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A quick primer on getting into medical school

So you wanna go to med school? That's a question we posed to the 150+ Bay Area high-school students who came to our annual Med School 101 event last Friday - and several dozen of them answered with a resounding "yes." They were the ones who chose to attend a 70-min. session focused on how to get into medical school, led by someone very much in the know Charles Prober, MD. (He's a senior associate dean for medical education and the one who oversees the admissions process here.) My colleague Laurel Moglen sat in on the session and reports on some of the nuggets of wisdom Prober offered these eager teens:

  • There are obvious choices for what to do in preparation for medical school (like volunteering in a hospital), but Prober offered two less-obvious ones, like traveling and keeping up with hobbies, such as sports, music, or art. Why are these important? Because, he said, they help broaden the mind, encourage teamwork, and deepen a person's appreciation of the world.
  • Getting into a top-tier medical school like Stanford (where this year about 7,000 people are expected to apply for 90 spots) isn't only about high test scores and perfect grades. Prober emphasized that Stanford looks for whole people: people who have a diversity of experience, who follow their passions, who think through problems, who love a spirited debate, who are passionate about providing top medical care, and who are devoted to a life of constant learning.
  • Stanford and numerous other medical schools have altered their medical student interview process in recent years: Instead of hour-long one-on-one sessions, prospective students undergo numerous eight-minute mini-interviews. The switch was made here, Prober explained, so the school can better rate applicants' way of communicating and guage their level of ethics. Studies done in Canada, he said, indicate that students who excel at these mini-interviews tend to be better medical practitioners. The take-away message? Strong communication skills are imperative for a doctor-to-be.
  • Anyone who's considering medical school should go because of a passion for medicine; no one should be motivated primarily by money. More importantly, Prober said, no one should go because they've been told to go. He said students should push back from those who pressure them to attend med school, because if students go for the wrong reasons (like trying to live up to others' expectations), they won't be good at the job and they won't be happy.

Previously: Discussing a new way to choose medical students, Teens interested in medicine encouraged to think beyond the obvious and High-school students get a taste of med school
Photo by Norbert von der Groeben

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