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.

Transitioning from Online Learning (Part 2)

 

Asking for Help is a GOOD thing!

There is no doubt that pre-med courses can be challenging. The typically fast-paced schedule, amount of studying required, and difficulty of material sometimes results in gaps in your learning. Luckily, there are many resources available through UM and elsewhere that can help you bridge those gaps and improve your performance in a class! The most beneficial resource to utilize is your professor or GSI’s office hours. Not only are they an opportunity to meet with your professor in a smaller setting, but office hours are especially helpful in answering specific questions and clarifying details in lectures that you may have missed the first time. In terms of transitioning from virtual to in-person office hours, here are a few tips to keep in mind:

    • Prepare your questions ahead of time! That way, you won’t be scrambling to remember what you wanted to ask.
    • Write down the professor or GSI’s responses to your questions to reference later.
    • Pay attention to the types of questions other students ask! Sometimes, students will ask questions that you didn’t even know you had! It’s also a good habit to see if you can answer other students’ questions in your head or write them down for practice at a later time.
    • Use your time during office hours wisely by asking as many questions as you need (while also being conscientious of the professor and students’ time). It should be comforting to know you are walking out with a better understanding of the material than when you walked in!

 

If you can’t make it to office hours, email your professor to see if they are available to meet another time or ask them your questions via email! Most professors are very accommodating and willing to answer your questions. Piazza is another tool some classes offer that can give you answers directly from the professor or GSI. On Piazza, you can ask questions anonymously as well as read other students’ questions and the professors’ answers. Checking on this website daily can help keep you up-to-date on your understanding of the material.

 

In addition to office hours, the Science Learning Center (SLC) offers study groups for many STEM classes. Study groups are led by students who have succeeded in the course and are able to explain concepts and material in a more casual setting. They help reinforce lecture material through application questions and problem-solving with other students in the class. Study groups take place for 2 hours/week and are great collaborative supplements to your studying. The SLC also offers one-to-one tutoring for select classes, usually on an appointment basis.

 

Time is of the essence.

Now that in-person classes and activities are returning, it may be a bit overwhelming at first to readjust to the stressors of managing time. With online classes, you could squeeze as much as you want into a matter of a few hours because, conveniently, your laptop was your transportation. That is no longer the case, as most of us will be walking through campus to get to the places we need to be, which is great in its own right. No more do we have to sit for 8 hours a day staring at a screen; we now have a reason to go outside and get some fresh air each day, which is a pretty subtle joy that we tend to take for granted.

 

Onto more technical terms, balancing classes and extracurricular activities as a pre-med student can be quite overwhelming and often mentally taxing. It’s stressful!–and that is 100% okay to admit. However, the way in which you manage your time can be the key to greatly reducing these stress levels. Namely, create a schedule that fits your daily routine, or namely, when you are most productive. If you’re a morning person, knock your work out in the morning; if you’re a night owl, do it at night; and so on. There is no perfect way to manage time, but if you can designate a few hours each day to be extremely productive, it can make things much easier. Moreover, space out your studying! It is cognitively proven to enhance long-term retention of knowledge. Although cramming has been shown to be sufficient in getting you a good grade, spacing is certainly less stressful in that it makes you feel more confident and saves you time in the long-run when you have to return to these concepts for the MCAT. In a more general sense, balance your studying between courses so that you don’t experience burnout. The fresher a topic is, the more receptive you will be to learning it as opposed to feeling that it is a drag, so do not study a certain subject for more than maybe an hour at a time. Lastly, to combine this with extracurriculars, make sure that you do not overload yourself. 

 

As pre-meds, we all understand the competitive nature of the application process, but this does not mean we need to drown ourselves. First, overloading yourself is absolutely no fun at all. Of course, we all have the goal of getting into med school, but we also only have one undergraduate experience. Med school should not be the doom and gloom that constantly forces us to miss out on what should be an enjoyable experience. Second, more does not always mean better. If you try to subscribe to too many extracurriculars and too much volunteering, this can surely be overwhelming during your application and especially the interview process. Choosing just a few extracurriculars that you are very passionate about and committing to them highlights your character traits rather than engaging in a bunch of activities but not being able to articulate why you participated in them or what you got out of them. Overall, time management for pre-med requirements and activities is necessary but, as will be further addressed in the following section, should be balanced with aspects of enjoyment and self-care.

