Pre-Med Academics

5 Tips for Planning the Pre-Med Years

Here are 5 tips for helping upperclassmen or graduating seniors plan their pre-med years to balance school, work, and med school applications.

When you start college, everything comes at you very quickly. The pre-med years include orientation, the overjoyed residential life staff, selecting your courses for the first semester, adjusting to dorm living or commuting, and so much more. 

With all of this going on, it can be hard to keep the grand scheme of things in mind. Being a pre-med student takes a lot of preparation and organization. While you don’t have to plan out every single thing to succeed, here are a few things you can do to best structure your undergraduate experience. These steps will prepare you so that you are that much closer to getting into medical school!

Upperclassmen or graduating seniors can use these tips to navigate the next few years of school, work, and med school applications.

1. Begin With the Beast (The MCAT) In Mind

One of the best things you can do is plan for the MCAT far in advance. By no means does this mean purchasing content books and taking full-length practice tests during freshman year. Rather, block out the time that you feel you’ll need to ace the exam. You only want to take it once if possible, so don’t be afraid to give yourself some wiggle room. 

You will also need to consider which application cycle you will be joining. Schedule your MCAT well in advance of that. Questions to ask yourself include, “Can I manage any coursework while studying for the MCAT?” “Do I prefer to study full-time or part-time?” “At what point will I financially be able to take the exam?”

Keeping those answers in mind and planning accordingly will save you a lot of stress down the road.

2. Choose the Path of Least Resistance & The Most Fulfillment

Being a pre-med is hard enough as it is, so why make it any harder. I’ve heard of some students who choose to take tons of the most challenging courses in one semester. They do this to demonstrate to medical schools that they can handle it all. 

While this might seem okay or even logical for a moment, there are many other less stressful ways of demonstrating your time management and resilience. Why take organic chemistry, biochemistry, physics, and calculus at once? You’ll have no free time. You could take organic chemistry and physics, and then balance it out with two other elective courses. This would give you the free time to join a club or volunteer at a local soup kitchen. 

It’s all about choosing the path of the least resistance and the most fulfillment. There’s no need to stretch yourself so thin. Medical school will always be there when you are ready for it. So, take your time and focus on every small step. You’ll be there before you know it.

3. Summers Come Quickly. Be Prepared!

However you decide to spend your summer, whether it be taking courses, doing research, taking the MCAT, or working full-time, May comes upon us all very fast, so make sure you have a rough idea of your plans as early as February.

Many summer programs and courses have deadlines that range from February to April. You don’t want to miss those deadlines.  Not to mention, if you plan on doing research, there are tons of other students with the same plan. Don’t be afraid to make connections with labs early on.  That way, you can solidify your place in the lab ahead of time for the summer. 

4. Make Time to Reflect. Write It Down.

There are multiple ways to spend your summer. You could take courses, conduct research, take the MCAT, or work full-time. May comes up quickly for everyone. That’s why it’s a good idea to start planning your summer as early as February.

The medical school application process is both exciting and exhausting. It will force you to get to know yourself and your values more than ever before. So, you can do yourself a huge favor and start documenting all of those formative experiences as they happen. 

Making this a habit will give you a strong foundation for the majority of your medical school application. Plus, it can be fun to walk down memory lane.

5. Medicine Isn’t Everything. Don’t Be Afraid to Mix It Up.

No one wants to be cared for by a robot of a person who doesn’t like anything besides medicine. We are all people with a variety of interests and hobbies, some of which you can even write about in your medical school application. So, don’t be afraid to invest time in those non-pre-med related activities that you love.

Oftentimes, the most valuable experiences that shape our goals and ignite our passion for medicine are the ones that occur far outside  the boundaries of healthcare. Those adventures can be the most rewarding.

If you need tutoring help to prepare for the MCATs, or admissions advising to help you land a seat at a top medical school, check out the awesome advisors over at MedSchoolCoach today. Schedule a free consultation to talk to an advisor!

Olivia Brumfield

Olivia Brumfield is a 3rd year medical student at Harvard Medical School where she is pursuing her interests in pediatric neurology and getting involved in her class as the Vice President of Student Services! Before medical school, Olivia studied Neuroscience and American Sign Language at the University of Rochester (located in her hometown of Rochester, NY), two passions that she continues to explore in her medical school journey. Since beginning her clinical year, she has become involved in research exploring fetal brain development and healthcare access for children born with hearing differences. In her spare time she enjoys spending time with classmates and family, trying new foods, and working with aspiring medical students.

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