How do you stand out to medical schools? Tell your story. What was your seed and how was it watered? Listen for my top tips on crafting your story.
Listen to this podcast episode with the player above, or keep reading for the highlights and takeaway points.
[02:50] You Can Do This!
A lot of you are probably dealing with negative comments online, imposter syndrome, or discouraging advisors. You might have these insecurities and you’re comparing yourself to others. Or you’ve got unsupportive family members or friends who want you to go out Friday night when you have to study for the MCAT.
If you’ve struggled to figure out what to do as a premed, or you’ve been rejected from medical school before, that’s all completely normal. It’s your path. And that is a normal path.
How you tell your story and what you focus on in all of your day-to-day interactions will impact everything that you do moving forward.“If you're concerned you can't get into medical school, then put those fears to rest. You can do this. You just need the right roadmap.”Click To Tweet
[04:37] How to Stand Out
My third guest on Mission Accepted series on YouTube had a C in organic chemistry and she got into medical school with a C in organic chemistry.
And advisors will say that if you’ve ever failed a class or if you’ve gotten a C in organic chemistry, you can’t get into medical school. Well, they’re wrong.'You are much more than your stats. Your story behind everything that you've done really matters.'Click To Tweet
If you’ve had a premed advisor telling you that you need to start focusing on a plan B because of your grades or just as a general piece of advice for all of their students, I was told the same. They told me I shouldn’t even apply to medical school because I was a white male. I never went back to see that advisor again.
I really don’t like the idea of “how to stand out to medical schools.” What most of you think to stand out is to have lots of hours, shadowing, and clinical experience. It’s not that one rare clinical experience that nobody else has that’s going to make you stand out or that one mission trip that you took to Guatemala.“It's not the experiences that make you stand out. It's how you tell your story in a very compelling way that makes all the difference in the world.'Click To Tweet
[07:47] Your Story: The Key Part of Your Application'Your story is a key part of your medical school application.'Click To Tweet
Students with below-average stats can find success with a strong story. But not enough of you are actually focusing on this.
We are born to tell stories. When you go back to our caveman days, we started to have verbal communication. We told stories to pass down our culture, our history, and our legacy to all of our offspring. How we survived is through storytelling.
Stories are impactful in human communication. And it would only make sense that it’s impactful for medical school admissions as well.
[10:16] The Hero’s Journey
The hero’s journey is a very common storytelling template. And if you think of Luke Skywalker from Star Wars, or Neo from The Matrix, or any other character in a movie, they all follow a very similar journey. And that’s the hero’s journey. They’re called to an adventure. Neo wants to take a pill and figure out what is out there. Luke Skywalker is called to defeat Darth Vader. And they both go on this journey to do what they’re called to do. And along the way, they get to a point where they can’t go any further until they meet their mentor.
Luke Skywalker has Yoda or Obi-Wan. Neo has Morpheus. They find their mentor, and they go down this path of trying to accomplish what they’re supposed to do. And somewhere along the way, they’re challenged, or they’re tempted for something else. And something happens, and they’re close to defeat or close to death. They’re transformed in some way. They finally reach their pinnacle of who they’re supposed to be. And they go back and win. And then they’re called back into the adventure again, and then the sequel.“Everyone has to go through this journey of struggling and finding a mentor and getting help and finding out who they are.”Click To Tweet
[12:48] Focus on the Story
One of the biggest mistakes students make is they try to not be common. They focus so much on how to be different because they don’t want their story to be common. A lot of students try to focus on being the best, the best communicator, the most compassionate. And at the end of the day, that is cliche and very common.'When you focus on not being the best, and you focus on your story, then you are standing out and you are being unique.'Click To Tweet
Instead, talk about your story. Focus on you and your journey. Don’t think that it’s not good enough because it’s too common and it’s not going to stand out. Because that is not the goal of this application. As you’re going through this, make sure you’re focused on telling the story.
[14:34] Why Students With Higher Stats Get Rejected
In the premed world, people are always shocked when students with great stats don’t get accepted to medical school. More of the students are not getting into medical school because they’re leaning on the stats. And if those students don’t get into medical school, it’s terrifying you because you have lower stats potentially. And if they can’t get in what chance do you have?
But when I saw that these students were getting rejected, I would go and I’d look at their applications, and I would see what was missing – there was no story. They were leaning on their stats. They didn’t know why they wanted to be a physician, or if they knew why, they didn’t communicate it in their application. So it was missing. And when I, as a reviewer, can’t connect with someone, then I’m just going to move on to someone where I can connect with an applicant.
[16:43] Success Stories
The story is really important. I did an interview with Fernando back in Episode 285 of The Premed Years podcast who’s an immigrant to this country. He took 10 years to finish his undergrad years. He had average stats, but he interviewed at NYU, Mount Sinai, Brown, and more. He got multiple acceptances and close to a full ride to medical school. And that’s because of his story.
I had another student who I talked with on Episode 241 with Natalie. She was rejected to medical school twice, then she had six or seven interviews. And the cycle before, she came to do some mock interview prep with me. And on her third application cycle after doing mock interviews with me, she had the same amount of interviews. But instead of six waitlists, she had six acceptances all because she focused on the right story.