 

Self-care is crucial to success!

As we transition back to in-person learning, you might be feeling more fatigued with your college schedule. You might not be able to find the time to just relax and take a breather. College can already be a stressful time but being a pre-med just adds more pressure. To get through these next couple of years, you need to find time for self-care. We can’t be our best selves if we aren’t giving ourselves time to relax.

 

First of all, we need sleep! With classes, volunteering, research, and extracurriculars, we need as much energy as possible to get through each day. By getting our 8 hours, we can feel recharged and ready to tackle the busy days. As we all learned in psychology class, sleep is the optimal time window for memory consolidation. Sufficient sleep (about 7-8 hours) enables better learning, thinking, and memory. Staying up all night to study for an exam may be counterintuitive as you might not even properly learn the information for the exam and the lack of sleep will impair your performance when actually taking the exam. Lack of sleep can also influence mood and emotional reactivity, which may negatively impact our mental health. In other words, always prioritize sleep!

 

One popular self-care activity is exercise! Whether that be lifting weights at the gym, going for a walk, or doing yoga, exercise is an awesome way to release stress and tension. Exercise has been known to improve mental health by reducing anxiety, depression, and negative mood. So, spending some time each week on exercise might be a great way to take care of ourselves.

 

While binging Netflix shows and movies is a great way to relax and take our minds off of everything, we should take some time away from our screens. Extended hours of screen time have been associated with lower psychological well-being and less emotional stability. You can use this time to catch up on reading some novels of your favorite genre, hang out with some friends, or take a nice nap. Technology can be addicting, but you will see a noticeable difference in your day-to-day life by getting away from the screens. Maybe even do a no-tech day if you’re up for the challenge!

 

Another activity for self-care is reflection! We want to be the best versions of ourselves, but we can’t do so if we aren’t examining what is going well and what needs to change. What I find helpful is taking some time each week to reflect on the past week. You can write, type, or just think. Think about what you thought went well last week, like if you thought that the studying techniques you used this week worked, then keep using them. Then, look back and think about the negatives. If you felt overwhelmed with your class/extracurricular balance, think about what you could do to alleviate the stress. Taking some time to reflect will allow us to cultivate the pre-med lifestyle that is perfect for ourselves, which will help in reducing the pressure that we feel.

 

As pre-meds, we all feel the stress and the pressure that comes from this path. So, we need to make sure that we are taking care of ourselves. Becoming a physician is a long road and if we don’t focus on ourselves now, then we will burn out before we even get there. It may seem like you have to get 4 hours of sleep, study all day, join every single club, and take no breaks to be a competitive applicant, but you don’t. So, take that nap when you are feeling exhausted from looking at cyclohexanes all day. In a couple of years, you’ll look back and be grateful that you did.

 

No matter what stage you are in your college career, we hope these tips can be useful for you! Being pre-med is a long haul, so building good habits now will continue to help you in the future!

Transitioning from Online Learning (Part 1)

 

After several long semesters of logging onto Zoom and watching recorded lectures, transitioning from online learning has not been easy for anyone. But don’t worry, we’re here to help! Here are some tips and tricks that we’ve dusted off from our past in-person college experiences that we’re glad to share! 

 

Maximizing your learning during class:

You may have heard this one before but sitting close to the front of your lectures is one way that many students have found helpful in eliminating distractions and maintaining focus on what is in front of you. By sitting close to the front, students often pay attention to their professors more and find it hard to doze off. Another way to encourage learning is to participate during discussion (and/or lectures, if you’re up for it!). Oftentimes, discussions are one of the only ways to get a more individualized rundown of the course material, so definitely take advantage of it by asking your GSI questions and engaging with others, if you feel comfortable in doing so! If you don’t yet feel too comfortable, test the limits of your boundaries. Ask a question here and there, respond to someone else– be as involved with your learning as you can be.

 

Taking notes:

Now, attending lectures is only half of the story; although going to class is important, it is also important to be able to recall, and even more importantly apply, what you just sat through at some point later in time. When you go home after a long day of classes, having a good summary of each of your lectures is important to effectively understand and keep up with all of the content you learn throughout the day. This is why taking efficient notes is the first step you can take in studying your course material. There are two different strategies that students will generally use in college: 1) taking notes by hand (either on a tablet or on paper) or 2) taking notes digitally (by typing on a computer). 

