Back to Blog

Applying to Med/PA School

What Kind of Students Do Elite Medical Schools Actually Profile on Their Sites?

About The Atlantis Team

We offer helpful, informative content to the next generation of healthcare professionals, so that they can achieve their goals, avoid common pitfalls, and grow in their passion for healthcare.

The road to receiving your medical degree is long and rewarding. From deciding that a career in medicine is right for you and securing good healthcare exposure and academic stats, to ensuring you can refine and highlight the AAMC competencies (more on them here), there are multiple steps you must take to reach your final destination as a successful doctor. And while each part of your journey is important, understanding the destination (the profile of a successful student) is important. We think that a helpful exercise may be to look at the students elite medical schools highlight on their websites.

Although incredible doctors can come out of any school, we believe looking at the top can be helpful to everyone (as long as we understand that a true passion for medicine beats the eliteness of your school in determining the success of your career). Our purpose in this article is for you to look at students that go to that medical school and what experiences they had, not by looking at statistics, but rather by looking at what profiles are shown. This says a lot about top medical schools — the students they chose to highlight are presumably some of the ones they are most proud of.

Stanford University

Stanford consistently ranks as one of the top 5 medical schools in the country (and the world) due to its world-class medical center and extraordinary faculty and students. With a heavy emphasis on their state-of-the-art research facilities, it’s no wonder the university profiles students who have conducted or published their own analyses.

It’s interesting to note that only half (53%) of the 2020 entering class of Stanford Medicine published peer-reviewed works prior to their acceptance. This goes counter to the idea that elite schools only admit people with published works. The research of the 2020 entering class spanned everything from biology and neuroscience to psychology that helped them stand out to admissions. 

As you will know, research is not required for admissions to most schools, and research is often a drag if a student is not passionate about it. We recommend that students do research to the extent that they are really passionate about it; otherwise, the energy that goes to it (and that is a lot of energy if you are not passionate about it) could have gone to things that certainly are essential to all medical school: Exposure to medicine, academics stats, and AAMC competencies.

Another common theme among the profiled students is volunteer work. During the COVID-19 pandemic, students at the Stanford School of Medicine found ways to support physicians and nurses by providing child care and medical equipment. Over 50 students volunteer their time and services to help clinicians when they needed them the most.

Stanford profiles students who take initiative (itself one of the 15 AAMC competencies) to complete unique work they are passionate about, whether that be through original research or a new outreach program.


Columbia University

Columbia also highlights a few students on their website that give great insight into who stands out to the admissions office. The majority of students in the medical program, including two of the three profiled, also pursue artistic talents. Even though they are on a journey to become medical professionals, students also have passions such as music, theater, and dance, that are part of who they are.

Another commonality we noticed amongst the profiles is that two of the students also discussed their experience shadowing in the field. One had the opportunity to shadow a physician and use her fluency in Chinese to speak with patients while honing her clinical knowledge first hand. The other was able to shadow a professor of anesthesiology and gain experience directly in the operating room with a trusted professional. While their respective time shadowing was unique, both used this experience to learn more about their selected field and determine the next step in their journey.

If you haven’t already, consider the quality of your shadowing or volunteering at a clinic or hospital before applying. Not only will it help you acquire exposure to healthcare, but it allows you (if done in a concentrated way, especially over the summer) to focus on your academic statistics and show AAMC competencies.

University of California – San Francisco

The medical school at the University of California San Francisco, also one of the very top medical schools in the country and the world, includes student profiles similar to those of the other universities mentioned. Many have stories of students overcoming hardships in life, such as growing up near skid road in South Central Los Angeles. However, a unique theme in UCSF’s profiles is the connection graduates have between pursuing a medical degree in addition to another personal goal.

One student discussed their desire to become a dermatologist because of their interest in how skin color impacts how people are treated in the world and the opportunities they have. They realized that with the clinical knowledge they would obtain through the School of Medicine at UCSF, they could also merge it with their passion for equity and social justice to do more good.

The same holds true for another student who witnessed brokenness in the world while growing up, and from a young age wanted to do something to help fix it. He found that through medicine, and more specifically orthopedic surgery, he could fulfill his dream of helping broken people leave his care rehabilitated and restored.

