Name: Lindsay Ma

Major(s) and minor(s): Biophysics

Favorite class you took at Michigan: EEB 472: This was a class that pushed my writing, reading, and presenting skills. Sure, the content of the course was not medicine or human health, but this was the class that taught me skills I think will make me a more flexible and adaptable doctor one day. For the first time, I learned how to properly do a literature review solo. I also proved to myself that I could immerse myself in papers from a field I was unfamiliar with and still pick it apart enough to present the paper to the class in a meaningful way. In medicine, I anticipate running into literature I am unfamiliar with, from fields that I may have little experience in, but this class gave me the tools for how to approach these unfamiliar topics and deeply interact with their content.

When/How did you study for the MCAT: Took TPR course, studied June through August

When did you take the MCAT: August of the summer before senior year (2019)

What was your pre-med experience: I had a good experience at Michigan. The beginning was rough for me, as I did not have a sense of purpose for why I was pursuing medicine in my first two years at college. However, trying out research and volunteering and by meeting other pre-med students, I began to develop a sense of why I was subjecting myself to hard classes and a rigorous schedule outside of school. Also, I think I felt very competitive and experienced a fair amount of imposter syndrome as a lower classman. Luckily, this sense of inferiority dissipated when I began spending more time with non-premeds. Because my roommates were all diverse in their endeavors, architecture and engineering majors, I think we were uniquely suited to support each other 100%, and I did not need to worry about feeling competitive around them. Basically, I had a safe space at home where I could pursue what *I* wanted as a pre-med, and began comparing myself less to other pre-meds. 

Recommendations/advice for current students: The four years go by quickly, so try out a variety of things early on to see what works for you. I am a strong believer in sticking with something once you’ve started for sake of building relationships, autonomy, and a steady foundation. Of course, if you absolutely hate something you started, politely leave; however, I think small hiccups are otherwise important to work through and can make you a more resilient person down the line. 

When it comes to school, please do not overload your freshman year. Many people are coming from their highschools at the top of their class, but UMICH intro classes are not easy to transition to for many people. You will have plenty of time to take 3+ science classes simultaneously as a sophomore, junior, and senior. Use freshman year to develop the skills needed to manage science classes well, and you will be better equipped to succeed in later semesters.

Personally, I did not find SLC study groups helpful, but I HIGHLY recommend going directly to professors for help. It can be hard to find time to meet with professors in large intro classes, but especially take advantage of office hours when you get to 300 and 400 level classes. Professors are almost always willing to meet with you outside of their scheduled office hours if you cannot make the normal ones, so just ask! What you don’t ask, you won’t get.

Lastly, try to do things that are not related to pre-med as well. Not all the clubs you join have to earn you shadowing opportunities, research opportunities, etc. Try volunteering for a cause you just care about, regardless of if it is “clinical.” Try to make friends who are pursuing different careers so that you can learn new perspectives from them and potentially reduce a feeling of competitiveness.

Classes:

 

1st year

2nd year

3rd year

4th year

Fall

BIOLOGY 171

ASIAN 252

ENGLISH 124

UROP 280

MOVSCI 241

BIOLOGY 173

PHYSICS 135

PHYSICS 136

CHEM 211

ASIANLAN 135

MATH 216

 

BIOPHYS 370

AMCULT 214

MCDB 310

EEB 472

CHEM 474

BIOLOGY 305

BIOPHYS 495

BIOPHYS 440

BIOSTAT 521

PUBHLTH 311

Winter

BIOLOGY 172

CHEM 210

MATH 215

UROP 280

BIOPHYS 290

CHEM 216

ASIANLAN 136

CHEM 215 (spring)

BIOPHYS 399 (spring)

SOC 302

BIOPHYS 420

PUBHLTH 200

SLAVIC 290

BIOPHYS 417

BIOPHYS 450

ALA 264

RCIDIV 350

PUBHLTH 311

 

Name: Haniyeh Zamani

Major(s) and minor(s): Biology Major 

Favorite class you took at Michigan: My favorite class was BIO 207: Microbiology. I really enjoyed the class because I learned about microbial and viral genetics, medical microbiology, and basic epidemiology. Also, the course had a lab component and I learned new techniques that are applicable in many biological labs. 

When/How did you study for the MCAT: Took TPR course, studied Early December till May

When did you take the MCAT:  Planning to take it in May 2020

What was your pre-med experience: My experience as a premed student at Michigan was great. Michigan provided me with the different opportunities to pursue and expand my horizons. During my time here, I had the chance to take classes in any subjects that I was curious about. The pre-med advisors and many of the professors were friendly and supportive, and they went above and beyond to make sure that students were getting the best out of their education. SuccessConnects and SLC were very helpful resources for me to find my path to success.    

Recommendations/advice for current students: Being a pre-med student is a unique experience, and there are times that things can get difficult, but remember that you are not alone and there are people here to help and support you throughout this journey. Take advantage of the numerous resources that are available to you such as office hours, SLS study groups, and advising sessions. Also, it is okay to take a break every once in a while and reflect on your path to start with a new perspective for the rest of your journey. 

Classes:

 

1st year

Washtenaw Community College (Michigan)

2nd year

 

Washtenaw Community College (Michigan)

————-

Michigan 

 

3rd year

Michigan 

4th year

Michigan

Fall

DAN 180 (no equiv.)

ENG 091 (no equiv.)

MTH 191 (MATH 115)

ENG 111 (ENGLISH 125)

BIO 101 (no equiv.)

CEM 122 (CHEM 230 + 130)

DRA 180 (no equiv.)