The first mock interview that we did together was horrible. She was focused on trying to be the best and trying to stand out based on what she’s done, instead of focusing on who she is. That’s the biggest difference.'Storytelling is incredibly powerful when applied to medical school admissions.'Click To Tweet
[18:08] Your Story is More Powerful Than Your Stats
Your story should also come out through your application. Don’t treat the application like it’s your place to start bragging about how compassionate you are, how good of a communicator you are, or how much you know about medicine.'Your story is more powerful than your numbers.'Click To Tweet
All of you can build a compelling and unique story in your application because all of you are individuals. You all come from different locations, different households, different parents, different school systems, and different classmates. And all of those differences make up the world around you.
And how you see it and how you process it are all different. Even if the title is the same, your experiences and how they impact you are different.
[18:28] Reflecting on Your Seed and Diving Deeper
I talk a lot about the seed of why you want to be a physician. And many students say their seed is when their mom got cancer. Then what happened? How did that affect you? Because lots of people’s moms get cancer. So why was your mom getting cancer so impactful for you that it led you down this path to wanting to be a physician? This is the kind of deep reflection and deep thinking you need to have.
Back in Episode 340 where I talked with Erica, she was a nontrad student with a 499 MCAT score. She was a military spouse, and she had a big list of activities, but she couldn’t really find the right story or the right impact. Then we worked on her personal statement.
And after she was accepted, the admissions committee members told her that she had a beautiful, captivating, well-written personal statement. Her story helped overcome those mediocre stats. Obviously, you have to have the stats. But that compelling story is really important.
Now, if you’re doing this because your parents want you to, and you don’t really want this, please email me at [email protected]. And we’ll figure out a way to get you out of that because I don’t want you to go through this process.
A lot of you don’t think it’s unique on the surface, but it is authentic, and it is real. And that is all that it needs to be. It doesn’t have to be unique. Your desire is unique to you. It’s authentic to you. The admissions committees will connect with your authenticity, and your realness when it comes to your personal statement and your activities. They will understand the deep desire to be a physician when you tell your story in the right way.'It's a mistake to think you can't find your compelling story. It exists. You just need to get it out.'Click To Tweet
[23:21] Talking About Your Seed
In my book, The Premed Playbook: Guide to the Medical School Personal Statement, I talk about two questions to ask yourself to get your story. What is your seed? And how did that seed get watered?
Most of you don’t have that aha moment. Most of you have a gradual progression towards wanting to be a physician through your seed and through how that seed gets watered. Maybe you’re coming from a healthcare field, maybe you’re a nontraditional student and you’re changing careers.
Now, if you said you like science and you want to help people, that is not your story. That’s just a cliche. But if your story is an injury that you had, and you can walk me through that story, and that thought process and what happened to you and why it was so impactful for you, then that is your story.
[27:39] How Your Seed Got Watered
This means talking about the experiences you’ve had since you decided you wanted to explore medicine.“What experiences have you had that have confirmed that this is why you want to do this?”Click To Tweet
For example, the seed is you have exposure to healthcare. And then the watering of the seed is you start to shadow or you start to get clinical experience. You start to put yourself around patients to confirm that this is what you want to do.
As you’re thinking about your journey, look at your activity list, and figure out which of those experiences were the most impactful for you. Choose the ones where you can really tell a story about what happened and how it impacted you, and how it motivated you and confirmed to you that this is what you want to do.
As you go through this journey, it’s also so important to journal everything that you’re doing. On Mappd, we have a whole activity section where you can keep journal entries on everything you’re doing. So that when it comes time to actually work on your application, which you’ll be able to do soon inside of Mappd, you’ll be able to lean on all of those diary entries and reflection essays to really focus on what was the most impactful for you.
[30:25] What If You Don’t Have Clinical Experience?'Students who struggle with their personal statement the most are the students who lack clinical experience.'Click To Tweet
I can’t stress it enough that you need to have clinical experience. And even with low stats, when you tell your story, well, you can get into medical school.
The stats just get your foot in the door, but it’s the story that really communicates who you are.
A couple of other students I want to highlight to really focus on the fact that stats aren’t everything includes Nneka who was on Episode 261. Nneka had a 2.7 GPA from Cornell. She had to take the MCAT three times and ended up needing to do a Master’s. Then she got kicked out of her masters. And after working on her story in her application, she got into medical school and she’s graduating this year.
Another way is to advocate for yourself. Try to reach out to schools, like Janet did who was on Episode 328. She had a 499 MCAT and no interview invites by October. She went to two premed conferences. At the second conference, she met with the right people and had two interview invites after that, and two acceptances, as well.
[34:46] Join the Application Academy'Medical schools don't want the perfect student. They want to see who you are.'Click To Tweet
Medical schools want interesting passionate people who understand why they want to be physicians. If you’re applying to medical school this year, check out ApplicationAcademy.com.
The Application Academy is a new group coaching program to help you tell your story in the whole application process.
We will be having office hours where you’ll have the opportunity to submit personal statements to be reviewed or parts of your personal statement to be reviewed. You can see me review other people’s personal statements and get an understanding of what makes a good personal statement good. And what makes a bad personal statement bad.
We’re going to talk about the application, how to write your activity descriptions, and how to make your school list. We talk about how to crush your secondary apps, how to ask for letters of recommendations, and what’s coming each month of the application cycle.
Email me at [email protected]
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