Below are our board’s own experiences with the MCAT. Pick up strategies from people who have taken the MCAT already, who are studying now, and who are planning to take it in the future! Anything in blue italics is updated advice from members after they took the MCAT!

Kiran:

“My best advice is to do a practice exam every week on the same day/time that you will be taking your actual MCAT.”

  • When did you take the MCAT? August 2017, the summer after my sophomore year. Some people say this is too early, and if you feel that way, no worries! For me personally, it just seemed like the best time to take it, as I had finished up chem, physics, and biochem and those subjects were still relatively fresh in my head.
  • Did you take a course or self-study? I took a course through The Princeton Review. Check out this blog post for more information about my experience!
  • How long did you study for? Approximately 3 months.
  • What was your favorite section? Least favorite? Favorite section was Psych/Soc, since I’m a BCN major! Least favorite was CARS 🙁
  • What’s one piece of advice you would give about the MCAT? Take as many practice exams as possible! Do NOT go overboard and tire yourself out, but my best advice is to do a practice exam every week on the same day/time that you will be taking your actual MCAT. It may be difficult at first, but soon you’ll get into the mindset of taking a grueling 7.5 hour exam at that exact time. You can even test out what foods help you concentrate best on the second half of the exam! Learning MCAT content is only half the battle; being able to sit and concentrate for that long is something that takes practice and dedication, so make sure you take the time to do this. You’ll learn a lot about your testing style and stamina along the way.
  • Describe your overall experience. The MCAT can be really draining. It is likely one of the most rigorous hurdles you will face in your undergraduate career, and you may never feel fully prepared for it. But, to quote the ever-popular High School Musical, we’re all in this together! Remember that this is a necessary step in your path to medicine, and pretty much EVERYONE has to overcome it. That sense of solidarity really helped me when I was studying for the MCAT. Additionally, whether you are planning to take a course or not, make sure you take advantage of the free resources that are available to you. This includes the resources listed on our website, Khan Academy, r/MCAT (for helpful study materials and memes), and even your own class notes over the years! You’ll be surprised by how much material you already know.

 

Peyton:

“Be patient with yourself. … Once you start seeing even a little improvement in your score on practice questions, passages, or tests, you’ll be addicted

  • When are you planning to take the MCAT? July 2019 (possibly)
  • Are you taking a course or self-studying? I think the big names in MCAT courses are a great way to gain familiarity with the test structure itself, cover content, and stick to a well-planned schedule, but they are EXPENSIVE. Unless you have the financial means to pay for a Kaplan or Princeton course, you may not be comfortable with this option. There are a large variety of affordable MCAT prep options, you just have to take initiative to do a little digging. Speaking of initiative, that’s the number one ingredient for a successful self-studying recipe. MCAT courses hold you accountable for reading chapters and doing homework before each class session, so, if you’re self-studying, that responsibility falls on you. I absolutely suck at sticking to a schedule unless I write it down and live in it, so that’s what I’m planning to do for the last leg of my studying. A good way to stick to a schedule is to find an accountability buddy who ideally is taking the test around the same time as you. If you’re taking the test in the summer and are looking for an accountability buddy, please @ me! 🙂
  • How long are you planning to study for? I’ve been studying intermittently for almost the year now. The day after I graduated, I woke up, took a diagnostic test, cried, and slept for another 12 hours or so. I took one more class and worked over the summer, so my studying was on and off. I got serious about studying in late October after I completed training for my scribe position, and I put in maybe 200 hours before my winter holiday. I finally got above the 500 mark on a TPR FL without giving 100% effort, but I needed to have a standardized test score ready for my application to a Master of Science program by the beginning of March, and I wasn’t ready to take Miss CAT at the end of January. Therefore, I put my studies on hiatus until I was done cramming for the GRE, which is a much more straightforward exam with results sent to schools in just a week or so.
  • What is:
    • Your favorite section so far? I’m going to lose friends over this one… It’s a tie for me between CARS and Psych/Soc. Psychology was one of my majors in undergrad, so a lot of it is content I’m somewhat familiar with or intrigued to learn, and I’ve always been an avid writer, so some of analytical skills useful in CARS are ways of thinking that I’ve adopted previously.
    • Least favorite section so far? My least favorite section is Chem/ Phys section, mainly because of the Phys component. No matter how much longer overall I struggled in chemistry and biology courses, I could not get into physics in high school or undergrad. I think the physics questions that incorporate physiology are interesting, but I have to fight hard to focus on physics questions about levers, pulleys, and ramps.
  • What’s one piece of advice you would give about the MCAT? BE PATIENT WITH YOURSELF. It is extremely unlikely that you’re going to see an attractive practice score in the first few weeks or even months that you’re studying (depending on how much you study a week). You have to keep pushing through, and don’t lose faith in yourself. Once you start seeing even a little improvement in your score on practice questions, passages, or tests, you’ll be addicted; it’s all the motivation you need.
  • Describe your overall experience. Do I wish I could magically wake up in a world where I’d already taken the MCAT and done extremely well? Absolutely. Do I despise the MCAT? Absolutely not. I like to remember that this test, as dumb as it can make us feel at times, is a “rite of passage” per se for pre-medical students. It’s something that even the most narcissistic and arrogant of us are challenged by. After taking a break from the MCAT to work on the GRE, I can honestly say that — in a perverse, possibly masochistic way — I miss studying much of the MCAT content (with the exception, obviously, of physics).

 

Lindsay:

“Don’t rush your studying … Make your one examination your best shot.”

