Freshman year is over and you probably feel like you should be doing more to prepare for applying to medical school your junior or senior year right? Well, here are 5 tips to help you do just that!
1. Solidify your extracurricular activities
Quality is better than quantity. With regards to applying to med school in the near future, you should endeavor to participate in activities now that allow you to: volunteer, display leadership, and showcase your skills. Volunteering shows dedication and commitment to service/serving your community. Therefore, the amount of hours you put in is very important for med school application. Some schools even have a set minimum amount required before you can apply, so start early and seriosly consider volunteering over the summer!
Choose activities that allow you start in or move up to a leadership position (ex. Resident Advisor, club board member/officer, student government, etc). Also join other clubs/activities for fun, especially if you’re good at it! (I threw shot-put on the track club for 4 years!). Remember at the end of the day med schools want to get a sense of who you are. IMPORTANT: Be sure to keep a detailed record of your involvement in these activities. Anything from hours spent weekly to duties performed or achievements made etc. (they will come in handy during your AMCAS application)! Not sure what to join? Look to campus resources such as your schools career center or pre-med advisors for assistance!
2. Begin or continue to gain clinical/patient exposure.
As you probably guessed, having clinical exposure is very critical to building your resume as a med school applicant but also as a med student and then physician. However, this does not necessarily mean that you have to become a physician scribe or EMT. If either of those interest you (especially if you’re considering emergency medicine), then by all means do it! However, there are other ways to gain clinical exposure: volunteering or working at a hospital/clinic/nursing home, shadowing a physician, even being a tutor allows for interactions with people. The takeaway here is that whatever you decide to do, do it now so you can build your resume. As mentioned above, you’ll want to keep a detailed record of your involvement in whatever you do, including who was in charge, how many hours spent per week, and what duties you performed.
3. Build and maintain a good relationship with your professors for references/recommendation letters.
This may be a little pre-mature, but better to be safe! Recommendation letters are a critical part on your AMCAS application for med school. Each school varies in how many letters they require but usually anywhere from 3-6, but some even accept more! The key to a good recommendation letter is QUALITY. A professor that knows your face or name because you’ve consistently attended their office hours, asked for help, worked under them in research, etc. can write a much more personal and thus valuable letter than a professor who only knows you because you’re simply asking them for a letter. They should be able to comment on not only your competency, and knack for learning, but also your suitability for the rigors of medical school and becoming a doctor. This can be somewhat difficult if you attend a large school, so be sure to ask questions, go to office hours, attend review sessions, etc. Do what you can to be known and noticed (in a good and professional manner) by your professors. This is also why you have to work hard in your classes to get the best grades. A professor is more likely to agree to write you a letter if you received an A in their class as opposed to a C+. Not to mention you probably don’t want to acquire any letters from classes in which you did not receive an A or at least a B!
4. Think about and apply for research positions.
Is research something you’re interested in? Not sure? If you haven’t already, then now would be the time to explore this option. It is important to start early because research takes time, dedication, and effort. Professors generally take on new lab members that they know will be there a while as opposed to just 1 or 2 semesters. They do not want to constantly train new people. In other words, they tend to prefer underclassmen (freshman/sophomores) to upperclassmen (junior/seniors). In addition, you will get more out of a research position that you’ve held for 3+ years than one you only did for 2 semesters–trust me! Not to mention you also will have more to write about in your AMCAS application as well as more to say come interviews! Also, the longer youre in a research position, the better your chances of being published! Your professors are a good starting point for seeking out research positions, but you can also check with any major department, or school job postings.
5. Do not be afraid to ask for help/assistance!
This may sound redundant or obvious but it’s important! By now your freshman year is over, and you have experienced a bit of what college is like. Most importantly, you now know what is required of you as a student. If you find that you are struggling in ANY area whether it be in a certain class/subject, financially, socially, or just a bad habit, please reach out to someone. It can be a counselor, advisor, mentor, friend, religious organization, etc. just seek help! You want to fix any small problem areas now so they do not become big problem areas later. In addition, it’s a good habit and skill to have: knowing when and how to ask for help!
I’m sure there are many other tips out there but to keep this short I’ve only given you a few. Were they helpful to you? Need clarification on something? Please let me know in the comments below!