Reddit communities are a neat source of information for pre-meds. But distilling all the information you find there into key takeaways can take some serious time. Luckily this series does that for you!
In this article, we’ll be looking at Reddit’s opinion on how best to get into Harvard Medical School (HMS).
Why? Because sometimes the opinions and insight of Reddit can be more honest (and actionable) than that delivered by admission and consultation teams.
Hopefully, you can find some pointers here to help you best prepare.
Ready to get started? Let’s dive in!
Before we get started you may want to check out my other article in the how to get into medical school Reddit series here. There’s plenty of unique info there!
How To Get Into Harvard Medicine: Reddit’s Best Tips
1. Work on unique extracurriculars
Got in, but not attending. Everyone I know who got in was more than just a stats person. Everyone did a bunch of extracurriculars (ECs), and they often were really easy to talk to. Probably interviewed well and had great letters of recommendation to supplement strong grades, MCAT, and ECs. And their ECs weren’t cookie cutter; they were things that the people loved to do.u/strikerzo
Working on obtaining extracurriculars that go outside the norm, especially those that involve strong community involvement, are some of the things mentioned by other Harvard med students. It’s something highlighted in the article below…
2. Aim to be a top achiever (but stay grounded)
A friend of mine is there now. He got >99th percentile on the MCAT and has a super high GPA. He has both a Master’s and PhD in science fields. He built prosthetics in one developing country and ran the healthcare system for a large portion of another one. He’s fluent in Spanish (self-taught), super pleasant/agreeable, and did lots of mentorship/volunteering stuff. He went to an Ivy for undergrad, but not Harvard.u/Sekhmet3
Obviously, it’s near impossible to get into Harvard med without exceptional academic achievement. But, as well as being a top achiever and go-getter, it’s important you remain personable and grounded.
Getting additional educational experience in other postgraduate fields, as well as experience in the medical/healthcare industry, also seems to be a big plus!
And if you didn’t already know about the HMS admissions process (and requirements), make sure you check it out here!
3. Get plenty of research hours (but don’t sweat publications)
I interviewed here and some other top 10 schools. I made it to plenty of waitlists and got a couple acceptances overall. MCAT/GPA of 522/3.93 with few thousand hours research (no pubs during app/updates), mid-upper hundreds volunteering, very emotional/real personal statement, and talked a lot about the many thousands of hours I put into my sport that I love so much…u/ACuriousBird
Harvard Medicine is a research-heavy school. Showing that you have the capability and expertise to work on research projects can go a long way in any application.
4. Maybe sweat publications!
I was browsing LinkedIn and found a Harvard MD-PhD student with a mutual connection. He had 4.0 at Stanford Bio/CS, did research throughout almost all of college, and matriculated without a gap year. Here’s the killer: he had 6 publications prior to matriculation. None of them were junk journals either; 3 of 6 were in Nature and 1 of them was in Cell. The journal with the lowest impact factor was like a 4.9. Oh, not to mention he held leadership in multiple clubs.u/santiationengineer
Of course, having publications in some of the more outstanding journals is going to help! But you’ll still have to be a rounded applicant in other areas.
Browsing LinkedIn to see the credentials of accepted HMS students is another top tip. Especially if you can find ones matriculating in the years closest to you.
5. Your personal statement is everything
I am pretty confident that I got an interview because I had a robust set of meaningful extracurriculars and my personal statement was very, very good. Almost everyone I interviewed with commented on my personal statement and how much they appreciated it. It was a very unique and personal account of how medicine intersects with my religious/spiritual background and aspirations. It likely read as very genuine because it was, well, very genuine…The interviews went extremely well. I have no regrets. I would guess that my numbers probably ended up holding me back.u/mister_ratburn
I’ve got a lot of content on this on the topic of representing your experiences in writing. Finding an interesting spin on what makes you a diverse applicant is one of those methods, and, as this successful applicant suggests, being genuine is the key.
6. Where you go for undergrad could matter
In the land of top 20 med schools, coming from a top 10 undergrad really helps. If you had an MCAT/GPA of 516+/3.9+ and standard ECs but if your undergrad was Harvard, Yale, or Princeton (HYP), then getting into HMS or another top 20 is very feasible. Coming from a no-name state school, you need to be exceptional to get into the top 20. My very large (class size ~20K, ~300 people applied) state school only had 5-10 people get into the top 20s. The rest went to state MD schools and mid-tiers.u/denzil_holles
For the top medical schools, undergraduate prestige is also argued to make a difference. Many successful applicants seem to agree with this.
7. Overcoming the odds can be appealing
Med schools like HMS HIGHLY value those who have traveled a great distance and look for those who are the first in their family to go to college, etc. They also understand it if applicants have constraints on their time because they have to work to help defray the cost of college. The fact remains, though, that most of the people enrolling in med school come from fairly comfortable backgrounds. But med schools look for those who break that mold.u/ThompsonAdvising
Looking past the “traditional applicant” to consider things like the socioeconomic and racial backgrounds of students does seem to be a current trend with med schools like Harvard. As their commitment to diversity is a strong one, coming from an underrepresented minority could definitely play in your favor.
8. Sometimes it’s a little down to luck
I know a person who is the definition of a perfect applicant (scores, extracurriculars, research, volunteering) and even has a heartwarming backstory, who interviewed but was not accepted. Yeah, they’re at another top school, but honestly, nothing you do can guarantee an acceptance at Harvard in my opinion.u/MaroneySandwich
Sometimes you can do seemingly everything and be a superb candidate on paper but it just doesn’t work out for you. Don’t apply for Harvard med thinking there’s any guarantee.
Remain open-minded to the dozens of other top-tier schools that might be just as willing to listen.
There’s a ton of information on what’s expected from Harvard medicine out there on the web but a lot of it is rather ambiguous.
Hopefully, the article above has given you a bit more to think about other than the obviously high MCAT and GPA you probably already know you have to aim for!
Note: And if you were in any doubt about the importance of those two “opening the door” for your application, check out the histogram below…
Born and raised in the UK, Will went into medicine late (31) after a career in journalism. He’s into football (soccer), learned Spanish after 5 years in Spain, and has had his work published all over the web. Read more.