Name: Anni Ball
Major(s) and minor(s): Neuroscience major and African Studies minor
Favorite class you took at Michigan:
My favorite STEM classes would probably be NEUROL 455 (neuroscience of Parkinson’s Disease) or 436 (immunology). In both of these classes, I finally felt like I was learning something that was truly applicable to the real world (I know this is all classes, but it was also paired with the feeling that my degree will be worth at least some of the ridiculous amount of tuition money). Dr. Balazovich is a pretty polarizing figure here at Michigan, but I really enjoyed taking classes with him (I also had him for biochem). Immunology especially is kind of his baby, so he puts a lot of effort into this class. In immunology, we had a case study book and projects similar to those in biochem. The second half of the class was about half regular lectures and half case study presentation, which was a nice change from a normal lecture-only class. Dr. B encouraged significant class participation during case study presentation (the students never present, don’t worry) through prompting questions. An added, and unexpected, bonus of this class was that the immunohistochemistry procedures I perform in my research lab make much more sense to me (I will readily admit I did them half-blindly before I took this class).
In terms of non-STEM, I really enjoyed all of my AAS (African and AfroAmerican Studies) classes because AAS professors are amazing, my favorite was AAS 458: Health and African Development. This class is cross-listed as a graduate-level epidemiology course at the SPH, which led to very few undergraduates in the class (my class had a record number of 4) and an extremely small class size (9 total). I had already taken a class with Dr. Stein, and his teaching gets even crazier (in a good way) in this particular class. AAS 458 is another one of those classes that connects to the real world because Stein updates his lectures with new disease epidemics. There was also a higher level of analysis (in statistics, causes, and socioeconomic implications) expected from students due to the graduate-level designation, which was more of a blessing than a curse (grades are based on participation, the final, and a 3.5 hour presentation) in the end because it added another dimension to my minor and depth to my discussion capacities in future classes (AAS 453 + 495).
When/How did you study for the MCAT: Haven’t taken it yet!
When did you take the MCAT: I plan on taking it at the end of this summer, after I graduate.
What was your pre-med experience:
Over my four years of college I have questioned my decision to be pre-med many, many times. To be quite honest, I was not having a great time in my sophomore spring and junior fall, partly due to transferring, but mostly due to burnout. I’ve often called myself “a bad pre-med” in conversation because I’ve followed the guidelines for extracurricular activities pretty loosely (again, due to burnout at Wellesley and the adjustment process at Michigan). I have close to no patient interaction hours from my time at Wellesley because Boston hospitals are far away and extremely strict on patient contact, so I can really only speak to the patient interactions I had during a medical+public health brigade I did through Wellesley in Nicaragua or my semester in the dementia unit of Glacier Hills Retirement Community. I will be the first to admit that I’ve shied away from a lot of the extracurricular pre-med requirements because of the fairly stressful, but inevitable, interactions with other pre-meds. Throughout my college career, I’ve basically mitigated this problem by engaging in other extracurriculars outside of health careers to round out my resume (I’m the blog director for a magazine here at Michigan and was active in residential life at Wellesley) or ones that are somewhat related to (pre-)health causes (volunteering at the farms at UM and St. Joe’s, advising for Pre-Med Hub).
I originally planned on going straight into medical school, but made what I saw as a “compromise” to push med school two years after I decided transferring was more important to me. This helped lighten my load for pre-med stuff—I decided to do patient interaction in my gap years, when I have much more time to commit to it. The amount of gap years I’m going to take is also influenced by my interest in a MD-PhD. I’m pretty involved in my research lab here at Michigan, and will also use my two gap years to better inform my decision as to which grad program I want to pursue.
Recommendations/advice for current students: (maybe a little bit about transferring and adjusting)
If you’re a transfer student, do not, as I did, underestimate the emotional burden transferring had on your life. I’m sure this varies depending on your experience with Michigan and your previous institution, but I had a hard time adjusting because I’d visited UM once before I got my acceptance, and I came from a tiny, all-women, liberal arts college. If you’re coming from a similar situation as I mine, I would recommend seeking little communities to be a part of wherever you can. I attended a few transfer student events, where I met some of my friends, became close with some of my orgo II labmates, and really made an effort to go above and beyond in my research lab (the people on my research floor are my best friends here). I also think this will change depending on where you are in your academic career when you transfer. Since I came to Michigan as a junior, I knew I had to come in with the mindset that I transferred mainly for the academics (serious focus on my major and career paths), not necessarily to enjoy a completely different college experience.
In terms of general pre-med advice: chill out. The most toxic thing about pre-med culture, at UM but really in general, is that everything seems like a competition. Yes, you’re technically beating out other applicants for medical school, but there is no need to participate in or play into the stress culture. Do what you think is your best, and don’t worry about anyone else. I would definitely go to advising, either with PMH or Newnan, since it’s a more objective viewpoint of the pre-med track than talking to other students before you go into a biochem exam. Even more importantly, don’t do anything that you’re not passionate about, or derive significant lessons from, for the sake of your resume. If this passion is not apparent when you speak about it, either in interviews or in casual conversation, then it’s similar to not having that experience at all. Plus, you’re at a higher risk of burnout and impostor syndrome if you don’t have some type of grounding reason or tenet.
1st year Wellesley
2nd year Wellesley
3rd year Michigan
4th year Michigan
|-Biology 110 + Lab (171,173)
-Neuro 100 +Lab (Psych 230+Bio 222)
-French 201 (231)
|-Neuro 200 + Lab (Psych 230+Bio 222)
-Ancient Greek Phil (Phil 388)
-Chem 105 + Lab (130, 126)
-Evolutionary Psych (no equiv.)
|-CHEM 215, 216
|-Biology 111 + Lab
-Physics 104 + Lab (135,136)
-French 202 (232)
-Writing 161 (FYWR)
|-Physics 106 + Lab (235, 236)
-Medical Ethics (no equiv.)
-Psych 205 + Lab (Stats 250)
-Independent Study (Psych 326, 2 credits)
-Chem 211 + Lab (210, 211)
-PSYCH 326 (3 credits)