What Should I Do During Medical School to Prepare For a Career in Psychiatry?

Psychiatry programs are generally holistic in their review of applicants. As such, participation in the following are highly valued - longitudinal and meaningful service, leadership, and scholarly experiences that may demonstrate unique individual attributes and a strong commitment to psychiatry. Service activities could include service to the community (e.g., student-run free clinic, community health fair, homeless shelter, volunteering on inpatient psychiatry unit or pediatrics service) or service to the medical school (e.g., committees, student council, and peer support and wellness activities). Roles involving teaching and mentoring other students (e.g., peer tutor, course teaching assistant), or running student interest groups demonstrates desirable professionalism and leadership skills. While most programs do not require research, any form of scholarship particularly related to psychiatry, can strengthen an application. If
access is limited to more traditional research experiences, scholarly projects in the areas of patient safety and quality improvement, education/curricular design, and clinical case reports or reviews should be considered. Presentations at professional meetings or publications are especially impressive. Regional or national work with organizations such as the American Psychiatric Association (APA), Student National Medical Association (SNMA), American Medical Student Association (AMSA), and PsychSIGN may strengthen an application as well as provide opportunities for networking, leadership, mentorship and scholarship. Many of the psychiatric subspecialty organizations, such as child psychiatry or consultation-liaison psychiatry, have free or discounted membership rates for medical students and offer helpful resources and exposure to areas of
psychiatry not seen as often in medical school clerkships. Most psychiatry programs are looking to recruit applicants with a diversity of life experiences, passions and skill sets, including those not directly related to psychiatry. These could include accomplishments in the arts, athletics, writing, advocacy, human rights, health policy, anti-racism/bias or global health work and commitment to increasing access to care for particular communities (LGBTQ+, specific racial, ethnic or religious groups, homeless population). Finally,
do not fret if you are one of the many who discover their love of the psychiatric profession later in medical school, such as after completing the clerkship. You may write in your personal statement about changing career course and what experiences helped you come to this decision. Consider joining PsychSIGN and/or the APA, and be sure to meet with your specific psychiatry advisor for additional strategies to show your commitment to the field.