Lakshmi Meyyappan

 Public Health (major)

Business, Music (minors)


Favorite class you took at Michigan:

I have several favorites!
PHYSIOL 201: Introduction to Human Physiology – Dr. Rust is a fantastic professor and it taught me so much about how the human body works. She prioritizes students truly understanding the content, rather than just memorization.
PUBHLTH 370: Public Health Biology and Pathophysiology – Dr. K is an amazing mentor, and this was a great class that combined more epidemiology/medical based knowledge into the broader population health level scale.
STRATEGY 445: Base of the Pyramid: Business Innovation and Social Impact – Professor London has decades of meaningful experience in the Peace Corps that he shares with the class, and it taught me how business can be used as a positive means to solve a lot of global issues: including poverty, access to healthcare, economic development and more.



When/How did you study for the MCAT: The first time I studied for the MCAT was around December 2020 through my test day at the end of May 2021. I was taking a 16-credit course load in the Winter of 2021, which for me worked out since my classes were all virtual and I had cut down on my other commitments. I made an extensive schedule and wanted to stick to it as best as I could, since I self-studied and didn’t use any courses. My first 1.5 months were spent on content review, where I used the Kaplan books. From there, I transitioned into using UWorld, Anki (I used the MileDown decks), Blueprint’s FL exams, and did AAMC content the last 4-5 weeks. I ended up completing all of the AAMC content except half of the CARS material (which I would not recommend – definitely use all of the AAMC material before your exam). I was living at home the semester I studied for my MCAT and generally felt burnt out by the end of my studying, since I was studying concurrently with school in January-April, and transitioned to full time studying for all of May. On test day, I ended up dropping about 10 points from the score I had gotten on the fourth AAMC full-length I took a week previously, and knew that I wanted to retake the exam. While I hope this doesn’t happen to anyone else, if it does, give yourself some grace and time to reflect! It felt like the end of the world for me, and I couldn’t imagine having to study for the exam again since I wasn’t in a great mental headspace while studying for it the first time. I decided to sign up for my second test date in early September of 2021 because I wanted to take it relatively soon while the content was still fresh in my mind. I was interning full-time at a healthcare consulting firm that summer, so I spent my early mornings and most weekends from early July through the end of August studying, but also gave myself flexibility to prioritize my mental health and do things outside of work/studying. I focused more on strategy rather than content review, since that was a weakness I noticed on my first exam. I also tried to build up my stamina, by doing 40-60 questions at a time, so I would feel less fatigued on test day since that was another issue I encountered the first time around. I used Anki, Altius FL exams, and redid the AAMC material in preparation.


When did you take the MCAT:

I took the MCAT twice: the first time on May 28, 2021, and the second time on September 3, 2021.


What was your pre-med experience:

My pre-med experience overall was tough, but very joyous and rewarding! I spent my freshman and sophomore years completing all of my pre-med classes, which looking back on my college experience was definitely the hardest years both academically and personally. Building off of my previous response, taking the MCAT twice was the biggest hurdle I experienced in college. At the time, I only knew one person (who was also a PMH alum!) who had retook her MCAT, and it made me feel like I did something wrong or wasn’t good enough since a majority of the people I knew only took it once. I definitely had to put a lot of faith in myself and determination that I could do better.

I got to explore more of my passions and subjects I was interested in my junior and senior years, where I took public health, business, and music classes, which showed me how many ways I can make an impact on the healthcare system. I believe taking classes outside of the traditional STEM courses not only gave me a broader view of the world, but also gave me principles/knowledge that I can implement into my life currently and future as a physician. While I stood firmly in the idea that I wanted to go to medical school, taking the time and opportunity to explore other fields and get involved in clubs/organizations that I was passionate about is what made my pre-med experience so great.


What are your plans after graduation:

I will be working on medical school applications and moving to Chicago to work in management consulting, as a Business Analyst at McKinsey! I wanted to explore more of the business side of healthcare before going to medical school, since this is an area of interest for me, and thought consulting would be the perfect way to do so.


