Pre-Med Students: 3 tips for a successful undergraduate experience
The path to medical school can be grueling. With the added process of transferring from a community college to a four-year institution, it can become further complicated. I would like to share three tips to help pre-med students, especially transfer students, to have a successful undergraduate experience while advancing towards their goal of attending medical school.
Join a Pre-med Society
I erred in thinking I had the application process all figured out back in community college. I took the right classes, volunteered as much as I could, and became involved in various campus organizations. It was not until I transferred and joined the Minority Association for Premedical Students (MAPS) when I realized there were several things that had not yet crossed my mind. Organizations for pre-med students like MAPS can expose you to different opportunities and help you establish a more realistic timeline, both of which are essential to a strong application. Visiting a cadaver lab, suture clinic, or medical education conference are experiences you can write about in your applications and talk about in your interviews. Additionally, having a reasonable timeline is important because medical school applications are submitted the year prior to your expected attendance, before which you would need to take the MCAT. As informative as online resources are, nothing beats learning what did and did not work for fellow pre-med students who have gone through the process themselves.
Seek Involvement in Research
Thankfully, the medical school application takes into consideration a variety of grades, scores, and experiences. Research experience, while not being a definite requirement, can boost an application tremendously. I had the privilege to help prepare nanoparticles and grow vascular epithelial cells for a drug delivery lab at my university. Research positions can be obtained through summer research programs or by simply asking your professors if they are conducting any research projects. Notice, I did not specify the professor. Research experience does not have to be medical related as long as you are actively involved in the process of investigation and data analysis and have gained an apt understanding of the scientific method. Showing you are eager to learn reflects well on an applicant and the experience can aid you in acquiring an additional letter of recommendation.
Make it Meaningful and Make it Fun
Like having the freedom to engage in any area of research, you are able to meet the application requirements in various ways. Avoid being a stereotypical pre-med student for the sake of impressing the admission committee. While course prerequisites and the MCAT are the same for every applicant, you can control your major, where you volunteer, how you acquire your clinical experience, and the extracurriculars you are involved in. Make sure you are passionate about the things you choose to spend time doing. How are you to learn something valuable from an activity you knew was not for you and can never fully engage in? Negative experiences will not only discourage you but will fail to portray the caring, determined, and well-rounded applicant you are. Finally, medical school is going to be a whole different roller coaster and admission committees want to see you have ways to relieve stress. Demonstrating you enjoy a hobby like photography, a sport, or painting, assures them you are capable of taking time to enjoy something outside the rigor of studying medicine that gives you pleasure.
Every past experience you have can benefit you in some unique way. Know that you don’t have to fit one specific mold to be a successful med student. Your journey to medical school is yours–make it personal, meaningful, and most of all, try to enjoy it.
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