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Starting College as a Pre-Med Student, Part 1

Following my last few months’ overview of the path to medicine, I thought it might be time to delve deeper into some details that may be more meaningful to students beginning their undergraduate careers. 


Freshman pre-med students may be overwhelmed by the amount of work they are expected to complete in just four years. There are extracurricular activities, the MCAT, medical school applications, research opportunities, and volunteer experiences, on top of completing the pre-med curriculum, major requirements, and achieving a good GPA.


I’m here to tell you that it seems more than it is, and four years is more than enough time. It won’t be easy, but it is certainly possible, as evidenced by the tens of thousands of medical school applicants annually. 


The first step in beginning any process is to create a plan, and that is more crucial than ever for pre-med students. 


Before I get into it, here is a disclaimer: things rarely go exactly as planned, and students should expect bumps in the road. That doesn’t mean that the plan wasn’t worth the effort. It should be changed constantly as time goes on with the same goal in mind: acceptance into medical school.


Pre-med students should meet with a pre-med advisor (if available), or anybody who has experience creating a 4-year plan. This plan should include courses for each quarter/semester, as well as suggestions for beginning research, volunteering, etc.


In general, first-year students should aim to begin their science coursework and get a foot in the door with relevant clubs and research labs. Biology and chemistry both involve a series of courses that may encompass all four years of college. It is critical that students begin taking biology and chemistry early so they do not get overwhelmed later on. Doing this also helps students meet professors and potentially make positive relationships that can result in future opportunities, as well as letters of recommendation when the time comes. 


Overall, the goal of a freshman should be to get a lay of the land, get comfortable with college, build meaningful relationships with professors and other students, and of course do well in classes to start off with a high GPA.