You’re applying to medical school after years of hard work and determination, but what version of “you” do you put forth? Medical school admissions committees are looking for certain qualities in a prospective student — some expected, and some surprising. Here are six characteristics that medical schools typically look for in an ideal candidate: 

  1. Grit/determination

Medical school is grueling. There is no doubt about it. Admissions officers want the students they select to succeed in the classroom and become a doctor. They want to know that a prospective student has what it takes to make it through all four years of school only to go on to a residency and even possibly training beyond that. Medical schools actually invest their time and resources into your training, so they want to know you’re a good investment and that you’ll work hard to succeed. 

  1. Passion

The willingness and passion to dedicate your life to the practice of medicine is paramount to success as a medical student and physician. As previously mentioned, the undertaking of training a doctor is strenuous and expensive. Medical schools want to know that admitted students are dedicated to spending their lives in the profession and that they’re bringing passion and excitement along on their training to get there.  

  1. Empathy

Empathy is “the ability to understand and share the feelings of another.” Empathy is important for a number of practical reasons in medicine, but especially because of the effect an empathetic doctor has on a patient. A medical school applicant with empathy has the tools to become a doctor who can alleviate patient anxiety and build trust, and admissions committees see that.  

  1. Excellent Communication

Medical schools want you, as a candidate, to be able to express yourself clearly. Not only should you be able to communicate verbally and in writing, but you should never discount the importance of being able to listen effectively and be able to communicate nonverbally as well. These additional considerations when it comes to communication skills are prized by admissions committees.  

  1. Social and Cultural Responsibility

Social Responsibility is a major part of medical education today. Catherine Thomasson, MD, writes in the AMA Journal of Ethics that, “advocacy skills, however, need to be taught. Being an advocate requires that an individual believes he or she can effect change, is motivated to do so, and is able to envision what improvements are needed and how they can be instituted.” These advocacy skills used on behalf of an applicant’s community can and should be honed before applying to medical school through community service activities and other actions. A medical school candidate attuned to societal issues related to health care is one that shows promise.  

  1. Humility

You may have heard that doctors frequently suffer from a “God Complex” or, in other words, the polar opposite of humility. On the contrary, medical students and doctors should always have the realization that medicine is a complex, imperfect practice. They should be trained to be aware of the limitations of the current body of medical knowledge and, more importantly, be willing to learn throughout their careers. Due to this, the ability to be humble is a prime qualification for admission to medical school. 

How does your application allow these qualities to shine? 

Your medical school application as a whole represents your body of work throughout your entire school career. Most medical school applicants are laser-focused on getting the perfect GPA or that killer MCAT score. Applicants want to be able to list the most prestigious leadership roles and extracurriculars. These are all great ways to show a medical school the applicant’s ability to buckle down, or to retain information. However, the place to really show medical schools that you have the qualities they’re looking for is in your personal statement. An effective personal statement is where an applicant can make the connection from his or her experiences outside of the classroom to the building blocks of a good medical student and future doctor. Instead, many students waste the personal statement by simply restating their resumes. Fine-tuning your personal statement can surprisingly be one of the most challenging steps in the entire admissions process, so let us help make your personal statement show medical schools exactly why you belong there. Learn more about our services and what we can do for you here.