AO Advice: Standing Out as a Pre-Med Applicant

Interested in a career in medicine? With the increasing competition and an overwhelming number of outstanding pre-med candidates each year, it’s paramount that you stand out from the crowd. Join for an upcoming webinar featuring actionable strategies, expert insights, and tested advice on how to position yourself as a top-tier pre-med applicant.

This webinar features former Yale University Admissions Officer Stacey Tuttle.

During this 60-minute webinar, you’ll learn:

  • The key factors that influence admissions decisions.
  • How to excel academically while also balancing extracurriculars, research, and more.
  • Strategies to craft compelling narrative that truly represents your journey, passion, and dedication.
  • How to find extracurriculars that reflect your commitment to the medical profession.

Don’t miss out on this unique opportunity! Reserve your spot today and take a decisive step toward your healthcare dreams!

Date 09/18/2023
Duration 59:06

Webinar Transcription

2023-09-18 – AO Advice: Standing Out as a Pre-Med Applicant

Hi everyone, my name is Joseph Recupero and I am your moderator for today’s webinar. Welcome to “AO Advice: Standing Out as a Pre-Med Applicant.” To orient everyone with the webinar timing, we’ll start off with a presentation, then answer your questions in a live Q& A. On the sidebar, you can download our slides and you can start submitting questions in the Q& A tab.

Now, let’s hand it over to our amazing panelist. Thanks so much, Joe. Um, so I’m Stacey Tuttle. I am a former admissions officer at Um, I’m also, of course, a former admissions officer, um, from the Yale University School of Public Health. Um, a little bit about my background. I grew up in Connecticut.

I went to Yale for my undergraduate degree, where I majored in psychology with a focus on neuroscience. Um, I ended up working in private industry for a short time after graduation wasn’t for me. It’s a surprise. I ended up back in academia at Yale. Um, and so I worked at the school of medicine, then the school of public health.

for, um, a little while there. Uh, and at the school public health is where I got all of my great admissions experience. So that’s why I’m with you all today. And I’m super excited to share my perspective with you.

Amazing. So to get started, why don’t we see who all is joining us this evening? So I’m going to put a poll on all of your screens. Please let us know what grade you’re in. Um, if you’re a parent or someone else joining us, feel free to select the other option, just so we get a feel for who’s in the room.

Um, so Stacey, we’re really in the, in the heart of application season right now. Um, what is your, your one piece of advice to students? I know that’s hard to pick, but to really make sure they’re doing right now. Yeah. Okay. So for those seniors in the room. Make sure you’ve looked at your college list and figured out your deadlines because those are approaching so fast.

Um, some students are really surprised when they see these early action, early decision deadlines. Some of them actually are in October, not to scare you. There are a lot that are November 1st, but some sneak up on you. And so just make sure you have your college list narrowed down, and I suggest making a spreadsheet, right?

Make a spreadsheet of all of your top colleges and put. You know, which application you’re going to be applying to and the deadline and that will really keep you organized. Fantastic. Well, it looks like we have about, um, 30 or so individuals with us this evening, the majority of which are seniors, um, and 10th and 11th or 12th and 11th graders.

So I think this will be very pertinent to them. Um, so Stacey, I’m going to hand it over to you and take it away. Thanks so much, Joe. Um, okay, so let’s get started. What does it mean to be pre med? At the high school level, this really is you saying, I want to go to med school, right? I want to go to med school one day.

Typically, that would be four years for you, um, during undergrad. Four years for you during medical school and then residency after medical school. Right? So this is a very long trajectory and overall at the end of that, your goal would be to pursue a career as a physician. Um, what pre med does not mean is majoring in something called pre med.

Okay, so pre med is actually a track or set of courses that you take, um, to fulfill requirements necessary to get into medical school. So think about courses like biology and organic chemistry. Um, usually math is involved, physics. These are courses that you’ll be taking at the undergraduate level alongside your major.

Okay, and so your major might, and we’ll talk about this in a little bit, your major might, um, be in some of those subjects. You might choose a biology major. You might choose a physics major, but your major itself is not pre med. Those are the courses you’re taking to get into medical school and applying to college as a pre med student.

Undergraduate colleges is not the same as applying to medical school unless you apply to a B. S. M. D. Or B. A. M. D. Program, and we’ll talk a little bit about that towards the end of this presentation. But if you’re applying to a regular undergraduate program where it’s not combined program with a medical school, then you’re really your focus is really applying to that undergraduate institution as a student who hopes to pursue pre med courses, but you’re not applying directly to medical school.

So you have to keep that in mind. How do you know whether to pursue premed at this stage? This is a really big question. Um, it’s very rare that I, um, I have students who are 100 percent sure that they want to be a doctor. One day, you’d be surprised that even those who think they’re 100 percent sure might pivot later on.

But it’s, you know, a soul searching process for any high school student to figure out, okay, what’s my next step? And when I’m advising students to. Um, do that soul searching and how to go about that soul searching. Um, I usually ask them to think about three things. One would be your values. So what’s important to you?

What’s valuable to you at your core? Um, is it service? Do you love serving your community? Is it promoting health? Um, do you love making sure that, you know, those around you are aware of certain health concepts or living healthy lifestyles? Um, are those things important to you? Think about what you value.

