Applying to Medical or Dental School?
Personal Attributes You Need!

Personal Attributes You Need!  Mary Kate Kopec.  The Best You PAL Academy.  Premed pre-dental advisor coach

What are Personal Attributes and why are they important?

Personal Attributes are the qualities medical and dentals schools seek in their competitive candidates and future students.  Qualities like having perseverance, being a mature and responsible person, being compassionate, being ethical, having substantial problem solving skills … and this list goes on and on.  It’s not reasonably possible to be everything and have every desirable personal attribute out there, but the more you build yourself into a well-rounded candidate (nice GPAs, nice MCATs or DATs, substantial letters of rec, meaningful and self-defining experiences, etc) with several highly developed and reliable qualities, the more desirable you will become in their eyes.  And that’s the way to take your application from Applying to Getting-an-Interview, and then, hopefully getting into their program!!!  Which, I’m assuming, if you are reading this, is a big time goal of yours!

So, I wanted to help you get a feel for some of the Personal Attributes that are desirable to medical and dental schools, but also specifically requested by patients (people) I surveyed.  The idea is to perhaps help you prioritize some of the personal attributes you would like to develop in yourself so that you can be desirable to both your future school(s) of choice and to your future patients!!!

With that, let’s hear what some real people (who are real patients) want from their doctors and dentists!!!  You can be informed from the point of view of patients, and then decide what might be important to you. 

I asked each person: What do you look for in a doctor and a dentist? Traits, training, etc.?


I look for a doctor who is knowledgeable and experienced and has some amount of bedside manner. If the office staff is friendly and organized it makes a huge difference. You can tell when an office works as a team.

I would say the same for my dentist.


I want HONESTY from my doctor! I want the truth; I want to know s/he continues research, learning, reading & writing for JAMA; a doctor who takes time and looks at me when we talk; a doctor who sees me as a human with a problem who is paying her/him for HELP.

I want the same thing from my dentist. Plus, one who is willing to send me to a specialist when s/he can’t do the job or when I can’t handle the pain and need to get more than Novocain. My old dentist was the best, plus he was also a “teacher” at the dental school.


I want my doctor to be board certified.  To have empathy, to be a good communicator, and to be someone who looks beyond what I am saying to ask the right questions. They need to be honest about what I need to be/get healthy. I want someone who looks at the whole me, not someone who just hear what I say as wrong (MK interjecting here … do you hear those words?  Can you feel the patient’s negative experience? … What can you do/learn to help ensure you do not become a care provider who makes their patient feel this way?). My doctor has to care and take time to get to know the whole me. I need to feel listened to and not rushed or brushed off (Again, here that negative experience coming through.  It’s unfortunate and, honestly, entirely undesirable). I’d rather the doctor look something up or consult reference materials or other doctors, rather than be arrogant enough to think they know it all (And again.  This patient has had some uncool experiences.).

I want my dentist to be board certified.  They need to have a gentle, caring touch, be kind, and be understanding and empathetic to my past negative dental experiences and able to reassure me. Someone who does not lecture me, or push treatments on me. My dentist needs to explain my options to me and council me, then allow me to decide.  Explain and council me and I will decide.  They need to be able to stress good habits without scolding or embarrassing me, and communicate at my level about the conditions and recommendations for my oral health.  (And even here with her dentist experiences.  Worth noting what she is hoping to find: empathy, understanding of past experiences, with a willingness to reassure her, and someone who does not lecture or embarrass her.  … Matching care provider to patient can be a challenging undertaking, especially with insurance coverage and cost of care.  You won’t be able to be the perfect fit for every patient who walks through your door.  It’s just not how life goes.  But certainly developing the skills mentioned here seems a worthy investment of your time and helpful to your future patients.)

infographic what patients want from doctors.  Personal Attributes You Need!  Mary Kate Kopec.  The Best You PAL Academy.  Premed pre-dental advisor coach


I’ve had a lot of weird health things that are ongoing so when I see a new doctor about a new issue it’s very difficult to go through them all and then have to explain to them what some of the unique issues are. The doctors I’ve really connected with have looked at my chart and looked up the things they aren’t familiar with prior to coming in so we can get down to figuring out what’s wrong, if it’s a new issue or if one of my other things is showing up in a different way. I also look for a doctor to not look at me like I’m an awful person when I make jokes about my health or issues in general. Patients deal with difficult stuff in different ways and it helps me to make a joke of it. It helps no one to make me feel guilty over my coping mechanism. When looking for my general doctor I look for someone who will show an interest in all parts of my life and will ask questions, some of the answers to my medical things have come about because I didn’t think to provide them that information. I look for a doctor that I feel comfortable talking to.  Who remembers who I am and doesn’t just dismiss my worries.

I don’t have much practice picking a dentist but look for friendly professional manner. Clean practical workplace. Looks at my chart before coming to see me. And most importantly listens to me when I say it hurts. I have a high pain tolerance and after years of braces, I will put up with a lot of uncomfortable because I know the mouth is a small area to work on. But if I say ouch then I need them to acknowledge that something might be wrong and not work through it. I look for a dentist who can do a good job and is personable.


Unfortunately, I’ve had to look for doctors a lot lately. I even fired a doctor in January. It’s important to find one that you can talk to, one that explains what they’re doing and why, and one you can trust to give suggestions but ultimately listens to your wishes.

Dentists are a whole different area. I’m petrified at the dentist office and spend the entire time talking myself out of having a panic attack.  I’ve had my Fitbit clock my heartrate at 180 at the dentist and the same Fitbit count my time in the tattoo chair as a nap.


I want a female doctor who speaks intelligently to me as my partner in my health.

I want a female dentist who is not stingy with pain relief, does not push services or procedures, and speaks to me as a partner.


For a doctor or a dentist I try to find someone that is easy to talk to, someone who actually cares about my health and is willing to give me enough time to discuss my concerns. Also, it is very important to find someone with a similar philosophy as myself. For example, wanting to find the source of my issue instead of covering up the symptoms with drugs. Or finding a more naturopathic way to help me with my issues. (This is interesting and a challenge.  A complaint against traditional Western medicine is that the training focuses on matching drug to the symptoms rather than focusing on finding a cure or the underlying cause.  If this is a concern to you, or if you are interested in expanding upon the training provided in medical school, look into the follow keyword terms for more information and opportunities: functional medicine, integrative medicine, and naturopathic medicine (of which there are actual medical school training programs for).)


I look for a doctor with availability, empathy, and a clear understanding of my wellbeing/how to fix those health issues that may arise.

I look for a dentist who doesn’t try to talk to me while tools are in mouth, is careful of how hard, they’re poking around, and has the ability to fix the problems completely and fully.

Yours truly, me: Mary Kate

I look for doctors, dentists, massage therapists, chiropractors, and other caregivers who are:

  • highly skilled and adept in their fields and board certified
  • active listeners who hear me to understand my concerns, desires, and intentions
  • willing to work with me to help me achieve my healthcare goals
  • respectful of me and do not dismiss me or my concerns, desires, and intentions
  • active in taking the time required to address my health and needs
  • able to accept their own limitations and willing to refer me when my care needs exceed their care expertise
  • honest and have integrity
  • excellent problem solvers
  • dedicated to safe practice
  • effectively and helpfully help cope with anxiety during care
  • And if there should be a tie between 2 care providers who are all of these things above, the one who is personable, friendly, happy, smiling, and caring the most will win my heart and me as a patient.
infographic what patients want from dentists.  Personal Attributes You Need!  Mary Kate Kopec.  The Best You PAL Academy.  Premed pre-dental advisor coach

I think it important to note that oftentimes, patient feedback about what they are looking for in their healthcare providers generally comes from the experiences they’ve had … what they’ve liked during visits, and what hasn’t worked for them. 

