People always ask me, "How did you get into Mayo????" "What's the key to applying?" "How can my kid do what you did to get in??"
The answer is simple. I have no idea.
You cannot follow a complex formula or pathway and magically land a spot in the med school of your dreams. You cannot get great grades, live a hermit life, and get in at all schools. You can't have stellar extracurriculars, fail your classes, and expect to get in at all schools. That being said, it's a happy medium.
There is no physical way you can get a 4.0 and be in a million extracurriculars. You will get burnt out. You will regret it.
Advice #1: Pick a few select Extracurricular activities that you are A) Passionate about. B) Can tolerate (ok more than tolerate) and ENJOY spending time at.
Do not pick 10 things to do. Pick 3, or 4. or 2. Pick things you're passionate about because you will be good at them or at least have the drive to become better.
On the application (AMCAS) you can write about 15 activities. You don't necessarily need to use all 15. These spots are also for things like honors and awards, jobs, committee and organizational memberships, etc.
My activities included (but are not limited to) Student Teachers Empowering Peers - a domestic violence and sexual assault education group at Hope College, Research in Dr. Fraley's lab, being a long term volunteer at the Boys & Girls Club, which I found sophomore year after doing a field placement there, being an intern at the Traverse Health Clinic - a free clinic in Traverse City, MI - and then various jobs and other minute activities that I did around campus to fill up my busy schedule - like my SORORITY. where I was the Vice President, President, Public Relations Officer, Greek Orientation Assistant and Leader, etc.
Pick a few activities and do them well. Not a million and do them sparsely.
Advice #2: Do not live a hermit life just to get good grades. Yes Good grades are important for med school, but they do not define you, and getting a B will not kill you. As long as you're not getting straight B's, you will be fine.
Advice #3: Pick a major you ENJOY and are PASSIONATE ABOUT. Don't pick chemistry because you think it will be the best bet to get you in. Likewise, don't pick history because you think they like alternative education routes. Pick what you want, and be able to back it up with your interests and activities that go along with that major. I picked Biochemistry & Molecular Biology by circling all the interesting courses in my registrar's course handbook and building a major out of those courses. That being said, I also added some extra courses - I had an almost math minor, and almost neuroscience minor, and an almost psychology minor. (1 class away for each minor). Minors don't matter. But the courses you take and how you enjoy and relate to them, DO.
Advice #4: Find your purpose in life. No, not completely, not fully, not unchangeably. Look at your activities that you are passionate about and ask yourself--why am I passionate about these? What are these actually doing for me and those around me? For me, all of my activities had a common goal: being an Active Patient Advocate. I want to inform and treat those who do not have all the necessary resources, whether that be financial, educational, emotional, etc. People need help in all forms, not just money, but understanding their diagnosis, understanding how their treatment plan can be integrated into their life, how can they pay for it, and how they can live the healthiest life the most easily.
Advice #5: Tell your story well. Your purpose statement is the key to you. Yes, they will see your activities and how you feel your activities made you a well-rounded person, but without the narrative of your life, without showing them the common thread that you weave throughout your activities and how this relates to your ultimate mission in life, you have nothing. You need to reel them into your personal story and background, show them examples about how you're already living your purpose, and show how medicine will only improve the way you are living out that purpose.
Advice #6: Be able to answer the question: Why Medicine???? Everyone will ask you. Everyone will have a different answer they want to hear. But when describing why I want to go into medicine and describing being an active patient advocate, people ask me why I shouldn't just be a social worker....Why I shouldn't just be an educational patient assistant. How does being a physician make your purpose even stronger?
How did I get into Mayo Medical School? I don't know for sure. But I'm guessing that 1) I had a real story. And I have a real passion for all that I do, and that came through in my application and my interview. 2) I had a rocking interview day (mostly because of my awesome interviewers) and I was completely myself and completely honest and real about everything I have been through and experienced. 3) I knew myself, my activities and my application well and I could fully articulate my goals, my dreams, my ambitions, and how I have worked hard to get to them. 4) THE BIGGEST REASON: My mission, and the mission of Mayo align. Any schools you apply to should be schools who have missions that compel you to be a part of their organization. You should read their mission statement and jump off the table in excitement that THIS is the place you can be passionate and continue your education. If you aren't jumping ...maybe not right for you. I applied to a few schools that I wasn't QUITE jumping for, and guess what, no interview, no consideration. We just weren't a good match for each other. Boo hoo. It happens.
Ultimately: Be yourself. Embrace your passions. Don't get caught up in the mind games of the admissions process. If it feels right, it probably is. If it feels wrong, it probably is. Don't give them what they want to hear. Give them what you want to share. If they are right for you, it'll all work out.
Questions? Email me at email@example.com. Or comment below and include your contact information.
Most importantly, share this post with individuals who need it! Pre-meds love information. And this comprehensive list of what I have learned through the admissions process definitely can't hurt.
M3 at Mayo Clinic School of Medicine