How to make your application stand out

Nov 16, 2017
Hannah Stevenson

photoWe often get asked how applicants are able to make their applications to medical school stand out. The trouble in trying to answer this question is that there are a vast number of things that you could be doing to make your application stand out – but there is no one specific thing that we are looking for. Though it would make it a lot easier if we were able to give each applicant a step by step guide on creating the perfect medical school application, this would mean that we would only have one type of applicant… so no one would end up standing out.

Instead – we want to know what you are interested in and passionate about. There are a lot of different paths that lead to becoming a successful physician. Think about the different types of roles of Physicians and the varying strengths that they must possess. A psychiatrist will have a different skill set than an endocrinologist. A neurosurgeon will have a different skill set than an OB/GYN. We cannot make specific recommendations on how to make your application stronger because we are interested in how you will make the Physician Workforce stronger.

Thus, in lieu of looking for applicants who meet one specific type of criteria; we evaluate applicants based on the four clusters:


In the professional cluster, we are evaluating your maturity, your reliability, your level of responsibility. We are looking for people who are able to submit documents on time, who can deal with criticism and feedback maturely, and who treat all people with whom they interact with respect. What experiences have you taken in which you demonstrated professionalism? Have you shown commitment to volunteer or paid work experiences?


Are you a leader? Do you have strong teamwork skills? Perhaps you have been involved in a university club, or maybe you were on a sports team. Maybe you learned excellent collaboration skills at a summer job or during a group research project. We are interested in learning how you work with others, how you convey information, and how you manage your time.


Physicians are required to advocate on behalf of their patients. We are looking for applicants who have demonstrated advocacy prior to applying for medical school so that they are able to carry that torch on when they enter the Physician Workforce. Is there an issue that you are passionate about and vocal on? How do you show social responsibility and contribute to the wellbeing of others?


Medical school is not an easy task, so we are looking for applicants who have demonstrated scholarly potential. Have you had high academic standing throughout your undergraduate degree? Perhaps you were involved in a research project or published a paper? Have you ever been in a leadership role in academics - perhaps as a TA or an upper year mentor? Remember that there are many more ways to demonstrate scholarly achievements than just your GPA.

Everything that you submit to us regarding your non-academics - from your personal essays, to your letters of reference - will be assessed based on how well you fit into these four clusters. You likely have noticed that the clusters are quite broad and that there are a number of experiences and achievements that you are able to fit into them. Though we cannot give you a roadmap to creating a strong medical school application, we can leave you with this: contemplate how your passions and interests fit into these clusters, rather than how you can fit what you believe medical schools are “looking for” into the clusters. Use the clusters as a framework to shape your application, but remember that we want to get to know you and what makes you a strong applicant.