From advance strategizing to polishing that personal statement, there are simple ways to craft a stand-out application medical school.

Completing your med school application is the first step on your journey to the profession, and it?s an important one. We?ve compiled our best tips to help you stay sane during the process.

1. Plan ahead and build a strategy.

There?s no right time to apply to medical school. Some students send out applications the summer between junior and senior year, enrolling in med school right after wrapping up undergraduate studies. Others may work on applications the summer after college graduation or even take a gap year.

After you?ve decided when you?d like to apply, make a plan. If you?re applying during college, take advantage of your pre-med advisor. Work with him or her to decide which experiences you?ll highlight in your application, whom you?d like to write your recommendation letters, and how to write a stand-out personal statement. Alternately, if you?re set on a gap year, use it to your advantage. Seek out employment and academic experience that will strengthen your application, and focus on paying off as much debt as possible.

2. Make a list of everything you?ll need.

The application process is stressful enough in itself. There?s no need to create additional stress through a last-minute scramble for transcripts and letters of recommendation. Familiarize yourself with the components of the application in advance. Problems with transcripts are a leading cause of delays in processing and missed deadlines, so plan well in advance!

3. Highlight your experiences to stand out from the crowd.

There are lots of different paths to the medical profession. You have an opportunity to show off yours in your application, which allows you to list multiple extracurricular experiences. You?ll get 1,325 additional characters to elaborate on the three you?ve designated as ?most meaningful,? and it?s important to choose wisely.

Remember, clinical experience, research or other academic activities like TAing or tutoring, and extracurriculars are all fair game. With extracurriculars specifically, focus on highlighting your leadership skills, unique interests, and aspects of your character such as compassion and follow through. Medical schools are looking for the whole picture ? they want candidates to have a strong foundation in science, but also wide-ranging intellect and the ability to talk to their future patients. Which aspects of your story communicate that?

4. Know how to talk about inconsistencies.

Yes, the numbers count. And if you have a GPA on the lower side, you?ll need to make up for that through good MCAT scores.

That said, GPA and MCAT scores aren?t everything. Honesty is essential, so rather than fabricating information requested on your application ? which is a big no-no; you can be put on probation or even expelled if you?re caught lying after you?ve been accepted ? highlight the other components of your experiences:

  • Clinical experiences that have exposed you to the field, including professional or volunteer work in healthcare settings

  • Academic research

  • Extracurriculars in which you played a leadership role

  • Personal skills and unique interests

5. Don?t give up.

The medical field is a tough one, and no one makes their way to it without some perseverance ? perseverance to keep chipping away at those applications even when it?s the last thing you?d like to do, and perseverance to try again if it doesn?t work out this year. You might be surprised to find that many of the doctors you look up to applied more than once.