By: Jimmie Lewis, MS-1
Jimmie Lewis is a first-year podiatric medical student at Barry University School of Podiatric Medicine. He is also currently a mentor for PrePodiatryLife/Hallux Magazine. He can also be followed at his personal blog at jlewispodiatry.com.
Applying to medical school can be very difficult if you do not have a great academic advisor or a mentor who has already gone through the process. You also need to do a lot of research on your own about different ways to become a doctor if your advisors aren’t excellent. In today’s post, I will break down two common routes for pre-medicine undergraduate students: going straight through, which is the conventional route, or taking a year off, which is considered a gap year. There is at least one year of registration, so remember that. If you want to start medical school right after college, then applications must be submitted during your junior year. Then again, if you plan to take a gap year, the application must be submitted during senior year. I applied in December of 2019. The process is very straight forward if you have your letter of recommendations, grades, leadership activities, shadowing hours, and MCAT completed. Podiatry schools do not have secondary applications therefore it makes the process easier too.
In today’s post, I will break down two common routes for pre-medicine undergraduate students: going straight through, which is the conventional route, or taking a year off, which is considered a gap year.
Straight through Traditional Route
1st Year – Freshmen Year
- Focus on academics: This is the time to establish strong study skills and habits that will enable you to excel in upper-level courses. #ACADEMICS
- Start shadowing: Get into the clinic or the hospital and begin to shadow MDs or DPMs or DOs. Use this opportunity to become SURE that MD/DO/DPM is the career for you. Check out other health careers as well (RN, NP, PA, OT, PT, RDN, etc.). Medical schools want to know that you have a clear idea of the career you’re getting into, start gaining this understanding early and often.
- Choose activities wisely: Medical schools want to see that you care about people. Get involved in organizations and activities that get you out into the community. It doesn’t have to be a health-specific activity, just something that shows a drive to help others. Start an activity now and carry it through the next four years. #SHOWYOUCARE
- Meet with a pre-health advisor in the spring semester: Even if this person is not your major advisor, it’s good to establish a connection with someone who will help guide your academic and extracurricular decisions as you aim for medical school. You should routinely evaluate your academics and activities, and an advisor helps you think realistically and objectively before making big decisions. #PREHEALTHADVICE
- Consider study abroad opportunities: Pre-med students can fit in a study abroad with careful planning and guidance from their advisors. I studied abroad four times, and medical school interviewers love asking about each opportunity. #EXPERIENCETHEWORLD
- Apply for internships: I have attached a list of great medical internships around the United States. https://fellowships.vassar.edu/pdfs/summer_internships_progs.pdf
2nd Year – Sophomore Year
- Stay focused academically: You will encounter tough courses this year, so draw upon the skills you developed as a freshman and learn new ways to study as you move into upper-level classes—#PREMEDSTUDY
- Keep up with shadowing… and more?: You should continue to periodically shadow MDs, DPMs or DOs to demonstrate a sustained interest in the field AND to observe different subspecialties. Clinical experience as a part-time job is also great. Consider completing training as an EMT, a phlebotomist, or certified nursing assistant to work during summers/vacations in one of these areas. #MORESHADOWING
- Keep up with extracurriculars: Be sure to take some time for the people-focused activities you started last year. #CONTINUEDCARE
- Consider research: An increasing number of students who get accepted to medical school have research experience. This doesn’t necessarily have to be research in biology or chemistry, but can also include projects in psychology and sociology. Talk to a professor whose course you liked or approach faculty whose projects sound interesting to you (read up on the department websites!) to find out what opportunities might be available to you—#ASKQUESTIONS
- Meet with your pre-health advisor again in the spring: Be sure you’re still #ONPREMEDTRACK
- Use your summer: This is a great time to do more shadowing or work/volunteer within the healthcare environment or get another pre-med internship. Even if you have another non-health related job, reserve some time to work on the clinical experience portion of your #PREMEDPREP.
3rd year- Junior year
- Academics, shadowing, extracurriculars: You get it by now, maintain your #PREMEDFOCUS.
- Study for the MCAT: You should begin studying during the fall. Regardless, start now. #MCATPREP
- Take the MCAT in April or May: You will not receive your MCAT score until one month after you’ve taken the test, so choosing the exam earlier will enable you to submit your application earlier. If you take your MCAT during this cycle, due to the Coronavirus…. scores will be released in two weeks. #MCATDONE
- Start filling out the AMCAS (MD) or AACOMAS (DO) or AACPMAS (DPM) application as soon as it opens in May: There are multiple parts of the application, and you want to make sure each is complete, accurate, and grammatically correct. So, begin to work on this in chunks, taking time to proofread as you complete each portion. After you submit your application to AMCAS, AACPMAS, or AACOMAS, TMDSAS it takes at least 4 weeks for them to verify it before it can be distributed to schools. The earlier you complete the application, the earlier it can get to prospective schools. #MEDSCHOOLAPP
- Submit your application as soon as possible in the summer: Some medical schools start printing and evaluating applications in July. As time passes, medical schools fill more and more slots, so get your application in the mix while the odds are most stacked in your favor. If the application deadline is October 1, for example, don’t take your time in getting your application in, the medical school has probably already filled the majority of its slots by the official deadline. Schools send out secondary applications two weeks after your application is complete. If you submit by June, you can start your secondary application essays before the semester begins. #SUMMERSUBMISSION
4th Year – Senior Year
- Don’t slow down before reaching the finish line: Continue to challenge yourself academically and don’t ease up on your dedication to courses. #LIMITSENIORITIS
- Stick to the plan that’s gotten you here: Don’t give up your people-focused community activities. Taking time to help others helps to keep your life in perspective. #MAKEADIFFERENCE
- Finish your secondary applications: Research the schools you’ve applied to and make your responses as genuine and specific as possible. Why is that school your number one choice?
- Go to interviews: Research the schools at which you will be interviewing. Become familiar with their curriculum and the unique aspects of their program. Have specific questions to ask if given the opportunity. Review your application and practice interview questions and keep up with current topics/controversies/issues in the field of medicine. #MEDSCHOOOPTIONS
□ Send thank you cards to letter writers
□ Finalize your decision
□ Submit FAFSA
*Medical school starts in August/September the following year
Gap Year Route:
- You will do everything the same as a traditional medical student, however; you have the option to take the MCAT during your junior year, senior year, or GAP year since you have more time to apply with an additional year(s).
- Gap year – After graduation: Please get a job in the medical field, study and increase your MCAT score, and continuing shadowing because medicals schools like to see what you have done in that (those) year(s) out of school.
This information is also avaliable on my blog page at jlewispodiatry.com if you would like more information as a pre-med student.
By Jimmie Lewis, MS-1
School: Barry University School of Podiatric Medicine
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