I feel you can hear the patient experiences in the comments above, in both what has worked for patients and what hasn’t worked.  Hear these insights and ask yourself how you can build these attributes into your skill set.  What kind of experiences can you seek out to help you develop these qualities?  Who can you help?  And how can you help them?

Also, hearing these words, think about their meaning and allow them to inform you and your questions next time you shadow doctors or dentists.  Observe how these careproviders treat patients.  Observe how the patients respond to the care they are receiving.  Study the waiting room.  The service desk.  The care providing team as a whole.  The environment in which the care is being provided and the feel that is present for the patients to experience.  How does it feel to you?  What do you see?  What do you hear?  Are you calm?  Do you feel safe and comfortable?  What resonates with you?  What would you change?  When you shadow, observe like crazy … every detail.  The feel, the care, the process, the behavior of all the people involved.  What is it of what you see that is drawing you into this profession?  What calls to you?  What is it that doesn’t work for you that you would seek to change (if anything) to make the care you provide filled with your values and your personality?

There are so many questions to be asked, so many observations to be made … when shadowing.  In a broad overview, you should be studying the profession itself, the ups and downs, the ins and out.  You should be asking the person you are shadowing questions about the care they are providing (how they do it, how they approach patients, what values and choices guide and inform the care they provide, etc), and you should be asking them about their choice to become a healthcare provider (Why did they choose their profession?  Would they choose it again?  Why or Why not?  What kind of life do they have being in this profession?  Etc.)  Think about all the experiences this person has had and what kind of things they have learned.  How can that inform you?  Also … and this one gets missed all of the time … but without having insight into what kind of person you are shadowing (their likes and dislikes, strengths and un-strengths) … how in the world can you apply what they are saying to you in a manner that is fully helpful and meaningful.  If the person you are shadowing doesn’t value the same things as you, then why would all the details of their experience and their feelings about them apply to you?

Just some thoughtful insight.  I could go on and on about this.  There is a process (an art, if you will) to getting the most out of your shadowing experiences … a talk for another post.  But for now, back to our main topic … What are patients looking for in their doctors and dentists?  How can you be what your future patients need from you?  Get experiences that allow you to care for others.  Try it out.  See how you do.  Learn what you like about it.  What you find challenging.  And then ask yourself … is taking on the responsibility of caring for other people’s health and being what they need from you what you really want to do?

Personal Attributes You Need!  Mary Kate Kopec.  The Best You PAL Academy.  Premed pre-dental advisor coach

I hope this insight has been helpful!

My best wishes to you for your happiness and success!

Big Hugs,

Mary Kate :0)

What is Health?
What every PreMed and Pre-Dental Student Should Know

What is Health? Mary Kate Kopec.  The Best You PAL Academy.  Premed pre-dental advisor coach

What is health?  What does it mean to be healthy? 

PreMed and Pre-Dental students get posed with this question, and one of the most common responses I hear from them is that health, or rather good health is “the absence of disease.” 

This response is limited and very one-dimensional.  It’s like saying that you want to be a doctor or a dentist, because you want to help people.  The answer is a start – highly foundational – but as an end-all answer, it lacks depth, definition, understanding, and informed meaning.

So let’s dig deeper.  And let’s do it in way meaningful to patients.  To people.  People who seek help from health care professionals.  Let’s take a look at how a surveyed group of people answer the questions: What is health?  What does it mean to you to be healthy?

Read these real responses from real people and allow yourself to be informed from the point of view of a patient.  And then I encourage you to grow this understanding.  Start asking people you know the same questions and listen to what they say.  Family, friends, co-workers, … feel free to even run your own survey.  Try different peoples of gender, race and ethnicity, religion, education levels, socioeconomic status, varying interests (gamers, partiers, outdoor adventurers, etc.), etc.  Why?  Because individual backgrounds, personalities, cultures, and values all influence how people respond to these questions.  There are often commonalities and trends that can be found in the answers.  But there is also much individuality that is meaningful and worth building into your own definition and understanding.  The more you know, the better you can help!

Additionally, part of being a competitive applicant for medical or dental school is having a mature understanding of the field of practice you are pursuing.  Having a deeper, more fleshed out, and complex understanding of what health is and what healthy means is sure to help set you apart in a competitive light!

Part of being a successful healthcare provider is understanding your patients better – understanding what they want, need, and are looking for.  So here is your chance to start building that foundation!

So with that, hear what real people say:


Health to me is my state of well being. I consider being healthy not being encumbered by physical or mental issues. When I am able to do what I want (walk, hike, do yardwork outside, etc) and feel good.


Health is everything to me…seriously. I have an autoimmune diseases… The Silent Disease is the worst. Staying healthy is critical…it means being normal…in the eyes of those who don’t know I have an incurable disease.


Health is how I feel on a daily basis and any short or long term issues and how they feel.  Being healthy means feeling good about myself and being happy as well as feeling good about how I look.  It is being mindful of what I put into my body and do for my body so as to keep feeling balanced.  It is also paying attention to the signs and taking care of illness and injury on the onset.


Healthy to me is eating right on a regular basis, making sure to eat lots of vegetables every day, trying not to have too many carbs, reducing processed fats and eating good animal fats in moderation, eating meat only once a day, and keeping down the sugar. I don’t always succeed at that but I definitely try. I approach it by not excluding things but everything in moderation. It is important to me to have a hand in my food prep to know I am eating quality food. I think to be healthy it’s important to keep eating to mealtimes where you’re more aware of your portions as opposed to snacks that you don’t really keep track of.

Healthy is also getting up and moving around every hour and getting the heart rate up. Because I’m on my feet all day it’s sometimes hard to do the last one because you’re tired but walking around a kitchen is definitely different than going for a jog. Healthy to me is both diet and movement.


Being healthy means balance. That my body and mind are working together.


Being healthy to me means being able to keep up with my very active child and to stop breaking myself.


Health to me is feeling great and happy while being able to do the things I want to do.

To be healthy is to have my body in the best functioning order that I can. That may involve such things as eating healthy, exercising, chiropractic care, regular medical and dental checkups and doing things that make me happy.


Health is wellness of all aspects of an individual’s lifestyle.  Emotional, mental, and physical health should be at or above average to be considered “healthy.” One’s maintenance of these categories also define a person as healthy.