 

One of the ways many students have found in promoting learning during class and/or when reading assignments is to take notes by hand. This is supported by research, which has suggested that physically writing down the words requires more mental processing than typing, which promotes retention of the material. This is not to say that taking notes by typing on a computer is not effective for some people, but rather that if you find yourself struggling to retain information from your classes, switching to handwritten notes may be in your best interest. Some classes may be better suited for handwritten notes than others, so it is truly up to you to decide which strategy you would prefer for each of your classes. For instance, in classes where memorization is not required such as some writing classes, typing notes might be easier and quicker. On the other hand, if a course is memorization-heavy, physically writing out the words may be a way to help you to memorize what you’ve learned in class more efficiently.

 

Another important thing to remember is that you will often not be able to take note of everything that your professor says, which is totally normal! So, it is important to use abbreviations, write short-hand, and focus on main ideas rather than writing/typing what the professor says verbatim. Having concise notes will also be beneficial to you when you look back at them so you can efficiently remember the most relevant information.

 

Now once you have your notes, it is also equally important to make sure that you organize them in a way that is easily accessible to you. Most students that handwrite their notes have a notebook (or a section in their notebook) for each class, or they use loose-leaf paper and organize these notes into separate folders/binders for each class. On the other hand, students who use tablets to take notes often use apps such as Noteworthy or OneNote and create folders within these apps for each class, and students who prefer to type their notes often find it useful to use Google Docs or Microsoft Word and create digital folders for their classes.

 

Everyone is unique!

As much of a cliche as it is, everyone’s preferences are different. In other words, the note-taking process your peer uses may not be the one that is best for you, which is totally okay! Some students love to use stationary, colorful highlighters and pens, and aesthetically pleasing notes. Others would rather write out the content as quickly as they can or type it out. Exploring different methods of note-taking is personal, so I would encourage you to not feel intimidated by others’ studying habits. This also applies to learning strategies; some people feel best when they participate more in class and are sitting at the front of the room, while others like to process the information on their own. Your learning preferences are independent of those of your friends and peers, so I would encourage you to remain open to possibly making adjustments and most importantly to be patient with yourself as you try out different study strategies!

 

In-Person Exams

Don’t worry, you are not alone if you have found in-person and closed note exams to be a bit more nerve-racking than normal. It can be challenging to transition back to in-person and timed exams when you have spent more than a year taking tests remotely. Science classes that are required and recommended for pre-med students tend to weigh exams heavily in their grading scale, which means it is important that we remind ourselves how to prepare for exams effectively so we feel prepared and confident on test day! 

 

You have heard this one before: avoid cramming at all costs. 

Yes, we all know the people who claim to “work well under pressure”. However, research has found time and time again that cramming the night before, or even a couple of days before an exam is not the most effective way to study. In-person exams mean you are going to have to be able to recall more information on your own, instead of having to just vaguely remember where an answer may be found in your notes. Try to begin studying at least a week before the exam, even if it is just reviewing a little material each day. This not only helps you more effectively retain the information long-term (because chances are, you will need it for the MCAT eventually!), but you will also have time to go to office hours to ask questions about topics you are unsure about, talk through concepts with classmates, do plenty of practice problems/exams, and generally avoid unnecessary panic. Remember, you can no longer rely on your notes, only your brain. 

 

Focus on topics that you are struggling most with.  

Sometimes we feel better about our understanding of a subject if we focus our study-time on a topic area we already understand well. However, your time is more efficiently spent if you identify the areas that you are unsure about and work to further your understanding. During online/open note exams, if there was a topic you didn’t understand too well you could refer back to similar practice problems/notes fairly easily. During in-person exams, this option is not available. Instead, take a practice exam and/or look back on notes to identify problems/areas that you got wrong or spent quite a bit of time on. Then, rewatch a part of a lecture, read from the book, ask a GSI/classmate/professor, or do some more practice problems that relate to this topic. This is a good strategy if you are in a bit of a time crunch and only have time to study a little bit of the material. 

 

Use practice exams wisely. 