ECO 211 (ECON 102)

BIO 172

BIO 173

CHEM 210

CHEM 211

UC 280

BIO 225

BIO 226

BIO 281

CLCIV 253

EEB 400

 

Winter

CEM 111 (CHEM 125 +126)

ENG 226 (ENGISH 201)

PSY 100 (PSYCH 111)

PHY 111 (PHYSICS 125 + 127)

CSP 171 (ENGR 101)

BIO 171

PUBHLTH 200

UC 280 

CHEM 215

CHEM 216

EEB 300

BIOLCHEM 415

PUBHLTH 370

PUBHLTH 381

 

BIO 207

EEB 390

EEB 400

Spring

MTH 192 (MATH 116) MTH 293 (MATH 215)

PHY 222 (PHYSICS 240 +241)

BIO 305  

 

 

The Transfer Experience

 

Each year more than 1000 students transfer to the University of Michigan (UM) and among those are quite a few pre-med students. We decided to ask two of our peer advisors, who transferred to  UM, to share their experiences with us. 

 

How did you adjust to the pace of classes at the University of Michigan compared to your previous institution? 

Haniyeh: Since I was junior standing credits-wise (~ 60) when I transferred to the UM, I knew that I had to take more upper level classes, which meant I needed to dedicate more time per credit. I decided to take fewer credits the first semester to be able to better cope with the new environment and have enough time to explore different opportunities and student organizations that were available to students. When I had questions about specific concepts in a class, I attended office hours to figure it out with the help of the professor well before the exam. Also, I joined the SLC study groups, which helped a lot to connect with my classmates and adjust my study habits to the pace of classes at the UM. Regarding other academic questions, such as which classes to take, I made appointments with both general Newnan advisors and pre-med advisors.

Anni: I had a similar experience to Haniyeh. I was also a junior coming into UM, and as severe as it sounds, I didn’t come to UM for the social aspect of it, I I came to get a degree. My previous school was a private liberal arts college, so the way the academics are structured are very different from UM. I feel that the rigor is the same between the two schools, so the challenge was to figure how to change my study habits based on what UM assignments and courses look like. I definitely had to get better about studying by myself since the classes are so big and you don’t really get to know your classmates or professors. I joined SLC study groups, a research lab, and went to office hours frequently in an effort to be aggressive and integrate myself into the UM community. I finished a lot of my pre-med classes at Wellesley, which made the transition a lot easier than it could have been. Newnan and the UPiN (undergraduate program in neuroscience) office were also very helpful in clarifying the graduation requirements!

 

How did your extracurricular activities change after transferring? 

Haniyeh: As I mentioned, I had a light schedule the first semester at the UM and gave myself some time to explore my interests. Festifall was a great place to start to get to know other student organizations. After that, I attended mass meetings of different clubs and joined a couple of them to learn more about their plans throughout the semester and my commitment as one of their members. In the second semester, I made a decision and chose those student organizations that were most aligned with my interests. In terms of volunteering at local health related institutes and shadowing hours, since I was living in Ann Arbor even before transferring to UM, I kept my previous positions.

Anni: Research was the main reason I transferred to UM, so I really made my lab my main extracurricular activity. At my old school, I was very involved in residential life and pre-health/academic clubs, but made the decision when I transferred that I wanted to completely switch it up. This decision was driven by feeling a little burnt out at the end of my sophomore year, so I steered away from clubs I felt I could be stressed by other pre-meds. I found one of my orgs, Consider magazine, at Festifall, which has been great for making my schedule less STEM heavy and indulges my love for writing. I found the farm at St. Joe’s and Glacier Hills Retirement through the Newnan extracurriculars page. Just like with academics, I jumped right in when it came to extracurriculars because I knew I had so little time here. 

 

How did you find a research opportunity in your field of interest?

Haniyeh: I applied for the Changing Gears program, which is a UROP program for transfer students. I got admitted to their program and that was the starting point for me. I developed some new skills (both technical and professional), which helped me to realize the area of my interest and strategically apply for other positions in future. 

Anni: I knew Michigan had a great Parkinson’s program, so before I was even accepted to Michigan, I looked up “University of Michigan Parkinson’s Labs,” went through the list of researchers on The Udall Center’s website, and cold-emailed all of them with my resume and explained I was a prospective junior transfer student. I ended up going to the first lab that e-mailed back, the Sarter lab, and talked with them through email for the next 8 months so that everything was ready to go when I got here. I also met with Dr. Sarter when I came for orientation in July so he could put a name to a face. 

 

How was your social transition experience in university adjustment? 

Haniyeh: It was challenging at first for me especially because I was transferring from a relatively small community college to a big university. I remember even finding the classes on campus was challenging! I started little by little and took small steps in finding my way. Joining SuccessConnects introduced me to other transfer students and paired me with a peer-mentor and a success coach who were very supportive, and that was really helpful to find my community. Also, since I was an international student, I attended the international center events to meet people from all around the world and share my experiences with them. Participating in study groups and student organizations’ events were other ways of socializing and finding like-minded people for me. One thing that I believe is important to mention is: “It might take time to build friendship and connection with others, do not get discouraged! You will find your community here!” 

Anni: Like I said before, my old school was very small, and though I didn’t like the school itself, I felt I had a great little community there between my friend group and professors. I must say that I’m a very independent person and an introvert, so I didn’t sweat the social aspect of transferring nearly as much as doing well in classes. I got really lucky that my Orgo II lab got along really well, which gave me the feeling that I was getting a handle on social life at Michigan. The Transfer Connections program was great for helping me find other transfer students (there’s a ton of us out here!) through socials, seminars, and mentorship. I ended up making most of my friends at the first social! Lastly, I really hit it off with my grad student and the other grad students in the biopsychology program, which opened up tons of other social and professional opportunities that I wouldn’t have known about had I not been so committed to research. My last word of advice for other transfer students would be to stay in touch with your friends and professors from your previous school! Not only do I love them and miss them, but it’s always good to have connections all over!