  • When are you taking the MCAT? August 3rd 2019…
  • Are you taking a course or self-studying? Can I do both? I’ve signed up for The Princeton Review, but I buffered in a month for me to finish studying on my own between my course and my MCAT test day.
  •  I read through all 7 Kaplan books during the winter semester, but ended up taking a Princeton Review In-Person MCAT class from May-July. I buffered in a month for me to finish studying on my own between the end of my course and my MCAT test day.
  • How long are you planning to study for? 4 months at 4 hours/week. 3 months at 30 hour/week.
  • About 430 hours. 4 months at 4 hours/week and 3 months at 30 hour/week.
  • What is your favorite section so far? Least favorite? I like physics and I don’t really like physics. I like mechanics more than electricity and magnetism at the moment. 
  •  Least favorite? I thought I would like PHYSICS the most (being a BIOPHYS major), but I would say my favorite turned out to be PSYCH/SOC. I really despised the CARS and BIO/BIOCHEM sections early on in my studying, but practice really helped me improve in those two sections, and I found I didn’t hate them so much on my actual exam.
  • What’s one piece of advice you would give about the MCAT? Don’t rush your studying if you’re like me. Maybe you work better under pressure, but you really don’t want to take the MCAT more than once, so make your one examination your best shot.

 

Pooja:

“Make a google spreadsheet for EVERY single question you do throughout your studying, whether you get it right or wrong.”

  • When did you take the MCAT? September 1 right before the start of my junior year. I had taken physics, bio, and chem in high school AP courses and orgo, psych, soc, stats, physiol, and biochem in my first two years of college so I felt prepared with many of the MCAT essential classes.
  • Did you take a course or self-study? I self-studied for the MCAT.
  • How long did you study for? About four months: May, June, July, and August. I was actually planning on self-studying for all of May and seeing how I felt before deciding to either register for a course/private tutoring, or to continue self-studying. I felt comfortable enough with my improvement and motivation levels at the end of May that I ultimately decided that I would be fine studying myself. If you do elect to take a class, just know that it in no way will harm your score, but it’s up to you to determine whether you would be able to do just as well on your own and save some money.
  • What was your favorite section? Least favorite? My favorite section was chem/phys and least favorite was CARS. Unsurprisingly, my final scores reflected this preference exactly. I’m going to fully attribute this to my tendency to study what I enjoy: I felt unconsciously rewarded when I did a practice chem/phys section and got a better score than I did the time before, so I kept doing those sections. I also told myself that it’s impossible to study for something like CARS anyway (which is totally false). If you choose to self-study for the MCAT, don’t fall into the same trap that I did and make sure to tailor your studying to what you actually need to improve on!
  • What’s one piece of advice you would give about the MCAT? PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE! I personally am not someone that can learn from passively reading textbooks or watching lectures. However, when I do a practice exam, I think about every possible aspect of every topic I encounter, and going back each question to study these different aspects is how I really learn and remember material. Using MCAT-like practice questions from UWorld, The Berkeley Review textbooks, Khan Academy, AAMC, and other third party test-making company websites was probably the biggest score booster for me. I also found a really effective method to going over practice questions: make a google spreadsheet for EVERY single question you do throughout your studying, whether you get it right or wrong. Then, explain/define terms and topics you encounter in both the question stem and EVERY option using Google, textbooks, or class notes. Finally, write why you got it right or wrong: the questions that you guess right but don’t know why are the most dangerous. This approach will ensure that you spend more hours reviewing each test than the 7.5 hours taking it, but I certainly benefited more from this sort of review than pure content review like reading notes and books.
  • Describe your overall experience. I honestly don’t think the MCAT was as bad as everyone makes it out to be. Because I had the whole summer and wasn’t super busy with other academic commitments, I felt that my summer MCAT-ing was pretty chill. The one thing I struggled with was the fact that all of my friends who were doing internships or working in the summer didn’t have this huge exam looming over their heads like I did. To combat distractions from my phone or friends, I shifted my sleep schedule to study before anyone else was awake. Although I’m unquestionably a night person, I would wake up at 7am and study at Hatcher (which was super quiet all summer) from 8am-12pm. Once it hit lunchtime, I was done with MCAT for the day! I could spend the rest of the day at work/research/volunteering and had a bit of time to hang out with friends before bed each night. I could even take weekends off! What’s most important is finding a schedule that works for you and to stick to it.

 

Margarete:

“It was incredibly helpful having friends who were taking the MCAT around the same time as myself.”

  • When did you take the MCAT? January 19, 2018
  • Did you take a course or self-study? Course – Kaplan
  • How long did you study for? 4 months, about 10 hours every week
  • What was your favorite section? Least favorite? Favorite section: Psych/Soc; Least Favorite: CARS → I found a lot of the passages to be quite difficult and this is a section I struggled with when I studied for exams like the ACT in high school
  • What’s one piece of advice you would give about the MCAT? The biggest piece of advice I would give is to not take the MCAT until you truly feel ready. By this, I mean that you shouldn’t take the MCAT until you see a score that you are comfortable with and proud of on your practice MCAT exams, specifically those offered by the AAMC themselves. When I went into the exam, I thought I might be able to score higher than what I got on my practice exams, but this wasn’t the case. The practice AAMC exams are truly an accurate representation of how you will do on the exam.
  • Describe your overall experience. To be honest, I would say that the MCAT was one of the hardest aspects of the pre-med path for me. I studied for the MCAT the fall semester of my junior year. I thought I would be okay studying given that I only was taking three classes total that semester. However, I was incredibly stressed out and felt that I ended up prioritizing a lot of my time for classes over studying for the MCAT, and I think that ended up haunting me towards the end of my MCAT journey. If I could go back and change anything, I would solely study for the MCAT during the summer, or at least during a time of the year when I wasn’t taking classes. However, I will say that it was incredibly helpful having friends who were taking the MCAT around the same time as myself. One of my best friends actually took the MCAT at the same place and date as myself! I felt very supported by her as we traversed the MCAT journey together and always felt like I could lean on her when I was feeling hopeless or worried about my exam date and studying.