Recommendations/advice for current students:

Don’t be afraid to keep an open mind and try new things! I also believe that your undergraduate experience will be much better if you do things that you’re truly passionate about, rather than what you think might look good on med school apps. Lastly, take the time to have fun and explore Ann Arbor! Being pre-med can be very time-consuming and stressful, but having a balance between school and your friendships/social life will make your experience much more enjoyable 🙂




Nick Pfeifer

Psychology (major)


Favorite class you took at Michigan:

I have several favorites:
Psych 353: Social Development
Psych 457: Emerging Adulthood
Psych 211 (Working with Preschool Children) 🙂
Favorite STEM class: Chem 230 (with Dr. Gottfried)


When/How did you study for the MCAT:

I studied my senior year first semester because I was part-time and then continued studying over winter break. However, studying for the MCAT is its own class, and you must dedicate the time to it like you would any other course, which is why my semester still felt as though I were full-time.
I purchased a subscription to Blueprint MCAT, which worked really well for me. Based on when you plan to take it, they formulate a schedule for you. There are a bunch of lesson videos, practice questions/passages/exams, and other resources to take advantage of. I know that such subscriptions may not be feasible for everyone, which is why you should do your research on what may work for you. Definitely purchase the AAMC practice exams and take those closer to your test date.



When did you take the MCAT: January 2022


What was your pre-med experience:

I came into Michigan knowing I was pre-med, and I have never wavered from that during my time here. However, when I think back on my time at Michigan and reflect on this prompt, I cannot think of much. In fact, pre-med is one of the last things I would say to describe my experience.
Yes, academically, I am pre-med, but I am really happy to be able to look back on my years as having not been defined by focusing on my future in medicine. I joined what I knew I was passionate about, and now I have lifelong friendships and cherished memories to attest to that. That is what I will remember.
Of course you should keep the bigger picture in mind (aka applying to med school) to an extent, but undergrad does not have to be and should not be defined by your pre-med identity. If I weren’t pre-med, I firmly believe that I would still be involved in most everything I am now.


What are your plans after graduation:

My plan is to return to Cincinnati and work at the Children’s hospital as a CNA while I apply to med school this coming cycle. I also hope to travel a lot!!


Recommendations/advice for current students:

Do not choose a science major unless that is truly what you are interested in. It may prepare you a bit more for the mcat and med school, but majoring in what you are passionate about will shine through more on your application and in your interviews.
Undergrad is a time to explore before having to dive head first into all things science.

Same thing with activities. Do what you are passionate about, not just because it will look good on your resume or because you think it screams “I want to go to med school.” Always reflect on your experiences and start to think about why you want to go into the field of medicine.

Lastly, enjoy undergrad! It’s such a cliche, but it flies by so much faster than you think. Enjoy every second. Med school can be stressful and overwhelming, but at the end of the day, we are all living our lives, so live it!





Caitlin Alindogan

Biopsychology, Cognition, and Neuroscience (BCN) (major)


Favorite class you took at Michigan:

Psych 111! This class made me major in BCN. I loved the broad topics of psychology that we explored in this seminar, and Dr. Shelly Schreier was an amazing professor and explained the content clearly with many examples, as opposed to definitions.


When/How did you study for the MCAT:

I studied for it May-August 2021 the summer after my junior year, and took it the first week of my senior year (September 2021). I initially thought about delaying it until January since I wasn’t feeling ready, but I am glad I went through with it anyways because having the summer to study without worrying about other academics was beneficial for me. The semester before I studied, I took classes that somewhat lined up with mcat content review (Biochem lab, tutored for Chem 130, Psych 449, Bio 225) so by the time I went to study for the mcat I was already well-versed with the content, and began practice exams/questions a month and a half after. I used Kaplan books and their practice exams, anki decks I found from reddit, and the AAMC prep material (the full package option). I also used Jack Westin to prep for CARS passages.



When did you take the MCAT: September 2021


What was your pre-med experience:

Coming into U of M I wasn’t actually premed – I was a nursing student. After the first semester in nursing I realized I like the diagnostic process of medicine in addition to the care-taking process, so I switched the premed the 2nd semester of freshman year. I was a bit lost at first but found my way eventually, by speaking with many counselors and pre-med friends who helped me on my journey. Personally, I had a lot of fun during my premed experience here at U of M, due to the variety of activities that I partook in, including research, being a CNA, Clinical Support Assistant (similar to medical assistant), tutoring, and volunteering. I will admit that premeds here make a competitive environment, but I just minded my own business and did my own thing, which turned out perfectly! I was definitely fortunate enough to have friends and family to support me on this enduring process.


