Dear Mentor:

Besides good grades, how do I prepare for medical school?

When applicants are being selected for Medical school, a part of the criteria for the selection process is non-academic criteria. What kinds of things are they looking for? Are there some things that you could suggest that I start doing now, several years before I apply?

Preparing for Med School, Nanaimo, British Columbia, Canada

Dear Preparing for Med School:

You are quite correct in pointing out that a part of the selection criteria for medical schools in Canada - and the US as well - is non-academic. The purpose of the non-academic elements is to ensure that the candidate brings - beyond outstanding academic credentials - attributes such as: a likable personality capable of interacting with others effectively, interests that are not one-dimensional in academics, the desire and motivation to help others, leadership, and so on.

One can engage in numerous extra-curricular activities to make oneself more attractive for medical school admission. Some of the activities include: on-going and active volunteer work; working in hospitals, whether required for studies or volunteer work, to gain exposure to the medical profession; active participation in a students association that has demonstrable impact; active, creative, and leadership contribution to other non-academic organizations, such as Big Brother/Big Sister, and tutoring the underprivileged children; and so on. These are just some examples; you get the idea.

In a nutshell, you would want to demonstrate contributions and leadership in non-academic environment where you have made a difference in making the world better. Participation alone is not sufficient, making an impact is. You must be able to articulate your personal contributions and the specific impact of your efforts.

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