 

Liam:

“Don’t get caught up in completely trivial knowledge, and worry more about having solid understandings of larger or more general concepts.”

  • When are you taking the MCAT?  Spring of my junior year. I am taking it this May, a little over two weeks after classes end. By this time in my course of study, I’ve completed all the “pre-med” classes that med-school requires, as well as all the general sciences that show up on MCAT.
  • Are you taking a course or self-studying? I am taking a princeton review course that meets roughly 15 hours a week.
  • How long are you planning to study for? I gave myself roughly 16 weeks to study. During this time, my only other commitments (excluding the review class) are a part-time research job and one 3 credit class. I built my schedule like this on purpose, so that I would have plenty of free time during the week that I could devote to studying.
  • Including the class time, I would estimate that I studied between 200-300 hours in total. By the time my exam came around I felt completely ready, and wouldn’t have delayed it a day even if I had the option to.
  • What is your favorite section so far? Least favorite? My favorite section to study for is bio/biochem, as most of this section is genuinely interesting and I feel it relates most to the medical field. My least favorite is the psych/soc section, as I have the weakest background in this field due to being a chem major, so I’ve had to devote more time to learning this section. I also just struggle to motivate myself to study this section, as some of the topics, especially those pertaining to sociology, aren’t very interesting and seem to have little relevance to the medical field (at least in my personal opinion!).
  • What’s one piece of advice you would give about the MCAT? Don’t get caught up in completely trivial knowledge, and worry more about having solid understandings of larger or more general concepts. It is true that you need to remember some very specific things, such as various enzyme/substrate names for processes such as glycolysis and the krebs cycle, but it is also important that you understand these processes as a whole, and know their overall functions and relevancies, as a lot of times this can compensate for forgetting one tiny piece of specific knowledge. For example, when taking an MCAT, you would be much better off forgetting the function of one specific hormone, such as vasopressin, than forgetting larger concepts that pertain to the endocrine system as a whole, such as negative feedback. This is also important when reviewing practice MCATs you take. It can be more beneficial and efficient to mark down and review concepts and general systems that you missed, rather than focusing on one specific question/answer you got wrong, as you are unlikely to see the same exact question ever again.
  • Describe your overall experience. I am only about ¼ of the way through my studying so far, but overall I have had a very positive experience. I recently took a full-length practice MCAT and was very happy with my score, which served to reaffirm that I am studying in a correct and efficient manner. I look forward to my next full-length practice exam in order to see where I have improved and where I need to focus more studying. I have also been able to balance my studying, school, work and social commitments to a point where I feel I am accomplishing all that I want to while studying for this test.

 I was very happy with my entire MCAT experience, from studying to my final score. I think enrolling in a review course was definitely the right move for me, as it kept me honest with weekly work, and by the time it was over, I still had a month of my own time where I could focus on specific subjects and hone my skills as needed.

 I was also happy that I saved the AAMC study materials and tests for that last month as these helped me get in the right  mindset for the exam and get used to the specific wording and types of questions used by the AAMC. Don’t get me wrong, TPR and Kaplan do a great job of getting you into this mindset, but obviously they aren’t substitutes for the real thing.

Pragathi:

“It’s really important to focus on strategy and learning the best way to approach questions.”

  • When are you taking the MCAT? I’m planning to take the MCAT in July of 2019. I chose this date because it allowed me a good bulk of the summer to study in addition to the time I’m currently putting in during this winter semester.
  • Are you taking a course or self-studying? I’m currently taking a course with Kaplan which started at the end of January and is going to end at the beginning of April (about 3 months). The online course is about 3 hours every Saturday, which gives me enough time to complete the readings/homework before and after class throughout the week. I’ve found that Kaplan is definitely more focused on teaching you strategy to approach the questions and you are personally responsible to review most of the material. With that being said, they do go over “high-yield” science, which are topics that many students find difficult. Since I’m taking the MCAT in July, I plan to self study and review material from April to July (3ish months) when I don’t have any classes/exams and I can dedicate time to studying.
  • How long are you planning to study for? I’m studying for 6.5 months which is a pretty long time, but knowing that I tend to procrastinate, I want to give myself more time to go through the material a few times and have enough time to take about 8-10 practice tests.
  • What is your favorite section so far? Least favorite? My favorite section is most definitely Bio/Biochem since I feel that I’m most confident with information pertaining to this subject. My least favorite is most definitely the physics portion of Chem/Physics since I still have difficulty wrapping my head around physics concepts.
  • What’s one piece of advice you would give about the MCAT? Everyone has always told me that you need to go into studying with the mindset that you can’t possibly know all of the information that the MCAT will test on. As a result, it’s really important to focus on strategy and learning the best way to approach questions.
  • Describe your overall experience: Currently I’m a little behind on studying since it has been somewhat difficult balancing MCAT studying with my regular class schedule. Overall, however, it has been going pretty well and I seem to be making progress.
  •  

Brooke:

“Studying for the MCAT can be a super expensive process with the costs of books, classes, and other resources. Try and find resources online that are free.”

 When are you taking the MCAT? I am planning on taking the MCAT in August of 2019 because I will have the whole summer to study. Also, I will not have anything else going on except working as a scribe.

  I ended up taking the MCAT August 9th as I had previously planned. Instead of doing scribing during the summer, I had research and volunteering. The month before the exam, however, I did not go into research or volunteering, so I could focus on studying. 