Recommendations/advice for current students:

Pre-med classes are hard but remember to take care of yourself! AVOID BURNOUT! You are only in college once so make sure not to miss out on college experiences and doing fun things on campus with friends. Make sure to have that work life balance established, as it will be important to have this in your future career as a physician as well. As for academics, many of the classes are memorization heavy so it’s always a good idea to study content on a weekly basis, not just cramming before an exam. For extracurriculars, it’s important to try many different things to see what you like/what sticks with you. That way you aren’t just checking things off a list, but enjoying activities along the way. Personally, I found my clinical experiences to be the most fulfilling of my activities and I will be writing a lot about them in my application so definitely get started on this as soon as you can.




Elizabeth Lee

Biopsychology, Cognition, and Neuroscience (BCN) (major)


Favorite class you took at Michigan:

I have several favorite classes:

Psych 424/426: Senior Honors Research: This course is a program for students completing an honors thesis. It was one of my most rewarding experiences in college. Although writing an honors thesis can initially be intimidating, you will receive guidance from the program director (my year was Dr. Lustig) through workshops, and support from your lab mentors. If you are looking to learn more about designing your own research methods and hypotheses, interpreting results, and improving your scientific communication skills, I highly recommend doing a thesis.

Psych 314: Positive Psychology: In this course, I learned about the science of what makes life worth living and practices that promote human functioning. Dr. Park does an excellent job at combining theoretical knowledge with practical application to our daily life. She brings energy to the class and emphasizes the importance of incorporating class material to ourselves.

Chem 230: Physical Chemistry: I enjoyed this course because it pushed me to continuously use problem solving skills. I not only learned about chemistry concepts, but also applied them to new question sets. Dr. Gottfried is an incredible professor. The course is very clearly organized from the flipped classroom style to the lectures that are broken down into digestible and intuitive segments. I found this class rewarding because it was challenging, yet allowed me to develop critical thinking skills.


When/How did you study for the MCAT:

The first time I studied for the MCAT was second semester junior year. I took the exam in June. I used the Kaplan books for content review, UWorld for practice problems, and the AAMC bundle. For content review, I found it helpful to review multiple subjects within one day, so that I would be used to switching between patterns of thinking, much like during the MCAT. After taking the exam, I found that I spent too much time on content review and needed to improve on tackling questions and applying concepts. The second time around, I spent more time doing practice exams. I created a spreadsheet of concepts I missed on each problem set. Since I identified these concepts as my weakness, I made sure to review them daily, with an emphasis on those that I missed more than once. I took my second exam in January. Since I had winter break free from classes, I spent the 2-3 weeks before the exam taking practice tests every other day or every three days (spend one day on practice exam, one day reviewing what questions I got wrong and why, and one day reviewing concepts/doing practice problems. The last two days can combine into one day, depending on the amount needed to be reviewed). I did this to build endurance and practice on timing. I would like to note that before studying for the second exam, I gave myself time where I completely set aside MCAT materials. I found it important to approach the second exam with a clear mind and avoid burn out.



When did you take the MCAT: June and following January


What was your pre-med experience:

My pre-med experience was filled with challenges and achievements. Looking back, the challenges such as courses, time management, and figuring out my academic interests were necessary for developing the life skills and passions I have now. They made my pre-med journey rewarding and satisfying. I was fortunate to have support from my advisors, mentors, and family/friends. One of the best decisions I made in college was pursuing a major in BCN. It allowed me to explore concepts related to medicine in an interdisciplinary fashion, and One of the most important lessons I learned was to pursue the field of medicine, you have to figure out why it is meaningful to you


Recommendations/advice for current students:

Don’t be afraid to explore your interests. The best path of being not just a pre-med but a college student in general is figuring out what sparks your passion. You will encounter challenges. Remember that there are resources around you that are willing and wanting to help out (i.e. academic advisors, friends, Pre-Med Hub, etc). It is easy to fall into the trap of worrying about your classes, extracurriculars, and whether you’re “cut” to be a pre-med. It may be cliche but the stressors are temporary–your future will work out one way or another as long as you put in your best effort.



