In our latest blog series, we bring you a comparison between similar classes that satisfy common premed requirements: biochemistry, microbiology, genetics, sociology, physics, and  physiology, and physical chemistry. Keep in mind that not all of these classes are required for medical school, and that certain medical schools may accept only specific classes for a certain topic. However, if you are in the tough spot of choosing between two courses for the same topic, we hope our comparison chart can help you pick the right class for you.

We also suggest checking out the Umich Grade Guide and the LSA Audit Checklist ( if you are in LSA) when choosing your classes! Good luck scheduling!

PHYSICAL CHEMISTRY

CHEM 230

(3 credits)

  • More heavily chemistry/premed based (more aligned with the MCAT)
  • advisory prerequisite of CHEM 215/216
  • Flipped class, watch videos at home and team-based problems in class, weekly quizzes and online homework (you only need to get a certain percentage right and the professor will make it a 100% at the end), PREP course pack similar to an orgo course pack that has a ton of practice exam problems 
  • 72.5% of your grade is based on exams and the rest of your grade is based off of participation and homework OR you can have your grade solely determined by exams scores
  • Median grade: B+

CHEM 260

(3 credits)

  • More heavily math based 
  • advisory prerequisite of  CHEM 210/211, MATH 115, and prior or concurrent enrollment in PHYSICS 135 or 140 or 160.)
  • Get to use notecards
  • Covers one unit of quantum
  • Most of the grade is composed of exams but there are weekly problem sets taken for a grade.
  • Median grade: B+

BME 221

(4 credits)

  • For BME students- More engineering focused and Calc based
  • 9 homework assignments (36%), 4 exams each 15% of grade (this semester was take-home exams)  80% of it is the take-home, 20% team exam… lots of extra credit (up to 7%) 1 presentation (4% of grade)
  • Median grade: B+

GENETICS

BIOLOGY 305

(4 credits)

  • 4 midterms, all multiple choice
  • No final
  • Grading: Exams (80%)
  • Weekly* online quizzes
  • No lecture attendance taken, all lectures recorded
  • Mandatory discussion sections
  • 2 different professors
  • Extra credit for answering piazza questions
  • The first half of the class is calculation heavy and the second half is focused on molecular genetics
  • Median Grade: B

 

PUBHLTH 311

(3 credits)

  • 2 midterms, short answer + long answer
  • 1 final
  • Grading: Exams (89%)
  • Weekly* homework
  • No lecture attendance taken, all lectures recorded
  • No discussion sections
  • 1 professor
  • Fewer calculations and math than in BIOLOGY 305, but more talk about diseases outcomes and family level genetics
  • Median Grade: A-

SOCIOLOGY

SOC 100

(4 creds)

  •  For freshmen and sophomores 
  • 1.5 hours 2 times a week plus 1 hour discussion section per week
  • General sociology
  • Grade is heavily based on the work/projects your GSI assigns
  • Median Grade: A-

 

SOC 300

(3 creds)

  • For juniors and seniors
  • 1.5 hours 2 times a week
  • No discussion section
  • General sociology
  • Median Grade: A-

 

SOC 302

(4 creds)

  • Health-professions based
  • Specifically designed once sociology was added to the MCAT
  • 1.5 hours 2 times a week plus 1 hour discussion section per week
  • Exams are M/C and free response
  • Memo assignments (essays) 
  • No lecture recordings
  • Median Grade: A-

MICROBIOLOGY

MICRBIOL 207

(4 credits)

  • 3 hours of lectures each week 
  • 3 hours laboratory session each week
  • Recorded lectures 
  • Grading: 75% exams (3 or 4 exams, multiple choice and short answer), 25% Lab.
  • Median grade: B+

MICRBIOL 405

(3 credits)

  • 3 hours of lectures each week
  • No lab, but many students choose to elect MICRBIOL 350 (1 credit) in addition which is a 2 hour section once a week
  • Non-recorded lectures
  • Grading is entirely based on 4 exams
  • Median grade: B+

BIOCHEMISTRY

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,  optional discussion 
  • Exams are multiple choice and short answer, 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
  •  Other project/hw grades to buffer if you’re not an exam person
  • recorded lectures
  • Median grade: B

 

BIOLCHEM 415

(4 credits)

1 hour, 3 times a week

  • Usually in the morning (around 9 AM)
  • Lecture isn’t required (no iclickers), new  required discussion 
  • Exams are 40 multiple choice questions only, 5 non cumulative exams (90% of grade)
  • Relatively more bio-based
  • Combined class with graduate students 
  • Recorded lectures
  • Weaknesses: Too early in the morning for some people
  • Median grade: B

 

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
  •  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)
  •  Bigger time commitment than the other two, notoriously “hard”
  • Median grade: B

