The Art of Applying to Medical School (The Pharmacy Student Edition)!

Updated: Dec 29, 2021

Applying to medical school is no easy task, but neither is making it through pharmacy school! If you are reading this right now, then you are investigating the same calling I experienced several years ago. Every pharmacy student plays with the fantasy of going to medical school and unfortunately most will never get further than that. I am here to share my insider tips and tricks to optimize your application. For more in-depth explanations you can check out my book "Pharm.D. to M.D." available on amazon.

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#1 THE MCAT IS KEY:

While this may come across as rather intuitive, the medical college admission test, otherwise known as the "MCAT," is absolutely vital to getting accepted to medical school. I wanted to start by discussing this exam because many pharmacy students often overlook the significance of getting a "good" MCAT score. This is one of the most important medical school statistics, aside from a strong science GPA that can make or break your chances of getting in to the school of your dreams. According to BeMo Academics, Specialized Health Science applicants have some of the lowest chances of getting an acceptance. That is approximately 36.7% of applicants will actually matriculate. Contrast this to Biology (40.6%) and Physical Sciences (47.7%). While this data fails to consider individual applicant factors, one principle holds true. Specialized science applicants had the lowest average MCAT score of 503. Far lower than all the other applicant pools.


A big mistake that pharmacy students make concerning this exam is that they are under the false impression that their graduate level education will have prepared them for this test. As a pharmacy student, you may have excelled in several clinical courses including "Cardiology, Infectious Disease I & II, and Therapeutics of the Critically Ill, yet mastery of these courses hardly translates to MCAT performance. To excel, you won't need to recite the various pharmacologic vasopressors and their adrenergic activity on the human body, but rather demonstrate competency in basic undergraduate level coursework. This includes basic biology, general chemistry, physics, mathematics, literary comprehension and more! Recalling material that you have long since forgotten has it's own unique challenges, especially while simultaneously attempting to fulfill your pharmacy school responsibilities. The MCAT and it's intricacies can consume a reader so we will avoid falling down a rabbit hole for the time being. The main point of this section is to highlight that the MCAT is a vital component to the application process and should not be taken lightly. Dedicate as much time to preparation as you can, and make sure you study the material just as much as you study the style of the test. That's right, you read that correctly. The test style, format, and pace are just as complicated as the material you are tasked to know. It is imperative that you are conscientious of a variety of test taking strategies that can help you tackle different types of questions you may come across. In summary;

  • The MCAT should not be taken lightly.

  • A high score will keep your application out of the admission office's trashcan.

  • You will need to dedicate several hundred hours to learn the content and style of the test.

  • Take as many practice exams as you can. If you are not performing well, review the every question, even those you got correct. Determine the reason you got a question wrong and also why you got others right.


#2 CREATE A QUALITY APPLICATION:

While it is no secret that applying as a pharmacy student or graduate has it's obvious perks, it will not guarantee that you get accepted to medical school. Despite the uniqueness and plethora of clinical experience, you still need to "check off the boxes." You are still expected to complete the minimum requirements for medical school consideration. This includes the completion of all required undergraduate level coursework (don't forget about physics I & II), and the achievement of basic shadowing hours, volunteer work, and leadership roles. Below is a short checklist that many applicants use to ensure that they are competitive.

  • Quality MCAT Score

  • Clinical Work Experience (Paid & Unpaid)

  • Clinical & Experimental Research (Publications, Presentations, Abstracts)

  • Physician Shadowing Hours

  • Medical Mission Trips

  • Community Service & Volunteering

  • Leadership Roles

  • Strong GPA

  • True Compassion and Commitment to Medicine


#3 APPLY ON TIME AND HAVE YOUR AFFAIRS IN ORDER:

Another major facet of the application process is simple in concept but far more challenging in practice. Applying on time is vital to getting accepted! Most medical schools utilize "rolling admissions" process, meaning that seats are offered on a first come first serve basis. Considering there is a finite number of available seats, you are doing yourself a disservice by applying late. The medical school application cycle opens in early May but you cannot formally submit your application until late May early June. After you submit you will be entered into a verification queue where your application will be reviewed for completeness. This process can take as little as 2 weeks or as long as 6 weeks during busy season. The earlier you apply the better chance you will have a short verification window. This is important because medical schools will begin to receive all verified applications at the start of July. If your application is still held up in the verification queue you may miss out on the first wave of medical school interviews. To ensure that you stay ahead of the crowd and apply as early as possible, I recommend that you prewrite your application. Meaning, you finalize your personal statement and have written descriptions for your work/activities section prior to the start of the cycle. In summary;

  • Apply as early as possible

  • Prewrite your personal statement and work/activities descriptions

  • The AMCAS opens in early May, submission is allowed in early June, and medical schools will only receive your application after you have been verified.


For more information check out "Pharm.D. to M.D." available on amazon.



References:

  1. "Medical School Acceptance Rates By Major in 2021." BeMo Academic Consulting, accessed September 8, 2021, https://bemoacademicconsulting.com/blog/medical-school-acceptance-rates-by-major



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