 

 

I hope all of you are well! Our latest blog is aimed to help you through a key part of the medical school application process: your personal statement. We have tips for each step of the writing process from brainstorming to writing to editing. The blue text is personal anecdotes from our E-Board.

BRAINSTORMING

  • Start the process by just writing: write anything you feel is relevant to your journey to being interested in medicine, the experiences you sought throughout college to cement your interests and your goals as a physician. 
  • This could take anywhere from months to a couple of hours. Every day when I thought about something that could be included in my statement I went to my google doc and wrote another bullet point.
  • This list included personal experiences I had had with medicine myself, memorable moments I had during my volunteering, qualities I had that I thought would make me a good doctor, and what my experiences in college have taught me about medicine and myself.
  • I had 10-15 pages written of completely unedited material and had to cut it down and draw from there for different paragraphs of my actual personal statement. 
  • Don’t ever delete any of these drafts, though, because they will come in handy later for writing secondaries (adversity, diversity, goals) and scholarship essays. You might also be able to use it as inspiration for things you’ll be talking about in the interviews (why us, why medicine, tell me about yourself).
  • A hard thing to do is to then narrow down this list of random thoughts and ideas. To do this, I tried to focus on things that involved a certain theme or story I wanted to tell in my statement. The best advice I was given while writing my personal statement was to make it a story that intertwines your experiences in one narrative.

WRITING

  • Stay away from cliches: sick relative, ignited your passion, “I’ve always wanted to be a doctor,” “I love helping people,” “I was always a precocious child,” etc
  • Make sure you always tie back to WHY MEDICINE, not why altruism, why science, etc…
  • Make sure that your statement is a good mix of introspection, retrospection, and forward projection. You can even organize the whole paper using past, present, and future as three paragraphs or sections in which to tell separate stories that ultimately tie together
  • Show, don’t tell! Paint a picture for your reader by using the 5 senses while you storytell: write about what you heard/saw/smelled during the memory
  • ALWAYS reflect on what you learned each step of the way (this is also advice you could use in your activities section). Admissions don’t just want to see what you did, but how you’ll use that in the future.
  • Instead of just regurgitating your experiences, be sure to reflect and show how your experiences have shaped you into wanting to go to medical school.
  • Beyond your own experiences, also consider talking about how people have changed you and given you perspective.
  • Step away once you’re done writing, and come back a few days later to really see how you feel about what you’ve written.
  • Be okay with re-writing your essay and doing a total overhaul a few times. Sometimes a few complete re-writes will be necessary for you to reach a clear story on paper.
  • The most important piece of your PS will be the hook — make these POP! You want the reader to immediately label you as unique and interesting before they even start reading the meat of your essay

EDITING

  • Don’t use contractions -> DO NOT use contractions
  • Perfect grammar and spelling is a must!! Edit using grammarly or a grammar nazi friend between each edit and before you send it off
  • I also had a younger sibling read mine to make sure I wasn’t using any jargon or complicated sentence structure, because you want your reader to focus on only the content and not get bogged down by confusing details — my little sister was able to tell me when I had to shorten my clauses or find synonyms for certain words
  • Frame your sentences actively instead of passively, and positively instead of negatively
    • Ex) “I published my research” instead of “the research was published”
  • When you feel comfortable enough with your essay, send it to professors, advisors, or recommendation letter writers for final edits.

Redditor u/  gyubari recommends 4-5 people to edit your PS. Try to find people that fit into the following categories…

  • A loved one. Somebody who is close to you that you have a great relationship with. Ideally this person understands you well and can see if your PS is a good reflection of you. Will also possibly boost your ego. This person can be your best friend, mom/dad, SO, etc.
  • A harsh critic. Career advisor/pre-med advisor/some kind of college writing center/college faculty. Pre-med advisors seem to not always know what they’re talking about, but they can dole out some harsh criticism. Mine told me not to bother writing my PS because I wouldn’t get in this cycle. You may need and benefit from some of this criticism and getting critiques from somebody in academia can be helpful. Don’t let it crush your spirit, just internalize the feedback that makes the most sense to you.
  • A stranger. Somebody you don’t know that well. This can be the random guy on the bus or an acquaintance like the girl that sits behind you in history class. How well does your PS paint a word picture of who you are and your goal of med school?
  • A grammar nazi. Somebody who can edit your grammar. This person MUST be different from the aforementioned 3 other categories of people. This can be your old high school English teacher, your study buddy who happens to write screenplays for fun, or maybe even a hired service.
  • For the fifth person, I would repeat one of the 4 previous types of editors. If grammar is your weak spot, pick another person to edit for grammar. If you need a self esteem boost, have one of your buddies read it.
  • Don’t incorporate edits that you inherently disagree with, because you still want to make it your own!
  • Submit your best work — this is the first thing medical admissions will use to judge your character as opposed to your qualifications.
  • Give yourself a deadline and stick to it! It’s easy to keep editing forever, but at some point, realize that you won’t improve the quality of your piece by continuous editing.
  • You should aim to have it ready by mid-June for primary submission; you will be in the earliest submission/verification group within the first two weeks of AMCAS opening (so don’t worry about submitting the absolute first day, when website is likely to crash. Everyone submitting the first couple weeks will receive secondaries at the same time.