BIOCHEMISTRY LAB

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  to get done at home (lab reports and prereading) unlike some labs that only span the 4 hours and you never think about it until the next week
  • Median grade: A

 

CHEM 353

(3 credits)

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

 

BIOLCHEM 416

(3 credits)

  • 2 hours twice a week
  • Grade based on written laboratory reports, homework, preparation for the lab session, and a final paper focusing on an individual experiment or technique
  • No lecture, only lab
  • Median grade: A

PHYSICS

Physics 135/235

(both are 4 credits)

  • Most common physics sequence taken by pre-med students. Life sciences based, learn applications of physics to the human body (blood flow, lifting objects, etc.). Some content in 136/236 (labs) overlaps with 141/241 (labs). 
  • Algebra based. 
    • Physics 135: 3 midterms and a final, can drop any of the 3 midterms not the final. Grade breakdown is each exam is worth 20% (60% total), remaining 40% composed of weekly Mastering Physics problems, iClickers, and Daily Canvas quizzes.
    • Physics 235: 3 midterms and a final, can drop any exam including the final. All exams for both courses are 20 multiple choice questions. Grade breakdown is each exam is worth 20% (60% total), remaining 40% composed of iClickers and weekly Mastering Physics problems.
    • Both courses have non-cumulative midterms and a final that is ½ cumulative, ½ material learned after Exam #3. Both courses allow 1 index card of notes for Exam 1, 2 notecards for Exam 2, and so on.
    • 136/236: Only one credit. Grade is based on in-class lab reports and weekly quizzes on the manual. Overall, the courses are curved depending on GSI averages.
  • Median grade: A- for all 4 courses

 

physics 140/240

(both are 4 credits)

  • Mainly taken by engineers and individuals interested in pursuing a professional career in Physics. 
  • Calculus based. 
    • Physics 140: About half the class is graded on participation and hw, the other half is graded based on exam performance. Each midterm is worth 12% and the final is worth 16%. 
    • Physics 240: No midterms. Every two weeks there are in-class quizzes. Class participation is also recorded with clickers for accuracy. 
  • 141/241:Grade is based on in-class lab reports and weekly quizzes on the manual. Overall, the courses are curved depending on GSI averages. 
  • Syllabus and grading scheme can and does change based on professor and the term it is offered in. 
  • Median grade: B/B+/B/A- for the 4 courses

 

PHYSIOLOGY

BIO 225

(3 credits)

  • Human and Animal physiology
  • Grade is determined exclusively by 4 exams, all multiple choice, point-based, depending on the semester an A is 94% or 93%, 
  • 1 hour 3 times a week
  • 2 different professors
  • Recorded lectures 
  • iClicker points are used as extra credit at the end of the year, so attendance is not mandatory but highly encouraged
  • Median grade: B+

 

 

 

PHYSIOL 201

(4 credits)

  • Grade is determined by exams, homework assignments, extra credit assignments
  • Attendance in class not required, lectures are recorded
  • 1.5 hours 3 times a week  and optional discussion section
  • Only one professor
  • Class is held in the medical school, so may be further away from other courses on central campus
  • Median grade: B

 

 

BME 419

(4 credits)

  • Quantitative Physiology
  • 70% of the grade are based on exams, while the rest of the final grade is based on homework 
  • Each system is taught by a different professor each with different teaching styles (2-3 lectures per professor)
  • 8 system sections total
  • There is some matlab coding involved in the homework
  • Homework and exams are more math focused
  • Class sessions not recorded
  • Median grade: B+

 

Once you find a research lab or project that is interesting to you (we detail how to do this in our below research series blog posts for info on Finding Research and Types of Research), you can send them an email containing a cover letter, resume, and your schedule.

Make sure to state what you are hoping to get out of the lab before committing. Setting the expectations for what you would like your role to be can ensure that you are doing work that you want to do. Be sure to investigate the literature and written work of the labs you hope to be joining before committing. Understanding the research they do can help you to gain a better idea of what your role may be in the lab as a whole. Many UMich labs also have a website that would be helpful for you to look at because it will contain all the different projects and research questions the lab is pursuing as well as possible contact information. The following flowchart will give you a better idea of the hierarchies in many labs:

 If you are interested in joining a lab and want to reach out to them, you can usually just email the PI of the laboratory, unless there is another contact person listed on the website. Below is a good template for writing these emails. Don’t feel discouraged if you don’t get a response from everyone you email, and make sure you have a couple backup labs in mind if you don’t get the one you want. Go to our first research blog post to find an email template to apply for a lab position. During the first meeting with the lab manager or PI (which may be called an “interview” if you don’t know the professor already personally, or may just be a casual meeting depending on the lab), be sure to state your intentions and expectations . For example, do you want to complete your own independent project in the lab? Are you interested in writing a thesis? Talk to the PI about being able to participate in actual research (designing projects, statistical analysis, writing up results) rather than doing the basic tasks such as cleaning dishes and making solutions. Have a solid idea of what you would like to in the lab. Some labs involve several research aspects: molecular, behavioral, or clinical research, and you will be able to choose specifically which part you want to get more involved in.

