This month, I thought it would be helpful to continue discussing what students should aim to do starting off their freshman year as a pre-med student.
As mentioned last month, there is a lot that pre-med students are tasked with completing in four years, so having a plan is crucial. However, there are a couple of other general things that students should think about as well.
Because first-year science courses will likely be the easiest, I encourage students who are confident in their work ethic and study skills to take the maximum allowable credits. If the required first-year science courses do not max-out a student’s credits, they should fill the rest of their course load with non-science classes required for either general education or pre-med. Otherwise, students may need to take those classes later on in their undergraduate career when their science courses are significantly more challenging.
Even with a full course load, students should have enough time for extracurricular activities, building relationships with professors and fellow students, as well as enjoying being a college student. Even with all of this on their plate, it is critical that students understand that the #1 rule is “do not burn out”. There is an incredibly long road ahead, and burning out is the number one issue for everyone from freshman in college to resident doctors. I constantly reiterate that #1 rule to my mentees in medical school—it’s just that important and prevalent.
To give an example, if a student gets straight As, does research, extracurriculars, volunteering, and works as a scribe, but burns out after three years and stops being pre-med, what good is that CV? Or how about this real example more relevant to my current peers: a student who worked hard to create a stellar medical school application, complete with a near-4.0 GPA, 90th+ percentile MCAT score, etc. who gets to medical school and burns out before ever stepping foot in the hospital and is miserable?
There is a lot of fear and negativity surrounding the path to becoming a doctor, and much of it is likely perpetuated by people who are overworked and burned out.
The goal isn’t just to become a doctor, it’s to be a doctor and love what you do. So for those of you who are just starting out, make sure to take care of yourself first and foremost.