Name: Anni Ball

Major(s) and minor(s): Neuroscience major and African Studies minor

Favorite class you took at Michigan: 

My favorite STEM classes would probably be NEUROL 455 (neuroscience of Parkinson’s Disease) or 436 (immunology). In both of these classes, I finally felt like I was learning something that was truly applicable to the real world (I know this is all classes, but it was also paired with the feeling that my degree will be worth at least some of the ridiculous amount of tuition money). Dr. Balazovich is a pretty polarizing figure here at Michigan, but I really enjoyed taking classes with him (I also had him for biochem). Immunology especially is kind of his baby, so he puts a lot of effort into this class. In immunology, we had a case study book and projects similar to those in biochem. The second half of the class was about half regular lectures and half case study presentation, which was a nice change from a normal lecture-only class. Dr. B encouraged significant class participation during case study presentation (the students never present, don’t worry) through prompting questions. An added, and unexpected, bonus of this class was that the immunohistochemistry procedures I perform in my research lab make much more sense to me (I will readily admit I did them half-blindly before I took this class). 

In terms of non-STEM, I really enjoyed all of my AAS (African and AfroAmerican Studies) classes because AAS professors are amazing, my favorite was AAS 458: Health and African Development. This class is cross-listed as a graduate-level epidemiology course at the SPH, which led to very few undergraduates in the class (my class had a record number of 4) and an extremely small class size (9 total). I had already taken a class with Dr. Stein, and his teaching gets even crazier (in a good way) in this particular class. AAS 458 is another one of those classes that connects to the real world because Stein updates his lectures with new disease epidemics. There was also a higher level of analysis (in statistics, causes, and socioeconomic implications) expected from students due to the graduate-level designation, which was more of a blessing than a curse (grades are based on participation, the final, and a 3.5 hour presentation) in the end because it added another dimension to my minor and depth to my discussion capacities in future classes (AAS 453 + 495).

When/How did you study for the MCAT: Haven’t taken it yet!

When did you take the MCAT: I plan on taking it at the end of this summer, after I graduate.

What was your pre-med experience: 

Over my four years of college I have questioned my decision to be pre-med many, many times. To be quite honest, I was not having a great time in my sophomore spring and junior fall, partly due to transferring, but mostly due to burnout. I’ve often called myself “a bad pre-med” in conversation because I’ve followed the guidelines for extracurricular activities pretty loosely (again, due to burnout at Wellesley and the adjustment process at Michigan). I have close to no patient interaction hours from my time at Wellesley because Boston hospitals are far away and extremely strict on patient contact, so I can really only speak to the patient interactions I had during a medical+public health brigade I did through Wellesley in Nicaragua or my semester in the dementia unit of Glacier Hills Retirement Community. I will be the first to admit that I’ve shied away from a lot of the extracurricular pre-med requirements because of the fairly stressful, but inevitable, interactions with other pre-meds. Throughout my college career, I’ve basically mitigated this problem by engaging in other extracurriculars outside of health careers to round out my resume (I’m the blog director for a magazine here at Michigan and was active in residential life at Wellesley) or ones that are somewhat related to (pre-)health causes (volunteering at the farms at UM and St. Joe’s, advising for Pre-Med Hub). 

I originally planned on going straight into medical school, but made what I saw as a “compromise” to push med school two years after I decided transferring was more important to me. This helped lighten my load for pre-med stuff—I decided to do patient interaction in my gap years, when I have much more time to commit to it. The amount of gap years I’m going to take is also influenced by my interest in a MD-PhD. I’m pretty involved in my research lab here at Michigan, and will also use my two gap years to better inform my decision as to which grad program I want to pursue. 

Recommendations/advice for current students: (maybe a little bit about transferring and adjusting)

If you’re a transfer student, do not, as I did, underestimate the emotional burden transferring had on your life. I’m sure this varies depending on your experience with Michigan and your previous institution, but I had a hard time adjusting because I’d visited UM once before I got my acceptance, and I came from a tiny, all-women, liberal arts college. If you’re coming from a similar situation as I mine, I would recommend seeking little communities to be a part of wherever you can. I attended a few transfer student events, where I met some of my friends, became close with some of my orgo II labmates, and really made an effort to go above and beyond in my research lab (the people on my research floor are my best friends here). I also think this will change depending on where you are in your academic career when you transfer. Since I came to Michigan as a junior, I knew I had to come in with the mindset that I transferred mainly for the academics (serious focus on my major and career paths), not necessarily to enjoy a completely different college experience. 

In terms of general pre-med advice: chill out. The most toxic thing about pre-med culture, at UM but really in general, is that everything seems like a competition. Yes, you’re technically beating out other applicants for medical school, but there is no need to participate in or play into the stress culture. Do what you think is your best, and don’t worry about anyone else. I would definitely go to advising, either with PMH or Newnan, since it’s a more objective viewpoint of the pre-med track than talking to other students before you go into a biochem exam. Even more importantly, don’t do anything that you’re not passionate about, or derive significant lessons from, for the sake of your resume. If this passion is not apparent when you speak about it, either in interviews or in casual conversation, then it’s similar to not having that experience at all. Plus, you’re at a higher risk of burnout and impostor syndrome if you don’t have some type of grounding reason or tenet. 