Haitong Yu

Neuroscience (major)

Applied Statistics, Business Administration (Minors)


Favorite class you took at Michigan:

My favorite class is HONORS 233 and the title is what is cancer. This interdisciplinary class looked at cancer through natural science, social science, and humanities. I liked this class the most because this is my first exposure to a chronological disease through a class and I was able to understand healthcare from different perspectives. I not only learned why is cancer considered a detrimental diagnosis, but I also learned what does having this disease mean for the patients and how oncologists can make them feel better or at least try to be supportive and by their side when they needed it the most. This class got me interested in pursuing a career in the healthcare field as I was able to watch documentaries about doctors fighting cancers as well as reading diaries by cancer patients.


When/How did you study for the MCAT:

I studied for the MCAT for three months during the summer of my junior year (May-July)


When did you take the MCAT: July 30th, 2021


What was your pre-med experience:

My pre-med experience at Umich could be described as bittersweet. From going into college wanting to pursue psychology as my major to becoming interested in pharmacy and finally settling on pre-med, the first year of college has been a lot of exploration for me. Pre-med is never easy and there are always stressful times (whether it is trying to figure out how to draw a mechanism for orgo or scratching my head for a magnet question for physics). However, I am glad that I pursued this path because I got to join Alpha Epslion Delta, which is a pre-health honors society where I got most of my career opportunities and also pre-med hub, where I can help fellow pre-med students who are having doubts or questions about pre-med. I am appreciative of all of the people I met throughout this difficult journey and I also want to give myself a pat on the back for sticking with pre-med, since I realized medicine is the career I want to pursue to help people in alleviating their physical and psychological pain to the greatest extent.


What are your plans after graduation:

I plan to work for Boston Specialists, a gastrointestinal clinic as a gap-year medical assistant for one year while applying for medical school.


Recommendations/advice for current students:

Don’t be afraid to explore your interests. The best path of being not just a pre-med but a college student in general is figuring out what sparks your passion. You will encounter challenges. Remember that there are resources around you that are willing and wanting to help out (i.e. academic advisors, friends, Pre-Med Hub, etc). It is easy to fall into the trap of worrying about your classes, extracurriculars, and whether you’re “cut” to be a pre-med. It may be cliche but the stressors are temporary–your future will work out one way or another as long as you put in your best effort.



Sara Trumza

 Neuroscience (Major)

Entrepreneurship, Italian (Minors)


Favorite class you took at Michigan:

Urban Entrepreneurship

In this class, my group and I were able to develop an idea that brought increased healthcare access to citizens of Detroit. I learned a lot about the intersection between healthcare and business, and it was very interesting to see how these two intertwined. The class also took a day-trip to Detroit to see the community and learn more about the city, which was super cool. 

When/How did you study for the MCAT: 

Kaplan books for content review, made ANKI cards with the content review material, used uWorld practice questions, and lots and lots of practice exams!


When did you take the MCAT: May 2021


What was your pre-med experience:

Being a student at Michigan has been an amazing experience, but being pre-med has definitely had its challenges. Having minors in entrepreneurship and Italian definitely diversified my schedule, which gave me different perspectives on various topics.
I had a challenging semester when I transferred to Michigan, but I kept my hopes up about continuing my pre-med education. Overall, my pre-med experience was incredibly insightful, and it was a journey that truly inspired and confirmed my desire to go into medicine.

What are your plans after graduation:  

I’m applying to medical school this cycle! In my gap year, I will be working as a medical assistant and interning for the Program of Multicultural Health at Michigan Medicine.

Recommendations/advice for current students:

Look for a supportive community of people who can relate what you’re experiencing as a pre-med. It can be so incredibly helpful to have people to talk to who understand your struggles and share the excitement of your achievements. Also, these 4 years truly fly by so look for activities you’re genuinely interested in. There is no point in doing something solely because you think it will look good on an application if you’re not enjoying it. It’ll be more worth it to engage in extracurriculars you’re passionate about – that is what will shine in your application. 

