Originally Posted Sept 7, 2017

Hi folks!

I’m sure many of you are nervous as the new school year approaches, however, there is no need to panic yet! The Pre-Med Hub Team has come up with some “back-to-pre-med” tips to help you successfully start the new school year. Below are some great tips we thought of:

 

1. Classes first and find the perfect balance!

Many students get so caught up in the idea of having to prioritize volunteering, gain leadership in university orgs, and generally focus on creating the perfect profile for medical schools in terms of extracurriculars. However, students could potentially jeopardize their GPA in doing so. Just a gentle reminder, medical schools will look at your GPA before they look at your extracurriculars. If you don’t have the target GPA they are looking for, they might not bother to even look at what you have been doing outside of the classroom. Keep this in mind as you go into the semester and make sure you are focusing on your classes. Then, once you get the hang of the rigor of your courses, you can fit in extra-curriculars in your schedule when you have the time.

2. Speaking of classes…get to know your professor!

This doesn’t necessarily mean become your professor’s best friend and try to get a recommendation out of them. Rather, get to know their teaching style, listen in lecture in terms of what is going to be on the test. Figure out what they want you to know for the exam and how you can get the best grade possible in their class. If you find that you are having trouble adjusting to the rigor of the course or you don’t know how to succeed in the class, visit your professor in office hours! Tell your professor you name and how you can personally succeed and stay on top of the course material (please, oh please, do not ask how you can get an A in the class!). Maybe if you go to office hours enough, you might feel comfortable asking for a recommendation! Just remember that you should be asking the professor if they really know you, not necessarily because you aced the class.

3. Think about the MCAT… but only if you feel ready!

WARNING: only do this if you feel comfortable in taking this examination! If you feel that you aren’t ready, do not force yourself to take the exam. However, if you feel that your pre-med classes have adequately prepared you and that you have some extra time to study this semester, maybe you can think about taking the MCAT in the near future.

4. Talk to an advisor!

This could be one of the Pre-Med Hub board members or a pre-health advisor. Just make sure that you’re doing everything that you need to do. You don’t want to have to delay applying to medical school because you don’t have experience in a certain area which is important to medical schools (clinical exposure, volunteering, etc.)

5. HAVE FUN!!

Seriously. Whether it be not doing any work on Friday’s or taking 5 minutes out of your day to do some yoga, please find sometime for yourself. You want to avoid burning out as much as possible. Having some time to unwind your brain from a long day of rigorous science classes, it will be very much worth it in the end. And if you’re one of those people who feels guilty for not studying, know missing those 5 extra minutes to study to meditate will not cause your grade to change. Who knows it might even improve it!

From all of us at Pre-Med Hub, we hope you have a wonderful start to the semester! If you have any questions, feel free to post on our website. 🙂

 

Best,

The Pre-Med Hub Board

 

“Many students get so caught up in the idea of having to prioritize volunteering, gain leadership in university orgs, and generally focus on creating the perfect profile for medical schools in terms of extracurriculars. However, students could potentially jeopardize their GPA in doing so”

Margarete Wallner

 

 

 

Originally Posted Apr 3, 2018

 

Over the past few years the social climate at our university has become much more sensitive to the topic of mental health and although as a community we are slowly breaking down the stigma of mental health it is still prevalent in the pre-med community. In this increasingly competitive community it can be difficult to take care of and be aware of your mental health. We all know a lot of habits in college are not conducive to mental health which is why we need to talk about it, and specifically how it applies pre-med students.

Managing stress and mental illness is like balancing on a tightrope; it takes practice and trial and error. Sleep deprivation and chronic stress make people more susceptible to spells of depression or anxiety. Constant stress and lack of sleep is pretty common among college student which is why it is so important we try to limit the unhealthy habits we find so normal. Managing your time better will help you get more sleep and cut down on stress. Getting the hang of time management can be difficult for pre-med students because so much is expected of us, so here are some tips that can help dealing with stress:

1. Try to take at least one non STEM course a semester to cut down on your workload.

2. Only join clubs/groups on campus that you’re passionate about.

3. Give yourself some personal time each week (Actually schedule in time for yourself that is not just free time).

     If you feel like you’re experiencing symptoms of depression or anxiety you might feel less motivated, feel like you’re falling behind in class, or not meeting your goals. You can try making list of all the things you need to do and cross them off as you go. These don’t need to be big goals or academic assignments but can be everyday things like “go to the gym,” “shower,” or “pay credit card bill.” This can make you feel more accomplished and organized, reducing stress and symptoms of mental illness. Meditating has proven to reduce anxiety and exercise is known to release endorphins and if done regularly can reduce feelings of depression.  

     Remember that there isn’t really a cure for anxiety and depression. There are treatments and lifestyle choices that will reduce the role that mental illness plays in your life but this means you need to constantly be taking care of your mental health and not just after a bad spell.   

Also, try not to close yourself off from friends or family and if you feel yourself withdrawing from social situations try reaching out to someone you trust. If you’re not sure who to turn to, CAPS is an amazing resource on campus.      