 

  • Are you taking a course or self-studying? I am not sure yet whether I am going to take a course or not. My friend is taking a course this semester, and she is planning on telling me how helpful it is. Sometimes it is hard for me to get motivated if I do not have a set plan, so I think a course would be beneficial for me. If I do plan on taking a course, I will set it up so I have about of month of studying on my own. If I end up self-studying, I will be going over the books for the first month and reviewing the material, and then over the next couple months going over practice exams and questions.
  • How long are you planning to study for? I am planning on studying from the middle of May until I take the test in August. This gives me about three months of studying over the summer.
  •  I took a Princeton Review course that started at the beginning of June and ended at the end of July. The course met five times a week for three hours at a time, and the time was mostly spent going over material we needed to know. Also, once a week, I would take a practice exam and spend additional hours reviewing material and doing practice problems. A month before my test I limited my studying to only AAMC material, like sections banks, question packs, and practice exams, and reviewed material that I was getting wrong in the questions.
  • What is your favorite section so far? Least favorite? My favorite section is the Psych/Soc section, and my least favorite is CARS because, in my opinion, it is the most stressful section.
  • What’s one piece of advice you would give about the MCAT? Make sure you schedule enough time to study almost everyday (give yourself at least one to two days off a week). I was part-time last semester and was studying for the MCAT, but when classes picked up, I started prioritizing school and my studying fell behind enough where I did not feel ready to take it in January. Also, make sure you have a set plan on how you want to study and that you follow that plan/schedule.
  • Describe your overall experience. Studying for the MCAT can be a super expensive process with the costs of books, classes, and other resources. Try and find resources online that are free. For example, at uworld.com you can get free access to 100 MCAT style questions for a week. If you have multiple emails, use those to get free access for more than just one week.

 

Ruchira:

Start thinking early on about when you might want to take the MCAT, so you can plan your summers or classes to accommodate it.”

  • When are you planning to take the MCAT? I’m planning to take the MCAT in January 2020. I plan to study over my first semester of junior year and the last month of this summer.
  • Are you taking a course or self-studying? I’m not sure yet. Most likely both. I plan to mainly self-study but I may end up taking a Kaplan class.
  • How long are you planning to study for? Right now, I’m aiming for 5 months of studying.
  • What’s one piece of advice you would give about the MCAT? Start thinking early on about when you might want to take the MCAT, so you can plan your summers or classes to accommodate it.

 

NICK

” Have a hard set out of time/amount you want to study and let that determine the rest of your schedule, and not the other way around.”

  • When did you take the MCAT? I took it after early May 2019 after my junior year 
  • Did you take a course or self-study? I did a princeton course. It had some benefits and drawbacks. It was nice because it compiled all the things in need to study will ample resources all into one place. The actual classes though were not what I expected. They were taught by students so the experience was not always of the quality. 
  • How long did you study for? I studied starting in January, and studied throughout the semester. 
  • What was your favorite section? Least favorite? My favorite was either the physics section and my least favorite was CARS. 
  • What’s one piece of advice you would give about the MCAT? When begin to make you schedule it is very important to learn how to say no when it comes to other commitments or activities. Have a hard set out of time/amount you want to study and let that determine the rest of your schedule, and not the other way around. Make sure to say no to the things that don’t align with that schedule. That also includes saying no to yourself when, as a high achiever, you want to take on extra responsibility in your position or do more. I wish I had said no more to a lot of the things I said I could balance while studying. 
  • Describe your overall experience. The experience for me was robotic. I look back on that semester and think to myself how I did that. But that does go to show that it is possible. I was on a very tight schedule when I took it, which is why I would describe my experience as robotic. I was taking 18 credits (mostly because I had no other choice), as well as involved in research, volunteering, being a GSI, and on the board for a major campus organization. It took scheduling miracles to make studying happen but again, it is all possible when you set your mind to it. My experience included a lot of practice questions that I wish I had started later (very contradictory to typical information). I started too soon before I had enough content, misusing that time. I would go back and start practice question still early on, but more when I felt ready. 

 KARAN JOSEPH

“The MCAT is not so much a test of memorization as it is a critical reading and analysis test and the only way to develop that skill is to practice.

  • When did you take the MCAT? 

                   August 2019

  • Did you take a course or self-study?

           Self-Study- I would definitely recommend self-studying if you feel like you can keep yourself accountable. I kept an Excel sheet where I logged how many hours I studied that day, what tasks I completed that day, and relevant scores/percentage. This helped create structure for me and keep myself accountable. 

  • How long did you study for? 

              3.5 Months- This was probably on the longer side, but I kept myself busy with research, volunteering, and leading a discussion for CHEM 215 during Spring Term. If you plan on giving yourself the summer to study, then I would recommend making sure you have other activities planned out or you will burn out.

  • What was your favorite section? Least favorite? 

Favorite: B/B Least Favorite: CARS

  • What’s one piece of advice you would give about the MCAT? 

Take a few days at the beginning of the studying process to create your long term plan. Additionally, every week make a weekly schedule. As you continue to study, you will learn your strengths and weaknesses and make sure you hit those weaknesses hard. Additionally, Practice >>> Content Review. The MCAT is not so much a test of memorization as it is a critical reading and analysis test and the only way to develop that skill is to practice. Small details come into play when you are trying to push 130+ on a specific section or 520+ overall. 

  • Describe your overall experience.

My overall experience with the MCAT was positive. (At the time of writing, I haven’t received my score yet). It was a long summer, but only stressful towards the beginning and the end. The middle two months were a long grind but never necessarily hectic. The MCAT is daunting and scary, but the process of seeing your scores slowly increasing over the course of 14 weeks is extremely rewarding. 

 

Gap years are becoming more and more popular every year. That being said, what people do for their gap year(s), or how long they take a break varies. One commonality that all of these people seem to share is that during their break, they are able to gain a more developed understanding of the world—a trait that many medical schools appreciate.                       

