Smart Tips for Pre-Med Students
Pursuing and getting into medical school is no easy feat. In fact, medicine is one of the most competitive fields out there, and the national acceptance rate for medical schools is only 40% according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Keep in mind that pre-med requirements are only one equation to the entire journey. But starting strong and staying on the right track in your undergraduate years will help make the transition into medical school a much smoother one.
Making the Most of Your Undergraduate Years
As long as you complete the required pre-med coursework, medical schools will consider applicants of any major. So, don’t hesitate to pursue studies in a field you’re actually interested in! You don’t have to limit yourself to typical pre-med majors like science or chemistry. However, most of the accepted college students are science majors. If you prefer to major in something else, it would be to your advantage to at least do very well in your science courses.
On top of English, math, and science classes, taking as many biochemistry classes as you can will prepare you for the rigorous courses in medical school. Try to make well-rounded schedules each quarter with a variety of different classes so that you don’t burn out from doing too much within one subject.
Finally, we advise putting in the time and effort into building relationships with your professors outside of the classroom. This means attending optional office hours to just chat with them, or discuss a topic from lectures that you may need clarification or additional insight on. You never know who you’ll need to ask for a letter of recommendation from in the future, so it’s best to get to know professors on a personal level, and make yourself a memorable student especially if you attend a big college or university. Standing out from a sea of many other students trying to go for the same thing will bring you far!
Make a Plan to Finish Pre-Med Requirements
Procrastinating is the last thing you want to do if you want to get into medical school and finish in a timely manner. Every school will have different requirements, and, depending on where you want to apply, you may have to adjust your schedule accordingly. However, generally, the basic subject requirements include English and the following science classes with lab: Biology, Physics, General Chemistry, and Organic Chemistry. Other required or recommended subjects may include: Genetics, Biochemistry, Psychology, Sociology, Social Sciences, Behavioral Sciences, Humanities, Statistics & Biostatistics, and Calculus.
As soon as you’ve decided you want to pursue medical school, it’s a good idea to roughly plan out your schedule for your undergraduate years, with back-up plans in case classes are filled up any given semester. This way, you don’t fall behind, and stay on track to graduate on time!
Partake in Extracurricular Activities
Excelling in the classroom is great, but doing that and being able to juggle other activities shows you are a well-rounded student that can handle multiple tasks at once. This is not to say you should stress yourself out by stretching yourself too thin. But, maybe you could consider joining a club on campus or participating in sports as something to do outside of the studying realm. Believe it or not, a healthy balance between work and play can make you more productive and motivated to do well in your classes too!
Learn a New Language
A lot of professionals in the medical field know another language, and this gives them a competitive edge. Increase your chances of landing your dream job by learning a popular language like Spanish or Mandarin Chinese. Being able to communicate with others and understanding unique cultures is so important for anyone entering the medical field. Medical schools these days often look for applicants that make an effort to broaden their horizons.
If circumstances permit, studying abroad is a fantastic way to apply what you’ve learned in the classroom, and fully immerse yourself in a foreign country’s language, culture, and lifestyle. This may help you relate better with your coworkers, peers, and patients in the future.
Study for the MCAT
To get into medical school, students must take the Medical College Admission Test, or better known as the MCAT. This exam is administered in August and April, and we advise giving yourself at least three months to prepare for it. If you are a good self-learner, then you may opt to study on your own. Alternatively, if you think you may benefit from guidance, then there’s always prep courses you can take. If you got a good grasp on your required pre-med required classes, then you should already be exposed to most of the concepts and research principles tested on the MCAT.
Applying for Medical School
As you complete your general education and major course requirements, actively think about what you’re interested in when it comes to the medical field. For example, do you want to devote your time to research medicine, or be a part of a clinical care team? Determining what you want to do early on will help you divert focus to not only the course direction you want to take, but also your medical school search, so you find one that excels in your desired field.
Applying to multiple schools is a smart idea. Though you may have your heart set on your dream school, it’s not good to put all your eggs in one basket in case things don’t work out as planned. That being said, take the time to do individual research on various schools, and make a list of your top priority schools, safety schools, and back-up schools so that you have your bases covered.
Ace the Interviews
In order to get into medical school, you will have to go through the interview process. To best prepare for this, research the schools you’re applying to and become familiar with their mission statements, and think about how you can relate to them. Practice answering common interview questions, and be ready to succinctly explain why you want to be a doctor, researcher, or another future endeavor in the medical field.
Medical schools want to get to know students on a personal level to determine whether they’d be a good fit. So, be ready to tell your story. Be specific and authentic. Remember that there is no one right answer. Do you envision yourself helping others a lot? If this is what drives you to pursue a medical profession, then take the time to elaborate on this.
Practice by conducting mock-interviews with trusted friends, family members, and even school counselors if you are able to. This will assist you in not only becoming familiar with how to approach common questions, but also enable you to better articulate your thoughts confidently.
Is a Career in Medicine Right for You?
Medical school is a huge commitment. So, the first step before anything else is making sure that you have picked the right field. Before delving into rigorous medical school prerequisites and investing time studying for the MCAT, ask yourself the following questions to see if you have the skills and qualities needed to be accepted into and to thrive in medical school:
- Am I a dedicated and focused individual both in and out of the classroom?
- Do I have strong quantitative and qualitative skills?
- Am I socially conscious?
- Am I a hardworking, high achiever?
- Am I compassionate, mature, and emotionally smart?
Medical school students are expected to be conscientious people, driven to perform duties accurately and on time. They are willing to put in a lot of hours whenever needed to achieve goals. As you might imagine, compassion and the ability to relate to others is also crucial, especially if you plan to become a doctor. Think about it – doctors’ visits are dreadful enough as is. That’s why it’s extra important that doctors are aware of others’ sufferings and can help to alleviate them. Maturity allows people to accept responsibility, be supportive of others, and be patient. Being able to have emotions without letting them interfere with problem-solving skills and other important tasks is also key. These are all vital qualities of a good medical professional.