Keep an open mind about your experience as a pre-med. The journey comes with lots of unexpected setbacks and challenges, so it’s important to be flexible in order to overcome any obstacles. 

Being pre-med, especially at Michigan, can often seem daunting but keep going and push through the tough times! It will be worth it in the end!


Med School Application To-Do List

March, April, May, and June






  • Reach out to ask for letters of recommendation 
  • Update resume if needed for recommenders
  • Brainstorm ideas for personal statement/start thinking about what specifically motivates you to become a doctor
    • Refer to this article from the career center!
  • Using MSAR/DO EXPLORER make a spreadsheet of potential target schools to apply to, writing down all pertinent information so it’s all in one place
  • Compile a list of all potential activities including activity type, contact information, and action items associated with the activity
  • If you haven’t taken the MCAT, you should be studying to take it by April/May at the latest.






  • Continue asking for recommendation letters, if not done yet
  • Draft personal statement
    • This may take several versions, so brainstorming ahead of time will help you in the writing process!
  • List out three significant activities and most meaningful remarks (you get an extra 1325 characters for these)
  • Start drafting activity list (applicants are allowed 15 entries)
  • Write up the 700-character description, contact information, hours, and position
  • Use MSAR to continue editing and finalizing your school list
  • Attend the AAMC medical school webinar on 4/19
  • Attend 2023 AMCAS application cycle webinar 4/28






  • Remind recommendation letter writers to send in their letters if they haven’t already
    • They can either submit directly to AMCAS or Interfolio
  • Finalize your personal statement and Work/Activities section
  • Order official transcripts from every college and university you have attended (once your grades have been posted)
    • Do this ASAP – often most of the delay in application verification comes from this
  • Register for the CASPer Test
  • Register for AAMC PRE-view if your schools require it (previously called SJT)
    • List of participating schools here
  • AMCAS application opens end of May: submit if you feel confident in your application






  • Continue with primary applications if not yet complete
    • Want to submit as early as possible but also want to make sure you are putting your best foot forward
  • Begin pre-writing secondary essays which can be found online from previous cycles
  • Take the CASPer test if needed
    • Some schools require it but some don’t → take it based on your school list
  • Start preparing for interviews
    • Read prep books
    • Have a general idea of what you will say for “why medicine”
    • Become familiar with MMIsUtilize the Career Center for prep
  • Relax – it is a long waiting process, so find things to enjoy in the meantime

How to Deal with Burnout

Winter semesters can feel long and especially stressful, but they don’t have to be! There are many ways to alleviate stress and prevent burnout.


Dealing with Stress and Using Coping Mechanisms

As pre-meds, we tend to have stressful schedules full of tough coursework and plentiful extracurriculars. There never seems to be enough hours in the day to complete everything we want, which causes us to experience more pressure. Stress has been assumed to be a “necessary” part of the pre-med lifestyle. However, this doesn’t mean that we have to sit back and live with the stress.


These are some healthy coping strategies + habits to help manage stress:

    • Get enough sleep: Prioritizing sleep isn’t always easy, but setting up a designated bedtime where you are getting enough sleep will ensure that you are well-rested/prepared for the day and may even push you to manage your time productively.
    • Journaling: Take some time each week to write down the highs and lows, whether it is related to your pre-med experience or not. It can be a relief to get everything out of your head and you may even see a pattern of what things may be causing you stress, allowing you to take action.
    • Talk to someone: Sometimes it helps to talk to someone, whether it’s a friend or family member. Everyone struggles sometimes, and it’s nice to have support from people who can talk through your stress and encourage you through rough times.
    • Participate in physical activity: Staying physically active is important to relieve stress and stay healthy. However, this doesn’t have to mean something strenuous like lifting weights. It can also be as simple as going for a walk with a friend or a bike ride.
    • Take a time out when stress appears to be taking over: Go for a walk, watch some TV, or even just take a nap. Stepping away from the stress can help clear your head and alleviate stress.


Learning to take care of yourself now is an important step to becoming a good physician. You will do a better job of taking care of others if you’re taking care of yourself. So, make sure that you are treating yourself kindly and dealing with your stress!


Time Management and Self Care

Self-care is a topic that is often overlooked when it comes to being a student in college. While learning how to care for yourself is not often taught in a standardized way, it is essential to all aspects of well-being for anyone, especially during times of stress and burnout.