Some reasons to take a gap year might include:

  1. You don’t have enough hours of volunteering, shadowing, research
    1. It can be difficult to balance extracurriculars with being a full-time student. As a result, taking a gap year to put the finishing touches on your experiences can be valuable if you feel that you didn’t have enough time to do so while attending college.
  2. You want to work on your GPA/science GPA by…
    1. Starting from scratch and pursuing a master’s degree
    2. Taking more undergraduate classes
  3. You want to save some money
    1. Medical school tends to be quite expensive and many students have undergraduate debts to consider. Many times it is possible to defer your undergraduate loans by starting a graduate program, keep in mind that most people will only being growing an educational debt throughout medical school
  4. You want work experience
    1. Whether you work in a healthcare field or not, committing yourself to a full-time job in any field will give you a new set of skills and demonstrate your work ethic.  Additionally, as discussed previously, medical school is not cheap; making money during your gap year(s) is never a bad idea.
  5. You aren’t sure about medical school
    1. It is an expensive commitment financially, emotionally, and socially, so it is important to make yourself aware of what you are committing to and potentially sacrificing by pursuing medical school.
  6. You just need a break from being a student
    1. Take care of yourself! You have probably been in school for 14-15 years straight at this point, it is very reasonable for you to go out and do some of things you haven’t been able to do thus far.

For the most part, medical schools don’t mind too much what you do during your gap year. However, do keep in mind that medical schools will very likely ask you about how you spent your time and what you learned from whatever you did. Thus, whatever you do—make it meaningful. Now, if you are thinking you want to take a gap year(s), but aren’t sure what exactly you want to do, here are some options:

  1. Volunteering
    1. Peace Corp 
    2. Free Clinics
    3. Teach For America
  2. Research
    1. Continuing in a lab you worked with during an undergraduate career
    2. Applying for a research position at another university
  3. Studying for MCAT
    1. If you choose to participate in an MCAT course, do a little research before you make a purchase — what kind of resources does each course offer, how long will you have access, what sort of learning styles does it work best for, etc.
    2. They are obvious brand names for MCAT courses such as Kaplan, and Princeton Review, but there are also a number of less expensive resources that provide just as many quality resources.
    3. If you choose to study independently from external resources, you should organize a study schedule in order to keep yourself on track.
  4. Master’s degree
    1. What you study depends on your goals of further education — are you looking to increase your pre-professional school academic performance, or supplement your professional school curriculum? It’s unlikely that medical schools will frown upon a certain degree, they just may not immediately understand, for instance, why you pursued a Masters in Fine Arts — if this was something you were passionate about, you should be able to communicate that in your application and interviews.
  5. Working
    1. Scribing
      1. Bear in mind that many medical scribe companies require between 12 to 18 months of commitment — this is typically not a position where a “two-weeks notice” is substantial, as physicians don’t want to be constantly switching scribes. As soon as you are hired to scribe, your company will try to start narrowing down your end date so that a replacement can be trained.
    2. EMT, CNA or working as a phlebotomist
      1. If you’re thinking about either of these, again, they are great ways to get patient hours, but you need to take classes in order to become certified. For example, EMT Basic certification courses typically run several months, followed by required clinical shadowing over a period of weeks. EMT Paramedic certification courses typically last over 1 year and require a special prerequisite course in anatomy and physiology for EMS.
      2. For phlebotomy, the classes that are needed to become certified are less intensive and take less time than EMT. Typically, the program lasts about a month, and you can choose to do it on the weekends or during the week. The program includes lectures and drawing blood from the other students in the class. A link for a class like this is linked here: https://www.phlebotomyusa.com/michigan-phlebotomy-schools/ 
      3. For Certified Nurse Assistant training, the training program is 75 hours long and usually lasts from 4-8 weeks. It is split between clinical training and in- classroom lectures with hands-on labs. At the end of the training, it is necessary to take a separate state certification exam, to remain certified for 2 years. A CNA works more heavily in patient care and  interaction than an EMT or phlebotomist, and focuses on assisting patients through daily activities such as bathing or eating.

It is also important to keep in mind that taking a gap year is often becoming a preference among medical school admissions committees. Taking a gap year (or multiple!) allows you to include your senior-year experiences in your application, and these experiences often strengthen your application overall. No matter what your gap year or years consist of, you are likely to grow as an individual in one way or another and, ergo, become a more well-rounded candidate.

Being pre-med can be difficult. Besides the ever-growing competition both in number and strength of applications, it is a long road with payoff much further ahead than many other jobs. As we delve into this topic, bear one thing in mind: you will never know everything, and that’s okay. We at Pre-Med Hub are still continuing to navigate pre-med life, just like you. But over the years, here are a few things we have learned along the way:

 

