Pre-health students should be aware that high grades in science classes and strong admissions test scores alone are no guarantee of admission. In recent years, emphasis has been placed on the total education of healthcare practitioners; therefore, student accomplishments out of the classroom are closely scrutinized as well. Admissions committees make judgments about an applicant’s character, knowledge of health care, and the depth of his or her commitment to a career serving others. They look for evidence that an applicant has gained some familiarity with the profession as a result of employment or volunteer work in a hospital, clinic or physician’s office. Many medical schools look for evidence of students’ exposure to a wide range of people, especially people unlike themselves. Dental schools require a minimum of 80 – 100 hours of shadowing experiences with a minimum of five different dentists.
Some medical schools essentially require a research experience for all of their applicants, regardless of whether the applicant intends to pursue a combined MD/PhD program. All schools view past research experience as a reflection of a student’s desire to explore a larger scientific issues, a test of time-management skills, and a means of honing problem-solving skills. Research mentors often serve as good resources for letters of recommendation during the application process. For more information about the numerous research opportunities available at MU, see undergradresearch.missouri.edu.
Committees also like to see a record of active participation, and especially leadership, in campus or community groups. A demonstrated history of service and a broad understanding of the human condition are also screening points in the selection process. However, committee members recognize that some individuals may have been limited in their ability to participate in such activities because they have been forced to pursue part-time employment to finance their education. These applicants should not conclude that they would necessarily be at a disadvantage. A strong letter of recommendation from an employer attesting to the reliability and maturity of the applicant is likely to prove valuable.
To summarize, in addition to a review of course work, medical schools look for evidence of a student’s:
- Level of maturity
- Involvement in community/service activities
- Experience in healthcare settings
- Awareness of issues in healthcare delivery and medical ethics
- Human compassion and sensitivity along with evidence of activities reflecting these
- Ability to think logically and solve problems