Usually, in biology and chemistry courses, professors will provide one or more practice exams from previous years of the material. When taking these exams, do so in a simulated test environment. No matter how big the temptation is to look at your notes or google a question–don’t! Becoming reacquainted with the traditional testing environment is essential. You will not be able to use outside materials during the actual exam and training your brain to realize this is important. By looking at your notes during an exam, you put yourself at risk of creating a false sense of understanding. 

 

Collaborate with classmates, and don’t be afraid to ask for help. 

“Teaching” someone material is a great way to practice active recall and strengthen your conceptual understanding of a topic. Find a friend and talk through the main concepts on the exam. Don’t be afraid to elaborate on each other’s reasoning, make corrections, and ask questions. If there are multiple practice exams available, it may be helpful to take one of those with one or a group of classmates (but remember to save one exam for yourself to sit down and take in a timed, quiet, test-like environment!). This way you can talk through the answers and have topics explained in ways that work for your classmates. Sometimes all it takes for a topic to “click” is hearing it explained in a slightly different way. 

 

Most of all, remember that test grades do not define you. You are smart and more than capable! This year has been a challenge for everyone, and chances are it may take a while to get back into the groove of in-person learning. The Pre-Med Hub is here to support you! 

 

Part 2 (discussing office hours and self-care) is linked here!

Ruchira Ankireddygari

 Major: neuroscience 

Minor: History

 

Favorite class, you took at Michigan:

 

My favorite class was my freshman year Spanish 232, which I took with my twin sister.  It was an 8 am class with only 14 students in the MLB. I enjoyed how interactive the class format was. Since I conversed with all my classmates in Spanish regularly,  I got to know them pretty well.

When/How did you study for the MCAT:

I originally planned to take the MCAT during January of my junior year after I took TPR prep class in the summer. This gave me about 6 months of part-time studying. However, I had to adjust my study plans because I came down with a chronic case of keratitis. I ended up taking the MCAT in September 2021 after the shortened version had been put into place during COVID 19. 

In my experience, I regretted taking the Princeton Review class. I essentially had to restudy everything with the books because of the large time gap between when I took the class and when I took the exam. While studying on my own ( with the help of prep books) seemed intimidating to me at first, I think that it can actually be a great option for many students who may be non-traditional learners.

When did you take the MCAT:

Sept 2020

 

What was your pre-med experience:

My experience had its ups and downs. There were several moments where I felt overtaxed or things didn’t go as planned. Due to illness, I also had to alter my schedule several times. Overall, I still had a positive and meaningful experience at U of M as a premed. I had a chance to have a lot of good classes and unique extracurriculars that gave me a chance to develop myself even outside of being a premed.

Recommendations/advice for current students:

 

Medical school extracurricular requirements of research, clinical, and non-clinical hours, as well as leadership, can be met in several different ways. Look up the specific (and suggested) requirements for the schools that you may want to attend or apply to, several years before you apply to medical school. Rather than thinking about what you can do to meet these requirements, consider how you can explore your passions/ interests while still meeting the requirements. Do not feel the need to do the same activities as other students, and take the time to explore what makes you happy.

 

I would also recommend that students try to be prepared for the unexpected, and ready to adapt their plans, as well as their mindsets. You never know what will happen in the future, so let yourself learn and reflect on your experiences and the reasons why you want to pursue a career in medicine. 

 

 

Schedule:

Owen Doane

 Double Major: neuroscience & Music 

 

Favorite class you took at Michigan:

Psych 211 – this Project Outreach class allowed me to get involved in the community, playing music for residents of a memory care facility. The class not only exposed me to issues that the geriatric population face, especially individuals who suffer from memory impairing diseases, but also allowed me to gain some valuable community service experience. I took the class during the fall semester of my junior year, and was able to continue volunteering at the facility into the next semester. When the pandemic hit, I obviously wasn’t going in, but they let me give performances over Zoom starting back up in the fall of 2020, which was a unique experience. I was still able to see some of the people I had formed relationships with, albeit through my computer screen, and I’m very thankful that Psych 211 lent me that opportunity.