  1. Stop comparing yourself to other pre-med students. This is something that everyone struggles with at some point, but it is so important to remember. Everyone has different experiences. Some people have 1000 hours of volunteering, others have published 3 papers by their sophomore year, and yet others simply have a 4.0 GPA and 525 MCAT score. It’s fine, and maybe even effective, to motivate yourself with your peers. However, just because you don’t have those particular experiences or statistics, it DOES NOT mean you will not get into medical school and become a doctor. Find volunteering and research that YOU are passionate about, and can therefore talk extensively about, and that’s what will shine through in your application in the end.
  2. Don’t stretch yourself too thin your first few semesters. This is advice that all premeds (ALL OF US) have gotten and yet, we still chose to ignore it. Take that fun freshman seminar! Take a semester abroad! We don’t say this just because college should be enjoyable, but because it is really hard to counter the effect high credit-low grade classes will have on your GPA. Taking all your orgos and physics courses freshman year might seem like a good idea, but your GPA and MCAT score will thank you if you wait on taking them until you are ready. So many of us try to take as many classes as we can early on in undergrad and we only realize senior year that we could have taken things at a much slower pace. It is common for us to develop more efficient and self-catered study tactics as we progress through college, so it can be very valuable to wait to take classes that you anticipate will be difficult to you until you become more seasoned. Taking all your essential premed classes like biochem and psych early won’t help if you if you forget all the material by the time it comes to take your MCAT. If it becomes necessary, retake a course you struggled in significantly so that you can show improvement in that subject area.
  3. Take biochem as close to your MCAT as possible – semester or summer before preferably so you don’t forget the material. Remember that two different sections of the MCAT (Chem/Phys and Bio/Biochem) will test material from your undergraduate biochem course.
  4. Do your research on every class you register for. Although a class syllabus or intro information may seem interesting, an unfair professor or a ridiculous grading scale may make you regret your choice for the semester and lose interest in the topic. A good source to check out is https://art.ai.umich.edu/, where you can see official grade distributions of previous classes, some over several terms.
  5. Don’t be afraid to ask for letters of recommendation during freshman or sophomore year when your professor still knows you and remembers you. HOWEVER, be sure to keep in contact with them until you apply, whether that’s through email or stopping by their office about once a semester. Time will be on your side and they’ll get to know you even better.
  6. Attending a big university like Michigan has a lot of benefits. We have so many opportunities at our disposal. Use the Career Center for interview tips, go to Newnan to see a pre-health advisor, or go to Sweetland to get your personal statement edited. Find a student organization where you can make a significant impact, or create your own. This is your opportunity to create your own path and discover where your passions lie.
  7. Join a mix of big and small student organizations so you see what suits you more. It’s a lot easier to get more involved in small orgs and you can really shape the way it is run, but large orgs can give you access to people and opportunities you wouldn’t be exposed to otherwise.
  8. On a similar note, our campus has so many cool organizations that aren’t health related at all. It’s important to have a personality and interests outside of premed. In fact, there’s a portion of the AMCAS that asks for hobbies and other interests to see that you are well rounded and aren’t spending alllll your time on Netflix. If you’re interested in dance, music, religion, arts/photography, activism, cooking, fashion, sports, or even squirrels, THERE’S AN ORG FOR YOU! It is important you invest time in activities you are truly interested in and are passionate about, not just for the sake of your sanity, but also for when you are interviewing as medical schools.
  9. Speaking of activities outside the medical field, seek out non-clinical volunteering. It will strengthen your application, show that you care about your local communities, and you can actually learn a lot of lessons that can later be applied to your work in healthcare. The key here is to volunteer with a population that is “unlike your own or the community you come from”. For example, that could mean volunteering in the underserved, elderly, or veteran communities. We highly suggest that you do not volunteer among your peers on campus. While this can still be meaningful and worthwhile, it doesn’t allow you to expand your horizons and learn what it is like to help people outside of the college bubble. Some local places to volunteer in Ann Arbor include Ozone House and Safe House.
  10. Don’t close off any career paths or specialties or fields for yourself before you get to experience them. I’ve met people who go through their entire undergrad as premeds, only to realize that their true passion lies in nursing or teaching or research. They never gave themselves time off to think about their end goal because they go through undergrad with a myopic fixation on medical school because of preconceived notions and family expectations.
  11. If you are considering applying to DO schools, try to shadow a DO doctor to get a feel for what it consists of, and try to get a letter of recommendation from them if possible. It’ll show that you know how this part of the medical field operates, and it will help demonstrate that you chose to apply DO because you genuinely like and understand the philosophy.
  12. Go to speaker events and panels: as many as you can! I know you’re busy with classes and a million other things, but doing all these ~optional~ things can help you validate your own choices about the trajectory of your future. Don’t be like the typical pre-med that is obsessed with charting their every hour or only puts in effort into projects that give them a direct academic or career benefit. A lot of the mentors and speakers you will meet are really passionate about working with students, especially undergrads, and can help you in ways beyond finding that alumni/shadowing/research connection.
  13. There are a lot of cool ways to get involved in the healthcare field as an undergrad. Of course, you can volunteer in hospitals. But you could also train to be a medical scribe, EMT, or CNA. There are classes here in Ann Arbor as well as in a number of community colleges across the country.
  14. Just because you are pre-med does not mean that you have to be perfect. Please take time for self-care. You are not alone. Pre-Med burnout is real. Physician burnout is real and prevalent more than ever. Please you the resources you have available to you in order to get any support you feel like you might need. Whether that be petting dogs on the diag or in the library during finals or venturing to CAPS, do what you need to do to stay mentally healthy on campus. The last thing you, and the people who care about you, want is for you to crash and burn. Prevent this by taking steps to prioritize mental health throughout your entire time on campus. Learning how to take care of yourself now will be extremely useful during your future as a physician, especially in order to deter compassion fatigue. Overall, finding a self-care strategy that works for your lifestyle will help you on your pre-med path, during medical school, and as a physician.

And finally: enjoy the process. The pre-med process can be really rough, but hopefully you’re taking science classes and participating in all these activities because you find them interesting and want to learn. When the going gets rough, try to keep that in mind.