Shadowing is one of the most important extracurriculars you can do early in your undergrad. Outside of being able to put shadowing experience in your application, you will be able to learn about medicine and talk about these experiences in your essays and interviews. Many pre-meds do not know what being a doctor is really about, so shadowing as early as you can will help you make career decisions. Shadowing is also a great opportunity to see all the different opportunities in health and medicine (ex. PT, OT, nursing, NP, PA, DO, public health, clinical research, clinical psych, hospital administration, etc). You can learn about all the different specialties and positions within medicine, and seeing all these different health professionals work together in the hospital system will also allow you to determine why medicine may be right for you.

The specific specialty and location that you choose to shadow can have a huge impact on your shadowing experience. For example, private practices and clinics have fewer administrative barriers to allow students to shadow. You may be able to observe more procedures without having to wait or fill out applications and paperwork. However, one downside is that these smaller spaces may not have existing programs available for students specifically to get more involved. They are built with only enough space for the physician and a few other staff, and you may feel out of place. Bigger clinics or hospitals, on the other hand, may already have medical students and residents present so there is already observation and teaching framework in place for pre-meds to take part in.

If you shadow in a hospital, you are able to choose from a wide range of specialties. Primary care specialties or specialties in internal medicine, pediatrics, neurology, radiology, endocrinology, etc will allow shadowing students to see most or all facets of the physician role, including taking patient histories, physical exams, and interpreting test results. On the other hand, specialties in surgery, ENT, urology, orthopaedics, OB-GYN, etc will often not allow students in the operating room (though this depends on the hospital) so the shadower might only be able to observe pre- or post-operative clinics in these types of specialties. While the physician is in surgery, shadowers may have to stay in a different room and are unable to ask questions and participate, which could get boring. It is quite a bit harder, as a pre-med, to get a complete idea of these types of specialties as they may not be allowed to observe all parts of the job.

Depending on the health care professional you plan on shadowing, a cover letter is a way to express an interest in participating in a shadow experience. Below is a sample cover letter:

Dear Dr. __________:
My name is Name, and I am currently a [year in school] at the University of Michigan. I am in the process of exploring careers in healthcare and I am very interested in the field of (e.g., dentistry, occupational therapy, pediatric oncology, etc.) __________. I am in the process of seeking out opportunities for shadowing and informational interviewing in order to better understand what it is like to be a __________. I found your e-mail through the __________ website (Or, alternatively, I was given your contact information by your colleague, __________). If you are willing and your hospital/clinic/office allows students to shadow, I would welcome an opportunity to observe you work. I would also value the opportunity to have a short conversation over coffee or tea (my treat!) to hear more about your experiences and to get your advice on how to prepare for a career in medicine.
I realize that you are busy and that your time is valuable. If you have any questions or concerns, you can reach me by e-mail or phone (###-###- ####).
Thank you for your help. Kind Regards,
Name

One of the most common questions we get from new students is regarding choosing a major. The University of Michigan has a huge selection, and while we couldn’t possibly cover each one, we reached out to peer advisors and guest bloggers to help review some of the most popular majors for pre-meds here. Some of the questions we tried to answer include: when and why students choose each major, favorite classes in the majors, and a few possible disadvantages to choosing each major. Similarly, we have also covered some of the minors that students may choose to elect.

 

For more information on all of our university’s majors, visit this link. Above all, we would like to emphasize that there is no “best” or “correct” major for every pre-med or pre-health student. You should study any subject that you are passionate about! Additionally, there is no rush to choose a major as soon as you start college—most of us waited until our sophomore or junior year until we declared majors or minors. As always, for help making an individualized decision or four-year course plan, drop into our peer advising hours.

 

  • Chemistry

    • Biomolecular Science (BMS)

