Now, as stated before, I definitely did not have that 4.0 GPA when I graduated with my degree from my University. In fact, here are the stats that were on my application that got me into medical school today:
Overall GPA: 3.4
Science GPA: 3.2
Now those definitely are not the average stats that you hear about everyday. Don't misinterpret this though! I am not saying that the grades do not matter, because they do. It's not like I wasn't trying in college. I was working my butt off to try and get that 4.0 GPA and a 510 MCAT score. But fairly early on in my undergrad years I realized how much I was struggling to get that A. So I thought to myself, do I want to just put all my energy to getting an A or do I want to balance out my energy between my grades and things that I believe are also important?
Yes, grades are important, but they do not show your character or who you are to someone reading over your application. You want to be able to show the more humanistic side of yourself in your application and show that you are a well-rounded student. For me, since my grades were not going to be the shining part, I made sure that everything else was.
I did a lot of volunteer work, I held many leadership and mentoring positions, I was a part of clubs and traveled a lot for my University, I was able to participate in research for 4 years and even held a couple of internships.
If you believe you can balance out your application from "lower" stats with your extracurricular activities, my one advice: don't do or add something on your application just as a fluffer!
What is a fluffer you may ask? Well, I like to define it as “space fillers.” A common misconception that I think a lot of people have is that the longer the application or resume, the more impressive it is. Often you will see people join numerous clubs, but they aren’t active participants. They join so that their name is on the roster thus allowing them to add that club onto the application.
At first glance, if your application is filled with many clubs and events, it does look impressive. However, remember that part of the application is explaining your role in the organization or the impact that it has had on you as an individual. Admissions committee have to read over 1000s of students’ applications, so what would you think stands out more:
1. An application with 30 different organizations listed, but each description is a basic
summary of what the organization is followed by the years you were a member
2. An application with 10 different organizations with well thought-out descriptions of
why the applicant was a part of this organization and the meaning behind the work they
As I stated earlier, grades do not show who you are as a person. You are not defined but a few numbers. But what you decide to do in your free time and the activities you participate in help others get a better view of your character. Don’t use up the entire space of an application just for the sake of filling it up but use up that space if each part is highlighting a different aspect about yourself.
On my med school application, I did use up all the activity boxes and maxed out most of the word count for both AMCAS and AACOMAS. While preparing my application, the one thing I reviewed repeatedly was making sure I wasn’t being too redundant. I tried to make sure I didn’t sound like a broken record continuously repeating certain things about myself in a different word format. I wanted the committee who read over my application to learn something new about me with each section they read as they progress through my application.
I tried to make sure the descriptions I wrote that went along with each activity was something that another person couldn’t replicate; they couldn’t have the exact same experience in the exact same wording. “I participated in”, “I met with families and heard their stories”, etc. Those statements are something that you can almost guarantee everyone has experienced because it is a very general description. To grab the reader’s attention, describe a memorable event that happened specifically to you. It is unique, it is your experience, and it will show how you view certain situations.
Another reason why having “fluffers” on your application could be a disadvantage to you comes when the interview arrives. In your interview, this is when you finally get to meet someone face-to-face and the only thing that this person knows about you are a few numbers and the words YOU submitted in your application.
The interviewer has a short amount of time to try and get a hold of who you really are and your personality. They have a limited number of questions that time allows them to ask and your answers are going to determine how memorable you are. Now, if over half of your application is filled with fluffers then there is >50% of your interviewer asking you about those fluffers. If your response is something that they could just read off the organization’s website or google, in my opinion, it is going to be easily forgotten.
I wouldn’t assume that “if I just add a couple fluffers there is no way they will ask about this one thing over everything else.” I can assure you that you will encounter at least one interview where you are asked about the details of that fluffer. Just giving that generic answer of defining what the organization is will not show much of your character, especially if it is a well-known organization. Sharing personal experiences you’ve had in that organization or a special memory will display more of your character that someone just can’t pick up by reading words on a page.
One can really tell genuine emotions in someone about a certain topic by their body language, the wording, and tone of the voice. Have you ever started talking to a friend telling you about their favorite book? What do notice?
Most likely, you will notice that your friend is getting very excited, talking faster, smiling bigger, big sparkling eyes, and you feel like their energy is radiating off them to the point where you can’t help but get pulled into them and feel what they feel. That is kind of how you would want your interview to go when describing something you have done.
Being a pre-professional student, a physician, or just about any career is about balance. You don’t want to always put all your eggs into one basket. As you work on that resume or that application show that you are a balanced, well-rounded individual. If your grades are on the “lower” side of the spectrum, display your character by choosing what you want to be a part of and be an ACTIVE member where you truly create unique experiences that stays in your memory. Don’t just add fluffers and become a needle in a haystack. Add meaningful and impactful things to your application to become a lion in a field of sheep.
I promise I will work on better analogies in future blogs, but my whole point is:
Don’t blend. Stand out from the crowd!
"You gotta believe that I got what it takes
To stand out
Above the crowd
Even if I gotta shout out loud
'Til mine is the only face you see"
- A Goofy Movie