Tip #1: Get a Mentor (or Two or Three)
You need a person in your life who can boost your ego when you’re feeling dejected or terrified, because the application process can be terrifying. Coming from a mentor, this kind of reassurance actually means something—they have actually done it and they know you can, too. This means a lot more than your friends and family saying, over and over, “Of course you’ll get in—you have a 3.9 GPA!” (And you’re thinking: So does literally every other applicant...)
The best mentors are people who love teaching, have time to answer questions, are frank, and who live and act in the way that you want to live and act. Your mentor doesn’t have to be a doctor, but shadowing is a great way to find a mentor.
Almost 2 years ago, I began shadowing a doctor who quickly became my mentor. At first, he taught me about medicine itself; he let me look at his patients’ ears, noses, and throats, listen to their hearts and lungs, perform diabetic foot exams, assist on Pap smears, and ask as many questions as I wanted. Over time, he taught me more and more about communicating with patients, staff, and other physicians, managing stress, and a personal life. He also began asking me for help: to give patients directions or begin taking their histories, to write blogs for his website, etc.
As our relationship developed, I felt more comfortable sharing personal information and asking for advice. I would ask whether I should wait an extra year to apply and he would say, “Absolutely not. You’re going to get in—why would you wait?” He boosted my confidence during the time period between submitting my application and getting invited to my first interview.
And I did get into medical school—he was right about everything. I credit him with a good portion of my success to date, because he was able to get through to me and turn off my worrying for at least a little while (long enough to get through an interview anyway).
So, if you have a mentor, make sure you really use him or her. If you don’t have one, start looking around for doctors or other people whom you admire.