      • Pooja: I declared fall of my sophomore year. I chose this major because it provided a lot of flexibility with courses and allowed us to add minors and majors without overloading on courses and credits. My favorite class in the major has actually been a foreign course. I was able to travel with the UM Chemistry department to China for one month and take courses in the Zhiyuan College of Shanghai Jiao Tong University (SJTU): “Biology for Chemists and Biophysical Measurements” taught by Professor James Penner-Hahn and “Bio-Organic and Chem-Biology” taught by Professors Brian Coppola and Jean-Paul Desaulniers. This was a great experience because I only had to pay for my room and flight, not tuition, and received 4 credits, equivalent to one full elective course, for my one month of coursework. Drop into my advising hours for more information on applying! Additionally, I was able to take an ARC (authentic research connection) version of CHEM 125/126 so I got to learn a lot about Arctic and Snow Chemistry in a small course setting with a ton of instruction instead of taking the regular lab with 1000+ students.
      • Brooke: I declared BMS fall of my sophomore year. I chose this major because I really enjoyed Orgo 1 and Orgo 2, which I took my Freshman year, and I realized I wanted to take more chemistry based classes. I am also majoring in BCN as well, and I did not want to just take psychology courses the rest of my college career. Additionally, I realized that the major covers most of the required pre-med courses  that you need to take, so I basically thought if i have to take these classes anyway, I should just major in BMS too. My favorite class in this major thus far has been CHEM 420, which is considered ORGO 3. The class was really laid back, and I really appreciated how the professor emphasized learning the material as opposed to the grades in the class. Also, a lot of the material was an add-on to what was learned in ORGO 2, which was probably my favorite required pre-med course. A drawback to this major is that a lot of people major in BMS. This results in the upper level classes, which are usually smaller in other majors, still being around 100 people. With the classes still being so big, it is hard to get to know the professor. For example, I am in an upper level MCDB course now, which is about 150 students. I went to office hours, and the office was crowded with students asking questions.  
      • Pragathi: I declared BMS during the winter semester of my sophomore year. I ended up choosing this major because while I originally wanted to major in CMB (now called MCDB), the electives for BMS sounded a little more appealing to me. Additionally, I happened to have already taken classes that fulfilled the BMS major so by the time I declared, I was almost two-thirds of the way done with the major. My favorite class in this major was CHEM 352, a biochemistry lab that was actually pretty interesting and easy. This class also had an upper-level writing option (that I didn’t end up taking since I already did my ULWR). One downside of majoring in BMS is that you aren’t able to use your chemistry credit (if you came in with IB/AP credit) to fulfill prerequisites. If you didn’t take Gen Chem, you’ll have to take the CHEM 245/246/247 sequence. This wasn’t my favorite class mostly because it was focused on the more technical or mechanical side of chemistry which wasn’t really of interest to me.
      • Liam: I declared for BMS at the end of the second semester of my sophomore year. I chose this major because while I originally wanted to major in Biochemistry, I had no intention of taking any additional math courses in college (besides statistics), so I settled for BMS. From my understanding its essentially the same major as biochemistry, but does not require CALC 2. My favorite class in this course was intro to biochem because, as I said before, my primary interest is in biochemistry. A lot of what I learned in the course helped my understanding of my current research and gave me a great foundation to build off of in upper level electives. I didn’t really experience any cons to this major because it was pretty much everything I was looking for (biochem minus calculus).
  • Biology

    • Biology 

      • Haniyeh: I declared biology the winter semester of my junior year. I always knew that I was interested in biological sciences, but since UM has so many majors in this field, I had to search deeper to find out which one would better suit my needs. After I transferred to UM from a community college, I compared different majors’ requirements and talked to the advisors in the department of chemistry and biology. I realized that biology is a great major for me since there were fewer restrictions on the number of credits you can take outside the department and this gave me more opportunities to take classes from a wide variety of topics that I was curious about. 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. Since there is a wide variety of courses that you will take and the class sizes are usually large, the chance of taking classes with the same classmates are low. This can make it hard to develop a good connection with your professors and build a sense of community among your classmates. 
    • Biology, Health, and Society (BHS)

      • Judy; I declared BHS during the fall semester of my junior year. I chose this major because I knew I wanted a science major that covered most of my pre-med requirements while still having classes that I would find interesting to take. I really like BHS because it am interested in the public health/sociology side of the medical field which I feel that the Health and Society section covers well. My favorite classes so far for this major have been BIO 225 and WOMENSTD 220. BIO 225 is human and animal physiology which was interesting because there was a lot of applications to the basic biology that we’ve learned for so long. Women’s Studies 220 was also really interesting because I learned a lot about the social construction of women’s sexuality and health care. There aren’t really any cons I can think of unless you think you would dread the classes in the health and society category of this major (since a lot of you pre-meds are huge natural science people). These HU and SS classes tend to have more essays and be a tad bit more reading based. 
    • Neuroscience