UCSF School of Medicine admissions highlights students who can connect their other interests with their passion for medicine.

John Hopkins University

On their website, John Hopkins University claims that while being ranked among the nation’s top institutions is important, their community of seekers and dreamers is what really makes the university stand out. This sentiment is also reflected in the student profiles included in the latest Match Day post.

Out of the four students included on their site, three are the first in their family to attend medical school. Most of them also gave insight into their passions outside the classroom. From performing with professional ballet companies and participating in the MERIT Health Leadership Academy to completing a business minor, they found ways to incorporate these interests into the medical work they are pursuing

University of Washington

We want to end with a school that is usually not considered elite in the same way as most of the others here, but we wanted to show the perspective of a public university. Just as with Columbia, the University of Washington has a few unique student profiles on their website. But even though each medical student’s journey in higher education is different, there are still commonalities between their stories.

We noticed that most of the medical students profiled by the University of Washington Spokane included stories about overcoming challenges in their lives. One student grew up without health insurance as a child and accompanied his grandparents to the doctor to serve as a translator. This inspired him to help bridge gaps in healthcare and pursue a career in the medical field. Another saw his mother’s battle with lung cancer and decided to specialize in oncology.

While academics are also important when applying to an elite medical school, UW admissions emphasize the importance of being passionate about improving the health and well-being of patients and communities. And as the No. 1 medical school for primary care education in the nation as ranked by U.S. News & World Report, having compassion and prior work experience in the community is also beneficial. 

Interested in taking full advantage of clinical shadowing? Explore international opportunities with Atlantis by starting your application process today!

Atlantis does not imply an endorsement from these institutions; however, it seeks to disseminate important truths about medical admissions to as many pre-health students as possible, in order to help students navigate the often stressful pre-health path

Cover of the Medical School Admissions Guide.

Two Atlantis alumni admitted to Top 5 MD programs wrote our widely read medical school admissions guidebook guidebook — download yours.

Our Alumni Enter Great Medical Schools

John Daines headshot.

John Daines

  • Atlantis '17
  • Brigham Young University '19
  • Washington U. in St. Louis MD '23
Zoey Petitt headshot.

Zoey Petitt

  • Atlantis '17
  • U. of Arizona '18
  • Duke MD '23
Yong hun Kim headshot.

Yong-hun Kim

  • Atlantis '17
  • Stanford '19
  • Mayo Clinic MD '24
Megan Branson headshot.

Megan Branson

  • Atlantis '18
  • U. of Montana '19
  • U. of Washington MD '24
Sarah Emerick headshot.

Sarah Emerick

  • Atlantis '19
  • Eckerd College '20
  • Indiana U. MD '25
Snow Nwankwo headshot.

Snow Nwankwo

  • Atlantis '19
  • Catholic U. of America '21
  • Georgetown U. MD '26
Tiffany Hu headshot.

Tiffany Hu

  • Atlantis '16
  • U. of Maryland '17
  • U. of Michigan MD '22
Lauren Cox headshot.

Lauren Cox

  • Atlantis '18
  • Louisiana Tech '20
  • U. of Arkansas MD '24
Kayla Riegler headshot.

Kayla Riegler

  • Atlantis '18
  • U. of Kentucky '20
  • U. of Kentucky MD '24

About Atlantis

Atlantis is the leader in pre-health shadowing and clinical experience, offering short-term programs (1-10 weeks) over academic breaks for U.S. pre-health undergraduates. Medical schools want 3 things: (1)healthcare exposure, (2)GPA/MCAT, and (3)certain competencies. Atlantis gives you a great version of (1), frees you to focus on (2), and cultivates/shows (3) to medical school admissions committees.

A student smiling and learning how to kayak.

Watch Video: The Atlantis Shadowing Experience and How it Helps In Your Med/PA Admissions Future

MessengerWhatsAppCopy Link
Cover of the Medical School Admissions Guide.
Two Atlantis alumni admitted to Top 5 MD programs wrote our widely read medical school admissions guidebook — download yours.