As you register for classes now or in the future, you may be confused by the fact that there are three biochem options here at Michigan. The biochem classes all have relatively similar grade distributions each semester as the professors’ coordinate with each other to standardize the courses. So what’s the difference?! Here’s a handy little breakdown:

 

MCDB 310

  • 4 credits
  • 90 min, 2 times a week + 1, 90 min discussion per week
  • Usually in the afternoon/evening (around 4 PM)
  • Have to go to lecture because iclickers, discussion offered (not required as of F18)
  • Exams are multiple choice and short answer, can drop one exam (not final), final isn’t cumulative
  • Relatively more bio-based, BIO 171/172/225 -esque, not as much like orgo/pchem
  • Offered in the summer and more SLC study group supported
  • Strengths: Other project/hw grades to buffer if you’re not an exam person, recorded lectures
  • Weaknesses: Hard to pay attention at this time of the day

 

BIOLCHEM 415

  • 4 credits
  • 1 hour, 3 times a week
  • Usually in the morning (around 9 AM)
  • Lecture isn’t required (no iclickers), new discussion being offered this W19 (don’t know if required or not)
  • Exams are 40 multiple choice questions only, 5 non cumulative exams
  • Relatively more bio-based
  • Combined class with graduate students
  • Strengths: Recorded lectures
  • Weaknesses: Too early in the morning for some people

 

CHEM 351

  • 4 credits
  • 1 hour, 3 times a week
  • Usually in the morning (around 10 AM), has a discussion
  • Exams involve problem-solving questions (multiple choice, true/false, short-answer, matching and fill-ins, mechanisms, chemical drawings, etc.)
  • Relatively more chem-based
  • Strengths: Some majors require this one, precursor class to CHEM 451, more in-depth knowledge of biochem if you plan to continue in either the minor, major, or field of study (might help for the MCAT, talk to an advisor)
  • Weaknesses: Bigger time commitment than the other two, notoriously “hard”

 

And as a bonus, here are reviews of the lab component of the class!

CHEM 352

  • 2 credits
  • 4 hours lab + 1 hour lecture
  • Scheduled for 4 hours, but can often end early. The remaining time can be used as office hours to ask instructors for help writing the reports.
  • Lectures are not required and recorded, but recommended for lab report help
  • Frequently there is quite a bit of work (lab reports and prereading) to get done at home unlike some labs that only span the 4 hours and you never think about it until the next week

 

CHEM 353

  • 3 credits, ULWR
  • 4 hours lab + 1 hour lecture + 1 hour discussion weekly
    • Exact same lecture and lab as CHEM 352, but contains an extra discussion
  • Learn to write a scientific paper

 

BIOLCHEM 416

  • 3 credits
  • 2 hours twice a week

Welcome to part two of our research blog series! There are many different areas or topics of research that you could get involved with, but in the end, it’s all up to YOU; figure out which settings are the best fit for you and which subject matters you’re most interested in. This might take some trial and error, and you may even find yourself leaving one lab in favor of another. While med schools like to see consistency, they also want you to be able to talk about (and continue to research!) topics you are genuinely invested in – if one lab doesn’t work out, don’t force yourself to stay in it for the sake of continuity.

 

Below, you will find a summary of different areas where you could get involved. Feel free to go to the department websites for these subjects, peruse the professors’ descriptions of their research, and pick out ones where you think you could learn and contribute. Then, send off your email expressing your interest!

 

Benchwork

Benchwork or wet labs involve a lot of hands-on biology and chemistry; you better get those pipetting skills ready! This type of research can range from making and running gels to washing and imaging membranes. However, different departments do this differently:

  • Chemistry/ChemE
  • Biology
    • Biochem
      • Lab stuff (think PCR, electrophoresis, chromatography, etc)
    • Cell/molecular bio/histology
      • Stem cell research, etc
    • Animal research
      • Lot of animal husbandry jobs (paying!) available for undergrads like working with worms/mice/fish/sheep/pigs, etc to study larger-scale biology. Require a lot of training for safety and animal welfare upfront. You will also probably transition from first only working with the animals (like husbandry and data collection) to data analysis as you get more experienced in the lab. Although getting into animal research is often time consuming, the skills you learn will be very valuable and can make you a better candidate for future animal research positions.
  • BME
    • Device fabrication and design
      • Device making is a constantly evolving and growing area of research. Professors in the the Engineering College are likely the best people to contact if you are interested in getting involved with device fabrication and design. Devices range from artificial organs to stents, and even to prosthetics, and all of these areas and more need diligent and creative students.
    • Devices
      • Artificial organs
      • Stents
      • Prosthetics
      • Measuring metrics of health
      • Ergonomic modification
    • Tissue Engineering
    • Tumor detoectores

 

Social Science

A bunch of different departments employ undergrads. A lot of these are interview or data analysis based. This is a good option for undergrads who hate working in a dingy basement lab with chemicals/cells but still want to get involved in research. Med schools want to see that undergrads understand the scientific method: forming a hypothesis, controlling variables, finding results, and determining significance – not necessarily that they are good at loading gels or specific hard science stuff. Any type of research is good!

  • Psych: Social/Cognitive/Bio or Neuro/Developmental/Psychopathology: Many labs have opportunities for undergrad students to have a large role in the study, and not just doing busy work. The lab I (Madeline) am a part of is the largest longitudinal study in the country and I work with children and their parents every day as one of the study facilitators. Psych research is a rewarding field because a lot of the time it is more hands-on and interactive than a lot of the biology and chem labs on campus. Many of the psych labs are volunteer only, and take volunteers through Volunteer Services.
  • Women’s Studies: There’s a lot of cool ones that look at gender disparities in psych of developing children/adolescents or in finding careers/glass ceiling and stuff. Sexual harassment in professional fields research, etc.
  • Sociology: health policy (like Obamacare), wealth-health disparities
  • Anthro
  • Public Health
  • Education
  • Public Policy: I have a friend who analyzes tweets by Trump and other politicians and the vocabulary they use at the school of info to make conclusions about politics and comparative government stuff
  • Econ
  • Marketing/Business
  • History
  • Literature

 

Clinical

Clinical research often takes place in a hospital or clinic. Different types include:

  • Patient education based (shorter term and often easier to get published if not a longitudinal project): often run by undergrads, can give you a lot of patient contact hours, use surveys/interviews to measure data. Minimally invasive so undergrads are able to get super involved (except in the case of higher risk populations like children or PTSD/psych patients). I (Pooja) did this through Kellogg Eye Center showing monocular patients (lost one eye through surgery, trauma, or birth defect) educational videos about safety glasses to protect their one remaining eye and measured compliance through surveys at following visits.
  • New medication/device based (harder to get started and get IRB approval): often only run by pharmacists/physicians so harder to get involved with as an undergrad. More risky for study participants/patients so they don’t let undergrads run it.
  • Screening/epidemiology based: involves a lot of going through charts and data sheets, lot of opportunities for undergrads, involves a lot of stats to look at the data (not too much direct patient involvement but also easier to publish papers and study large-scale patterns in patient demographics). School of info, school of pharmacy, school of public health do a lot of this so you can contact professors from those departments. I (Pooja) did this through the Kellogg Eye Center looking at different skin/eye tumor types that were found in patients based on past chart data. I know there are projects that analyze x-ray or CAT scan data at the med school too.