Then the next thing I would consider is what are my interests. So this is different than values. What’s important to you, right? Your interests are things that you want to know more about, right? You’re interested in them. So a lot of premed students might articulate interests in. STEM, biology, health care, working with people as just some examples, these are interests, things that you like, would like to learn more about, would like to do more of.

And then the third category would be, what are my skills? So skills are different from your interests and your values because your skills are things that you’re just, you know, good at. These are the things that you know how to do. Um, and so you might know how to perform research or manage your time really well.

Or have great communication skills, um, different right from the things that are important to you and the things that interest you. These are things that you can actually do. Right? So, once you’re considering all of those 3 things in combination, do they align with the future that you’re envisioning as a pre med student?

As well as a potential career in medicine, and how do you figure that out? Um, so I would advise first and foremost talking to current premed and medical school students. They’re living the life right now and they can give you key insight into the pros and cons of what that lifestyle is. Is and when they describe that to you, are you okay with the cons and are the pros attractive to you?

And does the lifestyle they’re living align with your values your interests and your skills? Um, and then another option is to shadow physicians volunteer in hospitals Uh, see what the day in the life is of an actual physician Okay, I get this question a lot um, I think the number one question I get during a lot of these webinars is What extracurriculars can I do to stand out as a pre med student?

Um, and I tell students you’re misdirecting the question. The real question is, what extracurriculars can I do that highlight what I’m passionate about? In addition to the fact that you’re interested in medicine, right? Not all of your activities have to be directly related to medicine if you’re pre med, but it is of course going to maybe naturally, organically happen for you that some of your extracurriculars will be maybe health inclined, health focused.

So, um, there’s some categories here I want to go through as some of the more common. extracurriculars that have seen on premed student profiles, um, or profiles that are maybe a value to an admissions officer when they’re considering your interest as a premed student. One, a very popular category would be shadowing.

Um, Both as a shadow. Opportunity for physicians who are practicing. As well as people who are doing research. You can shadow somebody who’s researching. Without actually performing the research. So how do you go about. Finding opportunities like this, um, there’s a lot of hospitals that have formal, uh, shadowing opportunities.

So you might look into your local hospitals or local practices nearby. You can also leverage your personal network. So, if, you know, of a physician or somebody doing research in your high school network, your family or your friend network. Don’t be afraid to leverage that. Um, because that’s your advantage, right?

You do know somebody who works in that area. And so you can gain firsthand exposure very easily through shadowing them. You can also look at local universities in your area to see which faculty are performing research in the areas that might be of interest to you as a potential medical school student one day.

And you can ask to shadow them, see what a day is in the life is like for those. Researchers, excuse me. Um, there’s also formal research programs and projects that you might consider pursuing. So you’ll have to excuse me. I am getting over a cold. Um, these formal programs are typically in the summer and so.

You’ll see those during, um, excuse me. I just have to take a sip of water.

Um, Stacy, you’re on mute at the moment. Thanks Joe. Sorry. I was just making a joke about how it is cold season in New England. So, those research programs, um, those are typically available in the summer. So you’ll see those go up typically in the fall. Um, and most of the time those programs have some sort of age limit related to.

The research being done, a lot of them are looking for students who are 16 or above. So you want to look into the criteria for those, but the applications do typically become available early. You do want to look for those. Sometimes as early as November, December, a lot of the times they’re in January, February, those deadlines.

So just be sure to plan and apply for those when they’re available. And then, of course, like I said, you can always reach out to professors for informal opportunities in their labs. Um, volunteer service work. So this makes a lot of sense. You are going to be serving your community for the rest of your career as a physician.

So you not, um, undervalue that volunteer service work for yourself. Create. I also talk about created or passion related opportunities. You might hear, um. The phrase passion project, uh, when you’re talking to other students or your peers, um, passion projects really are just that it’s finding something that you’re passionate about, um, and maybe seeing a gap, uh, in relation to your passion in your community, right?

Your high school and filling that gap. And so some examples, I had a student realize that. Their high school is missing a future health professionals group or HOSA group. So they spearhead the first chapter at their high school. I had another student realize that diabetes was a really big problem in their community.

And so they worked to get educational programming out in their community about diabetes prevention. Those are just some examples. You don’t necessarily have to you a huge endeavor. Um, another example is that I had a student do a podcast on public health topics. So, you know, it really just depends on the person and what you like to do.

And again, seeing that there’s kind of this gap to fill this knowledge gap or maybe this opportunity gap. And looking to fill that. Um, there’s also stem related extracurriculars that you could pursue at your high school. So science Olympiad, you’ll, you’ll see math team environmental clubs. There’s tons of these a lot of competent competitive are competition based extracurriculars.

But in light of all of that, what I want you to remember is you do not need to focus on. Just stem extracurriculars, you can certainly do a sport. You can certainly do debate. These extracurriculars can translate, um, skills very easily into the medical field and you can talk about them as it relates to your future profession.

For example, maybe a sport has taught you how to work in a team, maybe a debate. Experience is giving leadership skills. Um, that will be pivotal to you as a physician one day. So do not feel like you have to give up on those if those are things of interest to you. And ultimately, they will make your application stronger because you will be more focused having done them.

What is the expected academic profile or premium students? So, um, To be frank, academically rigorous coursework is expected of students who are pre med, and this is because one day, you’ll be pursuing pre med coursework in undergrad, and that coursework is hard. Um, I don’t know a lot of people who consider organic chemistry easy, and so seeing that you took, you know, academically rigorous science and math classes at your high school is really valuable.

