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Weekly Weigh-in: Balancing Undergraduate Opportunities

Welcome to PDr’s Weekly Weigh-in! Each week, we ask medical students and physicians to weigh in on some of our most frequently asked pre-med questions.
This week’s question: What opportunities do you wish you would have taken advantage of during your time as an undergraduate student? What are some undergraduate opportunities you would have tried or focused given more free time? 

Evan Laveman, DGSOM MS2

I often found it challenging to not take advantage of the opportunities around me, and it would sometimes result in me having an overwhelming “workload.” The opportunities that I wish I had taken advantage of were probably non-academic. I think college is an incredible time to grow close with others, and develop new talents and skills that you may not be able to cultivate as easily once you start working or have a family. I think I would have wanted to learn piano, and maybe progress further with my Brazilian Jiu Jitsu training. Although undergrad can feel like a busy time, it’s when you start having more defined commitments, less energy, and probably less time, that you wish you could have explored new areas that you may not be able to later. It’s not to say that these opportunities are off limits once you graduate, of course not, but I think that the opportunities I tended to take were to further my professional education, and it’s important to foster the skills and experience that further yourself and make you happy. You might also be surprised at how these will help your medical school application! Other times, what might make you happy is to not take as many opportunities or commitments and spend more time with your family, your friends, yourself, or netflix.

|| Read: Write About Your Hobbies On the Medical School Application ||

Edward Chang, DGSOM MS2

Something I wish I took advantage of more while I was in college was intramural (IM) sports. I played IM flag football and basketball during my first quarter of my freshman year. After that, I probably played IM basketball one more time in all my four years. I remember loving playing IM sports (and I love sports in general) so I’m not sure why I didn’t really take the time to play more later on. In addition, at some point during my sophomore year, I stopped exercising consistently as well. It was really easy for me to sacrifice taking care of my body for the sake of studying more, getting more involved in extracurricular activities, etc. Overall, I felt like I made the most of my four years at UCLA but I wish I made more time to play sports and take care of my body by going to the gym and exercising.

|| Read: You Can Major in Anything ||

Brandon Brown, UCSF MS1

I wish I had taken more advantage of all the neat opportunities and the breadth of knowledge available to undergraduates. There are so many things I wish I had done or learned and now I just don’t have the time or resources to do most of those things. As an undergraduate, you likely have free access to a gym with discounted classes (for example, I really wish I had taken dance classes), free/discounted events on campus, and the ability to take or audit many different classes. It’s easy to get into the mindset of “only do things that will help me get to med school” as an undergraduate, but keep in mind that doing things you love can actually differentiate you from all the other applicants who did the standard platter of pre-med activities. Unless you take time off between undergrad and medical school, it may be the last time you have the chance to learn a new skill or a language, so definitely squeeze every bit of value out of your time as an undergraduate and enjoy it.

About Emily Chiu

Emily Chiu
Emily Chiu is the Director of Logistics at ProspectiveDoctor.com. She is currently a third-year undergraduate student at UCLA. If you have any questions about her work, or are interested in contributing to ProspectiveDoctor.com, please contact her at emilychiu@prospectivedoctor.com. Follow ProspectiveDoctor on Twitter, @ProspectiveDr.
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