CAPS:

3100 Michigan Union

(734) 764-8312 – (24hrs)

“Managing stress and mental illness is like balancing on a tightrope; it takes practice and trial and error.”

Corey Flynn

 

 

Originally Posted Jul 20, 2018

While spring and summer periods often give students a much-needed break from the pace of university life during the regular academic term, this time also creates more opportunities to gain experiences relevant to your prospective medical career. With so many options, it can be hard to decide how to spend your time. The PMH Board made a by-no-means exhaustive list of popular pre-med summer activities with pros and cons based on our own experiences.

  1. Volunteering
    • Hospital volunteering is a great way to get exposure to clinical settings. Most hospitals have a volunteer program, and even if the slots are full, make a contact at the office who you could reach out to next year.
    • You don’t ONLY have to volunteer at hospitals and doctor’s offices. You can help out in soup kitchens, animal shelters, or anywhere else you feel passionate about making an impact!
  2. Shadowing
    • There are a lot of ways to get in touch with physicians to shadow. You can start off by asking your own doctor, family members, or family friends. Another option is to ask around your local hospital to see doctors who would be willing to let you shadow. Finally, you can try to cold call by looking up physicians in your area, coming up with a list of people you would be interested in shadowing, and contacting them / their office directly. If a doctor declines your interest in shadowing them, don’t be discouraged – some doctors work in clinics or specialties that aren’t as receptive to shadowing.
  3. Working
    • Many people choose to work during the summer to save up some money either to pay for necessities such as rent, meals, etc. However, there are definitely ways to work while expanding your interests in medicine.
    • Leadership / teaching experience is also helpful even if it’s not medicine-related at all
    • Working in a group home or in hospice care: many group homes and hospice care organizations are always looking for workers to engage in direct patient care. However, these positions are often physically and emotionally taxing, so research the organizations you are interested in before applying or accepting the position
    • Working as a scribe: this is a popular option for those looking to get experience in the hospital and get in contact with doctors who could provide a recommendation letter. Most companies do require one to two-year commitments so this option is best if you will be a part-time student in the fall and/or winter semesters or don’t have too many other commitments such as student organizations or passion projects.
    • Working in catering / serving / waiting: these experiences may seem inconsequential, but they give you the opportunity to build skills that medical schools are looking for, such as showing initiative, being able to work in a team, and leadership. Don’t discount these valuable opportunities!
    • Working as a tutor: Education is an important part of the medical field. Tutoring students on a specific subject or a section of the MCAT can demonstrate your knowledge, enthusiasm for science, and ability to work with others.
  4. Research
    • Another example of work over the summer is being engaged in research in a paid capacity. Certain departments offer more paid opportunities than others, so be sure to find a department that not only aligns with your research interests but can compensate you for your work (if you so desire).
    • If you’re not in Michigan for the summer, you can still get involved with research at universities near you. Browse the universities’ research pages and find professors you might want to work with. Email them expressing your interest and attach your resume. Make sure to stay in contact with them throughout the school year as well!
  5. Take a vacation
    • Being pre-med comes with a lot of stress and pressure, but don’t forget to take a break! Focusing solely on work or your resume while neglecting your physical and mental health can have lots of negative short- and long-term impacts. Block off a week, or even a weekend, and go somewhere with your friends or family. You’ll feel refreshed and ready to get back to the grind when you get back. Remember, it’s called “summer break” for a reason!
  6. Study for the MCAT
    • One experience every premed will have to go through is taking the MCAT. Trying to balance studying for your University course load in addition to dense MCAT material isn’t ideal if you’re someone who likes to avoid pressure and multitasking. One option to alleviate some of the stress associated with the MCAT can be to push your test date to the nearest summer: AAMC offers test dates throughout the months of May, June, July, August, and September. The summer, which may be a time where you have minimal other responsibilities, is often the perfect time to start studying either by yourself or with a prep class. On the other hand, it can be hard to spend your entire summer locked up studying. Many students choose to combine a few other activities that don’t require too much mental strain, such as working a part-time job, volunteering, or playing IM sports, and spend the rest of their day studying.
  7. Catch up on classes
    • During the regular academic terms, it can be overwhelming to juggle multiple pre-med requirements and courses for your major with your other activities on campus. For this reason, a number of students of all disciplines elect to spend Spring and/or Summer half-semesters taking a class or two when extracurricular distractions are at a minimum and campus is quieter.
    • If you don’t manage to obtain the course grade needed per medical school / major requirements, Spring / Summer term is a great time to retake a course with less distractions and earn a higher grade. This way, you won’t risk getting bogged down by an old class while starting other upper-level courses.
  8. Go abroad
    • A huge multitude of experiences abroad occur during spring and summer. Many university-affiliated programs that will allow you to take a class in another country and receive college credit are available through the Center for Global and Intercultural Study (CGIS).
    • You can also find shadowing, research, and work opportunities abroad. As with other summer opportunities discussed, do your research on the merits of these programs and their legitimacy before you commit if they aren’t directly through the University.
    • Immerse yourself in another culture –- no matter what you’re doing abroad, use your time there to grow as a person. Becoming familiar with another country’s customs and/or language gives you a viable method of connecting with colleagues, peers, and even patients in the future.