Another question I tend to get is what if my school doesn’t offer a lot of AP classes, right? What if my school doesn’t offer AP bio? Um, that’s okay. Uh, you should take the courses at the highest level you can at your high school and admissions officers will review that information in light of what was available to you, right?

Um, I didn’t have all the APs in the world when I was in high school. I went to a public school. I only had what was available to me. Um, For that matter, I didn’t take all of AP’s courses available to me. This is really important too. You do have to balance your schedule. Um, you don’t want to so overload yourself that it’s to the detriment of your GPA, right?

And your grades. You want to excel in the courses that you’re taking and be able to maintain that high GPA. Um, but you do want to consider taking honors classes, AP classes, IB classes. And then, um, you might consider also dual enrollment classes if those are available to you. So this is a situation where a local college allows you to take their courses in partnership with the high school that you go to, um, STEM courses are, of course, really helpful at AP Chem, AP Bio or the equivalents of those strongly consider taking AP Calc and AP Stats.

That will be so helpful for you. Once you get to college. I can tell you right now. Once I got to college, I. Remember emailing my AP stats teacher and thanking him profusely for preparing me. Uh, I felt much further ahead of a lot of my peers who were in my stats class because they had taken AP stats. So, something to consider.

Um, you might also, uh, want to take AP physics and AP psych if those are available to you. Nice to have. You do not have to do them, but they are nice to have. Languages will be helpful to particularly Spanish because you can certainly use that in your practice moving forward and anatomy and physiology classes could be helpful to something to consider.

Also, do not let yourself sleep in senior year, right? You need to keep up those grades because you will be sending academic updates even after you’re admitted to schools. How can you learn more about a particular schools? Pre med program, so you can reach out to admissions officers or representatives for your region.

Um, and if available, you should ask them for statistics on the pre med students. And their outcomes, right? What are their outcomes when it comes to the MCAT? How do they perform? How what are their outcomes when they apply to medical school? And where do they go? A lot of schools will have that data. And so you can see, okay, these students, this many students went to the school as premed, this many students got this average on the MCAT, whatever that looks like, that will be indicative of a strong premed school for you, depending on what those stats look like.

You can also review college websites and ask about dedicated pre med resources and their advisement teams. Um, and so the idea is if there’s a strong pre med presence on their website and in their resources, and they have dedicated staff to assist pre med students, that is usually indicative of a school that, um, dedicates a lot of time and, and resources to pre med students.

So. Definitely something to look into. You don’t want to get to your college of choice, right? And there’s no, um, advisement. There’s no advisors, no advising office. Um, and then you’re going to feel pretty isolated, right? During that process. You want to make sure you have that support as part of your education.

Also consider if there are, excuse me, consider if there are dedicated pre med or pre health groups. Um, Okay. This is a good rule of thumb. If there are pre med or pre health student groups in existence at that undergraduate institution, that means you have a lot of peers around you, too, that, um, can help support you and you can be part of that community during your undergraduate career.

Um, and also indicates that maybe they, too, did their research and realize this is a really great school to go to, um, as a pre med student. And then finally, you can ask to be connected to current premed students or alumni to talk to them. I’ll give you that insider scoop, right? We talked about that, doing that, um, with premed students and medical school students during your research about whether or not you want to be a physician, um, get their insider take.

They, they really do live it. And so they can give you the best insight as to what that looks like. And don’t be afraid to leverage your networks and social media and the like use LinkedIn, find somebody from your high school network that Maybe went to the school or can talk about that, um, or use linkedin to find somebody who goes to an undergraduate institution.

Um, and is majoring and maybe a major you’re interested in talking to them about it. Um. And go from there. Yeah, don’t be afraid to reach out. Okay, Joe, back over to you. Awesome. So we’re going to give Stacey a minute, grab some water. I am also fighting this, the fall cold. Um, but we really want to figure out now that you know a good bit about this process, where you all are in your college process.

Um, so I’m going to go ahead and put a pull up on the screen. Let us know where you’re at currently in your college process. Um, The other thing to note is for you juniors and seniors, um, you know, this is really the time to be. Working heavily on that college process. It’s the time to be really honing in those personal statements.

Um, and whether you’re a pre ed applicant or not, this is really about making the most authentic, strongest version of the application possible for yourself. Um, so it’s definitely something to keep in mind as we go through this presentation, um, is really making the best application for you. possible. Um, it looks like a lot of our students, most of our students are still researching schools.

That’s where the majority of people are in the process. Um, some are working on essays, some haven’t started yet. Um, but it looks like the majority are in the researching phase. Excellent. So yes, I will hand it back over. Thanks, Joe. Yeah. Thanks everyone for being patient. I just recovered from a cold.

Thankfully it was very minor, but definitely still feeling those effects. Okay, so do you have to major in STEM to be pre med? This is a really big misconception that I encounter often in my advisement. Students feel like they have to major in biology to be pre med, and that is simply not true. Biological science majors are The most popular majors for pre med students, according to am cast.

Um, but truly, there is no typical major for a pre med student. This is absolutely true. Um, during my undergraduate career, I had many students, um, and peers, I should say who. And their majors range from history of art to computer science to biology. Um, but it wasn’t always biology. Um, it was evolutionary and, uh, biology.

