»

Why Generic Advice is Hurting Your Chances of Med School

Welcome to the M Prep Portal!

Even if you’re just getting started in your premed adventure, the following advice is probably already all too familiar:

  • do research,
  • volunteer,
  • start writing your personal statement early,
  • edit your personal statement,
  • ask for recommendations from people who know you well,
  • start studying for the MCAT at age 3.

We can probably agree this advice is next to useless.  Of course you’re going to do all these things to maximize your chances of med school – everybody knows to do them!

If everybody knows to do it, and the people getting into med school are doing it, how is the advice hurting me?

Reason #1: Nobody tells you how to do it.

It’s easy to tell somebody to volunteer, do research, write a good personal statement, and get good rec letters.  It’s easy to tell people that their personal statement needs to be introspective, that they should start early and have friends/family edit.  But when it comes down to actually doing these things, generic pieces of advice don’t give you a real action plan to bring you any closer to your goal.  Specificity has the advantage of giving you

  1. precise, measurable outcomes (results) to achieve
  2. an action plan for how to get those results
  3. a mechanism for getting feedback on how you’re doing
  4. alternative tactics where necessary.

Reason #2: Because everybody else is listening to it.

Everybody else reads the same blogs and talks to the same people who give similar generic advice.  Which means that other premeds are also bombarding profs with emails to volunteer in their lab, joining every healthcare-related club, and writing their personal statement about how they’ve wanted to be a doctor ever since they were a child.

The only way for these stereotypical strategies to work for you is if your story is somehow much more compelling than everybody else’s (i.e. you just happen to be in the top 5% of the people with that story).  But the fact is that you do not have to be Mother Theresa to stand out.

The Specificity of Advice: A Case Study

A few years ago, one of our students (we’ll call him Jeff) found himself in need of letters of recommendation.  Jeff took the basic pre-medical advice he knew and went around to his science class faculty to try to make connections.  He tried his orgo and his physics II professor.  But these faculty were busy, teaching classes of hundreds of students.  They wouldn’t be able to provide true mentorship for Jeff and definitely nothing more than a generic rec letter.

We discussed Jeff’s undergraduate experience to try to figure something out.  It turned out that one of his favorite courses was an anthropology course taken as a sophomore.  Jeff had a great relationship with his GSI (graduate student instructor) and aced the class.  Traditional pre-med advice suggests that you find professors to write your letters of recommendation, but we recommended that Jeff reach out to his GSI.  He received an excellent letter which was signed off by the professor of the anthropology course.  Now in his 2nd year of med school, we’re sure that Jeff doesn’t regret his decision to use a GSI to write his recommendation.

The Bottom Line

This is one of countless examples where the traditional pre-med advice can prevent you from success because it’s inflexible to your unique situation.  The bottom line is don’t settle for generic pre-med advice – it’s simply not useful and can hurt in the long run.  Stay tuned to the M Prep Portal for pre-med advice that’s up-front, honest, and practical!

Permanent link to this article: http://portal.mcatquestion.com/why-generic-advice-is-hurting-your-chances-of-med-school/

2 comments

  1. Vidya Lala

    That is very insightful, so I thank you for this tremendous advice; however, apart from the Case Study, it would be superb if you had provided the clear, specific advice, which you say the generic statements lack.

  2. M Prep Team

    Thanks for your comment, Vidya. You’re right; this post is really an intro, so we didn’t want to expand into every topic here. As we go deeper into specific topics, we’ll provide that specific advice where it applies. In our series on writing the Personal Statement, we’ll be collecting submissions and giving very specific feedback and examples! You can also Share Your Story for specific feedback and discussion on different premed backgrounds and situations.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>


× 6 = 36

 
About | Contact | About the MCAT | Disclaimer | My Account

Lee Simonov Services © 2012