Professional schools are looking for people who show excellent intellectual abilities and, in addition, fine personal attributes. Their assessment of your personal characteristics relies on a combination of letters of recommendation, your personal essay or autobiographical sketch, your interview (all of which will be discussed later) and your activities outside of class.
Health care professionals must be able to interact effectively with all types of people; they must show responsibility, integrity, good judgment, social maturity and leadership. Do the things you engage in outside of class require that you have these qualities? Can you think of other things you could be doing to develop these characteristics? Professional schools are becoming more responsive to national social issues and problems in health care delivery. They are interested in individuals whose personal goals are compatible with the needs of society. If this describes your personal goals, are you committed enough to those goals to be doing something to meet the needs of society? Because of the demanding nature of a health care profession, one of the most important personal qualities most schools look for is motivation. In addition, they expect you to have an understanding of the profession, both theoretical and practical.
In order to develop a realistic appraisal of what the profession entails, we suggest that you get work experience, either volunteer or salaried, that gives you exposure to varied aspects of health care, especially with patient contact. There is no better way to learn about the physical and emotional demands of the profession.Also, since medicine is based on scientific research, an understanding of research methods obtained by experience in a research lab is seen as valuable in medical school. Extensive research experience is a necessity if you are considering a combined M.D./Ph.D. program. All of your activities outside of academic work will be judged for the qualities each school thinks are most significant. It is important to realize that extracurricular activities, although a necessary component of your application, do not substitute for a good academic performance.