It was ecology. Um, I might have seen the occasional, you know, humanities major, like an English major. And it was it varied a lot. Um, and majors are seen across biological sciences, right? We just talked about that physical sciences. You might see engineering majors a lot. You see, particularly biomedical engineering is very popular math and statistics humanities.

I mentioned English, but, you know, there’s a plethora of humanities options out there. Roman studies was really interesting to me and I was able to. Um, pursuing a lot of coursework in Roman studies alongside my interest in neuroscience, if you can believe it. Um, I studied abroad in Rome. That was really interesting to me.

Uh, and so it’s doable. Social sciences is also a really popular option. There is a social science component of the MCAT. Psychology is probably one of the more popular majors to pursue. There’s also anthropology and sociology. Um, and then there’s specialized health sciences. So, These are individuals who go on to specialized work like cardiovascular technician, a dietitian, radiology assistant, um, things of that nature.

And for the record, data shows that non STEM majors are admitted at comparable rates to STEM majors to medical schools. It’s really about showing, um, you know, that you are academically focused ability, excuse me, and have the ability to do the work. So, if you choose a non stem major, just keep in mind that you do want to excel in the science and math courses that you take because.

Those are going to be the only indicators for the admissions officers at med schools as to how you can do in those types of courses, since your major was non stem, but it’s not going to be, you know, a negative against your application as long as you do, you know, perform well in. Those science and math courses, the pre med courses that you need to take.

And ultimately, your major, if it’s not STEM, will align hopefully with your interests and therefore hopefully will lead to better academic success for you, meaning that you’ll have a higher GPA and better grades because you chose a major that actually is interesting to you instead of choosing the major that you think you should have chosen.

Um, I, the one, one thing I would discourage you to do, um, As a premed student is look left and right and compare yourself to your peers. That is not going to help you in the long run. It’s going to add stress. Um, the best advice I can give you is. Focus on what you love to do and what you’re passionate about and always ensure that, you know, your interest in med school is really aligning with who you are.

Um, and that will make for a better application that will make for a good undergraduate experience for you and ultimately make for, um, uh, a more focused applicant. When it comes to med school, how do I choose a major is actually really great pivot. So, um, majors are your primary field of study in college.

It’s a topic that accounts for 50 to 75 percent of the classes you take. So I’m very important to select a topic that excites you and finding the best match for you should be the goal. Let’s go back to that first conversation I had with you. Um, consider your interests. What are you interested in doing?

Where are you interested in pursuing further? Your values. What’s important to you at your core? What is important to you as a person? Your skills. So what are you good at doing? What are the things that you can do and are capable of doing? And your desired career as a physician, right? So if you explore those four things collectively, you will What majors really align with all of those things?

Um, and how do you figure that out? So the first place I would go is the college websites. They’re, they will usually have some kind of course catalog or bulletin where they will list all of their majors and all their major requirements. And then you can dive deeper into the courses that are required of the major in order to ask what you see and ask yourself.

Does this make sense for me? Does it align with my interests, my values, and my skills? And ultimately, my goal of being a physician. If you do choose a non STEM major, it’s going to be harder to complete the pre med requirements. So you want to make sure if you are choosing a non STEM major that you have the flexibility in the curriculum to complete your pre med courses.

Some majors you’ll naturally be able to do that because it’s part of the requirements for the major. That’s why a lot of students choose STEM majors, um, if they want to be a physician, but it might make sense for you to choose a different major. Uh, and again, just make sure the curriculum allows that flexibility for you to take other courses that you would need for pre med.

And then stay and stay open minded to those unique major choices. Right? Um, there are a lot of schools that offer very different majors. Uh, and I mentioned earlier, even biology might not come in that that standard vanilla biology flavor. It might come in the form of zoology, um, or anatomy. And those majors are great too.

Um, you just want to make sure that again, they’re aligning with who you are, your interests, your values, and your skills. What else can I do to demonstrate my interest in medicine on my college application? So, uh, I would say you can pretty much highlight your interest in medicine in all application components where appropriate.

This is very important because another, um, misconception that I’ve encountered a lot in my advising career. is that you need to mention medicine in every part of your application in order to ensure that you aren’t admitted to the school in question. And that is absolutely not true. Remember, you are applying to an undergraduate institution where you are hoping to complete your pre med requirements.

Okay. So that means that they’re looking to see how you’re going to contribute to undergraduate student life and academic life as a pre med student, of course, but also as a student in general, right? So you’re not applying to medical school, and therefore you want to emphasize all parts of who you are and how you’re going to contribute to.

That college in a positive way in a meaningful way to and think of, um, I always use this comparison. Um, think of applying to college like dating, right? The fit has to be in both directions. So. You’re researching all these colleges, I hope, and determining this is a great fit for me. They have all the resources I need.

They have the major I want or majors that I could pursue. They have activities I want to do. And then on the other end, the admissions officer is asking, Are we a good fit for you? Can we deliver the things that will be interesting to you? Do we have groups that you’ll want to join? Do we have student life related activities that you will engage in?

Do we have opportunities to help you shine as the leader that you want to be? And, can we support your pre med interests? So it’s a bigger picture than just the pre med part. And so on the different components I’ve listed here, your transcript, um, you’ll want to pursue relevant coursework like we talked about in terms of your pre med interest.

