Yes yes yes yes yes!!! I'm going to be a doctor!
They always say there is no formula for getting in to med school but, after having gone through this process, I can definitely say that there is a vaguely paved road. Having good grades and a decent MCAT are givens. You should have some shadowing/volunteering in a health care setting because if you want to be a doctor, you have to show that you know what it will be like. And, you know, even more than that, you need to test the water for yourself. Watching Grey's Anatomy and House may spark an interest, but it is not enough and those shows aren't very realistic anyways. Medicine is not a job. It's a lifestyle and if you want to do it, to devote years of your life to it, you have to be sure that you really want it and that you won't regret it after it all. So, as much as you are doing it for your med school application, you have to do it for yourself too. Also, I think working with the underserved or a disadvantage population is a good thing too. Schools like to see that you are compassionate and recognize the disparity present in our society (and that you want to do something about it). But, I think above all, you need to find something you are passionate about and do it. Whether it is teaching or doing research or something else, find an opportunity that lets you do it and do it. Half way through college, after volunteering at the hospital, dabbling in research and realizing I didn't really like it, I found that I really liked to teach and ended up doing a lot of tutoring with immigrant/low-income students. It gave me something I could really talk passionately about in my interviews and that's what you want in your interview (in my opinion anyways). Also, have some hobbies outside of volunteering and school. That's always good because that's a question I was always asked in the interviews. Plus, it'll keep you from going insane.
Also, for those of you who are still in the beginning phase of this process, I'd suggest keeping a journal or log of everything you do and WHAT YOU GOT OUT OF IT. Write down patient interactions that you had or saw and what it meant to you or made you realize (emphasis on the latter parts). It'll not only help you write an awesome personal statement but it'll help you better recognize what it is about medicine that makes you want it. When you are shadowing a doctor, pay attention to the science (because it's cool and interesting), but also be observant of the patient-doctor interaction. Notice the subtleties in the things the doctor does to make the patient more comfortable, notice the facial expressions or body language of the patients, notice the PERSONAL effect medicine has on people (for both the doctor and the patient).
This may seem obvious but, know why you want to be a physician. Make it personal. Think really hard about why you want to do this. Don't choose superficial reasons; dig deep into your life and identify when you started wanting to be a physician and why. It may be something that happened to you or a loved one. It may be because of where you came from or your parents came from. I think med schools want to hear about the JOURNEY that lead you to medicine because then they can be sure you really want it. Don't give them any reason to believe that you are unsure or don't want this. You have to be absolutely positive but you also have to be genuine about it.
As far as preparing for interviews, in the beginning I tried going through every question I could think of that might be asked of me and brainstormed for each. I would definitely suggest doing this for the big questions like why medicine but other than that, don't do this. It is too time consuming and it really doesn't help because you end up sounding rehearsed and most of my interviews were very conversational and it would have been weird to answer like that. My advice would be to just know yourself. Know what you did and why and be absolutely convincing about why you want to be a doctor. Smile a lot and just be an overall pleasant and happy person in the interview because, even if they don't remember a thing you said, at least they will remember your attitude and persona.
Lastly, some practical tips:
1.) Apply early. I didn't really apply early (mid-July) but I didn't apply late either. Not only does applying early get your app to schools first and thus, you get looked and considered first, but booking flights prior to winter/the holidays will save you ALOT of money. Trust me, most of my interviews were during winter break and I paid the price for that, literally. And, if you interview early, you'll most likely hear back about whether or not you got accepted earlier and if you do get accepted, you can relax earlier and, if you are still in school, you can not stress about getting all A's. So, applying early is definitely very important. Use the time between when you submit your primary and when it gets verified to work on secondaries. That will help out a lot because once you get verified, secondaries start pouring into your inbox like none other. You want to have fast turn-around times with secondaries so having them already pre-written will really help.
2.) Take the MCAT not in May or any month after that for the cycle you are applying. Whether or not I was actually going to apply hinged on my MCAT results and if I had gotten sub-30's I wouldn't have applied because there wouldn't have been enough time for me to study and re-take it without applying really late (I took the MCAT last day in May). And, like I said, avoid applying late like you would the plaque. By taking the MCAT in a month prior to May will give you a chance to not only apply early (as in June), but if you end up not doing as well as you wanted, you still have time to study and retake.
Instead of studying for my exam tomorrow, I would like to comment on what you should wear. Now, I am a female so that's the perspective I'll take (sorry boys). I find that girls stress out way to much over what they should wear to the interview. Find a black, dark blue, tan, grey (neutral colored) pant or dress suit and wear that with a blouse underneath. The blouse should be conservative but if you want to look less like you are attending a funeral, wear something with color or ruffles. For my interviews, I wore a dark blue (almost black) pant suit with a white ruffled collared shirt (tucked in). After a couple of interviews, I got bored of that so I switched to a satin, goldish-brown colored shirt (tucked in). As for shoes, just wear something comfortable. It's not worth it to wear heels if you can't walk in them becuase there will be alot of walking at the interview and you don't want to lessen the interview experience by blistering up your feet. I wore heels (about 3 inches) but I was able to find some really comfortable ones. I saw some girls wearing nice looking boots(covered up entire foot) with their pant suit and that's totally fine too. But, if you want to play it safe, go with flats. Also, bring a bag to put your stuff in (female toiletries, chapstick, a pen, some bandaids, etc). Although not necessary, you could also buy a nice peacoat to wear but a regular coat can work too since no one wears their coat unless they go outside. Lastly, for the make-up. Please don't wear your club going make-up; no dark, smokey eyes. I saw a girl at one of my interviews with dark and large smokey eyes and it just looked incredibly unprofessional. Not that you can't wear eyeshadow, but go easy on it. I think wearing some kind of foundation is a good idea because it'll give you a fresh look kind of face and make you look less tired, which is always good. Blush is optional; if you do wear it, don't go overboard. Avoid lipgloss and go for chapstick or some kind of lip balm. Some girls wore lipstick and it was fine but, personally, lipstick fades and gets everywhere when you eat and I just wanted to avoid the hassle.
To procrastinate even more (my motivation for school has dwindled rapidly since being accepted; it's awful), a few of my own observations on how to pick schools. Know yourself/what you did/what you want. When you look at ratings, read about how they are rated. US News ratings are often based on how much NIH funding a med school gets....how that correlates to the ability of that school to produce great physicians is up to your interpretation. Then again, what a "great physician" is is also highly dependent on you so, again, knowing what you want out of med school is important. For me, If anything, it tells me how research focused that school is and, if you aren't into research (like me), then maybe those schools aren't good for you. I am very much into community engagment/involvement instead of being in the research lab but that's just me. I'm not opposed to research and I might try it out again but i'm not going to med school for the research opportunies. If research is important to you, then that's something to think about. For me, it wasn't so that was part of my selection criteria. Also, prestige is the big elephant in the room. I don't know how much prestige plays into residency and what not but as someone who comes from a public college, I believe that what you get out of your education (whether that be undergrad or grad) depends on you; how much you are willing to put in and work. Obviously, not 100% dependent on you but, the large majority. At least that is my take on it.
I'll continually add tips/thoughts to this as I think of them based on my own experiences. I just want to be as helpful as possible to anyone who reads this because I know how tough and daunting this whole process is. Good luck ya'll !