Using Psychology to Rock your Medical School Applications – Part I  
Thursday, September 22, 2011 at 10:21AM
Mohammad in Applications

Deciding what you want to portray

There was a recent series of articles on PsyBlog about the psychology of work recently. I decided to take some of their tips, along with some of my own experience and research; and apply it to medical school applications. In the next 4-5 posts I’ll discuss this concept. (For reference these are the main two articles I suggest you read from the series. [1,2]) I’ve mentioned the concept of medical school applications being a game, many times before. At the end of the day it’s a process, and those that can play it just right will win.  

I received an email a few days ago linking to an article by Scott Adams the creator of the Dilbert comic series; in this he said something that I found very interesting. “My philosophy is that losers have goals and winners have systems.” I want you guys to hold on to that quote, as I’ll return to it towards the end of this series.

I’m a firm believer in three stages of the medical school application process: before the interview, during the interview, and after the interview. Brian, Jon, and I have written extensively in the past on these various topics. In this part of the series, I’m going to cover how to create a theme and decide what you want to portray about yourself.


Before we can discuss how to improve your perception we must first begin by deciding what you want to portray about yourself. For some it is dedication to leadership or service, for others it’s an innovative sprit, extensive research, and the list goes on and on. I view this as a 4 step process.

Step 1: What are your passions, hobbies, and activities?

The easiest theme to portray is something you are already passionate about.  In my experience I had many leadership experiences with various clubs as well as a great volunteering experience that gave me an awesome leadership opportunity. Find something you love doing that is relatable to your medical school applications. For most people the easiest thing will be to use an extracurricular activity or hobby they are very passionate about.

 Step 2: Derive a trait from your passions

No we’re not doing calculus. Take your list of your top 3-4 hobbies and passions and list out the top 3-4 traits that stretch across those hobbies. Leadership, innovation, service, dedication, determination, etc. Now from this list pick your top one or two.

Step 3: Go backwards

Now take these top two traits, and make a list of everything you do that applies those traits. No matter how big or how small talk about all your little activities, quirks and whatever else you can think of.

Step 4: Sprinkle those traits throughout your application

This is really what the next 3 posts in this series will cover. The easiest way to get a head start is to read some of the articles in our applications series. The goal here is to make it obvious that you are really good at what every your key traits are, and show how those traits will make a positive contribution to your future medical school class.

Stay tuned for part two! [Hint Hint: Next Thursday]

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Article originally appeared on Pre-Med Hell (
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