Pre-Med Overview

When I first started college, I had no idea what being pre-med truly meant. I knew that I wanted to become a doctor, but I didn’t know where to start or what specifically to focus on. The first thing that I learned from my pre-med advisor was that most medical schools subscribe to the method of doing a true holistic review of your application {aka they actually look at your application as a whole, not just the numbers you put out}, which means you have to do way more than just get good grades and a strong MCAT score. That being said, I have broken down the core components of what I feel makes a strong medical school candidate below*:

This is pretty self-explanatory. Getting good grades in all of your classes {not just the science courses} is hugely important. When you apply to med school, they break up your GPA into science GPA and allover GPA, so make sure you’re not slacking in your non-science classes! Don’t let this scare you. You don’t need straight A’s to get into med school {I sure didn’t have all A’s and it worked out just fine for me!}. In the near future I will do a post about how to study and stay organized as a pre-med.

Again, pretty straightforward. Do your best to get a good score on the MCAT. A lot of students struggle with the MCAT, not because the material is challenging, but because they don’t know how to take the test. My advice for the MCAT is to start early!! For example, when you’re taking your general chemistry course, go through an MCAT book with practice questions that correlate to that course. That way you are being efficient with your time; you will be getting more practice for your college course while also learning how to take the MCAT! I am also a big supporter of MCAT classes. I know they are ridiculously expensive and there are students who study better on their own schedule, but if you’re like me, then the course will be worth it. The class helped keep me accountable and on track for my test date. One last note about the MCAT based on a mistake that I made: do not get overwhelmed by the amount of study material out there. Stick to one review course or one book per test section and commit. I don’t recommend studying from multiple books for one section; it’s too much!

Volunteering (Medical)
Now for the fun stuff: hands-on medical experience! Med schools love to see that you have volunteer experience in the field that you’re going into because that means that you’re more likely to have a realistic idea of what being a doctor is. Some examples of medical volunteering: medical brigade, hospice, EMT, hospital volunteer, CNA, phlebotomist, etc.

Volunteering (Non-Medical)
This is equally as important as the medical volunteering. A lot of students make the mistake of getting so wrapped up in the medical volunteering that they forget to do anything outside of the healthcare field. It’s important to be a well-rounded student, and non-medical volunteering helps demonstrate this on your application. Plus, it is nice to take a break from all of the pre-med activities and make friends outside of the pre-med bubble. Trust me, this will keep you sane.

Shadowing doctors is not only necessary, but it’s super fun!! I suggest shadowing a lot of different doctors so that you get a glimpse of each specialty. The decision to become a doctor is a huge one, so you want to make sure you know exactly what you’re getting yourself into. If you’re not sure who to shadow, you can ask your pre-med friends who they have shadowed or you can cold-call physicians in your area and ask if they allow students to shadow.

I have to admit, research was my least favorite activity. Even though I didn’t particularly love research, I am glad that I did it. I personally feel that every pre-med student should do at least one year of research. Research and evidence-based medicine is an important aspect of medical school, so it helps to get a taste of it in your undergrad…even if you don’t plan to be a researcher. On the flip side, you could end up loving research and wanting to pursue an MD/PhD!

This is an obvious one. Physicians are leaders, so you have to demonstrate to medical schools that you have leadership skills. This can mean a variety of things, from holding a board position in an organization on campus to leading a group on a trip abroad. Really anything that involves leadership and teamwork would be wonderful to do.

*I feel the need to say that these should not be boxes that you check just to satisfy a requirement; you should truly find things in each of these categories that you enjoy doing.

I hope this overview was helpful! Please feel free to leave any questions in the comments section.


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