One strategy to incorporate more self-care into your daily schedule is to budget time for it. Whether it helps to write it down in a planner or block off some time in your Google Calendar, planning self-care activities in advance can be a useful way to not only ensure that you are maintaining a balanced lifestyle but also to hold yourself accountable to doing so. Also when you feel burned out, it is sometimes helpful to list out what is on your to-do list or what is stressing you out and reflect on why they are causing you stress. Oftentimes, things seem a lot bigger in our heads, but once we write it out, we realize that things actually will end up being okay.


That being said, there are certain things that can affect a person’s ability to focus on self-care. For instance, comparison is a habit of many students that can deter you from a path towards wellness. Seeing other students working up until the early hours of the morning or pulling all-nighters to study can definitely cause you to question your own productivity and want to stretch yourself thin. Comparing scores and grades, to which we often attach so much of our self-worth, can make you want to work harder or beat yourself up for something that you didn’t or couldn’t do, which is the opposite of caring for yourself. Constantly feeling inadequate and unproductive as a result of comparison with peers is one factor that can lead to the feeling of burnout by school (as the proverb goes, “compare and despair”). When you feel the urge to compare yourself to others, I encourage you to reflect on whether comparison will truly make you feel happier in the long run. Also, most of the time, the version of your peers that you witness is only a highlight reel of their lives, which can lead to a negative self-image.


Caring for yourself can look different for everyone. For some, it’s taking a long shower or meditating, for others it’s watching TV or listening to music. Things like taking regular breaks to eat a snack or refresh during your study session can all qualify as forms of self-care. Whatever self-care means to you, I encourage you to take time to dedicate yourself to learning how to spend time away from your schoolwork because you deserve it!


Organizational Tips and Helpful Reflection

Staying organized is a key component to help reduce stress and burnout. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed by the number of things you’re trying to accomplish as a pre-med, especially when it seems like there’s not enough time to do them all. That stress can be mediated by keeping your coursework, extracurriculars, and other commitments separate and tackling each component one at a time. 


Here are a few organizational tips that can help get you started:

    • Make yearly calendars with goals and plans to help you stay on track for med school.
    • Create folders for documents related to each pre-med component to help you find and save things quickly.
    • Maintain a spreadsheet of the hours you spend on student orgs, volunteer work, research, and other activities to visualize your progress.
    • Keep a journal, notebook, or document to reflect on the activities you are doing. Ask yourself why you chose to do them. This can help you think critically about your activities.


It is important (and challenging) to reflect on your time commitments because it gives you insight into where your stress or burnout is stemming from. Good questions to ask yourself are:

    • Do you enjoy the activities you are participating in? Are they adding value to your day-to-day life?
    • Are you taking on more responsibilities than you can because you think you’re doing too little? (Hint: there is no right number of activities to be involved in. It’s about quality, not quantity.)
    • What daily tasks take the most energy to accomplish? Why are they taxing? Is there a way to help manage the stress associated with them?


Planning Out Your Semesters and Pre-Med Timeline

Planning out your semesters, including classes and the extracurriculars you want to be involved in, can help prevent stress later on. Knowing what to expect for your term can help you better prepare and do well in all your activities. Additionally, planning each semester plays a large role in organizing your pre-med timeline, which also prevents worry and anxiety during the application cycle. It can be helpful to plan out your activities early on and decide what you want to be involved in before the term starts. As your classes start picking up pace and you get adjusted to the workload, you can decide how much time to dedicate to your classes and how much time to dedicate to other activities. It’s good to have a plan and an outline to follow, however, it’s also okay to modify your plan as you learn more about different things and get involved in different extracurriculars. As you make your way through your time at UM, there’s no doubt you’ll learn about different things you want to get involved in, things that may not have been in your original plan, and it’s okay to adjust according to that.


These are just a few that can help alleviate the stress that comes with being pre-med. Taking control of your mental and physical state, finding a support system to lean on (family, friends, student orgs), and staying organized and proactive can significantly improve your well-being in college and beyond.


Planning for the Upcoming Semester (2021-2022)

With the winter semester right around the corner, now is a perfect time to make a smart and realistic plan for a successful semester of classes!