Classes:

 

1st year Wellesley

(Michigan)

2nd year Wellesley

(Michigan)

3rd year Michigan

4th year Michigan

Fall

-Biology 110 + Lab (171,173)

-Math 115

-Neuro 100 +Lab (Psych 230+Bio 222)

-French 201 (231)

-Neuro 200 + Lab (Psych 230+Bio 222)

-Ancient Greek Phil (Phil 388)

-Chem 105 + Lab (130, 126)

-Evolutionary Psych (no equiv.)

 

-CHEM 215, 216

-BIO 305

-AAS 260

-ANTHARC 285

-AAS 495

-AAS 453

-MCDB 436

-NEUROL 455

-SOC 302

Winter

-Biology 111 + Lab

(172)

-Physics 104 + Lab (135,136)

-French 202 (232)

-Writing 161 (FYWR)

-Physics 106 + Lab (235, 236)

-Medical Ethics (no equiv.) 

-Psych 205 + Lab (Stats 250)

-Independent Study (Psych 326, 2 credits)

-Chem 211 + Lab (210, 211)

-MCDB 310

-PSYCH 326 (3 credits)

-AAS 458

-AAS 290

-BIO 225

-CHEM 230

-AAS 271

-PSYCH 336

-MCDB 422

-BIO 226

 

How do I ensure my letters of recommendation are strong?

Try to identify your professors and mentors early if you can so you can be extra intentional about forming a relationship with them. 

Relationships take intention and time, so if you are getting a letter from a professor from freshman or sophomore year, try to reach out each semester to catch up in some way. Catching up can be over email or phone call, but in person gives the best quality if your letter writer can be available to meet with you.

One example of how I’ve reached out to professors from early on in my college career have been sending them articles from current courses that remind me of them/their coursework. This led to invitations to meet up to talk about the articles, which led to one professor even offering to write me a letter before I even had to ask! Keeping in touch and maintaining a relationship is essential if you want to get the best rec letter out of it.

 Do not worry about having ALL extremely strong rec letters! If you simply need one more, it is completely acceptable to ask a professor in whose course you did well. Professors understand that you need letters of rec and often are willing to do so. Obviously, it is best to build a relationship with a professor to get a more personalized letter of rec. The best way I would recommend doing this is office hours. If the class is extremely large, it is hard for a professor to get to know you through lecture alone so it is best to go to their office where you will be much closer to a 1:1 ratio. In smaller courses, in addition to attending office hours, It is good to ask questions before, after, and during lecture to continue to remind the professor that you are engaged with the material.

Can I get a committee letter?

Unfortunately, there is no pre-med committee letter service at our university, so you will need to find individual letter writers. Most students find it most beneficial to obtain this combination of letters:

  • Two science course professors
  • One non-science professor
  • One personal letter: a boss, research PI, volunteer supervisor, or physician you shadowed
    • IF APPLYING THROUGH AACOMAS, a letter from any DO physician you have observed in a clinical setting (shadowed or worked with)
    • IF YOU ARE IN YOUR GAP YEAR, get a letter from the gap year employment supervisor
  • IF APPLYING MD/PHD, a research letter — from an MD or a PhD rather than from a lab manager or student supervisor

Can I ask my professor for a letter of recommendation partway through a course?

It is okay to ask a professor for a letter of recommendation while you are still in their class, but it is probably better to wait until the end of the class to ask, and it is probably too forward to ask a professor before the class or internship begins.

Should I ask for my letter in person?

Try to ask for letters of recommendation in person if you can. It can really help to see the facial expressions of the person you are asking, as emotions are basically impossible to know via email. If you have not seen the professor in a while, you can email to ask if they can have a few minutes for you to stop by. Be very sensitive to their time, and go to ask when they say they are available.

When should I ask?

If you don’t anticipate taking more classes with a certain professor, it’s advisable to ask the professor a few weeks after you’ve received your grade in their class. If your relationship with your letter writer is a little bit more drawn-out time-wise, you should be asking a few months before submitting your application. If you want your letter in by June, March/April should be the latest you contact someone about writing you a rec letter — because May will often be the busiest season for all graduate applications and letters. Remember that you can always submit your primary application without having the letter submitted by your professor, and you only really need your letters by the time you submit secondaries (around the first week of July, but could be later because of COVID delays this 2020 cycle).

What if I can’t ask in person due to distance or other reasons?

If you must ask via email, be very polite and formal, and try to keep the email short and to the point. It can be helpful to follow this rough structure:

 1) Acknowledge they have many other important things to attend to and that you are grateful for their time. 

2) Express what you enjoyed about their class and why 

3) Explain that you are applying to medical school and that you are wondering if they could write you a strong letter in support of your application.

 4) Mention what competencies you believe they would be able to speak on.

 5) Thank them for their time and consideration.

 

Name: Brooke McCollum

Major(s) and minor(s): Biopsychology, Cognition, and Neuroscience major, Biomolecular Science major 

Favorite class you took at Michigan: I really enjoyed all the psych classes I took, but I would say my overall favorite class was either Psych 402 or MCDB 423. Psych 402, Neuroscience of Mental Health, was the most laid back course I took at U of M. I took it for one of my psych electives for my BCN major, and it basically consisted of reading published research articles about neuroscience of mental health (that were not long) and then discussing them in class. Something else that I really enjoyed about the class was not only did it really explore the science behind mental illness, but we also talked a lot about the impact neuroscience research does and will have on the future of mental health discussions and the treatment around it. It was overall a well rounded class and because of that, I learned a ton. Also, there were no exams or quizzes! MCDB 423, Introduction to Research in Cellular and Molecular Neurobiology, was an upper biology lab I took for BCN as well. I really liked this class because I used a lot of the techniques I had learned in my actual research lab, so I actually had a sense of what was going on compared to some other labs I had taken in the past. There were also really cool experiments we did like injected frog oocytes with RNA we had transcribed or growing dorsal root ganglia on plates from baby chickens we had dissected. 

