Premed Insights 101: Communicate Your Strengths

Talking about your own strengths is uncomfortable for many people.  On one hand, it sometimes feels like bragging and you’re tempted to be modest.  On the other hand, it’s common to feel nervous when you’re essentially giving a sales pitch about yourself.  But the truth is that being able to comfortably tell other about your strong point is a must during the medical school admissions process.  Below are several tips to help you talk comfortably and convincingly about your strengths.

1) Identify your strong points. What do you do well?  Maybe you’re a great writer, a great communicator, have strong study skills or a great capacity for empathizing with others.  For the purposes of most admissions interviews and applications, it’s important to come up with at least two or three strengths.  But you’re not simply making a list of attributes—you also need to come up with some concrete examples of how you’ve utilized these strengths in the past.  That way, when you’re interviewing with a med school admissions counselor and he asks about your study skills, you can tell a story of a specific instance in your past where your study skills served you well.  Telling a story is a much more convincing way to make your point.

2) Practice communicating your strengths with friends and family. You need to get over feeling awkward while singing your own praises, and the only way to do this is with practice.  Get a parent, sibling or friend to sit down with you and ask you formal questions about your strengths.  Continue practicing until you are completely comfortable talking about each of the attributes you identified in step one—and that includes telling about a past instance in which you demonstrated the skills you’re talking about.  It’s critical that you can communicate these strengths clearly; otherwise you’ll become nervous and lose confidence.  And as anybody who has ever worked in sales can tell you, if you can’t project confidence there’s no point in even trying!

3) Look for opportunities to reference your strengths during premed interviews and essays. While you may only be formally asked about your strengths once during a med school admissions interview or essay question, the more you can reference them the better off you’ll be!  For instance, when asked to talk or write about a challenge that you have overcome in the past, take the opportunity to talk about how a personal strength of yours made it possible for you to rise above the challenge.  A great time to use this tactic is when your weaknesses come up.  Don’t try to pretend that you don’t have any weaknesses, but do give an example of a former weakness that you have transformed into a strength.

As a premed student, you’ll be asked about your strengths throughout the medical school admissions process.  This topic is one of your best chances to sell yourself to the school—so take full advantage of the opportunity.  Start by identifying your top strengths and make sure you’re comfortable talking about them.  Then, take every opportunity to reinforce them during an interview or an essay.  Your strengths are your ticket to admission—so make sure that you know how to use them!

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