These are just a handful of the experiences that you can have during spring / summer break. Remember to recharge yourself so you can tackle the upcoming academic year with good health and strong focus. Don’t be discouraged if you’re doing something less glamorous than your friends are during break: concentrate on what you need to do. Being pre-med is by no means easy, and no one’s path to medical school looks the same.

“Don’t be discouraged if you’re doing something less glamorous than your friends are during break: concentrate on what you need to do. Being pre-med is by no means easy, and no one’s path to medical school looks the same.”

 

PMH Board

 

Originally Posted Jan 22, 2018

So I spent this summer taking the MCAT (cue every pre-med student within a 5 mile radius hyperventilating). Definitely not the most exciting way to spend the four months off, but in the end, I was very glad I got it out of the way. This will likely be one of many MCAT posts on this website, since so many people have questions about it and it’s constantly changing. Here is what I will address in this post:

  1. The Princeton Review (TPR) class: was it helpful, or necessary?
  2. Timing: when should you take the MCAT?
  3. General tips and tricks

Note: I went into the MCAT having taken 1 semester of inorganic chemistry (CHEM 130), 2 semesters of organic chemistry (CHEM 210 and 215), 2 semesters of physics (PHYSICS 135 and 235), 1 semester of biochemistry (MCDB 310), and a number of psych classes (PSYCH 230, 240, and 250) at Michigan. Having taken AP Bio and AP Psych in high school, I did not take BIO 171 or 172 or PSYCH 111 here.

TPR

A quick description of how the class worked: it was two months of 3 hours per day and 5 days a week. It was divided up into six subjects: biology, general chemistry, organic chemistry, physics, psychology/sociology, and critical analysis and reasoning (CARS). Each 3-hour class focused on one subject, but the number of classes dedicated to each varied; for example, there were 11 classes for biology but only 4 for organic chemistry.

Overall, I thought the class I took through TPR was very helpful. First and foremost, the way they divided up the material and provided a schedule to follow was definitely the most valuable resource for me. Without a schedule to keep me on track, I would not have been able to organize the sheer amount of material needed for the MCAT into sizeable chunks to study every day. Not only was I able to focus on one thing at a time, but spreading it out made it easier to review and connect the subjects later on.  The content review was additionally crucial for me, especially for subjects like biology for which I had not taken a course since senior year of high school.

Another major aspect that attracted me to TPR’s class was the fact that there were different teachers for different subjects. For me personally, having multiple instructors assured me that they were specialized in the subjects they were teaching. All of them were very knowledgeable about what they were teaching, not only in terms of the actual material but also in regard to test-taking strategies.

Finally, the fact that TPR provided 11 full-length practice tests, as well as access to a few more AAMC practice exams, was a huge draw. Even though I did not end up using all of them, they really helped me track my progress in both understanding what MCAT passages and questions looked like and sitting through a 7-hour exam. However, one disclaimer for practice exams from companies like TPR or Kaplan: they are definitely made to be harder than the real MCAT. This is likely to ensure that you are fully prepared for the exam, but it is still really important to keep this mind – DON’T get discouraged if your score on the first few full-lengths you take is below where you want to be. The AAMC exams are the best to take in the few weeks before the actual exam, since they will be the most true to the real thing.

An added benefit of the class for me was that my class ended up getting pretty close. It’s nice to have study buddies, or at the very least know that there are people doing the same thing as you.

Timing

In terms of timing, there is obviously no “correct” time to take the MCAT. Some people take it before junior year, while others take it after they have graduated college. It all depends on when YOU think you are ready to take it, whether that means you have taken all the necessary courses or you are mentally prepared to sit in front of a computer for 7.5 hours. That being said, for me personally, I don’t think I would ever feel completely prepared for an exam as long and important as the MCAT. If this is the case for you, don’t worry – you’re in the same boat as a lot of other people. Just take it when you feel that you would score the best, even if that means pushing it off for another semester or year.

Whether or not to take it during the school year versus in the summer all comes down to how well you manage your time. If you feel like you will be able to balance your coursework with studying, then definitely feel free to take it during the school year. However, if you feel that studying for the MCAT will suck up your time and distract you from your studies, don’t hesitate to push it to the nearest summer.

General tips and tricks

  1. Time management is key! Everyone knows it, but not everyone practices it. Best advice: do keep to a schedule, be it your own or a class’s.
    1. If you can’t focus on one subject for hours on end, split up your time so that you do multiple subjects in one day
    2. Make a list of where you need to get stronger during your first run-through of the material, and focus on those areas while studying later
    3. Study broad to specific
  2. Practice exams
    1. Space them out every weekend or every other weekend to stay on track
  3. Morale
    1. Self-care! Is! Essential!
    2. Make sure to reward yourself for the little things.
    3. Dance and Sleep 🙂

Resources

“… personally, I don’t think I would ever feel completely prepared for an exam as long and important as the MCAT. If this is the case for you, don’t worry – you’re in the same boat as a lot of other people. Just take it when you feel that you would score the best, even if that means pushing it off for another semester or year.”

Kiran Ajani