With the start of fall semester around the corner, It’s never too early to start preparing for entrance into medical school! There are other important details to consider well before the dreaded MCAT/AMCAS application! So, here are 5 tips to help you start off on track and in the right direction in your pursuit of becoming a doctor!
1. Get credit for AP/Dual credit classes.
If you have not already done so, now would be the time to see about getting credit for some of those classes you took in high school! Especially if you took AP Biology, AP Chemistry, or AP Physics, these are core pre-med prerequisites regardless of your major. So, if you can get credit for some of them, all the better! Keep in mind that each university is different in what scores they accept depending on the subject so be sure to ask.
*Side note: Even if you did get AP credit, it might be beneficial to still take some of those classes again. You may not want to go straight into organic chemistry coming out of high school even if you have the opportunity to. So, be sure to check with your advisor! However, be mindful that some medical schools don’t accept certain credits so also check their requirements too.
2. Choose your advisors/mentors carefully.
Identify early on where/who you can go to for sound advice throughout your pre-med journey. Some people are loaded with information and are just waiting to share it. However, some can send you off, try to talk you out of your plans/goals, or just straight up give you false/outdated information. They may not be intentional, however it’s still better to identify a good source. I recommend speaking with multiple/different people, including the pre-med advisors (I’ve learned that some are more knowledgeable than others). If you are unsure of something they said, it’s more than okay to cross reference it with another advisor/source. But, nothing beats hearing directly from your medical school of interest when questions pertain to them!
Most schools have some kind of mentor-mentee system that you can look into, so ask around! Try to find other pre-med upperclassmen and also those in your major/minor: They are great resources!! They can give you more detailed advice on what classes to take, professors to avoid, advisors to listen to etc. Not to mention more personal advice from their own journeys!
3. Know and make a timeline for completing pre-med prerequisites.
Now is a good time to put together a list of pre-med prerequisites that you MUST take. They vary slightly from each medical school. For example, some schools require 2 semesters of Organic chemistry while some will allow you to substitute one of those semesters for a semester in Biochemistry. The AAMC (which you’ll become very familiar with) has a list of all medical schools and their pre-med requirements. If you have a desired med school in mind, you probably want to know what classes they want or recommend you take. This is important to know regardless of what major you decide on. This allows you to give yourself enough room in your schedule over the years to take those classes and space them out. No sense it taking physics, biochemistry, and organic chemistry all in one semester if you don’t have to!
4. Figure out your learning style and develop good study habits.
Freshman year can be seen as a time for trial and error. High school is over. Some of your study methods that worked in high school may not work in college. Getting straight A’s in high school is MUCH EASIER than getting straight A’s in college!! If you aren’t a freshman reading this, it’s not too late for you to develop good study habits! It’s okay if you don’t do so well on your first couple of exams, especially in the sciences. The most important thing is to be able to IDENTIFY what went wrong so you can CHANGE it! It’s better for you to recognize what kind of learner you are now rather than later. Go to office hours and talk to your professors, even if you think you know the topic. If you ask for help, you will figure things out! Acquiring good study habits is very important not only now but in the long run. Lookout for a post on acquiring effective study habits!
5. Maintain and build your GPA.
Right now as a freshman, the only thing, or the most important thing, you should be worried about is your G.P.A. Not med school applications or the MCAT, but building and maintain as high of a GPA as possible. There is time for everything else later. You will want to start of strong in this department as much as you can. But, if you don’t that’s okay! Better to make any mistakes now than later on. Just remember it’s much easier to LOWER your GPA than it is to RAISE it back up. So, the more A’s the better. From my experience, you want to aim for an overall/cumulative GPA above a 3.5 as well as a science GPA in that area. Keep in mind however, that some people get into medical school with less than a 3.5 while some with a 4.0 still do not get in!
Were these tips helpful? Have some of your own? Let me know what you think in the comments below!