By: Alessandra Santiago
With fewer than 3% of all applicants accepted in most of the nation’s top-tier medical schools, the competitiveness of the pool of medical school applicants cannot be understated. Compare the number of applications during the 2017-2018 cycle to the number of matriculations, and you see just how competitive the process can be: the Association of American Medical Colleges reported receiving 51,680 applications, while a mere 21,388 students—40% of applicants—matriculated into U.S. programs in 2017.
To beat these odds, the typical advice dispensed by Admissions Boards across the United States to enterprising pre-med students often boils down to this: be the strongest possible applicant you can be in advance of the application cycle.
These same aspiring applicants know what this advice actually means: scoring well on high-pressure standardized tests; maintaining a competitively high GPA throughout (and after) the undergraduate years; and navigating the overwhelming waters of extracurricular activities, research experience, required and recommended coursework, and volunteer experience.
It is unsurprising, then, that this boilerplate advice can feel unsatisfyingly vague and unpointed.
So, let us unpack this advice for you, prospective applicant. In our “Med School Tips and Tricks” article series, we will walk you through the ins and outs of the pre-application period, providing curated advice at every step for every type of applicant—from pre-med undergrads to non-traditional career-changers—straight from the Admissions Board at CU Denver.
How to Be a Strong Applicant?
To begin, we’ll provide our working definition of “being a strong applicant”. According to CU Denver Senior Admissions Professional Karina Goodwin, your strength as an applicant rests on three attributes: the ability to demonstrate your academic soundness as an applicant, showing how you apply your learning in and out of the classroom, and having informative experiences in patient care.
“We’re looking for people who can apply what they’ve been learning in the classroom to outside experiences, whether that be research, or clinical experience, or diversity and inclusion [experiences], or any way that they can get a patient perspective,” said Director Goodwin.