Activities, you’re going to want to highlight all of your activities that are important to you. Um, Obviously, you’re going to want to highlight those that relate to your pre med interests, uh, particularly those that are long term commitments, because that is looked upon very favorably by admissions officers when you’ve done an activity for a long period of time and chose commitment and sustained interest, um, and then, you know, again, don’t shy away from those not, those Uh, tricklers that are not clearly pre med, those are, those are good, those are a part of who you are.

And it tells the admissions officer, okay, this is how they will likely. Bridge their interest once they’re here as a student. Excuse me. Letters of recommendation. You’re going to want to pick individuals who can speak to your potential as a future physician, if they can, and or skills that would help the admissions officer understand that you would be a great pre med student.

Meaning, you know, if you’re going to ask your AP bio teacher, if you can ask your AP chem teacher. To write you a letter that would be really helpful and supportive as long as they can speak positively to you and they know you well, I say this because Students often feel like I have to get a recommendation from my AP bio teacher because I’m pre med Not true If your AP bio teacher does not know you well, and therefore will not write you a very strong recommendation It might be a little lackluster.

It might be sort of like copied and pasted Not the recommendation you want for your applications. You want somebody who’s going to be able to write a very meaningful letter spend time on that and Really emphasize your qualities as a person. They don’t have to necessarily say, you know John or Sue is gonna go on to be a great position, but they can say, you know They were a great leader in my class.

They were a really great team player. This is how they did it You want somebody who’s going to be specific? And I will tell you sometimes I get to the letters on an application And that could make or break my decision I might be on the fence and a good letter can make me lean in one direction or another so don’t Um, don’t feel like you have to get letters from STEM teachers, pick people who know you well.

And if those are STEM teachers, that’s fantastic. Um, it’s really good. Also, you know, I know we have a lot of juniors and seniors in the room. It’s really good to cultivate relationships with your STEM teachers as well, because then that’s just sort of a natural fit to have a STEM teacher write it because they do know you well.

Um, but it’s definitely something. To consider essays. Uh, this is probably the area where students feel most comfortable bringing in their pre med interests, but the area where I see the most mistakes, um, in terms of students bringing in their pre med interests. So for example, um, With most applications, you’re going to have a common app main essay, so the personal statement.

This is the, the big essay. It’s the essay that every school sees. Um, and then you’re going to have these supplements for schools that want additional essays from you. Uh, that main essay that every school sees. I’ve seen a lot of students talking about pre med in these essays to the detriment of their essay.

What the essay really should convey to the admissions officer is something about your growth and your reflection as an individual. They want to know more about you. And other parts of your application may be kind of self evident in terms of your pre med interests. Maybe your extracurriculars. Maybe your transcript kind of leans in that direction, and there might be supplements where you can clearly talk about your pre med interest.

Um, but some students try to kind of fit in everything they can about their pre med interest in their personal statement, that main first essay. When in fact, they could have written a much stronger essay if they didn’t focus so heavily on pre med. So I would encourage you to really look at those prompts and consider which one speaks to you the most and which one you can answer best, even if that’s not going to precisely provide a pre med answer.

Um, because your essay might be stronger as a result. And remember, you are applying to undergraduate institutions as a potential undergraduate student. Yes. a pre med student, but an undergraduate student nonetheless, who’s going to come in and contribute in many, many, many ways. So it’s okay to not focus so precisely on pre med in your, your main essay, if that’s not the strongest essay you could write.

So what advice would I give students looking to be pre med? I would say, make sure you’re prepared for the demands of the field. This is a very, um, time consuming profession. Also a time consuming student endeavor. The study is very rigorous. You know, you’re going to be studying for the MCAT. The coursework is really tough.

Um, And that, that’s great. You know, if that’s this is the path you want to go down. Um, that’s fabulous. Um, but just be prepared for that academic commitment and that long term commitment, right? I talked about this earlier, um, four years of undergrad, typically four years in med school. And then residency before you’re really a practicing physician.

And so this is a very long term commitment for a lot of people and then continue to check in with yourself throughout high school and an undergrad. Um, it’s very common for students to change their pursuits in college to change their majors. So just be prepared to pivot. Uh, and. It’s okay to pivot. Don’t feel like you have to because you went in pre med.

You have to be pre med or if you went in a biology major, you have to be a biology major. Be prepared to be flexible, especially in freshman, sophomore year and that’s okay. Um, something else I want to emphasize is balance, balance. I said this a little earlier too. Um, you don’t have to take all of the AP courses in the world if you’re not going to be able to manage all of those and still be academically successful.

So, and then you don’t want to do all of that and not have time for your extracurriculars or not have time for socialization. All of these things are important. Um, something that often happens to students During their application process, they feel kind of obsessed with, um, pursuing the name brand or the prestige of the school.

Um, and the truth is that if you got into an Ivy League or a top 20 school, you are going to be placed in a very academically rigorous. environment with students who are academically very successful. Historically, this can create a lot of academic stress. Um, and so while you’re being, while you’re pursuing your pre med studies, if you’re worried about your GPA, if you’re worried about your grades, um, that might be less stressful in a different environment.

And so remember, you want to set yourself up for success for later applying to med school. And whatever undergraduate institution you attend needs to be an institution where you’re comfortable pursuing your studies, pursuing your extracurriculars and balancing that all together. I always say that you can get an Ivy League institution education at any school as long as you’re resourceful and.

