Originally posted March 3rd, 2014 here
There are things you can only learn by experience. Getting into medical school is one of those things, I promise. As I come to the day I start medical school in the fall I thought that for little experience I have, I would share.
These are just my opinions and thought that premeds should take into account. By no way are these the rules. Everyone is different and you can find your own way. But these are what I found in mine.
Taking the first step
- You don’t need to know you want to be a doctor since the time you were three. Sometimes, it happens half way through your freshman year. It can happen after you discover you can’t deal with your business environment and just want to help people. It can happen after you have three kids.
- But if you have known since you were small, that’s great and you are one impressive and determined nugget.
- If you want become a physician because they money is good, please, please don’t. There are more efficient and less painful ways to do that.
- If you want to be a doctor to let your parents live vicariously through you, please don’t do that either. It’s not a pretty sight.
- Talk to someone who can guide you, help you make good choices, and fewer mistakes. Ask an advisor, family doctor, really anyone with the know-how or resources to help.
- Tell yourself every day that you are doing this because you want it and because you love it.
Going to class
- Invest in a sturdy backpack.
- Use resources like rate my professor or ask students who have already taken it when choosing classes. You have no idea how many times I’ve heard the assumption “well it can’t be that bad”. You will be wrong.
- Some classes you will just have to suck it up and take the crappy professor, time or subject. Just be ready.
- Also find out what textbooks you actually need. No need to drop $400 if you don’t have to right?
- Try to not be late for class. Yes, I understand its college. But also understand some professors will send you home, put you on blast or make you look like a moron in a 250+ person class.
- Keep your notes. You never know who might want to borrow them.
Success in class
- Don’t load yourself up on hard science courses too quickly. You have the chance to learn to study more efficiently and effectively, so take it.
- Try to be in study groups where you aren’t the smartest.
- But if you know you rock the subject, it’s okay to be the study group leader.
- Laptops are great, tablets are fantastic but sometimes you just can’t beat handwritten notes.
- Start studying early. I’m not saying the day after the test, but the night before is a big no-no. Starting early will allow you to find your weaknesses and get help if needed.
- Learn the way you learn. Try different study techniques to see which suits you the best and provides you with the best results. This can take time.
- Prioritize. You may be put in a spot where you have to sacrifice a class over another class or obligation. It’s tough but it’s all for the goal (but don’t miss tests!)
- Even in stadium style classes, get the professor to at least know your name. Sometimes all it takes is an A and a name to get a letter of rec. Of course knowing your professors closely is much more beneficial.
- Don’t cram. If you have to, you have to. But don’t make this your choice way of studying.
- Everyone screws up a class. This not the end of the world nor is it the end of your dreams of becoming a doctor. If it’s really terrible, fix it and move forward.
Outside the classroom
- Volunteer for something you really care about and have passion for. If that passion is specifically working in clinical settings, perfect. If not, volunteer for your passion and also in a clinical setting.
- While not required, research is a great way to gain experience and insight. And all types of research are good research. Just do what you think is interesting.
- Shadowing is more about just following around your doctor of choice (or not). This is the time to really pick their brain as well as make connections. Don’t let those opportunities pass because you don’t want to see out of line. Extra efforts are always appreciated in the long run, but always practice in moderation.
- Find friends in your science classes. They will understand what you are going through and it’s always nice to have someone to sit with in class.
- Make friends outside of science classes. Misery loves company and you need people who can’t share your misery.
- Join non-medically related clubs along with whatever else you do. This is the only time you get to really indulge on your interests and hobbies, so go ahead and join that sport team or art club.
- Go out on the town, even if it’s just once.
- Figure out a signature home-cooked dish.
- Then figure out a home-cooked dish that takes 15 minutes.
- Don’t put being premed on a pedestal. This doesn’t make anyone better than anyone else. You will mostly likely just be annoying, rather than impressive.
- Realize that your course load is going to be a lot, and a lot of difficult classes. It will be easy to feel like it’s unfair but don’t take out that aggression out on someone isn’t pre-health something and doesn’t do as much. That’s their choice and this is yours.
- Learn how to let go of people. It’s all in the process of becoming an adult.
- In this process you’ll find the people who truly want to hang on to.
- Make time for those people.
- Your new life quote is “Early, early, EARLY.”
- When it comes time to take the MCAT, especially the new one, make sure you have all your topics covered. It makes the process more bearable if you don’t have to completely learn new material.
- Do research before starting. What are the best programs, study aids and books to use for studying for this monster? How have other maximized their time studying? How can you?
- Be prepared for anything. Know that you can’t be.
- Having an advisor, mentor or someone else help with your applications. A pair of discerning eyes is important to have.
- After you write your personal statement, read it out loud. If it sounds contrived, it reads that way too.
- Let everyone read your personal statement. Accept opinions. Only let those qualified make corrections.
- Request your letters of recommendation way ahead of time. Make sure to give your letter writers a solid date when you need it by. It’s also okay to check up them from time to time. Your writers generally don’t see this as pushy, since they tend to forgot about your letter.
- Learn and practice interview skills. Especially if you don’t want to.
- Find frequently asked interview questions online and devise general answers to them. Don’t memorize an answer verbatim though.
- Be polite and engaging to everyone at an interview. You never know who is who.
- Be patient and try not to be constantly checking your email/mailbox/phone. You will drive yourself crazy.
- Once you get accepted somewhere, relax. You’ve done it and you’ve earned some time for you.
- Always remember to breath