Applying to Medical School

5 Ways to Document Your Pre-Med Experiences

Preparing to apply to medical school takes a huge amount of time and energy. Between volunteering and leadership activities, patient interaction experiences, studying, and time for yourself, sometimes things get lost in the shuffle.

When it’s time to write your personal statement or a secondary essay, or answer a question during an interview, the last thing you want is to struggle to remember what you’ve accomplished or learned. But keeping track of your memories and reflecting on all you’ve done can feel hard.

Keeping a pre-med journal, sort of like a diary of your experiences, can be a great way to record impressions of patients you interact with, insights you gain from shadowing, challenges you encounter, and rewarding moments. Remembering these moments are going to be very helpful while your preparing to apply to medical school. It’s a great way to process your experiences and get to know your values by asking yourself questions like:

  • What were my overall impressions of this experience?
  • What is one positive thing that happened? One challenging thing?
  • What advice was I given, or what did I learn?
  • How do I envision myself handling similar situations in the future?

But how will you find the time to journal between everything else you have on your plate? What if you don’t feel like much of a writer? Whether or not you love to wax poetic, you’re sure to find a way to document your experiences that works with your schedule. Here are a few ideas:

Keep a Traditional Journal

Start with the basics: get yourself a notebook dedicated to your pre-med musings. A leather-bound diary or a plain spiral-bound notebook, full-size or small enough to fit in your pocket–whatever works for you! 

While the memories of an experience are still fresh in your mind, take a few minutes to jot down your thoughts. Maybe you feel energized after finishing a shift at work and like to record your impressions right away. Or maybe the best time for you is early in the morning before your day gets going. Maybe writing once a week is what you can manage–that’s ok, too! Whether you write a few pages at a time or just a few sentences, the key to keeping a journal is to work it into your schedule and make it a habit.

Use the Short and Sweet Method

Even if your schedule is packed and you’re short on time, even if you don’t feel like much of a writer, there’s value in keeping a pre-med journal! It’s perfectly fine to just record a few bullet points or notes. A small, handy journal can be carried on the go, enabling you to jot down thoughts wherever you have a spare minute. You can even try specialized techniques like bullet journaling if you’re into that.

Record Voice Memos

If keeping a notebook isn’t your style, and writing feels like a struggle, why not try voice memos? If you have a phone handy, then it’s a snap to record a quick memo. Most phones have built-in apps for voice memos, and there are others you can download. Simply start up the app, and record yourself talking for a few minutes about your experience and insights you gained from it. Voice memos are easy to save and automatically kept in order, so you have a good chronological record of your experiences to turn to later.

Take it Online

If you feel comfortable writing online on a blog, or sharing videos about your experiences, those can be equally useful ways of recording what you’ve accomplished. You might even find yourself inspired by having an online audience to share with. 

Visualize Your Experiences

If you are inspired by design, a visual record of your accomplishments and activities can also be beneficial. You could fill a notebook with doodles, half-sentences, drawings, or anything else that helps you remember and reflect. You could even keep a scrapbook of mementos of your experiences.

Whatever form you choose, the advantages of documenting your pre-med experiences are huge. Recording your thoughts will help when the time comes for major milestones, like writing application essays and preparing for interviews. Above all, recording your experiences is a form of reflective practice, which is critical in medicine.

Have questions about preparing to apply to medical school or becoming a doctor? MedSchoolCoach has a team of admissions advisors who’ve all served on admissions committees. They are available to help coach you and to boost your chances of getting into medical school. Look them up!

Richard Pierre

Richard taught writing at the college level for nearly a decade and has years of experience providing writing consultations to students working on personal statements and other application materials.

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