Um, a hard worker. Um, and I think that if you’re the right type of student, um, you can certainly succeed at a very similar level, uh, regardless of which school you attend. Um, so I would say, you know, the big benefit I think of a lot of the Ivy League and top 20 schools is network and resources. So if you hustle at some of these less, um.

well resourced schools, um, or schools that don’t have as strong of networks, you can create those networks and find those resources for yourself. Um, it’s just about kind of where your goals are and what you value at that point. Um, continue to pursue your passions in your spare time too. You know, that’s going to be important to you as a person and also in your long term application, um, life, lifespan, right?

You’re going to be applying to a lot of different opportunities throughout the course of your life. You want to make sure you’re carrying yourself, who you are as a person along that journey. Um, and mental health, of course, is very important, which is why I do, um, give this advice. Another piece of advice I’ve gotten from a colleague of mine who is in med school is make connections, build and stay in touch with your networks.

This is really important because you’re getting any letters of reference later on for med school. Make sure you’re building those connections early and fortifying them along the way. Don’t lose touch. Okay, so what advice would I give to students interested in BFMD programs? Talked about this a little bit at the start.

Um, I alluded to talking about this later. Now is the time. Um, we’re going to wrap it up with this discussion. So BSMD programs allow high school students to apply for an undergraduate and medical school at the same time. The application process is competitive. Um, typically, these schools are not admitting a lot of students.

They are definitely in the single digits for their admissions rates. And for that reason, I typically advise students I have who are interested in BSMD programs to limit their applications to no more than one. The one to two of these programs. Um, they’re very time consuming. They’re very lengthy applications.

I have a lot of supplements and additional requirements, and they’re always considered reach schools. So what I mean by this is when you’re creating your college list. We advise typically having a balanced list of reach schools, meaning that for any student, even, you know, academically very successful students, these schools have high enough admissions rates where, um, it’s a, it’s a reach school, meaning that they’re not going to accept everyone.

And so your chance of admission into that school is lower. Then there’s match schools where, you know, your academic profile is such that. You’ll likely get into that school because it’s a good match with the profile of the school in question. Their admissions rates are usually, um, kind of in the middle range, um, of, you know, the schools in question.

And then there’s safety schools. So safety schools are, are schools that, um, you have a very high chance of getting into because your academic profile exceeds those schools. Um, and they do have high admissions rates. BSMD programs. Always reach schools. They are always in the reach category. And that’s why we want you to limit your applications to those because statistically, you know, those are those admissions rates being lower.

It is not as likely to get into those schools. If you’re admitted to them, keep in mind that there are additional requirements once you get to school, you know, you’re not done, um, you’re not, you know, completely all set in med school, you’re good to go. You still need to maintain your GPA, and you still need to, in a lot of cases, get a minimum MCAT score to continue on to the med school.

So just keep that in mind, make sure you’re doing your research, um, and it is a big commitment, right? We talked a little bit about being ready to pivot when you get to undergrad in case you do not want to pursue pre med any longer. You will basically are seeing at. 17, 18 years old. I’m in for this. I’m going to do it.

Um, eight years of my life in some cases, undergrad plus med school. It’s a big life commitment. It’s a big life decision. A lot of students I’ve talked to felt like they actually benefited. Excuse me from going to a standard undergraduate program. Instead, there was more opportunity to really explore and they still went on the med school, but they felt like they had more of a balance in going to a standard undergraduate institution.

So, there definitely are pros and cons, and you are definitely going to want to do that research. If you are considering these. All right, Joe, over to

you to the presentation part of our webinar. I hope you found this information helpful. I know Stacey does an amazing job of bringing it to us. And remember that you can download the slides from the link in the handouts tab. Moving on to the live Q& A, I’ll read through the questions you’ve submitted in the Q& A tab, paste them into the public chat so that you can see, and then read them out loud for our panelists to answer.

As a heads up, if your Q& A tab isn’t letting you submit questions, just double check that you joined the webinar through the custom link in your email, and not through the webinar landing page. Um, so let’s jump in. One of the first questions is an interesting one. Um, so when applying to med school, do you include your high school transcript or only your undergrad transcripts?

Yeah, this is a good question. Um, you will need to apply, or you will need to include, excuse me, what your application all post high school work. Um, usually they will only be looking for your undergraduate and above any colleges, any courses that you’ve taken at any really college, even if it’s outside of your undergraduate institution.

Sometimes, this is my one caveat, sometimes that does include high school coursework that you took at a local college, um, because they’re looking for any college coursework that you might’ve taken. So just keep that in mind, but typically that does not include high school transcripts. And then similarly to requirements, um, do, does someone need to take the MCAT if they are admitted to a BSMD program?

So I talked about this a little bit at the end there. Um, it depends on the program. Most BSMD programs will be expecting you to still take the MCAT and get a minimum score in some cases to get into med school. Um, at that institution. Um, basically their offer is conditional on you getting your MCAT score.

Um, it’s not the case everywhere. So you do have to do your research. Every BSMD program is a little different. Absolutely. And while we dive into these questions, it’s also important to remember, um, that CollegeAdvisor does have a team of over 300 former admissions officers and admissions experts like Stacey and myself who are ready to help you and your family navigate the college admissions process in one on one advising sessions.