Yours truly, me: Mary Kate

To me, health is the state of being for a person mentally, physically, and emotionally.  Being healthy to me means feeling well and being well mentally, physically, and emotionally.  For me, I seek to achieve healthiness through balanced and healthy life choices:

  • eating well with nutrition as my guiding light and supplementing for benefit
  • exercising for sustaining strength, flexibility, and endurance
  • getting up and getting movement into my work time when I have to sit a lot
  • hydrating with quality water and electrolytes
  • laughing and playing with my whole heart
  • working productively to achieve stimulating fulfillment
  • taking calming breaks to relax and rest
  • practicing deep breathing
  • practicing POSitivity and supporting reaffirmations
  • self-growing and learning through active and meaningful reflection
  • pursuing and achieving happiness with myself, my life, and those around me
  • focusing on what I can do and letting go of what I can’t control
  • actively removing negative forces from my life
  • valuing myself, my life, and the people and nature around me
  • giving myself what I can and need to heal as needed
  • forgiving myself when I don’t meet my own expectation
  • making good and informed choices and living to my best effort and having no regret
  • actively building coping mechanisms to deal with anxiety
  • surrounding myself with love, light, nature, gratitude, goodness, and positive intentions
  • fostering and building a positive, reinforcing, and helpful support network of family, friends, work buddies, and care givers
  • being a person of loving kindness and caring
  • building and nurturing positive relationships
  • getting sufficient restful sleep
  • working in proactive, timely, and productive partnership with my healthcare providers to address occurring illness and injury
What is Health? Mary Kate Kopec.  The Best You PAL Academy.  Premed pre-dental advisor coach

How do you define health?  What is healthiness to you?  To what level of healthiness do you see yourself helping your future patients?  Will this be to your defined expectations?  Or to those of your patients?  Or perhaps a blend of both?

There will come a time when you will learn the current knowledge, wisdom, methodologies, philosophies, and best practices for the healthcare field you are pursuing.  How you integrate these into your patient care practice depends on what you value from your education and experience, and the values of the environment in which you practice (hospital setting, private practice, small clinic, etc.). 

The one point I will assert here is that from even the small sample size of respondents here, it is clear that people’s ideas of health and healthiness vary from one person to the next with some general consistencies, but also with some very individualized goals and approaches.  I strongly encourage you to remember this when working with your patients, and to consider how that will inform and influence how you will help each individual who comes into your care.

What is Health? Mary Kate Kopec.  The Best You PAL Academy.  Premed pre-dental advisor coach

Best wishes to you always for your happiness and success!

Big Hugs, Mary Kate :0)

How to Get the PreMed Advice You Need to Succeed!
Find the perfect help and support for you!

How to get the premed advice you need to succeed.   Mary Kate Kopec.  The Best You PAL Academy.  Premed pre-dental advisor coach

How to Get the PreMed Advice You Need to Succeed!

No one decides to be premed and then somehow just miraculously knows how to do it, or what to do to be successful.  Just like deciding to go to college and getting a degree.  Deciding to get a degree doesn’t automatically imbue you with the knowledge of that degree.  You have to learn.  You have to learn what you need to do to get that degree – what courses you have to take, what grades you have to earn, and you have to learn the informational content that defines that degree so you can gain the knowledge and expertise to earn the degree.

No one decides to be premed and then somehow just miraculously knows how to do it, or what to do to be successful.

Well, the same thing applies to being premed.  You don’t just decide to be premed and then automatically know what you have to do or how to do it.  You need a source of reliable and credible information, and you need reliable and credible support, guidance, and advice.

So where do you get this?  Hopefully, from a reliable and credible pre-health advisor or coach!

Pre-health advisors and coaches?  Who are these mystical creatures?  How do you find them?  And how do you know you’ve found one that is credible, reliable, and the support YOU need?

These are all really great questions, and to make you an expert on finding the right one for you, we have to first define what it means to be a successful premed.  So let’s do that!

A successful premed student is a student who gets into medical school.  So what does it take to be a successful applicant to medical school?  What makes a competitive applicant successful?  The answer is that many factors must come together during the application process (read more about the holistic review process), but in overview – The Big Picture – a successful, competitive applicant is:

A person who is making an informed and mature decision to continue the pursuit to become a doctor by attending medical school.  This informed and mature decision is based on a well-rounded, personal-interest driven, depth and breadth of developing experiences that primarily include:

  • Education
  • Helping others, altruism, and volunteerism (community service, patient care, clinical exposure, etc)
  • May also include (work, travel, and research)
  • These experiences result in gaining valuable and sought after personal attributes, skills, lessons learned, and values.

This person has demonstrated academic proficiency, preparation, and an ability to handle increasing academic challenge and rigor (through their academic record and MCAT score) in these overall areas:

  • Communication
  • People skills and understanding people
  • Problems solving skills, reasoning, logic
  • Basic sciences

This person expertly navigates and tackles the application, secondaries, and interviews with confidence and competence!

How to get theWhat does a successful med school applicant look like? Mary Kate Kopec.  The Best You PAL Academy.  Premed pre-dental advisor coach

Okay!  So that’s what a successful, competitive applicant looks like.  Now we need to identify the phases of help you need to make all of that happen! 

There are 2 overall phases to being premed: Preparation and Application.

The preparation phase is everything you need to do to prepare for the application stage.  It’s all the courses you need to take (pre-req and for your degree).  It’s all the experiences you need to engage in and learn from.  It’s helping you with all the Basic Academic Success information you need.  And it’s helping you understand All Things PreMed Prep – like:

  • what it means to be premed
  • what prereq courses you need to take
  • what type of extracurricular experiences you need
  • what metrics (grades and MCAT scores) are competitive

And in all of this, you need guidance support, advice, coaching, insight, help, … someone who will show you how to make the right decisions for you!

The application phase is everything you need to do to actually apply to medical school.  It’s filling out the application (with special emphasis on mastering work and activity descriptions), getting stellar letters of rec, writing a compelling and persuasive personal statement, nailing your secondaries, and absolutely WOWing in your interviews!

The 2 phases of becoming a competitive med school applicant. Mary Kate Kopec.  The Best You PAL Academy.  Premed pre-dental advisor coach

So now that you know what it takes to be a successful, competitive applicant (premed student), and you understand the 2 phases of being premed, let’s get back to the mystical creatures called pre-health advisors and coaches and how you can determine if you’ve found the right one for you!

First and foremost, understand that it is your advisor or coach’s job to HELP you prepare and become the best, most shiniest, competitive applicant you can be, and then to help you showcase all of that shiny competitiveness with masterful application and interview prep!

Some highlights to look for in the Preparation Phase:

  • Someone who gets to know you and understand your motivations and goals
  • Someone who helps you make an action plan to achieve your goals
  • Someone who shares with you the meaning of being premed and how to be competitive
  • Someone who guides you to getting help with your academics when you encounter difficulties
  • Someone who listens to you and hears you
  • Someone who helps you to understand your options and reliably informs you (either directly or by directing you to helpful resources)
  • Someone who asks you the right questions, guiding you to making good choices for you, but never making those choices for you
What to look for in a pre-med coach. Mary Kate Kopec.  The Best You PAL Academy.  Premed pre-dental advisor coach

Some highlights to look for in the Application Phase:

  • Someone who understands the holistic review process and uses that insight to help you build a well-rounded, masterfully shiny and competitive application along with all of its parts (especially the work/activity section, the personal statement, and getting letters of rec)
  • Someone who will take the time to get to know you, understand your strengths and unstrengths to help you showcase your awesomeness in the most competitive light both in writing and in your interviews
  • Someone who can write well, can tell a story, can build a compelling and persuasive, fallacy-free argument, who understands that word choice makes all the difference in the world, who can edit like a fiend, and who can use all this mastery to guide and support you and your writing to an amazing showcase of why you are the competitive applicant they want to interview
  • Someone who knows how to prepare you for ALL TYPES of INTERVIEWS (traditional, MMI, behavioral, etc, … be it closed file, open file, or a combination).
  • Someone who will help you understand the types of questions, their purpose (what they are looking for), and how to best answer them.
  • Successful preparation goes far beyond a mock interview with feedback.
  • Successful interview prep involves knowing you, your strengths, unstrengths, motivations, fears, concerns, … all of it, and helping you to understand the types of interviews and the kinds of questions that come with each interview type; helping you understand the purpose of each type of question so you can formulate appropriate responses that are most reflective of you and all that you have to offer; helping you practice responses to practice questions and giving you real time feedback (whether your response was too wordy, too brief, logical, run-on, missed the point, left a negative feeling in the reviewer, inspired your reviewer with positivity, conviction, etc).
  • Someone who will teach you how to interview and interview exceptionally well through thorough prep, guiding night-before and day-of prep, and followed by full mock interviews and responsive feedback.
What to look for in a pre-med coach. Mary Kate Kopec.  The Best You PAL Academy.  Premed pre-dental advisor coach