 

Thesis

You could also do a thesis within your major, typically during your senior year. This is a great opportunity to get a really in-depth look at research that you are personally invested in and, by the end, you’ll have a solid piece of work that you can show to medical schools.

 

Good luck in your search to find the perfect research project for you!

 

“Figure out which settings are the best fit for you and which subject matters you’re most interested in. … While med schools like to see consistency, they also want you to be able to talk about (and continue to research!) topics you are genuinely invested in.”

                PMH Board

Many students are drawn to participate in a research project in some form during their undergraduate career, whether it be bench work, clinical research, laboratory tests, etc. It is an invaluable way  to learn more about a field of study that you’re interested in while directly participating in active data collection. There is no shortage of opportunities available to undergraduates of all levels at U of M; the issue, therefore, becomes finding the best research project for your interests, availability, and form of compensation. In this upcoming series of blogs, we will cover each of these topics.

There are a couple ways on campus you can get involved with research.Many departments list laboratories and their staff along with contact information on their departmental websites or hang flyers in academic buildings to recruit student involvement. There is no harm in emailing those overseeing a project to inquire about potential research involvement, and it’s usually best to send a succinct, professional note for this purpose, as the individuals running these projects can often be very busy. If they have openings, project managers will typically direct you to whom you can send your cover letter and resume. If they are fully staffed, they may graciously offer to send these documents to other researchers in similar areas of study. 

 Another way  is UROP (Undergraduate Research Opportunity Program). UROP is a full year program dedicated to guaranteeing undergraduates a research opportunity in their first few years on college. The application comes out around February if you are interested in applying, and there are three different ways you can participate: first years apply to the general UROP, second years apply to Research Scholars through UROP, and transfer sophomores or juniors apply to Changing Gears. Once you are accepted, you must commit to 6-12 hours a week spent on research, depending on how many credits you are looking to receive on your transcript. If you are eligible for work-study, you can get paid for doing research through UROP and decide how many hours you would like to do. UROP also requires you to attend weekly seminars that investigate a series of topics relating to research (e.g. networking, cover letter, resume, research ethics) and a final presentation at the UROP symposium about your research.

Another great source of information comes from your classes: study group leaders, peers in your classes, TAs, GSIs, lecturers, and professors alike are all great people to ask about research in a particular field of study. Oftentimes, GSIs will introduce themselves during your first session by explaining what research they conduct and invite students to ask them about it outside of class. This is not only a great way to find research, but it’s also a great connection to make in your professional network. Similarly, attending your instructor’s office hours and inquiring about research in the subject on campus can give you insight into the broad range of positions available in your area of interest, and your instructor can potentially vouch for you to a colleague.

Instead of UROP, you can find your own independent research project. This can allow you to avoid the additional assignments that UROP requires. Allows you to work in a lab that is relevant to your field of study. To begin searching for research go to your department’s website and click on the research tab and then select find Principal Investigators.

https://www.umms.med.umich.edu/faculty-search/search

Can also find research positions on the University of Michigan Student Employment website

(https://studentemployment.umich.edu/JobX_ChooseFundingSources.aspx)

 

Finding Research

Students can find information about research laboratories on campus from a variety of sources. 

 

Sample Email

Hello Dr. [PROFESSOR’S LAST NAME],

 

My name is [YOUR NAME] and I am a [YEAR] at the University of Michigan for the 2018-19 school year. I would like to apply for the research assistant position at [LOCATION OR DEPARTMENT].

 

I am interested in this position because [REASONS FOR INTEREST]. From my previous research and leadership experience, I have [TALK ABOUT YOUR PREVIOUS EXPERIENCES AND THE SKILLS YOU HAVE GAINED].

 

I have attached my resume to this email [MAKE SURE YOU DO THIS], and will be able to start working [TIME FRAME].

 

I look forward to hearing from you soon! Please let me know if you have any additional questions.

 

Thank you very much for your consideration,

[YOUR NAME]

 

Good luck on your search, and stay tuned for our next post, where we will discuss different research environments and topics!

 

“Oftentimes, GSIs will introduce themselves during your first session by explaining what research they conduct and invite students to ask them about it outside of class. This is not only a great way to find research, but it’s also a great connection to make in your professional network.”

  Peyton Goethe

Originally Posted Sept 7, 2017

Hi folks!

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

 

1. Classes first and find the perfect balance!

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

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

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

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

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

4. Talk to an advisor!

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

5. HAVE FUN!!

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

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

 

Best,

The Pre-Med Hub Board

 

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

Margarete Wallner

 

 

 

Originally Posted Apr 3, 2018

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

CAPS:

3100 Michigan Union

(734) 764-8312 – (24hrs)

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

Corey Flynn

 

 

Originally Posted Jul 20, 2018

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

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

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

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

 

PMH Board

 

Originally Posted Jan 22, 2018

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

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

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

TPR

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

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

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

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

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

Timing

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

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

General tips and tricks

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

Resources

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

Kiran Ajani