Originally Posted by Verbatim
I wish you the best of luck!
I realized that UC Irvine seemed attractive because I thought it would be easier.
What I really need to do is challenge myself, and compete with the big dogs instead of trying to find a shortcut at a lower-ranked university.
Any tips on how I can make myself stand out, so that I can get those research positions and letters of recommendation?
Thank you! I have many friends who are at UCI pre-meds and I would definitely not say that it is easier.......that is highly dependent on your major. People at UCI are getting into just as good of schools as people at UCLA and I definitely think medical schools wont accept a UCLA student over a UCI student solely based on the ranking of the undergrad school, again, it's what you do at that school that matters.
As for getting the research positions, find a few subjects of study you're interested in and start talking to professors; email them, go to their labs, etc. Read up on their research and show that you're really interested and motivated in their projects. Start early because finding a lab does take a while, and schools really want to see a long-term commitment from students. As for letters of recommendation, here's my best advice: (coming from a huge school like UCLA where there's 300 students in a class and the professor doesn't know who most of the students are; UCI will be the same) For your LOR's, start forging your relationships with your professors early. If there is a professor you know you'd eventually want to get a LOR from, visit their office hours, ask them questions after lectures, and do your best for them to get to know you. In large schools like UCLA and UCI, it's hard to stand out among so many students, so you must go out of your way for your professor to know you well. Once you have that relationship with your professor, research PI, volunteer supervisor, continue with it and make sure to keep that connection there, even after you've finished that class, and make sure to ask for a letter immediately (professors take forever to write your letters). This is my best advice to get a quality letter from a professor. You really have to build a relationship and get to know them well to have a good letter, especially at larger schools like UCLA or UCI.
As for making yourself stand out, most med students and I agree that you need to find a "theme" within your application. If you like research, excel at that. If you're into volunteering and helping the underserved, really commit to that. Don't try to spread yourself out too thin and be the best at everything. Find that "theme"..... again, if you're into research, start your own project, become a primary author, and really excel in your field of study. If you love volunteering and have an idea to help people, especially the underserved, then start a student group or organization to bring that idea to fruition. Having an idea, doing something different, and showing initiative to help people can go along way........ when it comes time to applying, you'll see, many people have solid numbers (gpa and mcat), but the ones who stand out are the ones who did something really different and excelled at it. Hope this helps.