Watch for the following RED FLAGS when meeting with an advisor or coach:

  • Someone who doesn’t do all of the above
  • Someone who doesn’t take the time to get to know you, your accomplishments, strengths, and unstrengths      
  • Someone who doesn’t help you see your worth and value beyond even what you have imagined
  • Someone who thinks pre-health advising is nothing more than telling you the prereqs, GPA and MCAT “requirements,” and that you will need to volunteer
  • Someone who does not help you become your best shining self and most competitive self
  • Someone who simply dismisses you as “not a competitive applicant” with only a cursory glance at your grades
  • Someone who thinks helping you with personal statement writing means line edit suggestions
  • Someone who thinks interview prep only means a mini mock interview followed by feedback
What to look for in a pre-med coach RED FLAGS. Mary Kate Kopec.  The Best You PAL Academy.  Premed pre-dental advisor coach

Maybe you are wondering what the difference between a pre-health advisor and a pre-health coach is.  Well, the easy explanation is an advisor gives you advice; whereas, a coach helps you get across the finish line!

  • A pre-health coach does everything an advisor does and then digs deeper and helps you build yourself into the Shiny Success Story you want to be!
  • A coach is there for you!
  • A coach listens to you and hears you! 
  • A coach helps you face your challenges, strengthen your unstrengths, and grow your strengths until you gleam and shine and have the confidence, competence, and compassion you need to succeed!
  • A coach digs in and gets to know you, your strengths, your unstrengths, your fears, your concerns, your motivations and goals, … and then a coach gets in there and helps you use all of your AWESOMENESS to your best advantage to succeed!
  • A coach is there to hug you on the tough days and cheer you on with belly bumpin’ high fives when you tackle and overcome!
  • A coach cares about you and your success!
  • A coach helps you maximize everything you are and want to be!
What's the difference between a pre-health advisor and a pre-health coach.. Mary Kate Kopec.  The Best You PAL Academy.  Premed pre-dental advisor coach

My very best wishes to you always for your happiness and success!

Big Hugs,

Mary Kate

Factors that Make a Personal Statement Competitive
For medical and dental applicants!

What makes a personal statement competitive.   Mary Kate Kopec.  The Best You PAL Academy.  Premed pre-dental advisor coach

What makes a personal statement competitive?

Great question!  The factors that make a truly competitive personal statement (or personal comments essay, as med schools are calling them now) are easy to outline, but much harder to achieve in the actual writing process.  I don’t say that to be scary or anything – it’s just true.  So I tell you what.  I’ll outline the factors, and then I’ll give really helpful insight on how to make your writing process go as smoothly as possible and to the greatest success impact possible!

So, the factors that make your personal statement competitive:

  • It’s well-written!
    • Well thought out
    • Error-free (which means punctuation and grammar should be stellar)
    • Logical
    • Clear
  • It’s personally insightful and reflective!
  • It’s 100% absolutely representative of you!
  • It’s compelling!
  • It’s persuasive!
  • It is a story explaining your informed reasons for choosing this profession – note the operative words being = INFORMED REASONS
  • It is a story extolling your awesomeness through your accomplishments!
    • What are 3 – 5 qualities about you that your reviewers need to know about you?
    • Which experiences did you engage (3 – 5 of them) that made the difference for you.  That really showed you that this is what you want to do?  You need to do?  That you won’t feel complete if you’re not doing it?
  • It is filled with positive language!
    • Avoid using negatives.  Positive wording brings your reader up, while negative wording brings your reader down.  You want to keep your reader going up and up and up and feeling so positive and great about you.  Even using simple words like “can’t or cannot” … immediate downers.  Stick to the affirmative!!!!  Stick to building a positive picture of who you are, what you’ve learned, and what you have to offer.
  • For good measure, throw in some “Relevant Sparkle” as I like to call it!
    • Relevant Sparkle can be anything, but for my students it is often some totally brilliant/shiny quote or something of the like that is used to start off the statement and that sets the tone and theme of your story.
    • Generally, you figure out what your Relevant Sparkle is after you get into writing and see what your story looks and sounds like.
  • And without fail, if you have an “Elephant,” you need to use some of your character count to discuss it.  To explain it.  NEVER to be defensive about it.  Instead, you want to talk about it.  What happened.  Why it happened.  What you learned.  How how you can now apply what you have learned from going through it.
    • An elephant is anything in your record that isn’t you at your best and that could detract from your competitive status.
    • This can be a dip in your grades.
    • Below average MCAT/DAT scores
    • A break in your education
  • Overall, it needs to be your story about why you want to be a doctor (or dentist, etc) and how you know.
    • BOTTOM LINE SPOILER ALERT … this means you are supposed to talk about the experiences you’ve undertaken that have moved you personally and professionally into making the decision to care about other people and their health and wanting to help them using the skills, tools, practices, methodologies, etc of the healthcare profession you are choosing.
  • APPROACH WITH EXTREME CAUTION: unless your story about your grandmother/father moving in to be taken care of by your family is one of EXCEPTIONAL, AMAZING, NEVER-BEEN-HEARD-BEFORE WOWNESS … reconsider using this example as your story.  Consider digging deeper into you and your other experiences.  Don’t make this be your main line, go to, big reason.  It’s so over used that it can make the eyes roll in your reader.  And trust me, the last thing you want to do is make your reviewers roll their eyes at you.  You want them standing up and pointing to your app and exclaiming loudly with conviction to the other committee members, “This one!  We want this one!”

Ohmigod, MK, you said the list of factors was the easy part – that’s A LOT!!!!

Yes it is.  But it is entirely achievable!!!  You’ve just spent the last how many ever years taking courses, getting involved, learning, growing, doing, making a difference in people’s lives and in your life!  This is simply the story of all that goodness, learning, and growth!!! 

And it is a story worth telling … that needs to be told … so that your admissions committees can see you for all your goodness and everything you have to offer to their program and your future patients!!!

What makes a personal statement competitive Infographic.   Mary Kate Kopec.  The Best You PAL Academy.  Premed pre-dental advisor coach

So how can we help you write your AWESOME STORY?