Uh, we’ve already helped over 6, 000 clients in our, in their college journeys, uh, after analyzing our data since 2021, we found that CollegeAdvisor students are 3. 6 times more likely to get into Stanford, 4. 1 times more likely to get into Vanderbilt and 2. 7 times more likely to get into Harvard. So if you’re ready to increase your odds and take the next step in your college admissions journey, you can sign up for a free 45 to 60 minute strategy session with an admission specialist.

He’s in the QR code on the screen. During this meeting, we’ll review your current extracurricular list and application strategy, discuss how they align with your college list, and outline the tools you need to stand out in the competitive admissions world. Um, and we will also continue jumping in and answering your questions.

Um, so I think this is a good kind of Overall question. And that’s what’s one of the biggest mistakes people make when applying. Um, it seems applying college to college in general, but also through the premed track. That’s funny, Joe. I thought you were saying the biggest mistake was applying. Oh, maybe I’m just trying to make light.

Um, so there’s this is a tough question. I talked about a few mistakes I’ve seen In earlier in the application, I think it has to be, you know, feeling like you need every part of your application to screen that you’re pre med. Um, that’s just absolutely not true. It becomes like kind of one note. It makes your application not as interesting, not as different.

Um, from maybe even one or the other that was read the same day. You really want to showcase who you are as a person. Every person is different and you want to embrace those components of yourself, those parts of yourself that make you, you, um, yes, one part of that is premed, but that’s not all you are.

And when I, as an admissions officer, when I’m going into reviewing an application, I’m rooting for you. I want, when I start reading an application, I want you to be the one, right? Um, so tell me about yourself. Give me all of it. Um, And I just, it’s hard when you’re an admissions officer and you know that the individual held back, you know that you’re not seeing all of that person because they were so wrapped up in the medical school narrative, um, and they weren’t being true to themselves.

Absolutely. And this is a very important question. Um, if, if an individual lives in a small city with limited opportunities, will this hurt their chance of getting into top 20 schools? Actually, um, it might be somewhat of the opposite. So I see Joe smiling at me. Um, I once had an admissions officer make a joke that if you wanted to get an Ivy League school, you just need to move to Idaho.

And this is true because, right, there’s not a lot of people. I’m in not a lot of resources and these smaller, um. Maybe towns and communities and more rural states. Um, and so, you know, if admissions officers, and this just, this is me being frank from an admissions perspective, if an admissions office is trying to make sure they diversify their student body based on where people are coming from around the world and in the country, then, you know, they might want one or two students from certain states because they can’t really get any applicants from those states.

And so don’t feel like you’re coming from. A small town is going to be to your detriment. Uh, what you really should focus on doing is taking advantage of, excuse me, all of the resources in your community that will, um, be available to you. Realizing not, you won’t have all the AP classes, you won’t have all of the research and hospitals available to you.

Um, but, you know, volunteer where you’re local. Physicians practice. If you’re thinking about being, you know, a veterinarian, work on a local farm. If like, that’s kind of where your area is, um, take advantage of those opportunities and highlight those on your application. Awesome. Uh, we have two questions, um, both kind of asking the same thing.

Um, is nursing a good track to take if you are interested in applying to medical school? This is a really interesting question. Um, so nursing itself as a. Bachelor’s degree endeavor has a lot of similar, um, precursory work to being similar to being a pre med student. It’s not exactly the same and, excuse me, pursuing a bachelor’s in nursing may not give you the curricular flexibility To fulfill all of your premed coursework.

So I just want you to be prepared for that. You need to make sure you’re doing your research and asking programs about that flexibility. I’ve had, um, peers of mine actually do a nursing major and then they would fulfill any kind of remaining coursework that they couldn’t fit in during their nursing degree.

maybe in a post secondary program after they graduate from the nursing program. It’s not, um, you know, the wrong pursuit by any means. It might actually be the right pursuit for a lot of people. You might actually decide to work for a while and then maybe even decide you want to go on to get an APRN, which is an advanced nursing degree, as opposed to going on to med school.

That is definitely an option. Um, but again, just make sure you have whatever major you choose, you have room to. Uh, take those pre med course requirements and also study and take the MCAT. Absolutely. Um, this is an interesting question. They’re asking if you graduate from high school and college, I’m assuming meaning an associate’s degree, um, at the same time, can you still apply as a, would you be applying as a transfer student or as a first year student to highly competitive schools?

That’s a great question. Um, so every school is going to be different in how they handle this. Some schools will not take transfer credits. So even though you have an associate’s degree already, um, you can’t necessarily transfer those into the college. You can exempt. Out of requirements, meaning that you no longer have to take a requirement because you already took it, but that doesn’t count towards your credits for graduating.

So, whatever your top list of schools includes, you’re going to want to ask this question of admissions officers, because it will vary from school to school. There are a lot of universities that will take, um, associates degrees and transfer credits. For example, I’m from Connecticut. I know that, you know, a lot of our state colleges, um, I believe UConn as well will take transfer credits for associates degrees.

It’s part of a partnership that a lot of state schools have here in Connecticut, um, with maybe some community colleges that have these partnerships with high schools to fulfill an associate’s degree early. Um, But that’s not the case everywhere. Um, and so you definitely want to do that research.

Absolutely. Um, another good question. How do awards such as the Girl Scout Awards or the Girl Scout Gold Award factor into applications or pre med applications? Great question. And so with the Girl Scout Gold Award, there’s kind of two parts to this. First of all, you’re a Girl Scout, so you have that in your extracurricular basis.

