Advice from recent grads on the application process:
"Get started early on those essays, and get them in early. Once your secondary apps are in, call admissions offices regularly (monthly), to check your status, make sure you have not missed any communications. I nearly missed an interview that didn't get through my email!"
"In interviews, don't be fake. Interviewers are looking for people who are earnest, passionate, and thoughtful. Pause, reflect, and respond truthfully. Even if they don't agree with your opinion, they'll appreciate your attempt to understand and respond effectively to the situation - you don't always have to have the right answers, but you have to be able to make educated, considerate decisions and accept responsibility for them."
"I would simply suggest they ask any and all questions that they have, and to trust the advice that they are given. You suggested that I take a gap year, I don't know if you remember, and I should have. I also did not realize that I could submit for verification while waiting on my letters of recommendation, and that slowed the process tremendously. An application that is underwhelming and late doesn't do any favors.'
"Be yourself. I never realized how true this advice really was until I met my classmates. They are all so different and have so many different experiences, talents, and personalities that they bring to the table. Most schools are looking to build a diverse class, so do not try to ‘play the game’ and present yourself as someone they might want. You just can’t know who they are looking for or what they see in you, so be yourself!'
"Start everything earlier. I especially recommend making a strong effort to work on the personal essay every week. Getting the personal essay done can become the largest hurdle to finishing the application when it first opens, which likely increases your chances of getting interviews later on. Trying to finish the personal essay at the last minute will compress your thoughts, personality, and outlook into just who you are in those few days, which isn’t going to read well. (Who you are in those few days will probably be more stressed and anxious than usual). In addition, depending on what stage someone is at, it’s sometimes highly important to check the requirements for schools you know you want to go to. For example, a chemistry major may not normally take cell biology, which was a requirement for Duke. I would also greatly recommend finding a means of seeing medical practice in person, not only to talk about in your application, but also to gauge your interest in the field itself. It’s a win-win, and I think it's very important throughout the application process. Knowing that medicine is right for you will give you a great deal of confidence and motivation."
"Be honest with yourself about what schools you want to go to. You may not want to apply to 20 schools, and you may not want to go to all 20 as well. Applying to a school is an investment. Make good investments. Each school represents time, possible travel, and secondaries you will have to answer just as quickly as your primary to increase your chances of getting an interview from them. In general, remember what is important to you as you apply, so that you can better express why you want to go somewhere. For example, you may really like their MD/MPH program, their clinical experiences in third year, and so on. When you have good reasons, you will be more motivated to write essays, go to interviews, and manage your applications in general. I think it is still a good idea to apply broadly, and perhaps liberally, just for the practical reason of having more chances to get into medical school. But make sure you can manage it."
"Timing is important. Medical school admissions are rolling, so you really benefit from getting your AMCAS application in the first week it opens. The later you turn in your AMCAS, the longer it takes for them to process it, so waiting a few weeks could mean that your application processing and your interview date are months later."
"I would also say that, while there can seem like there's lot of pressure in this process to present yourself a certain way, schools really do want to know who you are in the interviews. So take a deep breath, and try and have a good conversation. They're looking for a good fit - and you should be looking for a good fit with the schools."
"Make your summer's count (especially if you want to go straight into medical school after graduating). Do research, shadow, or volunteer. Volunteering for the "United Way" or other nonprofit organization is great because they are in such need of help that you get to do a lot (I even translated for a patient while volunteering there)."
"Don't stress out about interviews. Be prepared but know that they're not out to get you, they're just trying to get a feel for what you are like as a person. Also, get your stuff in as soon as possible.
"I would encourage students to apply as early as possible. Make sure students realize how many secondary essays they would have to write before they apply to them through AMCAS."