If you’ve decided to become a physician, you might be wondering how to prepare for medical school in college. Read on to find your answers!
Becoming a doctor requires you to be a life-long learner. Aside from the 11-plus years of education required to join this profession, you’ll be expected to keep up to date with medicine that’s constantly evolving.
While it’s easy to focus on what happens after or during medical school, it’s essential to also consider what happens before when you’re just an undergraduate student with no medical experience. To ensure a smooth journey to your dream medical school, significant preparation during this stage is required.
This guide will go over how to prepare for medical school while in college and give you the top 12 steps to follow during your undergrad!
While there’s no way to guarantee acceptance into your dream medical school, there are steps you can take to maximize your chances of admission. Here’s what they entail:
While it may seem early to begin looking into medical schools before you’ve had a chance to attend your first undergrad lecture, it’s essential you have a few top choices in mind to ensure you meet all of their admission requirements.
Make a list of the prerequisites, GPAs, MCAT scores, and other admission requirements to ensure you complete them during your undergrad.
After figuring out the prerequisites and GPA you’ll need, you should choose a major that you know will allow you to maintain high grades. While the majority of pre-med students choose science majors to help them prepare for medical school, and guarantee they meet all of their science prerequisites, you can essentially choose any major you want!
Ensure you also explore your interests because you won’t have the opportunity to do so in medical school, where your courses are largely predetermined and science-focused.
As difficult as it can be to maintain high grades in your freshman year of your undergrad, do your best to start off strong so that you don’t have to struggle to improve your GPA in the subsequent years.
Developing good study habits in your first year will help you maintain high grades throughout your undergrad with as little hassle as possible.
If you’re a science major, you’ll likely meet several other students with the same career goals as you. If you’re a non-science major, it’s less likely for you to find other pre-med students in your courses.
Joining your school’s pre-med society can help you find like-minded individuals who have the same goals and questions as you! Your pre-med society will be able to help you find useful experiences to help you stand out as an applicant as well.
You may also find study buddies for your MCAT that can direct you to useful resources you might have overlooked otherwise!
After your freshman year, you should reflect on your study habits and identify areas where you can improve.
Each year you should reflect on your academic performance and set new goals to ensure you continue to improve as a student throughout your undergrad.
The study habits you develop during your undergrad will help you excel in medical school!
You likely have other passions besides medicine. Whether it’s sports, animal welfare, reading, cooking, math, or dancing, your undergraduate institution will have a club or team for it.
Join a few extracurriculars during your freshman year and then pick your favorite one or two during your sophomore year. It’ll be difficult to pursue more than two, as you need to prioritize your education and shouldn’t sacrifice your grades for your extracurriculars.
Ensure you also seek leadership positions in these teams and clubs to further boost your resume.
Make connections with your professors as early into your undergraduate career as you can! You’ll likely need several letters of recommendation to apply to your medical school, so it’s best to have a few professors to choose from to write these letters.
These professors can also help you gain research or work experience that can help you stand out as an applicant!
To build these connections, ensure you participate in class, ask insightful questions, and visit your professors during their office hours. You’d be surprised by how few students make use of office hours, so your professors are more likely to remember you if you do!
You should also gain as much volunteer experience as you can early into your undergraduate career. Since volunteer experience is easier to get than work experience, you should spend your freshman and sophomore years volunteering at local clinics, hospitals, or shelters or venturing abroad for medical volunteer brigades.
Ensure you participate in volunteer activities that allow you to gain clinical experience working directly with physicians and patients.
A passion for caring for people, especially underserved communities, is an essential trait for physicians to have. There’s no better way to demonstrate this passion than to dedicate your time to helping others for free!
Ensure you continue at least one or two of these volunteer experiences throughout your undergrad to have a meaningful impact in them.
Once you get into your junior and senior years, you should have some volunteer experience and several connections with your professors. These connections can help you land a research position with one of your professors or another professor at your school.
Don’t be afraid to reach out to several professors to ask to join their research efforts! Ensure you do some of your own research beforehand to prove you actually have an interest in their work and aren’t just looking to fill up your resume.
