“How can I stand out as a medical school applicant among all other smart pre-med students?”
This is a commonly asked question by many pre-med students.
Today, I want to tell you about a great opportunity to stand out as a medical school applicant. Even if you are starting from community college where there are no access to research facilities, you can gain biomedical research opportunities starting from the end of freshman year during the summer. Summer vacation is a prime time to engage in experiences that will open doors for you towards your dream medical career.
I started out as a pre-med student at Berkeley City College in Fall 2002 and transferred to UC Berkeley as a junior Chemical Biology major in Fall 2004. I knew I wanted to go to medical school since I was a freshman at the community college and I wanted to participate in biomedical research programs during the summer breaks. I could not find any opportunities at UC Berkeley since I did not have much of a chance competing with other Cal students. I was debating if I should spend the summer doing research or working as a barista at Starbucks Coffee shop. However, I found several summer undergraduate biomedical research internship programs at other universities and applied for them. I was not sure if I was going to get in but I applied anyway. I’m so glad I applied for these programs.
In between my freshman and sophomore year, in Summer 2003, I got accepted to the University of Rochester Summer Scholar Program and spent my summer in Rochester, New York for 10weeks. I got assigned to a biomedical research lab where I got to work on an exciting research project under close supervision, participate in all kinds of up-to-date biomedical research seminars with the lab team members, learned how to write up a research poster presentation.
At the Final Symposium Poster Presentation at University of Rochester in Summer 2003
I got to stay at a dormitory during those 10weeks for free and get paid a $400 per week stipend ($4000 total). I got to hang out with 40 other pre-med students from all over the country and become close friends studying together for the MCAT and shadow doctors in the Strong Memorial Hospital at University of Rochester Medical Center.
I made very close friends with two pre-med students from other parts of the country I would have never met otherwise. We hung out all the time during those 10weeks studying for the MCAT together and going on short trips to nearby tourist attractions. All three of us benefited a great deal from this summer program and ended up getting accepted to medical school later on. One friend got into SUNY Stony Brook Medical School and is now and anesthesiologist and the other got into a competitive MDPhD program at University of Minnesota despite being an international student from Indonesia and is currently a pediatrician.
The best thing about this summer opportunity was that I got to develop a great mentorship with the Biochemist professor Dr. Shey-Shing Shu PhD during that summer, which led to so many other opportunities down the road which ultimately made it possible for me to get accepted to my dream medical school later on. The summer research project yielded great results, which I further submitted to a National Biomedical Conference for Minority Students in Oct 2003 and got accepted for an oral presentation in front of pre-med scholars from all over the country.
Dr. Shu wrote me strong recommendation letters for various scholarships, all of which I won, and for the subsequent summer biomedical research internship opportunity at University of Michigan Medical School and for my medical school application during my senior year.
For summer 2004, I again applied for several summer biomedical research internship programs and got accepted to University of Michigan Summer Research Opportunity Program for 8weeks. This time, I wanted to be paired up with an MD who was doing research on the side. Luckily, I was assigned to Dr. John Barks who was a pediatrician neonatologist and research scientist studying neonatal brain plasticity at the Mott Children’s Hospital of University of Michigan Medical Center. He was also a great mentor to me and let me shadow him on the pediatric ICU rounds where he was the attending physician leading a group of residents and medical students. The summer research from this time also gave me ample learning opportunities about research methods and I got to give an oral presentation at the National Minority Student Biomedical Research Conference at University of Iowa. Again, during this summer, I got to meet 50 other undergraduate students from all over the US who were aspiring MDs or PhDs and form great friendships. Dr. Barks was also very supportive in writing a strong letter of recommendation for me on my medical school application.
Therefore, participating in this Summer Program at University of Rochester in Summer 2003 initiated a positive domino effect in helping me get the right opportunities along the way and was instrumental in making me a successful medical school applicant later on in Summer 2005.
Therefore, if you are a pre-med student who does not yet have plans for the summer and would like to do some biomedical research in a structured setting and get paid well, I strongly encourage you to take the time now to look into applying for Summer Biomedical Research Internships or Summer Pre-Med Enrichment Programs now for the upcoming summer.
The following are the links to some of the programs I have looked into.
And there are many more. If you google “Summer Biomedical Research internship Program” or “Summer Pre-Med Programs” you can find lots of programs to apply for.
I encourage you to apply to as many programs as possible (at least 10programs) to ensure getting accepted to at least one program. Be persistent by emailing the program coordinator once a week to show interest and follow up whether they have made decisions.
In Summary, these Summer Biomedical Research Programs or Summer Pre-Med Enrichment Programs will give you an massive advantage in your medical school application because of the following reasons.
- Structured Research opportunity that teaches one how to conduct research and give formal presentations at big conferences and can lead to being a published author of a major ongoing biomedical research project
- Exposure to lectures and seminars where the brightest doctors and biomedical research scientists present present the most cutting edge medical research
- Networking opportunities with future potential medical school faculty and other pre-med students from all over the US
- Kaplan MCAT or GRE courses for the summer undergraduate research interns that are paid for by the program
- Clinical Shadowing opportunities in the hospital
- Direct mentorship with doctors or biomedical research scientists who can be potential letter of recommendation writers for medical school application if you develop a great relationship with them
Overall, even if you are a pre-med student starting from community college, you can take advantage of the summer opportunities and get ample biomedical research experience even before you transfer to a 4-year university. Good luck in searching for summer opportunities!
Remember, PERSISTENCE and ENTHUSIASM can get you anything you set your mind on.
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