When/How did you study for the MCAT: Took TPR course, studied mid May through beginning of August

When did you take the MCAT: August of the summer before my senior year (August 2019)

What was your pre-med experience: My pre-med experience was very busy but fun and at times extremely stressful, but I would not have wanted it any other way. Throughout my three and a half years, I volunteered through the University of Michigan Hospital and Arbor Hospice. I worked at a research lab and scribed at St. Joe’s Emergency Department and obviously, was an advisor and later on, an E-board member for Pre-Med Hub. 

Recommendations/advice for current students: One reason I choose to go to Michigan is because of the numerous opportunities that are available to undergrads. I do not think at many other schools I would have had the opportunity to work in a cancer research lab that is run by someone that has their own wikipedia page. Michigan is a research institution, so take advantage of it! Another recommendation I would give is to relax and take a breath every once in awhile. Not only is Michigan as a school stressful, but the pre-med track can amplify this stress. It is okay to take a break and go have fun with friends or do something else you enjoy. 

Classes:

 

1st year

2nd year

3rd year

4th year

Fall

BIOLOGY 173

SPANISH 232

PSYCH 270

CHEM 210

CHEM 211

BIOLOGY 225

MCDB 310

SOC 302

PSYCH 240

CHEM 230

PSYCH 303

CHEM 352

MCDB 436

MCDB 423

CHEM 399

PSYCH 347

PSYCH 402

Winter

CHEM 215

CHEM 216

STATS 250

ENGLISH 125

WOMENSTD 220

CHEM 245

CHEM 246

CHEM 247

PSYCH 230

PHYSICS 235

PHYSICS 236

BIOLOGY 305

CLCIV 385

CHEM 420

CHEM 398

PSYCH 355

none

Spring

PHYSICS 135

PHYSICS 136

Study abroad

PSYCH (3)

HUMANITIES (3)

none none

 

Name: Pooja Polamarasetti

Major(s) and minor(s): Biomolecular Science major, Gender and Health minor

Favorite class you took at Michigan: WS 400: Women’s Reproductive Health. I took this class because it aligns with some of my career goals and because the syllabus looked very interesting; instead of one professor all semester, the class is run by two physicians and each lecture is given by a different guest speaker, including people in fields like law, informatics, global health, sex therapy, and nursing. I started out this class getting the lowest essay grade I had ever gotten and seriously considered dropping it for a W. Before taking this upper-level writing course, I was lacking in writing experience compared to most of my peers (especially as a sophomore in a senior level class). However, I went to the professor to discuss dropping the class and she gave me some great advice: she told me that it would be more beneficial to use the course to bolster my writing skills and learn more about the topics I was so interested in, rather than dropping it to avoid a poor grade. I actually ended up regularly attending office hours, going to Sweetland, and doing essay rewrites to get an A, even after having a failing grade for the first half of the semester. I learned so much more in this class besides the obvious syllabus material in women’s health, and this experience truly shaped my GPA-driven thinking as a college student and pre-med.

When/How did you study for the MCAT: I self-studied the summer after sophomore year using textbooks from The Berkeley Review and online resources (Khan Academy, UWorld, Jack Westin, Reddit). I studied from May – Aug and took it right before my junior year of school started.

When did you take the MCAT: Sept 1, 2018

What was your pre-med experience: I had a pretty good pre-med experience, which I can fully attribute to all my peers and mentors. I had older students sit down with me even before freshman year orientation to help me figure out what extracurriculars I needed to do as a pre-med and what classes I should think about backpacking during orientation. Once freshman year started, I got a peer mentor assigned to me through an organization called MPAC, who I kept in touch with to ask questions and meet with all year. Part of the reason I was so involved in leadership here at Pre-Med Hub was because I knew how inaccessible general advising could be to students, but also how helpful peer advising and mentorship could be. I wanted to pay it forward and served in various mentorship roles, including through PMH, WISE, SLC-ELI, and MPAC, once I felt like I gained enough pre-med experience to be useful to other students.

Recommendations/advice for current students: If I had to do it all over again, I think I would take more risks as a pre-med. I definitely played it safe, from the classes I took to my major to my extracurricular choices. I knew that what I did would ultimately help me make it into medical school, but there are certain regrets that I have. For one, I wish I majored in a subject completely different from what I’d be learning in medical school; I have interests in subjects like Computer Science, Economics, Political Science, and Environment. As a Biomolecular Science major, I definitely learned everything I needed to as a pre-med, but I’m not coming out of college feeling fulfilled as a liberal arts student. Every pre-med is “interested in biology,” but I would encourage you all to explore your other interests as well, because you’ll be learning more biology/biochem than you ever wanted to know in medical school. This post puts it very nicely. I wish I got more involved in research, possibly in a field that is completely unrelated to STEM. I wish I joined dance or acapella groups, instead of sticking to my traditional pre-med clubs. I wish I had more of a life outside of pre-med because I think that would have prevented me from burning out around the time of MCAT and the application cycle.