 

When/How did you study for the MCAT: I did my content review during the winter semester of my junior year, then spent May and June after classes ended taking and reviewing practice exams. I actually took the AAMC Sample Test before starting my content review so I had an idea of how the questions would be worded, and where I stood at that point in terms of what I knew. For materials, I used Kaplan books for my content review, and purchased online materials for additional content review and practice exams. I had access to Kaplan exams via my study books, I also tried a one week free trial of UWorld for some content review, and I purchased some BluePrint exams and split my account with some friends to help lower the cost. I also purchased the AAMC bundle and reviewed all the question banks and took all four practice exams, which I found to be the most helpful resources.

 

When did you take the MCAT: June 27, 2020 – the summer in between my junior and senior year.

 

What was your pre-med experience: I had a pretty good pre-med experience! I relied a lot on advice from my mentors and academic/pre-health advisors, as I don’t have family or friends who have gone to medical school in the past. During my freshman year I constructed a 4 year plan that put a lot of my fears and worries to rest, knowing that I was going to be able to make it work. That plan changed dramatically from semester to semester as my ideas of what I wanted to major in changed, but it was still comforting to have something to reference and fall back on if needed. I was very open to advice from anyone who would give it, and sought out lots of advice myself too!

 

Recommendations/advice for current students: Listen to the people who know what they’re talking about. For me, this meant getting lots of advice and information from my pre-health advisor during 1-on-1 meetings and office hours. I would highly recommend current students start visiting any pre-health advisor’s office hours just to start getting information from people who know how the process works very well. It’s super easy to start comparing yourself to other pre-med students, especially when you don’t feel adequate, but that often is more destructive than helpful, so I’d suggest trying your hardest not to let the actions and choices of others influence what you do. Everyone’s journey to medicine is unique to them, and if you can find activities that align with your values and show that in an application, you’re going to be just fine. Regarding my MCAT experience, I found 6 months of studying was too much for me, and felt very burnt out around the time of my exam. I thought spreading everything out would help lessen the workload, but the prolonged stress wasn’t something I anticipated. I’d suggest making a study plan that consists of 2-3 months of content review (rather than 4 months) plus ~1 month of practice exams and review (rather than 2 months).

Schedule:

 Karan Joseph

Neuroscience (major)

Electrical Engineering (minor)

                                                                                    

Favorite class you took at Michigan:

EECS 320/BIOLCHEM 415

BIOLCHEM 415 was one of the more difficult classes I took at Michigan, but I thoroughly enjoyed the course content. It was very intriguing to me to begin to understand how our body functions on a microscopic level. I thought it was so fascinating to think about how all of these different processes that we learned about were occurring on a daily basis. Even though the sheer volume of content seemed overwhelming at first, I think that this class helped me develop the study skills and discipline needed for the remainder of my college career.

 

EECS 320 was probably the most difficult class I took at Michigan (a close second being CHEM 230). This class’s content was very far removed from the typical biology and chemistry that I was used to. We mainly focused on the physical laws that dictated typical semiconductor behavior and then moved up in complexity to how actual semiconductor devices worked such as BJTs, MOSFETS, and MOS-Cs. The challenge that this class presented was much different than classes like BIOLCHEM 415 as there was a great deal of mathematics and logic involved which proved to be quite the challenge. However, I believe that I learned a lot from this course and enjoyed the long hours studying something so fascinating to me.

 

When/How did you study for the MCAT: I self-studied for the MCAT. I began studying in May and took the exam in August. I began with reading the Kaplan Books and taking detailed notes and making flashcards. From there, I moved onto the Uworld question bank and NextStep Full Length exams. The final segment of my studying involved completing all of the AAMC material as well as other resources I found online.

 

When did you take the MCAT: August 2019 (right after my sophomore year)

 

What was your pre-med experience:

My pre-med experience was a lot of fun. It started out pretty rough and I had a tough time adjusting to Michigan and the rigor of college. However, I quickly found a great group of friends and that friend group continued to grow and strengthen throughout the four years. If it wasn’t for the support and encouragement I received from them, I don’t think my pre-med experience, or my college experience in general, would have been as rewarding. In general, pre-med at Umich is supposed to be tough, but that doesn’t mean it has to be miserable. With good planning, support, and discipline it can also be a lot of fun.

