Applying to medical school is a long and challenging process, but it can also be an incredibly rewarding one. Here are a few pieces of advice that I wish I had known before I started my journey.
First, apply to many schools. The more schools you apply to, the better your chances of getting accepted. While there are few applicants who will be blessed with numerous acceptances, it is not rare for students to get into 1-2 schools after applying to 30+ schools.
Second, take advantage of gap year(s). Gap years can be useful in making you a stronger applicant. You can use that time to raise your GPA, enrich your research experiences, gain clinical experiences, or work at a startup. There are so many creative ways to diversify your experiences. The more you experience, the better doctor you will be.
Third, keep in touch with professors and mentors. You will most likely need a letter of recommendation from science and non-science professors as well as volunteer directors, employers, research PI, etc. Relationships cannot be built overnight. As you start your academic career, keep that in mind and establish strong relationships with your professors and mentors.
Fourth, educate yourself about finances. If you didn’t know already, applying to medical schools can be a very costly process, especially if you are applying to 30+ schools. Besides the fee for taking the MCAT, you have to pay for primary applications, secondary applications, Interfolio (letter of recommendation management software), in-person interview visits, transcripts, CASPER, and more. If you need help financing the costs, look and apply for various scholarships and fee-waiver programs in advance.
Finally, don't compare yourself to others. The medical school application process is complex, and everyone is going to have different results. Since the application process is holistic, it is hard to predict your outcome solely based on numbers. There are so many factors that go into it, many that are out of your control. It is definitely disappointing to fall short of your expectations. However, we have to accept that we all have our own journey and not compare ourselves to others because we never know the other person’s full story. Instead, be grateful for those who helped you be where you are today.