimes, you need to take a step back to really set yourself apart. Consider applying to a PA, Nursing or MPH program. If you know you have the skills to succeed there, you could do well in the degree program, get a few years of experience, find solid recommendations and then come back to earn your MD within a few years. It may not sound practical, but it may exactly what you need to be successful.

You might feel a little bit discouraged since you did not get into your intended program the first time you applied to medical school. However, you shouldn't give up hope. Instead, think a little bit harder this time around and figure out exactly what you need to do to succeed. Always, always, always meet with professional advisors to be sure you're putting your best self forward!

Jackie Taylor writes about education. Her recent work is on online health informatics degrees.

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