Well, I recommend you do the following:

  • Accept that this isn’t a one and done kind of writing assignment.
  • Accept that to write a competitive statement, it will likely take you a considerable amount of time.  In other words, it’s most likely going to take you more than a quicky night or weekend.
    • Give yourself at least 4 – 6 weeks to engage this reflective writing process
    • I know you may be freaking out at this … like WTH MK?  It’s only a page and a third.  How in the hell does it take that long to write?
    • Well, true.  It is only a page and a third, roughly speaking (5,300 characters for the AMCAS app and 4,500 characters for the AADSAS applications – and for both that character count INCLUDES spaces), but it is an exceptionally well-written, jam-packed-with-your-AWESOMENESS page and a third … and that character space flies by in a blink, leaving you wondering how in the hell you are going to get all the rest of your goodness in there.
  • Start by NOT WRITING your personal statement.  Start by either reviewing your experience journals (in which you’ve been highly detailed and uber reflective), or if you don’t have these awesome journals, then do what I call a Free Form Write. 
    • A Free Form Write (FFW) is when you sit down an recall and reflect upon your experiences and education to date with the sole goal of answering the question:  Why do I want to be a doctor/dentist, and how do I know/what have I done to help me make this decision?
  • Once you’ve done your experience journal review and reflection or your FFW, pick out your 3 – 5 best, most wonderful experiences AND pick out what you feel are your 3 – 5 best qualities (ie, leadership, empathetic, love helping people get well, super helpful lesson learned, etc.)
  • Using those experiences and qualities, write a first draft keeping all those factors that make a competitive personal statement in mind.
  • For your first draft, do not even remotely think about character count.  Just write and get your story in order and together.
  • Then keep tweaking your drafts until you’ve told your story meeting those criteria … and when you do, you will have your Best Shining Draft (as I call it), which is your most competitive personal statement!

That is what makes a personal statement competitive!

Want to learn more? Check out this FREE video!

What makes a personal statement competitive.  Student testimonial. Mary Kate Kopec.  The Best You PAL Academy.  Premed pre-dental advisor coach

Best wishes to you while you are reflecting and writing!  You can do this!!!

Big Hugs,

Mary Kate :0)

PreMed Advice: How to be a competitive applicant
Should I rush a premed frat?

PreMed Advice How to be a competitive applicant   Mary Kate Kopec.  The Best You PAL Academy.  Premed pre-dental advisor coach

“What experiences do I need to be a competitive premed applicant?”

Or, “What experiences “look good” to medical schools?”

I get asked this question all of the time, and today, I’m going to answer an even more specific example of this question that I was recently asked in my FB private group The Best You PAL Academy Health Loving SQUEE Peeps. (This FB group is a happy benefit of Academy membership. To join, click here.)

I was wondering if it is worth rushing a premed frat. They brag that they have a 97% acceptance rate to medical school, but how would a premed frat look on my application?

To clarify, I asked the student, “Can I ask you, what factor(s) are drawing you to the frat?  Anything beyond the happy success acceptance stat?” and she replied:

I guess having the supportive family that will help you in your classes and life in general because they are all really close to each other. They also hold professional development events, such as doctor dinners, medical student brunches, resume workshops, and other events to help develop you as a stronger applicant to medical school. 

Watch the video to hear my response!

infographic PreMed Advice How to be a competitive applicant   Mary Kate Kopec.  The Best You PAL Academy.  Premed pre-dental advisor coach

As always and ever, wishing you smiling happiness and exciting success!

Big Hugs,

Mary Kate :0)

Applying to medical or dental school?
…when pre-health advisors give bad advice
Read this true story!

When pre-health advisors give bad advice.  Pre-health clinical experience 4 defining outcomes you need most.  Mary Kate Kopec.  The Best You PAL Academy.  Premed pre-dental advisor coach
When pre-health advisors give bad advice.  Pre-health clinical experience 4 defining outcomes you need most.  Mary Kate Kopec.  The Best You PAL Academy.  Premed pre-dental advisor coach

Applying to medical or dental school?

…when pre-health advisors give bad advice

Read this true story!  Know what to do if it happens to you.

So I just got done interviewing one of my current students about her undergraduate advising experience – it’s something I like to do with my students to understand what led them to me.  This way I get a better feel for how their previous advising was helpful and/or deficient, and this guides me to a deeper understanding of how I can help that student and future students even better.

This student, who I will call Jillian, cuz it’s like one of my favorite names.  :0)  Well, she told me all about her visits with her pre-health advisor – all 2 of them – and how demoralizing it was to hear this advisor’s “advice,” until she ran into a peer-volunteer at Mission of Mercy, an intensive dental patient care volunteering experience.  This co-volunteer, who is a previous student of mine, who is now in dental school, recommended Jillian to me.

“She told me how demoralizing it was to hear this advisor’s “advice.”

So when I asked Jillian about her 2 visits, she told me that during these visits, her pre-health advisor:

  • provided her with the timeline for the AADSAS application
  • gave her advice on how to get letters of recommendation
  • and then after a quick glance at her transcripts, suggested she pursue a Master’s degree, because she wouldn’t be very competitive with her current GPA

Let me just state right up front, Jillian got in.  With her current GPA.  Without pursuing an unneeded Master’s program!  Was her GPA a little low?  Yes.  Did she have other redeeming and qualifying factors to make her a competitive applicant?  Absolutely!!!  But only if you take the time to get to know her, understand her strengths, weaknesses, motivations – who she is and what she has to offer … and then actually help her highlight and showcase all of her amazing goodness in her application and subsequent interviews! 

This is the point of Holistic Review, which is the process by which most medical and dental schools review applicants when considering their competitive status for their programs. 

Ugh, just ugh!

When I hear about advisors taking a quick look at transcripts and dealing out judgements on competitive status using only this metric, the GPA, (or even along with either the DAT or the MCAT scores), I get very frustrated, but not surprised. 

I mean, I used to be a pre-health advisor at a Big Ten school with a very large pre-health student population.  And I can tell you this, at the time, I was 1 of 2 pre-health advisors.  We were always booked 6 – 8 weeks in advance.  We were encouraged by our supervisor to essentially hurry it along.  Hurrying it along encourages snap decisions, which is why I wasn’t very good at doing my job by this standard.  I spent at least an hour with each student, each time.  I always saw students during my lunch hour.  And I helped all day long, from the moment I arrived to the moment I left.  I knew the only way I could really be of help was to get to know my students, ask meaningful questions, listen attentively, and figure out what guidance they truly needed to achieve their success.  (And why I eventually went out on my own to build better relationships with my peeps!)

PLUS – the bottom line is:  We are advisors, not admission committee members participating in the team actually responsible for making decisions about whether you get in or not.

Many of us have informed insight into what makes a competitive applicant, but even with this insight, we do not have the power to decide, and therefore should be very careful with recommendations and judgments.

I’ve seen students with great GPAs and MCAT/DAT scores not get in.  And vice versa, I’ve seen students with low GPAs and low MCAT/DAT scores get in.  There’s simply more to it than numbers.  Thus, the Holistic Review process.

So let’s talk about this Holistic Review process for just a moment.  When you apply to medical or dental school, generally, they will review your whole application (thus holistic review) prior to making a decision about you.  So for a pre-health advisor to simply take a cursory look at your metrics (aka your GPAs and your MCAT or DAT scores) and deliver a judgment to you is in my honest and informed opinion a massive disservice to you! 

And you should never rely on this judgement. 

You should always get a second opinion from someone who is willing to dig deeper with you.  Someone who knows how to help you showcase your strengths and minimize your “un-strengths” (as I like to call them.).  Someone who cares about you and your success, and who is willing to help you find a way to succeed!

Let’s even go back to Jillian’s pre-health advisor visit, when she asked about the best way to get letters of recommendation.  I was fully floored by the superficial advice she was given.  Her advisor told her to seek out professors who knew her best and ask them.  Not that that isn’t helpful in some manner.  BUT there is so much more you should be doing to ask for letters of recommendation to ensure you get the best ones you can.  Ones that, again, help truly highlight your strengths and defend and/or discuss how your un-strengths have made you a better person.

