A Guide to Applying to Medical School with Dr. Tustison

“If you can’t enjoy the journey, the journey is going to be way too long for destination to be worth it.” -Dr. Tustison

Important components of every application, as summarized.

Please note: These are general guidelines and results may vary on a case by case basis.


-Total GPA is separated from undergrad and graduate. Make sure u know what you’re targeting. For most, it is an undergraduate postbac to fix undergraduate GPA. A graduate GPA does not cover an undergraduate GPA.

-Master of Public Health, it only marginally helps for concentrations like epidemiology. Ultimately, they don't really help with getting into medical school.

-Don’t do a graduate in Engineering to try to raise Biology, Chemistry, Physics, Mathematics GPA (BCPM GPA), because engineering classes do not count for BCPM.

-Commit to a postbac that is not “pick your own”. Medical schools know that they can be really easy. Commit to a stronger postbac route.


-Do not take MCAT more than 3 times.

-Weight of MCAT in medical school applications regarding Critical Analysis and Reasoning (CARS) section: UCR School of Medicine looks at CARS in the way that if you have a 502 and you “blew it on CARS”, it’s kind of tough. If someone scored 512, then it is fine to not do well on CARS.



-It is fine to mention and include experience with fraternities and sororities, but write about frats just how they are.

-Don’t try to make it sound like a multimillion dollar company.

-Be honest, and include the volunteering experience.

-Don’t be afraid to talk about experiences separately. (ie. AMSA volunteering with LULAC Health Fair and San Bernardino Free Clinic can be separated into AMSA work, and then another section for work in clinics.)


-Don’t make things look bigger than are.

-Be honest about your experience.


-“Learn from above, teach below.”

-Be able to learn from those above you (ie. professors, tutors), and then teach those who are below you (ie. Students who do not understand, mentees).

-Tutoring experience is important to medical schools.


-Understand how research works, and how it applies to you.

-Show strengths and qualities.


-List summer jobs, medical schools like to see how time is spent.

-For some reason, UCR SOM really appreciates taking in Starbucks and Disneyland employees

-Suggestion from her to have a letter of recommendation from boss.

-Show Starbucks working more important to pay bills rather than scrubbing test tubes in a lab

-Don’t spread yourself too thin.

Clinical Experience (Shadow, Scribe, Medical Assistant, office assistant)

-12 hours of scribing is not enough.

-Aim for at least 40 hours in different specialties.

-Scribing, becoming a medical assistant, or office assistant are examples of great ways to earn money while aiding on path of medical school.


-Collect letter of recommendations from people that actually know you.

-Don’t work with a doctor twice for a couple of hours and then demand a letter.

-After having a letter of recommendation written, still show up!


-Be mature and responsible.

-Dress appropriately before your interview. (All genders should wear a suit. No chest or butt should be shown.

-Be professional and reasonable.)

-Talk with friends through practice questions like "why do you want to be a doctor?" among many other common ones.

-Practice your replies to questions.

-Send thank you cards! Interviewers and staff are still human and will appreciate them.

-Never treat staff poorly.

Application Misc:

  • Take a passport photo or take an iPhone pic with a plain background.

  • No selfies.

  • No boat in background or have people’s hands or arms in shoulders.

  • Don’t have a drunken candid.


  • Be careful about secondaries if you know you are not going there if accepted.

  • Make sure what you are talking about in your secondaries.

  • Secondaries don’t mean much. It is mainly to earn money.

  • A couple dream stretch schools, but a lot of them give to everybody. (Ie. Harvard and Yale)

  • Proofread for secondary essays because many people forget to copy and paste correct school names, leave in notes from other essay grades, etc.

Thomas Haider program is 24 spots for medical school students from UCR between Early Acceptance Program and regular UCR admissions.

UCR school of medicine is looking for…

-Primary care physician in the Inland Empire

-We want people to care, which accounts for lower GPA (3.4 BCPM average) and MCAT scores compared to national average.

-Vast amount of SOM students have good connection to Inland Empire.

-Between two completely equal candidates, the tiebreaker would be in the interview phase, and who has a stronger connection to UCR/Inland Empire.

-Bilingual, especially in Spanish, is an advantage. It is an extra tool to be more useful in the community.

-Find something from other parts of application to connect to medicine. (Ie. Football in medicine, Music into medicine, Music therapy to change treatments)

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