      • Ruchira: I declared my major the winter semester of my sophomore year. I was initially interested in majoring in Neuroscience because it overlapped with the research lab that I’ve been involved in for the past two years. My favorite major relevant class so far has been PSYCH 230 because in the Neuroscience major, the classes BIO 222 and PSYCH 230 cover a lot of the same material. When I took PSYCH 230 after taking BIO 222, I found that I had a better understanding of the core topics of the major and was able to truly enjoy learning the new material that was covered covered. 
      • Owen: I declared my neuroscience major the fall semester of my sophomore year. As a freshman, I knew I wanted to major in MCDB. I took PSYCH 111 with Schreier the winter semester of my freshman year and really enjoyed the neuroscience unit. After I took some time to reflect on my interests, I ultimately decided to go with Neuroscience as my major. My favorite class so far in this major has been PSYCH 230, Intro to Behavioral Neuroscience. This class explored in depth the topics that sparked my interest during PSYCH 111. We got to dissect sheep brains too which was pretty cool! Neuroscience is a pretty common major, so there aren’t too many opportunities to enroll in smaller sized classes. Reaching out to professors individually is a must if you want to develop a relationship with them.
      • Anni: I declared neuroscience during the winter semester of my freshman year. Although I enjoyed biology, I always saw myself as a pretty poor science student. The program was really eye-opening for me because it exposed me to the interdisciplinary nature of neuroscience and showed me that there was a way to choose how much of one classical science subject you want to study and research (the spectrum of behavioral neuroscience to computational, plus everything in between). During this program I also became really interested in movement disorders, which, in conjunction with the interdisciplinary aspect, convinced me that neuroscience was what I wanted to study in college. My favorite class has been Neurology 455: Neuroscience of Parkinson’s Disease. This class isn’t through LSA and is taught by Dr. Levanthal, who is a neurologist at the VA hospital. This class is capped at 20 students and Dr. Levanthal makes an effort to learn everyone’s names and facilitate lively discussion among students. He starts the course with a “clinic visit” with one of his actual patients. During this time, he interviewed his patient as if they were in a hospital exam room and then occasionally provided commentary as to his methodology and observations. The core classes and prerequisites can take a while to get through, so for me at least, I found that neuroscience was a major where there’s a delayed gratification aspect—it was only going into my senior year when I felt that saying I was a neuroscience major actually held weight in terms of my knowledge of the subject. Participating in neuroscience-based outreach programs, research, and/or tutoring can help reinforce that sense of “belonging,” per se. 
      • Karan: While I haven’t yet declared my major (I will this semester), I chose neuroscience because I liked the blend between psychology and biology. I am very interested in understanding the processes behind our behavior. Additionally, the brain has many relevant analogies to circuits which is another field of study I am interested in. My favorite class has been PSYCH 230. This class really bridged the gap between brain and behavior and taught me a lot of important concepts. It was really interesting to see behavior on the level of the organism and how this could be simplified to brain processes. As others have mentioned, the major is fairly large, so it’s hard to find smaller classes where you can build a relationship with the professors. While not the most difficult major here, there are a few difficult core classes that must be completed and this can do some damage to your GPA if you don’t have proper study skills. 
      • Sydney: I declared my neuroscience major during the winter semester of my freshman year. I chose the neuroscience major because I really like the interdisciplinary nature of the program. The classes offered for the neuroscience major are relevant to psychology, biology, chemistry, physics, etc. I really enjoy psychology and have had the opportunity to take psych-related courses that fulfill my major requirements while also allowing my pre-medical and hard science interests to intersect and harmonize with the social science material. The major requirements also overlap almost perfectly with pre-med requirements. My favorite class in this major has been PSYCH 345: Introduction to Human Neuropsychology. This class explored brain injury and neural dysfunction, and I am very interested in neuropathology. Neuroscience is a common major, and classes are generally large. This major also has tough core classes which should be taken relatively early in your college career in order to do well in the elective courses. Although I struggled in the core classes, these classes do enable you to do well in upper level courses.
  • Physics

    • Biophysics

      • Lindsay: I declared Biophysics in the fall of my sophomore year. The biophysics department is very small, and the small class sizes were a major reason why I decided on biophysics. Other than that, I knew I wanted to study physics and needed to fulfill all my pre-medical courses, so I chose Biophysics since it made both possible. I really enjoyed BIOPHYS 420 (MCDB 420) because the class was all about reading scientific papers, synthesizing them, and discussing them. Because biophysics is such a small major, students are sometimes limited to the order in which they take classes. What I mean is that some required courses are only offered in the fall, and others in the winter. Several of these courses have prerequisites within our major, so you have to do a bit of planning ahead of time to make sure you can fit all your classes into to a schedule you like. The process of ordering my classes was infinitely easier because I regularly met with our biophysics advisor (Sara Grosky).
  • Psych

    • Biopsychology, cognition, and neuroscience (BCN)