When I work with my students, I have a whole checklist of items for them to prepare and have ready for their meetings with prospective letter writing professors.  Furthermore, it’s not about going back for letters (unless it’s currently too late to do anything else).  A good pre-health advisor, who has access to you from your first inklings of wanting to be a doctor or a dentist, should be sharing with you this helpful and vital insight (and even if it’s you going back for these letters, they should still share at least this basic overview with you):

The formula for a perfect Letter of Recommendation is Personal, Glowing, and Backed by Credentials.

The more your reviewer demonstrates a meaningful, insightful, personal connection with you, the more value the recommendation will have.  The more your reviewer can share your awesomeness and discuss and/or defend your un-strengths, the better your letter will be.  The more respected your reviewer is, the more powerful your letter will be.

The take home message for letters of recommendation: Build positive relationships with mentors who are respected in their field.  Let them get to know you for real.  Show them how awesome you are.

Letters of Recommendation The Best You PAL Academy Premed Pre-dental Pre-health advising and coaching

And to make this formula come true, I suggest my students follow my checklist.  Here are some of the info you should provide your reviewers with when asking for letters of recommendation:

  • Your resume (with excellent descriptions of your experiences)
  • Your personal statement (if you haven’t written it, then a summary of your highlights, strengths, motivations, reasons, experiences … anything that will help them understand why this is important to you)
  • Answers to questions you would like them to discuss about you in the letter
  • Highlights or important points you want them to discuss
  • Point out what un-strength you have that you would like them to defend or discuss as to how it helped you grow, if they are the right person to share this insight for you
  • Essentially anything that can help guide them with what you feel is important to you and will support and/or expand on your personal statement and experience descriptions

You want your letters of recommendation to add beautiful, supportive color to the picture your application is painting of you.  You want your prospective schools to see you in your best, shiniest, bright light.  You want to look shiny, golden to your admissions committees, so they will pick you to interview!!!

And back to Jillian’s advisor’s “help.”  By never taking the moment to engage her in a personal discussion about her dreams and goals, what she had accomplished, what her challenges were, what her experiences were … without that … there is no way she could actually know whether Jillian had a chance at being a competitive applicant.  It’s more than grades and standardized test scores. 

It’s all of that, plus your academic trend over time, plus your personal statement (now call by medical schools “Personal Comments essay”), your letters of recommendation, your choice of schools, your discussion and descriptions of your work and activity experiences … it’s everything!  It all comes down to a holistic review of your entire application with the focus and emphasis on any of those individual factors being at the discretion of each school you apply to.  


You are an amazing and unique person who wants to be a doctor or a dentist, and you have reasons for this.  Those reasons need to be heard.  Felt.  And shown to your prospective schools through all the goodness you’ve accomplished.  Through your growth and development.  Through everything that has brought you to this point. 

Don’t let inadequate advising keep you from achieving your dreams.  Don’t let it demoralize you.  Get the help you need to succeed!  To find the path for you!  To help you showcase your awesomeness.  So you can Stand Up, Stand Out, and Shine!  And be the competitive applicant who gets in!  To be one of our healthcare providers of the future!

My very best wishes to you for your happiness and success, always!

Big Hugs, Mary Kate :0)

Learn more about Mary Kate, The Best You Pre-Health Academic and Life Academy and MK’s services!

Thinking of a Career in Healthcare?
Here’s an option you may not know about.

Thinking of becoming a doctor  Mary Kate Kopec.  The Best You PAL Academy.  Premed pre-dental advisor coach

Thinking of a career in healthcare?  Thinking of becoming a doctor?

Are you interested in what makes a person healthy?

Are you interested in getting to the root cause of illness?  Treating the illness rather than the symptoms?

Are you interested in how to help a person achieve wellness and improve their health?

Are you interested in primary care, family medicine, and integrative or functional medicine?  Then you might be interested in naturopathic medicine and becoming a naturopathic physician.  If so, you can learn more about this growing practice of medicine at The American Association of Naturopathic Physicians.

naturopathic doctor Mary Kate Kopec.  The Best You PAL Academy.  Premed pre-dental advisor coach

As ever and always, my best wishes to you for your happiness and success!

Big Hugs,

Mary Kate :0)

Protect Your Premed GPA!
Use your Drop Add Deadlines strategically!

Protect Your Premed GPA! Use your drop add deadlines strategically! Pre-health clinical experience 4 defining outcomes you need most.  Mary Kate Kopec.  The Best You PAL Academy.  Premed pre-dental advisor coach

Protect Your PreMed GPA!

Use your drop/add deadlines strategically!

Let’s talk strategy!  You’re premed or pre-dental.  Your GPA matters.  And you have a hidden power that you can wield in times of need!  If a course in your semester turns south on you unexpectedly, drop it!  Drop it like a hot potato and save yourself and your GPA!

With all awesome powers come great responsibilities and know-how to use.  So let’s hit the basics!

Empower Your Success!

You can’t use what you don’t know, so read your school’s handbook and understand the drop/add policy.

Be Proactive!

Mark your calendar with the last date to drop/add without receiving a W – and give yourself a 5 day advance warning as well.  Understand that depending on your school’s policy, AMCAS may treat W’s as F’s.  Otherwise known as ZEROES!  And those will kill your GPA!  Therefore, Withdrawals not done well – meaning before the last day to drop without a W – can be the death of your GPA.  So don’t do that to yourself!

Make Informed Decisions!

Mark your calendar with your test, paper, and project schedule and check to ensure you will have taken some kind of performance assessment and received your grade back BEFORE the drop/add deadline.  Assess your progress in the class – does your learning style match the teaching and testing style of your professor, and are you passing?  Will you be able to earn a competitive grade?

Take Action!

If not, drop the class, and if necessary – to keep you full-time – add another class.

Assess what wasn’t working to determine how you can proceed successfully in the future:

  • Take the class later with a different professor
  • Improve your study skills and knowledge base to match the skill level necessary to take the class successfully
  • Find a course more in line with your interests and aptitude
  • etc

Own Your Education

Empowered, Proactive, Informed, Strategic, = Protected!

Protect Your Premed GPA! Use your drop add deadlines strategically! PreMed INFOGRAPHICPre-health clinical experience 4 defining outcomes you need most.  Mary Kate Kopec.  The Best You PAL Academy.  Premed pre-dental advisor coach

Okay, with that, now that we are here, how are you doing?  How are your classes?  How are you adjusting to the workload?  How are your profs?

Have you been able to take an exam yet?  Have you written a paper yet?  Completed a project?

How have you done?  If you didn’t get a 100%, do you know why, and do you know what you need to do to address the weakness or challenge you faced?  You need to use these performance examinations to objectively review your progress thus far … AND use them to judge your professors. 

You want to get 2 basic things out of this review and judgement.

One – let’s think of a single class at a time – how was your prof?  Did s/he ask questions and/or test you on material that was taught and/or expected?  Did s/he go beyond the material and surprise you?  Did your prof come out of left field and shock the jelly beans out of you? 

And as far as your performance (our second basic thing to review), did you study well?  Enough?  Do you need to improve your approach?  Can you improve by the next exam?  What has the test taught you about your study habits?