Classes:

 

1st year

2nd year

3rd year

4th year

Fall

BIO 173

EECS 183

HONORS 240

WS 220

UROP

PHYSIOL 201

CHEM 215 

PSYCH 280 

ANTHRCUL 325

ASIANLAN 115

CHEM 230

WS 432

COMPLIT 100

SURGERY 499

ASIANLAN 215

CHEM 130

CHEM 125/126

CHEM 455

DANCE 100 (hip-hop)

DANCE 100 (pilates)

Winter

CHEM 210

CHEM 211

EECS 280

STATS 250

UROP

MCDB 310

CHEM 352

WS 400

SOC 302

LING 137

ASIANLAN 116

WS 313

MICRBIOL 405

DANCE 100 (intro to popping)

CHEM 216

SURGERY 499

***

ASIANLAN 216

(part-time status)

***I took one upper-level chemistry elective as part of a study abroad in SJTU, China in July between junior and senior year

With all the cancellations in classes, volunteer programs, research labs, and social events, all of you are bound to have a lot more time on your hands. To help you guys out, we decided to make the ultimate pre-med reading list! Bonus: if you’re not much of a reader, we also linked relevant tedtalks by some of these amazing authors.

Gawande is a surgeon, author, and public health researcher. His books explore a wide variety of health topics: from learning to provide good care and accurate patient diagnoses to larger scale economics and policy of healthcare in America. You can read his shorter pieces here and watch his tedtalk here.

“We’ve been wrong about what our job is in medicine. We think our job is to ensure health and survival. But really it is larger than that. It is to enable well-being.”

This is a memoir about a young neurosurgeon who is diagnosed with terminal lung cancer. Kalanithi discusses his experiences going from physician to patient and shares his ideas about death in his posthumously published book — this one will make you cry!

One of the earliest meanings of the word “patient” is “one who endures hardship without complaint.”

The story of two doctors, a father and son, who practiced in very different times and the evolution of the ethics that profoundly influence health care. Lerner’s is an important book for those who treat illness—and those who struggle to overcome it.

“My dad suspected that his medical expertise had prolonged her life but was even surer that he had helped her mental suffering by letting her know that he was always available, even for the most trivial of problems or questions.”

A “medical mystery:” twenty-four-year-old Cahalan wakes up alone in a hospital room and tells the story of her descent into madness and the lifesaving diagnosis that almost didn’t happen.

“The brain is a monstrous, beautiful mess.”

Groopman writes about how doctors make decisions for their patients and how to avoid erroneous medical thinking.

On average, a physician will interrupt a patient describing her symptoms within eighteen seconds. In that short time, many doctors decide on the likely diagnosis and best treatment. Often, decisions made this way are correct, but at crucial moments they can also be wrong — with catastrophic consequences.

Mukherjee examines the complete history of cancer—from its first documented appearances thousands of years ago through the epic battles in the twentieth century to cure, control, and conquer it to a radical new understanding of its essence.

“Cancer’s life is a recapitulation of the body’s life, its existence a pathological mirror of our own.”

Noah tells the stories of his childhood—the hilarious, dramatic, and deeply affecting moments that created his path from a secret child in apartheid South Africa to the famous American night show host. This book made me cry and laugh out loud!

“Whilst my mother couldn’t give me access to the world, she at least made sure to let me know it existed. A kid cannot dream of being an astronaut if he does not know about space.”

Verghese writes a memoir about his relocation for work and new expanding relationship with his medical intern and tennis partner while they both go through difficult personal experiences. You can watch a tedtalk by African-born Indian author here.

Every year, it takes two full classes of medical schools to replace all the physicians who commit suicide. He described a doctor who filled her car’s wiper fluid receptacle with alcohol so she could drink between errands, and another who injected his bladder with a third person’s urine so he could pass a drug test.

A collection of short stories that demolish the arbitrary borders between psychological realism and science fiction, comedy and horror, fantasy and fabulism. Machado bends genre to shape startling narratives that map the realities of women’s lives and the violence visited upon their bodies.

“I have heard all of the stories about girls like me, and I am unafraid to make more of them.”

A collection of perspectives on a wide array of issues, from food allergies, cancer, and neurology to mental health, autoimmune disorders, and therapeutic music. These experiences are recounted by patients, nurses, doctors, parents, children, caregivers, and others who attempt to articulate the intangible human and emotional factors that surround life when it intersects with the medical field.

“Medicine still contains an oral tradition, passed down in stories: the stories patients tell us, the ones we tell them, and the ones we tell ourselves.”

Written by historian Fitzharris to reveal the shocking world of nineteenth-century surgery and shows how it was transformed by advances made in germ theory and antiseptics between 1860 and 1875. Warning: she spares no detail!

“When a distinguished but elderly scientist states that something is possible, he is almost certainly right. When he states that something is impossible, he is almost certainly wrong.”

In this memoir, Norman describes her sudden and serious decline in health and her experience seeking healthcare, having her pain dismissed, to be told it was all in her head, only to be taken seriously when she was accompanied by a boyfriend who confirmed that her sexual performance was, indeed, compromised.

Women’s bodies have long been the battleground of a never-ending war for power, control, medical knowledge, and truth. It’s time to refute the belief that being a woman is a preexisting condition.

Pioneering psychologist Duckworth shows anyone striving to succeed—be it parents, students, educators, athletes, or business people—that the secret to outstanding achievement is not talent but a special blend of passion and persistence she calls “grit.” You can watch her tedtalk here.

“Nobody wants to show you the hours and hours of becoming. They’d rather show the highlight of what they’ve become.”

A bestseller at the moment! In this memoir, a young girl who, kept out of school, leaves her survivalist family and goes on to earn a PhD from Cambridge University. She was seventeen years old when she first stepped foot in a classroom. The story, based on a true story, is a coming-of-age story full of self-intervention and family ties. 

“The skill I was learning was a crucial one, the patience to read things I could not yet understand.”

