Hey everyone, I hope you all have had a great weekend! If you haven’t checked out my last post on what it means to be a pre-med in 2021, click here to check that out! Today, I want to discuss the four year pre-med plan in order set yourself up for success on the medical school application!
So I know what you must be saying to yourself, “What about the students who don’t know they want to pursue medical school when they first enter college?” My response to that is this: that is just fine if this is you and you don’t know what you want to do when you first start college. This timeline is honestly just a guideline for those students who do have an inclination they want to become a physician early on so that they know what to do. If you decide on medicine a little later as an undergrad, you can still get accepted to medical school, you will just have to adjust this timeline. In a future post, I will zoom in on the last two years of undergrad, highlighting the important timing needed for the medical school application itself.
Let’s dive right into the first year! For the rest of this post, I am going to identify two goals for each year and two action items that you should try to complete during that year. The first goal of your first year is to adjust to and settle into the college environment. In the first year of being a pre-med, this is one of the most important things you can do! For many students, going to college is the first time in their life that they have to move away from home and, with that goes many of the support systems immediately available that they once had. The college environment also poses new challenges in time management and often new study strategies have to be developed in order to succeed as a pre-med. This also means that you should avoid getting involved in too many activities this first year that could distract you from your studies.
The second goal of the first year is to start to think about activities that you want to start engaging in to build your application for medical school. One trap that many students fall into is to get involved in multiple activities the first year of being a pre-med, leading to worse grades in the early pre-med courses. Although you may think that you could just make it up later on by doing better in the later pre-med courses as well as your major courses, as you gain more credits throughout your journey as a pre-med, it will be harder to make large changes in your GPA at that point. If you want to make the most impact on your GPA, do it early on when you don’t have as many credits and this will help you achieve a higher GPA overall.
Keeping these two goals in mind, here are two actions that you should think about completing during your first year as a pre-med.
Develop a schedule for which you can learn to manage your time effectively given the many demands that will be placed on you as a pre-med. This will come in handy later on in your pre-med years when you will be trying to balance many different activities.
Create a list of 3-4 activities that you really want to engage in prior to applying to medical school. Whether this is volunteering, research, leadership, shadowing, etc, this is the time to figure out which of these activities you want to focus on.
Lets move onto year 2! The first goal of this year is to start to build your resume in preparation for your medical school application. If you took your first year to set a solid foundation in your pre-med coursework, then this is the time to start building your application through various activities. For some, this means starting to volunteer in a hospital or a non-hospital setting while for others, it may mean getting involved in research or another activity (stay tuned for a future video on what activities make good additions to your application!) This is an important time to start making connections that will help your application later on. For instance, if you start on a research project towards the beginning of your second year, this will give you plenty of time to get to know your research mentor so that they can write a great letter of recommendation for you when it comes time to do so.
The second goal of the second year is to succeed in your pre-med coursework. At this point, you are likely progressing from the genera chemistry course series into the more challenging organic chemistry courses where many pre-med students start to feel the pressure of the pre-med curriculum. Not only is organic chemistry a more difficult subject matter to learn but the class size typically starts to dwindle a bit at this point leading to more of the high caliber students still present affecting the curve. With some additional focus on this subject matter, you can still do very well.
So here are two action items to focus on during your second year!
Get involved in 2-3 activities that interest you. By starting slow with just a few activities, you can gauge how it will affect your studying. Perhaps start with 2-3 activities during the first semester of that year and then look to add 2-3 more in the second half!
Continue to focus on doing well in your pre-med courses. Even if you started your pre-med journey off to a great start in your first year, you need to continue that momentum in your second year. If you weren’t as successful in your first year, talk to someone and figure out what wasn’t going well and make the changes to help make you successful going forward!
In year 3, the first goal is to continue to build your resume for your medical school application. Hopefully by this point, you have started to engage in a few activities that you can use on your medical school application. Whether this is a volunteering experience, research, or shadowing, keep working on these activities to show that you are dedicated to the pursuit of medicine. The classical teaching was to fill the entirety of the 15 allowed activities on your application but this is no longer the case! The goal is to focus on fewer activities but make sure that they are really quality ones that you can talk about on your application and during the interview.
The second goal of this year is to plan out your medical school application. There are many things that you need to take care of in order to successfully complete the application process. From planning when you will take the MCAT exam (and therefore planning out your study process for this test), to planning out when you will work on your personal statement and the other components of the application can be a daunting task. It can take months to work on your personal statement and get it to the point that you feel comfortable submitting it. In a future video, I will discuss the application timeline in more detail and talk about when you might think about working on these various tasks.
The action items for the third year are pretty straight forward when you put them in the context of the goals I just outlined. First, you should strive to focus on getting the most out of your activities. What I mean by this is that you should focus on not only participating in various activities but you should also know why you are involved in those activities. This will help you later on when you are asked about these activities in an interview perhaps and you can talk very fluently about them.
The second action item is really focused on the application itself and making sure you set forth time to work on all of the components including the personal statement, the Work/Activities section among others. When adequate planning, these tasks become much more manageable and less daunting.
Now on to year 4. You have done all the work up to this point so it is important to not let off the gas pedal and keep working hard to the end. In the fall of your 4th year, the main goal will be to complete the last remaining components of the application (which usually means the secondary essays) and hopefully get to interview at multiple medical schools. Depending on the number of schools that you apply to, completing the secondary essays can be a daunting task, however, you can often work on these ahead of time to make the process more efficient.
The second goal of year 4 is to enjoy your time before graduation! Once you have gotten through the application process and hopefully have gotten accepted to at least one medical school, then you should try to enjoy your time before graduating and before starting medical school in the fall. This may be one of the last times that you have less responsibilities and can enjoy the time. If this means traveling to that destination that you have always wanted to go (hopefully we can do this once again more individuals are vaccinated against COVID) or just spending time with family, this is a great time to do these things. You will have some time in medical school but it will certainly be more limited than before.
Once again, the action items are fairly straight forward when you think about the goals of the year. The main thing you need to do is finish your application (if you didn’t get it done during the summer between your 3rd and 4th years) and then interview for medical school. Then as the year progresses, you hope to have multiple interviews and then multiple acceptances so that you can choose where you want to go for medical school!
As I said earlier, in a future post I will spend a lot of time going over the application timeline itself where I will explain important dates that you should keep in mind to make sure you stay on top of the application process! In the meantime, check out my instagram where I have lots of great tips to help you as a pre med or you can always sign up for my online course where I explain the medical school application in great detail.
Comment below with goals you set for yourself in each year of being a pre-med student!