When to use the drop/add deadline strategically, IMHO, is when you’ve studied your brains into oblivion, know you can’t do any more or any better, and/or your prof is off his/her rocker by asking you unpredictable, unexpected, WTH-are-you-talking-about kinds of questions. 

If you and the professor are not on the same page, and you feel that there is no hope of it happeningDROP the course.  Find something else to ADD if you need to replace it to maintain your full-time status.  But if you’ve gone to office hours, and you’ve given it your all, and you don’t see how in the world you’re ever going to understand this particular prof, then strategically re-plan your semester, find another professor, … do something. 

This is your academic journey … make it work for you!!!

If you feel your prof was fair and asked good, but hard questions, and that you need to find better ways to study, consider going to your prof’s office hours and asking questions … lots of questions.  They are amazing people … and guess what … they know what they are going to ask you.  They can help you assess your understanding of the content to know where your comprehension weaknesses are.  This is very helpful insight!!! 

Also, consider a study buddy who wants to ace exams like you.  Consider a tutor.  Consider learning new study skills and techniques.  Seek help from the TA.  Go to recitation.  If your school offers learning assistance centers, go!  Get help!!!

In my years teaching, tutoring, mentoring, and coaching, one of the biggest problems I find my students have is that they don’t actually know how to tackle the material effectively.  They study hard, but not effectively.  Happily, study skills are easily learned and adopted, so if you are having troubles, don’t jeopardize your GPA, … just get awesome help! Learn better ways! Dig in and own your education!!!

Be empowered!  Be proactive!  Get informed!  Be strategic!  Protect yourself and your GPA, so you can make your dream of becoming a healthcare practitioner come true!!!  Invest in you!!!  You are worth it!!!

As ever and always, my best wishes to you for your success and happiness!

Mary Kate  :0)

Pre-health Clinical Experiences:
4 defining outcomes you need most!

Pre-health clinical experience 4 defining outcomes you need most.  Mary Kate Kopec.  The Best You PAL Academy.  Premed pre-dental advisor coach

Pre-health Clinical Experience:  4 defining outcomes you need most!

Before engaging your pre-health (be it premed or pre-dent, or other) clinical experiences, you should know why you are there.  What’s the point?  Why are you doing the experience?  You should be asking yourself what you are supposed to be getting out of the experience.  How it will grow you.  And how it will inform your future decisions.

But where students often go wrong is in treating the experience as a To-Do to be competitive rather than the information packed opportunity it is!  When you take on your clinical experience, you are there to do a lot more than build hours toward your application.  You are there to try on the fit.  To see what you are getting yourself into.  To learn whether you really like the practice, or whether the idea of being a doctor or dentist just looks exciting and fulfilling from the outside looking in.

What should I be getting out of my clinical experience?

  1. You should be learning about whether or not you like helping people using practices and methodologies that affect their health.  And why helping people this way is important to you.  Why do you want to help people?  Specifically, why do you want to help people with their health using the healthcare profession you are choosing?
  2. You should be deepening your understanding of what health is, how it is achieved, and how it is threatened.
  3. You need to be learning about the career field you are considering:
    • The impact it will have on your life
    • What options it offers you for your future growth and development
    • Whether it is able to meet your expectations for what you want to be able to do for your future patients
    • The limitations of the practice
      • Current science, tools, and practices
      • Cultural
      • SES
      • Political / Policy
      • Insurance
      • Etc.
    • And with all of these (and any other factors you deem important), can you live with them?  Will you be able to find the success and happiness you desire?  Will you be able to achieve what you want to achieve?  And do for your patients what you want to be able to do for them?
  4. You should be building skills and personal attributes necessary to be a successful healthcare professional, along with gaining important lessons learned, and developing values resonant with best practice healthcare
Pre-health clinical experience 4 defining outcomes you need most.

Why are these outcomes so important?  Again, to help ensure you are making the right choice for you, your future career, your future life, your future success, and even your future happiness. But beyond you, and arguably more important (since to choose healthcare is to choose a profession of service to others by taking care of their health and their lives) is making sure you are making the right choice for your future patients to help ensure their well-being. 

Being a pre-health and success coach, I’ve known about doctors and dentists regretting their choices.  So much so, that it’s not uncommon for some to leave their practice and switch to a second career (what a costly unhappiness).

Or worse, the ones who realize they don’t like it, but stay anyway.

Ever been unhappy in something you’ve done?  Were you still able to give it your all, day in and day out doing that thing?  Your 100%? Think about a time when you’ve received service from someone for something and that someone was a jerk.  Maybe they weren’t nice, or they were simply unpleasant.  They didn’t appear to care.  Maybe they didn’t care.  And it was clear to you that they most definitely were NOT thinking about you, the receiver of the dis-service they were providing. 

It’s no surprise this happens.  It’s human.  It’s human to grow apathetic, or worse,antagonistic, while doing something you don’t want to do or don’t like doing.

Now think about that in a healthcare environment.  An unhappy care provider is likely to lead to unhappy patient care experiences.  And that’s just not good for anyone involved.

Medical and dental schools know this.  And they are trying to prevent it from happening to you as best they can.  They do this by requiring you to get patient care and clinical experience in the field you are considering. 

Something to think about – quotes from current practitioners who are unhappy with their field when asked whether medical school was worth it:

“Unless you can’t imagine yourself doing anything else, don’t!”

“All you do is prescribe drugs and push vaccines.  Healthcare is not your main concern or training.  You have to learn functional medicine on your own.”

“I have five children.  None of them are becoming doctors.  What does that tell you?”

See.  The trick is: Until you do it, how can you possibly know?  Until you’ve tried something out with your whole heart committed to the endeavor and seeking to learn as much as you can, how can you possibly know whether it is for you?

The hardest part about figuring out what you want to do with your career is accurately predicting how you will actually feel once you get there.  Looking forward can be dreamy, idealistic, and filled with happy visions of success and financial security.  Looking forward, it is easy NOT to be realistic.  It’s a challenge, and honestly, there simply is no way to truly know until you get there.  Until you’ve been doing it for some lengthy period of time. You just can’t know.  The best you can do is to get informed and get experience, and try it out as much as you can.  With as much depth as you can.  The more you do, the more you engage, the more questions you ask, the more you learn about the environment and how you do in it, the more you understand the ups, the downs, the goodness, the not-so-goodness – this is how you make the most informed decision you can.  And that’s what medical and dental schools expect you to do! 

Becoming competitive isn’t about adding a checklist item to your application.  It’s about you growing and learning who you are and what you have to offer, getting the education and experience you need, and making sure you have a mature, reality-based understanding of the choice you are making to pursue healthcare.  Adding a checklist item isn’t going to help you.  Being an educated, experienced, and skilled applicant with desirable personal attributes, lessons learned, and values is going to make you Stand Up, Stand Out, and Shine … and it is what will help you make the right choice for you and your future patients, and that will help you be competitive and Get In.

Big Hugs!  Wishing you happiness and success in your patient care and clinical experiences!!!  Mary Kate :0)

Getting into Medical School:
Which patient care experiences make me a more competitive applicant?

which patient care and clinical experiences will help me get into medical school Mary Kate Kopec The Best You PAL Academy Pre-health premed Pre-dental advising coaching

Getting into Medical School: Which patient care experiences make me a more competitive applicant?

When I ask students why they want to be a doctor (or a dentist, or any other kind of healthcare provider), without hesitation, they respond, “Because I like to help people.”