      • Brooke: I declared BCN the summer going into my sophomore year. Ever since taking a psychology class in high school, I have been super interested in the field. However, when I came to college, I realized I was more interested in the biological aspect of psychology, and that is why I chose BCN over a regular psych major. Also, with BCN, there was some cross over with classes I needed to take for BMS, so I could knock out two requirements with one class. My favorite class I have taken for BCN has been either PSYCH 270 or PSYCH 355. PSYCH 270 is intro to psychopathology, and PSYCH 355 is cognitive development. Each class teaches a lot of interesting information that I have, surprisingly, not forgotten. This major is also one that a lot of people choose to major in. Therefore, a lot of the core courses have a ton of people in them. However, as you get to the upper level courses, there are a lot of options, and the classes are much smaller.
      • Johnson: I declared my sophomore year. I chose this major as it combined both the natural sciences as well as the interesting social science classes (psych). I’m also interested in how the mind can affect our behavior. PSYCH 280 was probably the best class I’ve taken in this major because I love the professor and the class was super interesting. 
  • Music

    • Music (LSA)

      • Owen: I declared my music major winter semester of my sophomore year. I initially planned to pursue a music minor through LSA, but ultimately decided to add it as a second major so it could hold a larger presence in my college career. I chose to add my music major because I always knew I wanted music to play a role in my life and during my time spent as an undergrad. I actually almost dual enrolled in LSA/SMTD, but decided against that given the heavy workload and time requirements. Majoring in music through LSA still encourages me to participate in groups and play my instrument (trombone), but leaves much more time for me to focus on other aspects of my college life. The best class I’ve taken was Musicology 307: Music and Community. The course was offered for the first time in the winter of 2019, and it required students to partner with local arts groups in Ann Arbor. I worked with the Michigan Taiwanese American Organization to help them organize events and promote their music and art. It was a really valuable experience, unlike anything I had ever experienced in college. The only things to watch out for with this major concerns thinking ahead to your future. The LSA Music advisor often tells his students to add this major as a second major to an already established primary major, which is neuroscience for me. Make sure you can handle the course load before deciding to add it as a double major.
  • MINORS

    • Gender and Health

      • Pooja: I really love my gender and health minor because it was super interdisciplinary: I was able to take courses in nursing, anthropology, sociology, psychology, and literature. I also feel like I was able to learn material that I could directly apply to my career in medicine—topics in reproductive anatomy/physiology, disparities in healthcare, and issues specific to LGBTQ populations. My favorite class was actually called WOMENSTD 400. The course was taught by two OB-GYNs at the hospital, but most of our lectures were actually given by guest lecturers. We got to hear from people in law, public policy, nursing, psychology, sex therapy, etc. We also wrote a 20 page paper on any gender and health topic for our final project and this fulfilled the ULWR LSA requirement, which honestly wasn’t as bad as it sounds and a pretty cool way to get that requirement out of the way.
    • Asian Studies

      • Johnson: I chose this minor at the end of my sophomore year, because it allows me to get away from the science courses with my major. For me, it serves as a balance each semester when choosing my classes. But more importantly, it is also super interesting if you are into learning about the different cultures throughout Asia.The people running the department are super friendly and accommodating so that’s a plus. My favorite class so far definitely has to be ASIAN 377. It mostly a Korean entertainment and KPop class where you learn the history but also the music and the artist in general. Highly recommend if you are a Kpop stan XD. The only disadvantage of the minor I can think of is that certain classes are only offered once a year, so it can be challenging when planning your classes out for each semester.
    • African Studies

      • Anni: I declared my African Studies minor in the winter semester of junior year. I’ve been interested in African affairs since high school when I did a research project on Post-Apartheid South Africa. I took three AAS classes before I declared (260, 290, 662), which helped me identify my main interest, health structures and institutions in sub-saharan Africa, and confirm that this was something I was passionate enough to minor in. I was actually a big humanities kid in high school, so I was able to rekindle my love of history, english, and political science through this minor, in addition to expanding my knowledge and understanding of public health. AAS 662- “Health and Socioeconomic Development” is a graduate level class taught through the school of public health. It’s cross-listed as an epidemiology course, and a majority of the students are MPH-global health epidemiology students (you need a professor override to enroll in the class). The workload for this class is pretty intense (~300 pages a week and two presentations: 1 hour and 3 hours) but it’s so worth it. This course covers public health in multiple countries and teaches you the basics of colonialism, development, and political economy. I had 8 people in my class and we all became very close. I love this minor. The professors are insightful, wickedly funny, and tell the best stories. The classes are always small (about 15-20 people) which makes for great discussions and class energy.
  • NON LSA MAJORS

     

    • Engineering

       

      • Biomedical Engineering (BME)

        • Nick: I always knew that BME was something I would be interested. Therefore, I spent the first couple of years confirming that I wanted to do it. It also really helped that I took ENGR 110, a course that helped to describe all of the engineering majors and what it means to be an engineer. I chose this major because not only did I really love robotics, but I also wanted to go into medicine. BME was the perfect combo and 4 years later, I still feel it is! One thing I would say is that my love for robotics eventually transformed more into an interest in engineering/research skills. I have a several classes that I really enjoyed in this major, specifically BME 458 and Physiol 404. Both courses are really awesome ways to combine engineering design with medically relevant topics. I can say that I am very happy in this major. It gives me a very good education in a broad span of topics. The con is that it is a lot of work. Any engineering major will lead to long hours of homework. To be pre-med and BME also means a lot of semesters spent taking about 16-18 credits in order to be able to fit all of the necessary courses before graduation. 
    • Kinesiology 

