Stepping Up Your Game as a Premed StudentMarch 18, 2015
Becoming a physician is no easy feat. It takes hard work as a premed student to make the cut and get accepted into medical school. If you haven’t noticed by now, college is often more challenging than high school, and med school will be even tougher.
Competition is tough for med school spots and even qualified students to not always get accepted. Whether you are just starting your undergrad career or are an upperclassman, there are plenty of ways to step up your game as a premed student and increase your chances of success.
- Slow Down
Slowing down may seem like the opposite of stepping up your game, but in some ways it can help you be successful. When you take your time, you can develop a plan of action and figure out what you need to do to get accepted into medical school.
Taking your time can also help you separate misconception from facts. Undergrads may not always have the correct information when it comes to medical school requirements. Take the time to talk to a premed advisor at your university. Another excellent source of information is the Association of American Medical Colleges website. Information on med school requirements, the application process, and general tips can be found on the website.
Slowing down can also save your sanity. If you are going full speed to get every requirement completed in record time, study for the MCAT and complete volunteer work all at once, you may burnout quickly. Pace yourself. You have four years to prepare.
- Protect Your Grade Point Average
Grades are not the only factor when it comes to getting accepted into medical school, but they are important. Keep in mind, high grades will not necessarily open the door for you, but poor grades may close it.
Right from the start, do what you can to maintain a high grade point average. For example, consider taking premed coursework after your freshman year. In your freshman year, you are adjusting to college life including classes, living away from home and being on your own. Premed requirements, such as organic chemistry and anatomy, can be challenging. It may be in your best interest to take those classes after the adjustment period has passed.
In addition, try to avoid taking several difficult classes within the same semester. If you sign up for all math and science classes, it can be difficult to nail each class. Instead, consider taking one or two difficult classes and a few easier ones.
- MCAT Prep is Essential
The medical school admissions test is required by almost all med schools in the United States. Similar to your grades, your MCAT scores play a part in whether you get accepted or not. The Association of American Medical Colleges recommends students take the MCAT the year before they plan to apply to medical school. For many students that means they take the test their junior year.
It may be a good idea to take the test after you have completed most of your premed class requirements. The information you learn in class may help you during the exam. You also want to take the test early enough, so you have time for a retest if you are unhappy with your score the first time around.
Give yourself plenty of prep time for the MCAT. The amount of study time you need varies by student. But it is safe to say, allowing yourself at least six months is beneficial. Although it is possible to do well with less study time, you don’t want to become stressed out or overwhelmed with all you have to do.
Keep in mind during this time, you may also be gathering letters of recommendations, completing research projects and considering which schools you are interested in.
Studying a little at a time over several months may work better with your schedule and help you retain the information. Determine what study methods work best for you. Consider taking a prep course, joining a study group and taking practice tests.
- Get Involved
With classes to take, admissions requirements to consider and the MCATS to prepare for, you may have a lot on your plate. But you need to make time for extracurricular activities. Med schools want to see you participated in extracurricular activities. Plus, extracurricular activities add to your college experience. You will have the opportunity to meet new people and have some fun. Pick activities you are passionate about, not just what you think looks good on a med school application.
- Develop Leadership Skills
If you plan to become a doctor, you may be a natural leader. If not, participate in activities, which help you develop leadership skills. The ability to be a strong leader is an important skill for physicians. Admission committees like to see applicants taking on roles, which develop or display leadership. Consider serving your community, such as organizing a charity event or working with a non-profit organization. Take a leadership role on campus, run for office or become a peer advisor or student ambassador.
- Get Involved in Research
Participating in research projects is a great way to boost your chances of getting accepted into medical school. As early as your freshman year, consider getting involved in some type of research. Consider what interests you. You may be able to locate a paying internship or summer job at a biotech or pharmaceutical company. Consider speaking with a student advisor who may have information about research assistant jobs at your school.
- Remember It’s the Journey That Matters
Your college years should be about more than just prepping for medical school. Don’t allow being premed to define you. It is great to develop and focus on goals during your four years as an undergrad. But college is also a time to get to know yourself and be open to different classes and career options.
Do not have tunnel vision. Medicine should not be the only thing you are passionate about. Join clubs, make friends and have fun. You will not get your college years back. Don’t get so bogged down by med school requirements that you do not enjoy your undergrad years.