A medical admissions officer spoke Wednesday afternoon to a group of pre-med students about the secrets of getting ahead when applying to medical school. While he said MCAT scores and GPAs are a big factor in getting an interview, what matters most are the essays.
Dr. David Jones is the Associate Dean of Admissions at University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio. Jones has a background in Anesthesiology and Pharmacology from the University of Texas. Since receiving his medical degree, he has been teaching, as well as been involved with medical school admissions for over 20 years.
Essay Content is Key
Jones says there are three essential parts that an applicant should address in his or her essay. First, an applicant should prove that they are a leader and have taken on great responsibility roles in college. The more responsibility one takes one, the more impressive one’s application will appear.
“Why are we so focused on responsibility? Because physicians take responsibility day in and day out,” Jones said.
Another important part of the ideal essay includes an indication that the applicant is involved in community service. Doctors serve the community on a daily basis, so the earlier a student shows their passion in improving their community, the better they appear to a school, Jones said.
Jones’ final point about the essay is it’s the applicant’s chance to say why they want to be a doctor. The most important objective that a pre-med student shouldn’t lose sight of is why they are applying to medical school, according to Jones. He says without passion, a student can’t survive medical school.
“Medical school is an emotional and physical challenge,” Jones said. “You will never experience self doubt like you will in medical school.”
Student’s backgrounds can help their chances
Jones said the admissions committee examines each student’s background to better understand his or her academic career. Medical schools trace every applicant back to their high school. This method allows the schools to see that students from harder backgrounds have performed well in college and would be able to handle medical school, despite a lack of opportunity.
The examination of backgrounds gives students a better chance, as the committee will better understand what makes each applicant the way they are, according to Jones.
Jones also wanted the future applicants to not be discouraged by bad grades or a rough academic semester. He assured students that a bad semester isn’t as terrible as it might seem.
“It’s not the bad semester we look at,” Jones said. “It is if you can bounce back. If you can bounce back, it shows you know how to take on a challenge. That is medical school.”
Students find comfort in speech
While Jones mainly addressed applying to medical school, some students took away other messages in his lecture. Freshman Katie Bieterman wasn’t sure if medicine was the right path for her; however, she said she learned from Jones’ lecture how to test the medical school waters before diving in.
“I’m trying to decide if I want to be a doctor and see what I should try to see if I want to pursue a medical degree,” Bieterman said. “Now I know it would be helpful to have clinical experience before making a [career] decision.”
Other students who already knew medical school is in their future said the lecture helped to keep them on track.
“[Jones] was informative and gave me insight into where I should and what I should look into these next few years. It helps me keep my goals high,” sophomore Sarah Suki said. “The process is stressful, a lot of work, but as long as there is commitment and passion, the time and work will be worth it, hopefully.”
Ultimately, a lot of students viewed the Jones’ insight to be invaluable.
“It was nice to get a perspective from inside the field. A perspective you don’t get elsewhere,” Junior Luke Apisa said. “That firsthand perspective of someone inside the field and can say very explicitly what they are doing is so useful.”