      • Movement Science

        • Michael: I decided to study movement science the fall of my sophomore year. I chose this major because the School of Kinesiology offers smaller class sizes that coincide well with the field of medicine that I hope to pursue. Since I hope to pursue a career in sports medicine, Movement Science offers me a vast range of courses that will only contribute to my growing passion for helping athletes prevent, treat, and diagnose sports injuries. My favorite class is Movesci 330, the Biomechanics of Human Movement. In the class, I get to analyze how the body moves, calculate to what extent the body moves, and describe the motion of the human body through qualitative and quantitative measures. The class is very hands-on and offers many opportunities to actively engage with the material, fellow classmates, and the professor. One con about this major is that typically, students in the School of Kinesiology are not often pre-med. There might not be much overlap with the students you see in your Movesci classes and your pre-med classes.
  • Guest posts

    • Spanish

      • Cindy: I decided on my double major sophomore year (Spanish and BMS). I enjoyed Spanish in high school because language learning challenges you to think differently — it’s not rote-memorization like a lot of the pre-med classes I would be taking in my other major — so I enrolled in a few Spanish classes in college. I mainly chose the Spanish major because the minor requires upper-level literature classes, which I knew I didn’t want to do. I enjoyed the more linguistics-focused classes I was in at the time and wanted to shift away from literature. My favorite class was SPANISH 333; I took it abroad in Salamanca, Spain with Nick Henriksen. It was my first sampling of the linguistics course. I also enjoyed it because it was immediately applicable since I was in a heavy spanish speaking setting. A con of pursuing a language study is that it does require constant practice to keep up the skills. Especially as someone who didn’t grow up learning or using this language and only having limited time with it in class, you really have to make the most of it to get out of it what you want (most people say conversational fluency is the goal). For that reason, a study abroad program is probably the best way to get at least a couple of language classes done because immersion is the best way to learn it, and UM is a lot more flexible with finances and scholarships for abroad trips than many students realize.
    • Public Health Sciences

      • Ravi: I applied to the school of public health winter semester of sophomore year, got accepted that spring break, then committed before the end of the semester. I took PUBHLTH 200 and realized that there’s a lot of correlation between public health and medicine. Since medicine needs more public health initiatives to create a more personalized treatment for patients, public health is a hugely relevant and important field of study. PUBHLTH 370, Biology and Pathophysiology were my favorite classes. In these classes, you get to learn about the biology behind viruses, chronic diseases, and these topics are very applicable to medicine. One downside to this major is that you only get two years to complete all your requirements and almost all your classes have to be in the department for your junior and senior years, which doesn’t create a lot of space for a minor in any other school. Within the degree, though, there’s a wide variety of classes. If you’re a B.S. student, you can still take classes that the B.A. students are taking.

We’re back with more tips and foresight for all of you incoming undergrads and interested pre-meds! If you haven’t already, check out our first installment of this series:

What I Wish I Knew Pt 1

This time, Pre-Med Hub has teamed up with all of our newest advisors in the team to bring you some more things we’ve learned during our diverse pre-med paths.

 

It is never too early to start planning out what you want to do and the things you are interested in.

Start briefly planning your future courses and give yourself deadlines for things you want to complete in the future. By setting goals for yourself, it will encourage you to stay on top of things as time goes on. By planning out your time as an undergrad, it will make each step closer to med school less stressful and hectic when the time comes.

Take the time to look into the opportunities and resources on campus as early as possible. Being at a big public university, it can be daunting to know the amount of opportunities on campus. Because of this, students could then be too overwhelmed where they might not know how to start. Therefore, start by talking with people such as pre-health advisors. After that, talk to other students and friends who are interested in the same field as well. Using the umich websites to look for organizations, resources, and opportunities will also be beneficial as well. If you really put in effort and dedicate time into looking for these opportunities, it will pay off in the end when you need them. 

Schedule meetings with your pre-health advisor earlier than you think you need to! They see a lot of students so their schedules fill up quickly – I personally recommend one meeting per semester to discuss course scheduling, summer plans, when to take the MCAT, etc.

The pre-med community is only cutthroat if you let it be cutthroat.

