Many hopeful physicians are aware of the most glaring errors that they can make on a medical school application. Common wisdom stipulates a thorough grammar and spelling check, as well as close attention when inputting class grades and MCAT scores. What some individuals do not realize, however, is that medical school applications can be adversely affected by other mistakes too. Here are three errors to avoid as you craft your medical school application:
1. Over-emphasizing your involvement in a specific activity
In an effort to demonstrate how committed and well rounded they are, some applicants misrepresent the effort or time that they allotted to an activity on their resume. For example, a research project that they were only tangentially involved in becomes a consistent 10-hour weekly commitment in order to suggest their research prowess. While it may seem harmless to enhance your resume in this way, remember that for every activity you list on AMCAS, you must also identify a supervising contact. If a medical school contacts your supervisor to verify your involvement in an activity you misrepresented, your chances of admission may be drastically reduced once the truth emerges. Avoid this issue by being honest about the extent of your extracurricular and work commitments, even if you believe your level of involvement is not sufficient to attract the attention of admissions committees.
2. Misrepresenting your interests to attract the attention of a certain program or type of school
Medical schools are interested in enrolling students who complement their specific mission and values, and many prospective physicians tailor their applications to demonstrate the characteristics that make them most suited to a particular program. While there is nothing wrong with highlighting why a certain school would be a great match for you, altering your stated interests so that they align with a school’s mission will not help your chances of admission. Even if that program selects you for an interview, your inability to expound upon, say, your purported passion for urban health initiatives (when you are truly more interested in other populations) will likely be noticed by your interviewer. This will emphasize the fact that you are not a great match for the school. Increase your chances of matriculating at a program that suits you and your interests by truthfully representing your passions on your application.
3. Failing to report institutional action or past legal convictions
It goes without saying that legal troubles or institutional action for campus infractions will not look great on an application to medical school. Programs seek responsible students with demonstrated maturity, and applicants with infractions that include citations for underage alcohol use, possession of illegal drugs, and so on will certainly have to address their shortcomings in their applications. If you have an undesirable past record, it may be tempting to answer questions about institutional action or legal convictions dishonestly. It should be obvious, however, that such infractions are not invisible in our digital age, and dishonesty on such questions can lead to not only a lack of interview offers, but also rescinded admissions. In situations that involve a past that you would rather forget, it is always best to acknowledge it on your application, explaining what happened and how you have changed since you made your mistake. Showing personal growth in the wake of your errors is always better than trying to cover up mistakes that will undoubtedly be uncovered during your application cycle.