During your final years of your undergrad, you should try to shadow a physician to learn exactly what they do on a daily basis and understand how heavy their workload is.
Shadowing a physician will strengthen your application by letting the admissions committee know that you understand the rigors of this profession and are still motivated to pursue it!
Make use of the networks you have and reach out to your academic advisors to find shadowing opportunities. You can even contact your own or local doctors to see if they’d let you shadow them.
Make your list of potential candidates and send them an email. Specify why you want to shadow each physician in particular. Do not simply copy and paste the same email to each physician; do your research to impress them and prove you’re genuinely interested in their practice.
One of the most important parts of how to prepare for medical school while in college is preparing for your MCAT.
The majority of students choose to write their MCAT during the summer of their sophomore or junior year because it’s when they have the least commitments and the most time to dedicate to their studies.
Reach out to past test-takers or your academic advisors to figure out which resources will be the most helpful during your MCAT prep. Create a comprehensive study schedule that you can follow throughout the summer to ensure you learn the best test strategies and can put them to practice.
You should also give yourself enough time to retake the MCAT if necessary, as a large portion of students are unable to reach their target score on their first try.
Your undergraduate institution will have several resources that are solely committed to your success. If you feel you can’t maintain the grades you need, there are academic counselors that can help you choose better courses or point you in the right direction of tutors or academic resources that can help.
You will also likely have pre-medical advisors at your undergraduate institution that can help you with your medical school applications. If you’re stuck on your personal statement, and aren’t sure where to begin, your pre-medical advisors can help you come up with a unique statement that can help you stand out.
These advisors can also help you find work, volunteer, research, or shadowing experience to strengthen your application.
Lastly, the entire process of completing your undergrad while exploring as many options as you can to build your medical school resume can feel overwhelming and stressful. If you find you need someone to talk to or a mentor to help you cope with this stress, undergraduate institutions often offer free support services for you to lean on.
Make use of these services to work smarter and not harder!
It might be difficult to make time for hobbies and social life when you feel like you have to spend all of your time strengthening your medical school application. It’s very easy to burn out when you only focus on medicine and don’t give yourself the opportunity to explore other interests.
Realistically, your undergraduate career is the best time in your medical journey to meet new people, embark on exciting new opportunities, and travel. You should try to make the most out of the free time you have as an undergraduate student, so you’re refreshed and energized for the four extensive years you’ll spend in medical school.
Spend a few hours a week participating in a hobby or extracurricular that is completely non-medical. It’ll help you de-stress and can make your undergraduate experience much more enjoyable!
We’ve covered the basic steps you should take as a pre-medical student, but if you have any remaining questions on how to prepare for medical school while in college, read on to find your answers.
Depending on your top medical school choices, a 3.5 can be a good GPA. There are several lower-ranking schools that would accept this GPA. However, if you’re interested in gaining acceptance into a top-ranked medical school, you’ll need a much higher GPA.
You should start preparing for medical school as early as possible to ensure you meet all of your application requirements and can build a strong application. Ideally, you should start preparing before you even join your undergraduate institution by choosing the correct major and researching the medical schools you’d like to apply to.
You should also begin volunteering and joining pre-med societies during your freshman year to gain as much clinical experience as possible and make important connections.
While there is no perfect undergraduate degree for medical school, the majority of pre-med students are science majors because medical schools require several science prerequisites. Choosing a science major can also help you prepare for the MCAT and medical school.
To ensure you give yourself enough time to practice and retake the test if necessary, you should write the MCAT in the summer of your sophomore or junior year. You should begin preparing for it before the summer to figure out the best resources to use.
No, it’s typically not an admission requirement for aspiring medical students to shadow a physician. However, having this on your med school application can differentiate you from other candidates and prove your dedication to the medical field, making you a more attractive applicant.
The process of applying to medical school is lengthy. To ensure you meet all of your requirements and can build a stellar, unique, and impressive medical school application, you should start early and make use of the resources available to you!