Um, And that sort of considered alongside your community service work. Um, it’s a positive part of your application review for sure. Um, the 2nd, part of that is the award itself. So, when you apply to colleges, there will be an awards and honor section, particularly on the common app, where you have a limited amount of space to a number of spaces.

Uh, areas to describe up to five honors and awards. And so that’s something you can include certainly in that section. Um, as a highlight as a positive attribute from your background. And for those of you in the room who. Maybe you aren’t considering awards and honors on your application yet, start really thinking about what you want to include there.

Um, because I think that’s one of the harder sections to fill out. Absolutely. Um, so these are two questions regarding language. Um, one is asking if AP Spanish Lit is a useful class for applying to schools. And the second question is kind of if you’ve only had two to three years of Spanish, but there are no other…

Languages offered at your high school will that affect the application in any way? Yeah, thank you for these. So AP Spanish Lit, great. Any AP course. Is going to be a positive, you know, um, part of your application, you granted hoping, you know, that you did get a good grade in that class. Um, it certainly is not going to be negative.

So I would encourage you to, um, consider all of your, your advanced courses positively in that way for those. So for reference, I took, I went to public high school. I took two to three years. I want to stay just right about where the question lies two or three years of Spanish. Not honors, not AP. Um, that was a requirement for my high school, but I didn’t have those options available to me.

I didn’t have advanced options available to me, and that was sufficient. You do not, um, need more than what your high school offers and, uh, and requires of you to get into a good college. Um, once you get to college, if you have taken AP Spanish, for example, and got maybe a five on the exam, You might be able to take a placement exam to place out of your language requirement for college, which is a great, um, step forward, right, in your educational career, not a requirement, just a plus, um, and not all colleges will allow you to do that, but that’s also why some students do take more or advanced Spanish classes in high school so they can Send move forward more quickly in their Spanish or their language requirement in college.

This will let you build right off of class choice. How will taking quote unquote easier classes when in high school affect admissions chances? Great question. Um, and again, this is about balance at the end of the day. I always encourage students to pursue academically rigorous coursework that is available to them right now.

You won’t have a ton of, um, options necessarily depending on where you are from. Some students might have too many choices, which is also a really big problem in terms of making decisions. I always encourage choosing academically rigorous courses when they’re available to you up to the point that you can be academically successful.

The moment you feel like taking that extra course is going to be to the detriment of your grades, your mental health, or your extracurriculars, you should not be taking that extra class. Um, and that’s really a personal choice at the end of the day, whether when the admissions officers receive your application, there’s usually kind of a screening process around the academic side of things for these top tier schools, um, where they’re looking for kind of like a minimum, um, academic profile from a student.

Every institution is different in terms of the screening process. Um, but you want to make sure that you academically perform successfully so that You can get in front of an admissions officer for that first read, um, and taking that approach where you’re taking academically rigorous coursework, but not so much that your GPA suffers is going to help you in that process.

Absolutely. This is a bit of a plan in advance question, but I like plan in advance. Um, what year during your undergrad do you think it’s best to study for and take the MCAT? Ooh, that is a really good question. And I think people have varying answers on that. Um, I, this might be controversial, but I would advise starting studying from day one.

Um, this is because

Um, practice practice practice is the number one difference in your ultimate test score. So I think, you know, sophomore year is probably the best time to start if you don’t start freshman year, but it’s never too early to start good study habits and to kind of develop a schedule around that. Um, and then you’re going to want to take the MCAT rate well in advance of.

season. Um, and so typically that would be junior year of college. Um, but you also want to give yourself time to, uh, take it maybe multiple times if you need to. So consider that in your timing as well. We’re gonna stick right with the testing theme. And I really like the way this question is It’s worded.

So I’m just going to read it exactly as it is. Do SAT and ACT scores really matter? Yeah. Um, so it’s one component of the application. Most admissions officers and admissions committees have holistic application review processes now. And by holistic, I mean all parts of the application are considered, um, in the application review process.

And the test score is only one part of that review. So, um, what I will say is there’s a lot of schools that are still test optional, which is what I think this question is really getting at. And, um, what I typically advise students to do is if the school is requiring a test, um, even if you can go test optional for that school, take the test.

Um, study, study, study, take the test a few times if you need to, see where your score falls. Also, take both the ACT and SAT. Don’t just settle on one. Take a practice at least for both to see which one feels right for you and which one you’re scoring better on. And then choose which test you’re going to lean toward for your formal test.

And then based on the results that you’re seeing and your school list, if you’re seeing that these schools on average, you know, the 50th percentile of their applicants have, you know, at or below what your score was, that’s probably a good indicator that you should submit your test scores because your applicant, your profile, your academic profile with that test score is similar to the average student who got into the school that last year.

If you’re scoring less than their average. You might want to consider going test optional. And so it is a component because it is being reviewed, but you want to think strategically about it. Great. Well, that is going to wrap us up for the evening. Um, so that is the end of the webinar. We had a really great time telling you about standing out as pre med applicants.

Everyone, please thank Stacey for battling through her cold recovery to give us that amazing information. Thank you. Um, we will be hosting additional webinars in September. So feel free to stay tuned, um, and join us for all of these really interesting topics. Um, especially, you know, if you’re interested in standing out as an MBA applicant or standing out, starting early to make a standout application, um, check those out and we look forward to seeing you next time.

Thanks, Joe. Thank you, everyone.