 

Recommendations/advice for current students:

The biggest piece of advice I’ll give is never be afraid to challenge yourself. If it wasn’t for my willingness to push myself out of my comfort zone, I wouldn’t have met all of the good friends I have now nor would I have had all of the great experiences to look back on. In terms of practical advice: get organized. Make sure your calendar is organized, you have a to-do list, your email inbox is clean, you have a set daily schedule. Every morning, you should wake up knowing exactly what events you have, what tasks you need to complete and by what time they should be completed. Take one day of the week (for me it was Sunday) to plan the next week and reflect on the previous week. Using this will help make life feel less hectic, and give you more free time than you previously had.

Schedule:

 Sydney Edwards

Neuroscience (major)

environment (minor)

                                                                                    

Favorite class you took at Michigan:

 PubHlth 305: Environment & Human Health.

As a pre-health student with an environment minor, this course really synthesized my two areas of focus to provide an interdisciplinary academic experience. The class covered a wide range of topics from toxicology to environmental epidemiology and global health. The professor, Dr. Laura Rozek, is so sweet and an amazing instructor. After this course and the public health intro course (PubHlth 200), I officially decided to pursue an M.P.H. degree along with my M.D. 

 

When/how did you study for the MCAT: I self-studied for the MCAT the fall semester prior to taking it. I took a part time semester (8 credits) in order to have time to study. Around 80% of my studying was during the month prior to my MCAT during winter break. I used Princeton Review books for content review.

 

When did you take the MCAT: January of my senior year

 

What was your pre-med experience: My pre-med experience was initially a bit rocky, but I found my footing around towards the middle of my sophomore year. As a first generation student, I had no idea how to navigate the university or the resources available to me. I got much more involved in student organizations and the pre-med scene at Michigan the winter of my sophomore year. I got involved in a pre-med professional fraternity as well as research. During my junior and senior years I became even more involved in the campus community and secured executive board positions within several different organizations. My extracurriculars included a mix of pre-med and non pre-med organizations, and I was able to be involved in all of the things that I am passionate about rather than strictly pre-med organizations.

 

Recommendations/advice for current students: Select a major and choose research, volunteering, and extracurricular experiences that are interesting to you and that you feel will be fulfilling. Doing things just to check off a medical school box will burn you out quickly and you may lose motivation. I tried several student organizations before finding a set that worked for me, and although I did not get involved in most of these organizations until the latter half of my undergrad career, I feel fulfilled by them and do not feel that they are a chore, allowing me to do my best work. It may take some digging to find experiences that cater to your interests, but it is worth it. Also, take risks. I took a chance in joining a pre-medical fraternity and was initially very anxious about it, but as a part of the founding class of that fraternity I found a community of people with similar goals and interests, and a majority of my current friends and all of my wonderful housemates came from that decision.

 

Beyond academics and extracurricular activities, make time for yourself and your friends. The pre-med track is rigorous, and it can be easy to neglect things like a social life and sleep. College is an amazing opportunity to meet people, create lasting friendships, and experience new things, and it goes by incredibly fast. Don’t wait until it’s too late to do these things because you never know what could happen – I effectively lost my senior year to the pandemic, and I have friends who planned on using their final year to have fun and do all the things they didn’t get a chance to do the first three years. 

Schedule:

 

 Tina Tripathi

 Biomolecular Science (major)

Applied Statistics (minor)

                                                                                    

Favorite class you took at Michigan:

Honestly, there are a couple but if I had to choose the most ~sciencey~ one, it would be MCDB 422: Brain Development. Both Dr. Collins and Dr. Clowney are so passionate about the topic and the papers we read throughout the course were excellent. It was fascinating learning about the brain in as much detail as we went into and I genuinely enjoyed going to the lectures and working with my group members-turned-friends once a week. Despite COVID-19 coming into play this semester, the class was enjoyable and I can only imagine how amazing it is during a normal school year.

 

Runner-ups to this course (and less bio/chem based) are: STATS 401, HONORS 241 (Westworld), and ENGLISH 325.

 

When/How did you study for the MCAT: I actually ended up taking the MCAT twice, but I’ll detail what I did during my successful attempt. Starting January of my junior year, I started doing content review. I went through the Kaplan books and whenever I was confused or wanted more detail, I would look at other resources (Youtube, Khan Academy, etc). A this time I also started going through an Anki deck of cards that I found through reddit (MileDown’s deck). Starting in April I started taking full-length exams and doing question banks. I bought the resources from the AAMC and used the free tests from BluePrint and Kaplan (which came with my books). 