Reflecting on Past Semester Grades

In any aspect of life, it is always good to have resilience. For us as pre-meds, this notion of resilience can be a bit tough to handle, especially when dealing with the stress of grades and the constant pressure that, to get into med school, you must get an A in every single class or have a certain GPA. While this is true to some extent, grades (and the MCAT) are not the whole picture and do not define you as a person, contrary to popular belief.


As seasoned pre-meds, we are here to tell you to fret not in the case of getting a “bad” grade(s)—whatever that may be to you. First, med schools look at your GPA as well as the trajectory of your grades as a student, meaning if you performed overall poorly as a freshman or sophomore but improved in the following years, med schools will notice this because it highlights your adaptation and resilience. Secondly, if you happen to do poorly in just one science class, again fret not because this can also be a prime opportunity to showcase resilience.

In both instances above, never elect to take a course pass/fail because med schools will look at this with a skeptical eye, wondering why you chose to cover a grade. Own the grade you got and then find a way to grow from it. We know it can be disheartening to receive a grade that is not “to the standards of med school,” but it is worth emphasizing again that this is not the end all be all. Rather, choosing to take a class again and receiving a higher grade would be a perfect example of showcasing one’s resilience and perseverance—something med schools look for, knowing that med school curriculum is demanding. On a different note, perhaps you experienced extenuating circumstances (e.g., covid) during a semester in which you performed poorly in a class. Med schools are not heartless; they will be understanding of these circumstances (especially during COVID-19 semesters) so long as you have something to show for it. In other words, if you are able to articulate, either in your application and/or at an interview, why you received that grade and potentially how you overcame the circumstances, this would be a big sign of resilience.


Many schools now pride themselves on a holistic review, and there have been plenty of instances where below-average-GPA-and-MCAT students end up getting into med school, so, as already stated, grades do not define you. Ultimately, med schools look for students who can acknowledge a failure, accept it, and shift to learning how they can change in order to grow from it.


Planning Your Upcoming Class Schedule

With all that in mind, to give yourself the best chance of doing well, we recommend you take no more than 2-3 STEM classes per semester, depending on the combination (for example, taking a lecture + lab). Taking three STEM lectures in a semester is technically feasible but will undoubtedly give you tons of stress. As everyone knows, STEM courses are nothing short of challenging; even taking 2 in the same semester is bound to cause some stress. Thus, balancing these courses across your semesters with other non-STEM courses that are of interest to you is the ideal way to ensure that you can devote a meaningful amount of time to your STEM classes while still enjoying your academic and social experience, minimizing stress, and avoiding burnout.


Speaking of other experiences, making sure to allot time for extracurricular activities is a crucial step in planning your semester. For instance, being a part of a research lab and/or clubs, having a job, tutoring, etc. are weekly commitments you should consider when choosing your classes. Those responsibilities take up time from your studying, homework, and other class assignments, which means taking multiple harder classes in addition to having other commitments can be tough to manage. A good rule of thumb is that every class credit equates to 2-3 hours of weekly work. For example, if you are taking a 3-credit class, you can expect it to take 6-9 hours of your week, which can include time spent in lectures, working on assignments, and studying the material. One of the most helpful exercises to do when planning your semester is to make a template weekly schedule on a calendar. Fill in lecture times, discussion sections (if applicable), labs, research, work, volunteering, and any other commitments you may have. Visualizing your week can give you a better sense of how much free time you have to complete assignments, study, and take a breather. Balancing your week with classwork, extracurriculars, and some necessary relaxing activities and self-care is the key to a good semester schedule.


Utilizing Rate My Professor and Atlas

When choosing classes and professors, we highly recommend looking at Atlas and Rate My Professor.  Atlas is an academic tool that displays a variety of information on each course: the workload based on past student experiences, final grade distribution, the past course instructors (the number of terms they have taught and their ratings based on preparedness, clarity, and respect), student enrollment per semester, and what school/degree program people in the class are currently enrolled in. The most popular feature of Atlas is to identify the median grade of a course and the workload.  However, the student enrollment per semester can help to identify whether the course is offered year-round and if it would be better for you to take that class during the spring or summer semester.  Rate My Professor is especially useful in courses where there are multiple professors teaching the same class. For some large pre-med classes, such as the Orgo or Physics sequences, often multiple sections are offered – each with a different professor. Looking at professor reviews may help to identify which professor would be the best fit for you and some tips/advice from previous students in the course.


