Dear Pre-Med Students…

This post is for anyone out there who is in the process of or considering applying to medical school. Some of you are already well into the process of secondary applications and interviews, and others are just now realizing how imminent the application process is for you.

For me that moment was May of my junior year of college. In the middle of finals week I realized that, although I had been studying for the MCAT, I hadn’t even thought to sign up for it. I wanted to take the exam in May to give myself time to retake it. By the time I realized that I hadn’t signed up, it was too late to find a May (or even June) test date.

Then, the fear of applying to medical school hit me. I felt very lost. Although there are many resources available to guide you, it can still be a daunting process.

Here are a few things that I learned on my way.

  1. Money – Although it’s easy to forget this part when you start applying to medical school, it’s really important to remember. The MCAT is not cheap, and many people take it more than once. Then, each step of the application process costs more money: AMCAS application, secondary applications, transcripts, etc. And don’t forget the expenses incurred with interviews: money for gas, a place to stay, and even the right outfit! Plan as much as you can for these expenses as you begin the process.
  2. Personal statement –I put a lot of pressure on myself to ace this part of my application because I thought I would need it to help set me apart. I had 20 versions on my computer; I heard somewhere along the way that this was normal, so it’s what I did. Sometimes, faculty members advise us to go back and read our personal statements now to remind us why we chose to go to medical school. But, I find mine stiff and far from inspirational. The personal statement is a chance to set yourself apart – just don’t be insincere in an effort to try to please an admissions committee.
  3. Interviews – During the application process, the interview is the most important part. Everything preceding it gets your foot in the door, but the interview gives you the chance to be unique. It also gives you the chance to tell a school why you would be a good fit. It is worthwhile to do a little research on the school where you are interviewing and know why you want to go there.
  4. Know yourself – It may sound silly, but I instantly regretted not thinking about who I really was when I was asked in one interview to give three strengths and three weaknesses. I think I ended up picking one strength and one weakness and finding 2 synonyms for each. It’s helpful if you already have an idea of how you would like to answer these types of questions.
  5. Read the news – I would be lying if I said I completely understood the healthcare situation when I went into my interviews.  But I spent most of one interview talking about healthcare reform anyway. It’s good to be familiar with current events because they will inevitably come up. This suggestion isn’t just true for interviews, it’s important for a career in medicine.
  6. Don’t get discouraged – This advice was easier said than done for me. As soon as I started the application process I found myself questioning why I had joined this organization or worked that job. Before I knew it I couldn’t really remember why I wanted to go to medical school. Don’t lose yourself or your excitement in the process.



Maglin Halsey

Maglin Halsey

I’m originally from Knoxville, TN, and found my way to South Carolina four years ago to pursue my undergraduate education at Clemson University. I graduated in May 2012 with a degree in Bioengineering, and I’m thrilled to be spending four more years in this area. I am passionate about USC School of Medicine Greenville’s commitment to community wellness and developing well-rounded doctors. I am excited to share this journey of our charter class with you.


Join the conversation

  • Dennis Wolff - 5 years ago

    As somebody who has sat across the table from prospective medical students in year’s past at a different medical school, I can confirm that Maglin has given you some excellent advice. I can easily read through your dossier to learn about your successes, personal statements are more alike than different due to their typical premed-milling, and letters of recommendation are almost always glowing. Pre-med programs now routinely provide their students with laboratory experiences, shadowing opportunities and overseas trips to third-world countries.

    I certainly don’t ignore any of that, but I’m most interested in things such as learning how you coped with failure, what you have learned about yourself from your mistakes, your creativity through art/music, etc., innovative solutions to problems you’ve encountered along your way, the people in your life whom you’ve admired and why, etc.

    Finally, I am also looking for evidence that your life isn’t just all about you. Among the better ways to demonstrate that are 1) by being knowledgeable of current events, and 2) donating your time to activities where there are no obvious ulterior motives… you helped simply because help was needed. What do you see in the real world that disgusts you that you hope to help change?