 

When did you take the MCAT:

First attempt: September 13, 2019;

Second: July 18, 2020

 

What was your pre-med experience: Overall, I had a pretty good pre-med experience. I definitely struggled through a couple of classes but perseverance and friendships helped me make it through. Additionally, tapping into the resources that the university provides was definitely a game changer. I wouldn’t be where I am without office hours, SLC groups, or studying with friends which is definitely a different experience than what I had in high school. 

 

Recommendations/advice for current students: Do what you like to do and take opportunities that don’t necessarily scream “premed” to you. I think coming into college and honestly until my junior year, being premed was such a huge part of my identity that I didn’t give myself the option to explore what was offered by the university or really what I actually enjoyed doing. Choose activities that you are genuinely interested/ passionate about. It’ll make life more fun and your story all the more interesting when applying to medical school!

 

Schedule:

 

Judy Huynh

 Biology, Health, and Society (Major)

Food and Environment (Minor)

                                                                                    

Favorite class you took at Michigan:

ANTHRCUL 344: Medical Anthropology

I really liked medical anthropology because it was a break from the rigorous science courses, but I was still learning about medicine. It is a mix of a sociology and medical ethics course, and I thought it was very eye-opening. There are a lot of things we take for granted or were conditioned to believe and this class makes you realize things are not what they always seem. The course taught me to be more empathic and I learned how illness works in different cultures. We also got to watch many films, and the class was not difficult. Overall, this is a really cool class and everyone should take it at one point.

When/How did you study for the MCAT: 

I didn’t start studying until summer before my senior year. I decided to self-study so I used Kaplan books and UWORLD/AAMC methods to practice. I made a schedule at the beginning of my studies. It is okay if you don’t stick to your schedule; you’ll learn as you study what works best for you. If you decide to make flashcards/ Anki cards, I recommend making them as you go through the Kaplan books. It is better to get through content faster and give yourself more time to do practice questions. 

 

When did you take the MCAT: January 2021

 

What was your pre-med experience:

My pre-med experience was tough but rewarding. There are so many pre-meds at Michigan which can be a good and bad thing. Good because there are tons of resources and opportunities. It is easy to find people who have multiple classes with you and to study with. The downside is the large classes and competitiveness. I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to form any relationships with my professors but they know classes are big so they are understanding. It is also easier when you start taking upper-level classes since classes are smaller. I also felt a lot of pressure to do everything every pre-med did, but eventually, I learned that it is more important to do what you enjoy. You’ll have to write about your experiences and even talk about them during interviews so make sure you’re doing things you’re passionate about. 

 

Recommendations/advice for current students:

Make time for friends and have fun. You don’t want to look back on college and feel like you spent the entire time staring at a textbook. Make the time to explore Ann Arbor, meet new people, try new restaurants, and have late-night study sessions with friends. When you look back on college, these are the memories you’ll remember. 

Schedule:

 

 

Isabel Murray 

Major: Gender and Health  

                                                                                    

Favorite class you took at Michigan:

I have loved all my coursework in the Women’s and Gender Studies Department! My favorite class I’ve taken is WGS 374 – Gender, Race, and Incarceration. Learning about the experiences and healthcare needs of incarcerated folks is incredibly important for understanding larger systematic barriers to healthcare and social determinants of health in the US. I also enjoyed taking WGS 400 – Women’s Reproductive Health. It is a two-hour lecture once a week. Each week, there are three separate guest lecturers who each speak for ~45 minutes about topics in women’s health. Most of the guest lecturers are physicians at Michigan Medicine, so it is also a great way to learn about pursuing a career in medicine and meet mentors. Both of the professors are amazing and really accessible for pre-med advice. It’s also an upper level writing course! 

When/How did you study for the MCAT:

I haven’t taken it yet! I am taking 2 gap years, so I am taking the MCAT this upcoming summer. I am planning to self-study using the Kaplan books, Blueprint question banks, and the AAMC material. 

When did you take the MCAT:

August 2021

What was your pre-med experience:

I have loved every second I’ve spent at Michigan, but the pre-med experience can certainly be stressful. I am really happy I pursued a degree in Gender and Health, because it meant I had diverse coursework each semester. This opened up so many doors for new experiences and connections. My major ended up being really helpful in helping me understand why I want to pursue a career in medicine. 

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