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The Well Rounded Scholar

Several young professionals have reach out to me recently, asking me how to make themselves a better applicant for medical school, residency, and fellowship. I then ask them to tell me what they have done so far. Then I tell them, that they need to do more. I say this not to be harsh or critical but because they mostly think that their GPA is the most important thing in their resume. It is important but it isn’t the most important thing. This post seeks to explain why.

At this stage in academia, there are many resources out there to aid you in test taking, writing essays etc. I’m not saying that it’s easy to have a 4.0 GPA, it’s not, but please don’t let that be the whole story. In general if you are at the stage that you are thinking of a higher profession, you are smart, and have the grades.

A little aside, some of you have reached out to me saying that your grades aren’t the best but that you still want to become a professional. GO FOR IT! There is so much more to an applicant than grades. If your grades are so, so, bulk up your resume by the things I list below. So many of the most successful people in society today, aren’t the people with the best grades, but the most passion. Also, if your grades year 1 or 2 weren’t great, work hard to improve them. As an interviewer, we do notice the effort and the change. Also come handy with an explanation of why your scores initially weren’t that great(along the lines of adjusting to a new situation, etc). Personally, I eat that stuff up, because I remember when that was me.

I have had the opportunity to sit on interview boards and trust me, the grade may get you in the door, but it’s what else you bring to the table that will get you that precious spot. For starters, just because the applicant has excellent grades, doesn’t mean that for lack of a better term, they aren’t socially challenged. It doesn’t mean that they are not good people, it most likely means that all they did was study and nothing else. When I look at an applicant, I want to know if I can carry on a normal conversation with this person. Will my patients feel empathy when they talk to this applicant or just a robotic coldness?

Have a hobby! Find something else that you are passionate about outside of your field of interest. For me for example on my interviews, I listed poetry, singing,  and cooking.(Your girl can cook :-)) Remember, that if you list it, you better know it. One of my favorite applicants, told me that they did a special cooking where they made animal shapes in a bowl. I asked them about it and they whipped out an album showing all the food bowls that they had made. I still remember them today.

Be compassionate. Volunteering is not only good for the soul, but it is good for others and yes it looks incredible on an application. If you can volunteer in your specific area of interest, great, if not no worries, just volunteer! I clocked so many volunteer hours when I was in medical school, it was crazy pool. This helped solidify why I wanted to become an ophthalmologist. In general, I love to volunteer and even now I volunteer most weekends by giving food to the poor.

Have some tangible experience in whatever you are pursuing. This shows that you actually know what lies ahead and that you still want to move forward. Real life experience is an intangible.

Do research. I personally come from a research heavy background and it has been something that has stood out on my CV. There are many opportunities to do research but you have to be diligent in seeking and pursuing them. I will be writing in the future on how to find research opportunities. If you have any questions before that blog post, please reach out to me!

Being well rounded today means so much more than having good grades. The grades get you in the door but the goodies keep you there!

Have an incredible week!



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