Non-STEM Classes are Important for Pre-Meds, Too! 

It is a common misconception that non-STEM classes are not an important component in medical school admission considerations. Unfortunately, this means that many pre-med students are not aware of the opportunity to tell a story through their chosen humanity and social science courses. We know that medical schools appreciate applicants who have studied and demonstrate a commitment to topic(s) outside of the natural sciences. After all, in your training to become a doctor, you will not only be studying hard science-related subjects but also how to be an empathetic and understanding physician who can connect and learn from their patients. One of the easiest ways to prepare for this aspect of your training is by taking a few (or many!) relevant social science and humanity courses. Some students even decide to major in a social science or humanities field, which medical schools have stressed is 100% okay! You do not have to major in natural science.


If you are lost on what non-STEM classes to take, fear not. We have some suggestions! First, sociology courses are always a great option. This field essentially studies human interaction, which is obviously important in the medical field. Some classes for next semester (Winter 2022) that may be of particular interest to pre-med students are: SOC 302: Health and Society, SOC 346: Sociology of the Body, or SOC 347: Drugs and Society

Ethnic studies courses are also extremely beneficial for pre-med students. As a doctor, you will treat patients from many different backgrounds. These classes help to expand your understanding of identity and social issues that disproportionately affect certain populations in the United States–many of which are very relevant in the medical field.


Finally, women’s studies courses are a great resource for learning more about the experience of gender, which is again highly relevant in the medical profession. Some classes of particular interest may be:

WGS 220: Perspectives in Women’s Health, WGS 324: Childbirth & Culture, and WGS 323: Black Feminist Thought Practice.


These courses can also play a large role in improving your writing skills, which is relevant in constructing your personal statement. Being able to tell a concise and interesting story in your primary application and later in your secondaries is absolutely imperative to successful admission. If you do not consider yourself a particularly strong writer, it may be worth it to enroll in a humanities or social science course that fulfills a writing requirement. The most obvious way to improve your writing skills is to actually practice writing, and if you are only taking science courses (which you will likely do some scientific writing, wh is a very different style) then your non-scientific writing will likely not be as strong. Receiving constructive feedback is one of the easiest ways to improve, which is abundant in humanities courses.


Planning Around the MCAT + Application Cycle

When thinking about planning classes, it’s important to take into consideration first when you plan on taking the MCAT, but also which cycle you are planning on applying to. The core classes that are recommended to take prior to your MCAT are:

General Chemistry, Physical Chemistry, Organic Chemistry, Intro Bio Sequence, Biochemistry, Physiology, Physics I and II, and a Psychology/Sociology class

If you are planning to take your MCAT sometime during the Winter 2022 semester, it’s advised to take a much lower course load so you can dedicate more time studying for the exam. Some may even decide to be a part-time students during the semester their exam is scheduled, to allow for more studying flexibility. Planning for your MCAT also depends on when you plan on applying, and which test day aligns best with your schedule. It’s important to note that the AAMC doesn’t offer any test dates in February or October – December. If you plan on applying in the 2022 – 2023 application cycle, we recommend taking your exam in January or March, to allow for time after you get your exam score back and before you submit your primary applications, since scores are typically released a month after you take the exam. Another option is to take the MCAT the summer before your senior year (if you are taking a gap year). This allows you to dedicate about 3 months to study, which is the typically recommended time frame for an optimal score. It could also be helpful to spend some hours of your week volunteering, working a part-time job, or partaking in research while studying to give you a bit of a mental break. However, those “breaks” should not be a source of added stress; if you feel overwhelmed, take a step back and think about whether your volunteer work, job, or research is negatively affecting your studying or focus.


All of these components can be overwhelming to think about at once, which is why it is so important to break down these pre-med components into separate categories. Set realistic goals about what you can accomplish during your semester classes, plan your weekly schedule ahead of time, and think positively! Starting a new semester with an optimistic mindset is a great way to set yourself up for success.