This is fantastic!  Helping people is great!  … But there’s a significant deficiency in this response, and it’s a deficiency that if left unanswered, it will keep you out of medical school (or dental school, or whichever healthcare profession you are interested in).

There’s a lot of ways to help people.  For instance, I help people get into medical, dental, and other healthcare schools.  I teach math.  I teach writing.  I tutor.  I mentor.  I help people find and build their happiness and success, both personally and professionally.  But I don’t prescribe drugs.  I don’t have scalpels and gauze in my toolkit.  I don’t problem solve illness or injury.  Because I’m not a doctor, nor do I want to be.  … But you do.  So, the more exact question is why do you want to care for people using the methods and practices of the healthcare professional of your choice?  Why do you want to help people by listening to their health concerns and problems, then diagnose those problems (sometimes involving diagnostic medicine), and then offer solutions via drugs, surgeries, and other medical methods? … And moreover, how do you know?  What have you done to experience this kind of helping people, and how has it led you to the choice of becoming a doctor (or dentist, etc)?

It’s at this point that I get the blank stares.  The “Uh, I guess I hadn’t thought about it like that.”’s

And, well.  That’s a problem, especially as a lot of students put off talking to a pre-health advisor or coach until it’s time to apply … usually because it’s time for them to write their personal statement, and they don’t know what to write about that will make them stand apart – stand out – stand up and shine.

They don’t know that what they don’t know can hurt them and their chances of getting in.

So, let’s NOT let this happen to you.  The first thing you need to know about your experiences (patient care, clinical, or otherwise) is that they all NEED to be a part of your journey.  Not a pre-planned-from-day-one-without-adaption-to-life-experience-and-change list of things to do.  You come to medical schools with a list of I-just-did-stuff-to-make-me-competitive, and you’ll find out fast just how uncompetitive you’ve made yourself.

So what then? Let’s start with the wrong question, and the reason why it’s the wrong question.

The Wrong question is: What do other people do?

This question won’t help you, because you aren’t other people with their likes, dislikes, interests, goals, motivations, etc.

What is the Right question?  … The Right questions is:  What should I do?

And this question should be followed by: What are my options?

To answer this let’s talk about patient care.  What is it?  How do you demonstrate it?  How do you give it?  Who do you give it to?

The simple answer is caring for patients with the practices, methods, and procedures consistent with healthcare, whether it be mainstream medicine or CAM (complementary and alternative medicine – practices such as chiropractic, massage therapy, acupuncture, etc).

There are so many options for you to learn about who you like to help and how you like to help, and under what circumstances you like to help – you just have to choose some to try and see what fits and what doesn’t.

For instance, do you like to help everyone?  Like in a family practice setting?  Or maybe you like working with children or the elderly.  Or maybe you have a special calling to help cancer patients.  Or even hospice and palliative care.  … This list goes on for quite a while.  And generally speaking, when you first start off on your pre-health, pre-med, or pre-dental journey, the idea of helping people is carrying weight in your thoughts, but you don’t KNOW who or how … not really … not until you give it a try and actually see what resonates with you – what calls to you.  And even then, it’s not unusual for pre-med peeps to decide their actual specialty until they get into 3rd and 4th years (when they start doing actual rotations).  Nonetheless, it is still on you to try out the patient care world and investigate clinical settings … and learn about the career field you are seeking to engage.

When you write your personal statement and when you interview, you will need to talk about your journey and your choices.  What led you to them.  How they guided you to medicine.  What moves you.  What inspires you.  What limitations you’ve seen, and how you might handle them in your future practice.  Etc.

Your journey must be yours and yours alone.  It needs to flourish as you grow, learn, investigate, develop, and figure out who you are and why this is important to you.

So where do you begin?  Again, this depends on you.  But if you have no clinical exposure under your belt, a good place to start is shadowing and gaining clinical exposure.  You should shadow peeps doing what you think you might want to do.  Family practice.  Specialty.  CAM.  Etc.

When shadowing, you NEED to be observant and reflective.  Ask lots of questions of the practitioner you are shadowing.  Things like:

What do you love about your job?  Why?

What’s the hardest part of your job?  Why?

If you could go back in time and do this all over again, would you?  Why or why not?

What do you feel I need to know to help me understand this practice as a future career choice?  Why?

When taking care of your patients, what are you thinking?  How do you go about helping them?  What’s important to you when you are helping them?  Why?

Are they in a private practice?  Or are they in a hospital?  How does their practice environment influence the care they are able to provide?

… Getting the picture?

When you shadow, you see.  You listen.  You observe.  You then think about all that you are seeing and hearing and ask yourself if this is you?

when shadowing aske these questionsThe Best You PAL Academy Pre-health premed Pre-dental advising coaching

Another important thing about clinical exposure and patient care is making sure you get to see blood.  Make sure you can handle it.  Make sure you can handle “the cut” in surgery.  Make sure you can handle broken body parts.  Sometimes students think they can, but when it happens in real life, they find they can’t.  Or they don’t like it.  These things can influence your journey and path.  You might decide to find another path, or you might find you are ever more convinced that you are pursuing the correct journey for you and for your future patients.

Only your experience can guide you.

So you’ve been shadowing, and you are freaking loving everything you see, or at least important certain parts, and you want more.  You’re ready to try on actual patient care.  How do you do that?

Where do you get this experience?

Again.  Options.  Sometimes, students get offered positions from their shadowing experiences.  Their performance impresses the doctor, and next thing you know, the doctor offers them a more involved role.  And this role can provide on-the-job training, with growth and patient-care skills to develop.  For instance, you could become an assistant to the doctor.  And this can be a tremendous opportunity!

This is another reason why I’m always telling my students to always give their best.  You just never know what kind of opportunity is waiting to knock on your door when you prove yourself dedicated, competent, and caring.

In addition to these kinds of awesome opportunities, you could volunteer in places like:

Ronald McDonald House

VA hospital

Nursing homes


Red Cross

Hospital or clinic volunteer

Medical mission trips

Maybe you want more skills and certifications, so maybe you seek out becoming a certified phlebotomist, EMT, medical assistant, or scribe.

patient care opportunity ideas Mary Kate Kopec The Best You PAL Academy Pre-health premed Pre-dental advising coaching

Choices!!!  You have to begin your path with your foundational interest and see where it takes you, what it teaches you, how it influences you and guides you to make new choices about what your next steps are.

And all the while, you want to be developing your personal attributes and skills, lessons learned, and values established and gained.

Clinical exposure and patient care are MUSTs on your experience agenda.  Which ones you do depend on you, your likes, your dislikes, your values, your goals, your interests … etc.  And once you get started you might find that something you liked or thought you disliked might just surprise you and turn out to be the opposite.  You won’t know until you try.

As a whole, the point is to answer the question of why you want to be a doctor (someone who helps people with healthcare) and how you know.  You’ll need to be able to discuss your journey; the personal attributes and skills you’ve gained; the lessons you’ve learned; the values you’ve gained; and you’ll need to talk about why this is all important to you and how you know (which means talking about your actual experiences and your specific journey).

When you can do this – when you can show medical schools how your journey has led you to the practice you desire, then you will have chosen the patient care and clinical experiences that make you a competitive candidate!

Big Hugs and wishing you happiness and success in your patient care and clinical experiences!

Mary Kate :0)

Mary Kate Kopec · Copyright © 2020. All rights Reserved.

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