Her name was Henrietta Lacks, but scientists know her as HeLa. She was a poor Southern tobacco farmer who worked the same land as her slave ancestors, yet her cells—taken without her knowledge—became one of the most important tools in medicine. The first “immortal” human cells grown in culture, they are still alive today, though she has been dead for more than sixty years.

“What do you know about African-Americans and science?”

A self-help book is always a good type of read. This one is about atomic habits which teaches us how to change our habits and get 1% better every day. Getting 1% better everyday will show tremendous results a lot faster than you think. 

“You should be far more concerned with your current trajectory than your current results.”

A book recommended by Bill Gates! This book explains why we sleep in an interesting way and explains to us how sleep can make us healthier, safer, smarter, and more productive. There are several theories presented in this book. 

“The best bridge between despair and hope is a good night’s sleep.”

This Russian novel focuses on the mental anguish and moral dilemmas of Rodion Raskolnikov, an impoverished ex-student in Saint Petersburg who formulates a plan to kill a pawnbroker for her money. With many psychological themes, it deeply explores alienation, consequences for our actions, and guilt. 

“Pain and suffering are always inevitable for a large intelligence and a deep heart. The really great men must, I think, have great sadness on earth.”

This novel explores moral philosophy from a contractualist perspective as Scanlon analyzes how we define whether something is right or wrong. According to his view, thinking about right and wrong is thinking about what we do in terms that could be justified to others and that they could not reasonably reject. He shows how the special authority of conclusions about right and wrong arises from the value of how we relate to other people. A bit of a dense read, ideal for people interested in morality and how these principles can be applied.

“The reasons we have to treat others only in ways that could be justified to them underlie the central core of morality, and are presupposed by all the most important forms of human relationship.”

Adapted as a film by the same name, this book follows the lives of three female African American mathematicians working for NASA in the 1960s. The novel explores themes of discrimination and racial segregation as the three protagonists are overlooked on account of their gender and race but are later shown to be pioneers in math and engineering. One of these women, Katherine Johnson, just recently passed at age 101.

“Their path to advancement might look less like a straight line and more like some of the pressure distributions and orbits they plotted, but they were determined to take a seat at the table.”

Name: Peyton Goethe

Major(s) and minor(s): Double major in Neuroscience and Psychology

Favorite class you took at Michigan: Split into science and non-science, below.

Non-science: AAS 245: Islam in Africa, with Dr. Rudolph Ware — something I didn’t know much about but has contributed greatly to the person I am today

Science: PSYCH 345: Human Neuropsychology—arguably what inspired my interest in combining Neuro and Psych fields of study, awe-inspiring to see the intricate mechanisms that help dictate our behaviors and daily lives

When/How did you study for the MCAT: Take summer off from classes to study. Try to truly immerse yourself in the content by doing daily practice questions/ passages.

When do/did you take the MCAT: January 2021

What was your pre-med experience: My pre-medical experience was far too competitive. The people surrounding me in most of my classes made me feel that since I didn’t come out of the womb wanting to be a doctor, I wasn’t a “real pre-med.” My own struggles with an inferiority complex definitely contributed to that, but nevertheless, it wasn’t an environment in which collaboration or compassion was encouraged. That led to some irresponsible academic choices (i.e. 19 credits, including taking Biochemistry, Genetics, and Animal Physiology and RETAKING Orgo I at the same time)—to this day, I cannot articulate what motivated me to make such a ridiculous schedule that looks like a joke. I think it might have been a combination of my response to the competitive nature of my surroundings as well as my unrealistic expectations of myself in order to be a physician. I always wonder if I was trying to self-sabotage myself from truly pursuing medicine on some level due to my feelings of inferiority. 

Recommendations/advice for current students: Find a niche of people who inspire you to grow, but not because they make you feel bad about any aspect of yourself—also, find close friends who can, for example, veto unfeasible schedule choices to prevent you from spreading yourself too thin when you’re not in the right headspace. Make time to decompress in whatever way works for you. Get involved in things that motivate you to pursue the career you’ve chosen. 

Classes: Again, before you look at my class schedule, please see most of this as a guide of what NOT to do. I retook four classes because of how irresponsibly I scheduled my classes. I did two spring and summer semesters and one summer half-semester. I had to do a whole M.S. degree just to have something besides my abysmal cumulative and science GPA—nothing wrong with getting an additional degree, but debt is debt. If I didn’t have to improve my academic performance, I would’ve much preferred getting an M.P.H.

However, there is also something to be said in regards to forgiveness. I look at this schedule and genuinely laugh, still shocked that I made it out of some of these semesters. I do my best to avoid festering on the subject of my previous academic shortcomings and focus on where I am now—in a job I love that challenges and teaches me on a daily basis and has significantly affected the healthcare professional that I will become.

  1st year 2nd year 3rd year 4th year

Fall

CHEM 130

CHEM 125

SPANISH 231

ENGLISH 125

UC 107

ANTHRBIO 368

BIOLOGY 172

PHIL 359

PSYCH 345

PSYCH 326

BIOLCHEM 415

BIOLOGY 226

BIOLOGY 225

BIOLOGY 305

CHEM 210

PSYCH 356

AAS 246

BIOLOGY 222

MCDB 421

MICROBIOL 405

PSYCH 402

Winter

STATS 250

SPANISH 232

PSYCH 290

PSYCH 211

UC 108

BIOLOGY 171

BIOLOGY 173

CHEM 210

CHEM 211

PSYCH 240

CHEM 230

PHYSICS 135

PHYSIC 136

ALA 472

PSYCH 250

PSYCH 413

AAS 245

ENGLISH 317

PHYSICS 235

PHYSICS 236