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When you are applying to Medical School, you are trying to compete with over 50,000 other applicants in order to make an impression and get an invitation to interview at the school. With such large stakes to deal with, it is paramount that you do whatever you can in order to ensure that you are not reducing your chances further by tactical errors in your preparation. The application is not something you can turn around in a week's time so it is vital that you ensure that you are doing everything in your power to make sure that by the time that you can submit applications, you have all your material ready to go on the first day. I will present 3 of the most common errors that can lead to delays in your application and ultimately, a rejection from the Medical School.
Number 1: Do Not Wait to Ask for Letters of Recommendation
This is easily the most frustrating aspect about submitting your Medical School applications and it is essential that you make sure you are not procrastinating until it is absolutely necessary to get a Letter of Recommendation from your professors. Professors have a lot of additional obligations to concern themselves with and I promise you that your letter is not one of their top 10 concerns. It is a good idea to meet with professors routinely during office hours to build a rapport and then after scoring a high mark in the class, ask the Professor for a Letter of Recommendation. The key to a good letter is having a Professor write more intimate comments as opposed to the generic, "he was a great student, he was always eager to learn." You will not find a professor willing to veer from his "cookie-cutter" Letter template that he uses for dozens of students if you do not put an effort to get to know him and more importantly, for him to get to know you. In most circumstances, the Professor may even ask you to write out the letter and that will give you at least a little more leverage when you are drafting out your version.
Another thing to remember is that even if you ask for a letter 3 months in advance, it is often one of the last things you will have when you are trying to send out your applicants. Professors are notorious for dragging their feet on completing these letters on time so it is up to you to constantly remind them and make sure that they are completing the task. It may seem strange for some but it is important that you poke and prod the Professor enough where it is in his best interest to just complete your request so you stop bugging him. Consider this good practice for the rest of your career in Medicine when you have to start asking doctors for Letters of Recommendation before the ERAS MATCH applications and realize that with physicians, you may have to "border-line" stalk and harass them to make sure you get your letter within 6 months.
A good practice is to make sure you are constantly asking for a Letter of Recommendation in your Sophomore and Junior years in classes that you are doing well in. Faculty can change constantly so the longer you wait, the more likely you may find yourself chasing down a professor that no longer works in the school or is taking a sabbatical for research. Ask sooner rather than later.