If you find an inclusive community and believe that people are on your side, you’ll feel much better. It’s an entire mindset change. Be wary of being taken advantage of by other students for knowledge/ resources without any reimbursement (e.g. sharing notes versus working on a “group study guide” but only you contribute), but in general, more people are on your side than you think. While you might sometimes want to dissociate completely from the pre-med community, it can be beneficial to have a few friends who are also thinking about becoming doctors. There are so many different opinions and suggestions out there, so having some peers who you appreciate and whose opinions you value can be very helpful in your pre-med journey.

If you know you’re susceptible to adopting or buying into group attitudes, consider fulfilling your pre-med requirements with classes less popular amongst pre-meds. When you’re in class with 200+ other students, most of whom are pre-med, two or three times a week, it can be difficult not to compare yourself to everyone else and feel judged in return. Of course, make sure you’re interested in the material in the class and willing to commit the time required to do well, but the  specific classes you end up taking are not that big of a deal. As long as you fulfill your requirements, any class works. People may say that some classes are harder than others, but really you will have you own experience and it could be vastly different. 

Take the time to explore things that are interesting to you. Med schools want to see that you are passionate about something, whatever that may be. Don’t exclusively look for student orgs and classes that will look good on a resume, instead do things that you enjoy. Undergrad is the time to explore and learn as much as possible. Every student is unique, and med schools aren’t looking for applicants to be carbon copies of each other. They are looking for a multidimensional applicant with a diverse array of experiences and interests.

Choose the classes you want to take, major in whatever you want, and join the clubs that genuinely interest you. While the pre-med track should still provide the overarching framework to your undergrad experience, make sure you’re still being you in the process.If you like to do research, take your time to find a research opportunity that you are truly passionate about. Don’t do research as a way to check the list of common pre-med activities, do it if you enjoy the process of research and the purpose behind it. 

Being involved in what you are passionate for is enough to set you apart. Even if the things you like or want to do may not fall into the medical category, doing things your way can make you stand out and be seen as unique by the admissions department at medical schools. Therefore, try to find a balance of doing things that will help your path to med school as well as participating in things you personally enjoy. Also, having a hobby or a skill outside of your academic career can be a great  source of stress relief!!

Staying organized is the key to reducing stress.

Make sure you have a calendar and to-do list (either electronic or paper) where you can schedule your meetings, assignments, exams, classes, and office hours. This will help you keep track of the countless things you are responsible for and help you prioritize what needs to be done at that hour.

Try to make a weekly schedule and have a plan for your week from the first week of classes. Many classes are demanding and you need to allocate enough time to perform well in them. Having a weekly schedule helps you to manage your time better. However, if you missed something, know that this could happen to anyone and there are things that are out of our control. Try to adjust your plans instead of panicking and quitting.  

Re-evaluate your feelings towards medicine at every step of your pre-med journey.

It can be very easy to register and take pre-med classes without a second thought because your 4-year plan says so. You change a lot in college and medicine is a big, big commitment. Compile your class, shadowing, and volunteering experiences from the semester and think about if pre-med is right for you. Remember, there are tons of other health-related fields! Doing these quick checks at the end of semesters will both help you find what you’re truly passionate about, save you from unnecessary stress, and maximize your time in college.

Don’t get discouraged if you fail a class or don’t get an A. A big part of starting college is learning how to study and time manage. I know plenty of people who had to retake a class or two and still got into grad school.

Taking gap years is completely acceptable. In fact, many med schools prefer older applicants due to maturity (they’ve lived life outside pre-med track and have had time to find their “why” in medicine). It doesn’t mean you’re a “bad pre-med,” or backing down from the challenges medicine poses. If you’ve been dreaming of becoming a doctor since you can remember, that’s great! It doesn’t mean, however, that going directly into med school is the best thing for you. At minimum, you’re looking at 8 years of your life with very little time to yourself. Take advantage of a year or two (or more) to take care of and prepare yourself for what’s ahead. That being said, do something you find meaningful, whether it’s medicine-related or not, during your gap year(s). There are organized gap year programs and positions to help you structure your time better if you’re feeling overwhelmed.

Don’t be afraid to ask for guidance!!

There are plenty of others who have gone before you and can offer advice in your perspective career or major. People will be more than willing to help as long as you ask!  

Invest time into getting to know the people around you. Odds are you might have other classes with these students. Building the foundation of your relationship now will allow you to build a friendship that could span across your entire undergraduate career. Also, don’t be afraid to ask people to study with you. It’s a good way to have someone hold you accountable and be able to bounce ideas off of each other. 

Make time for yourself.

It is easy to get caught up in academics and other responsibilities, but remember that college is one of the best times of your life. Don’t forsake personal relationships and self care for the never-ending grind of being a pre-med. Mental health is extremely important, and spreading yourself too thin will almost definitely lead to burnout. Take time for yourself whether that is working out or taking a nap. We all need time away from studying in order to rejuvenate ourselves and rest our brains.

Take your first semester at college to relax and enjoy the college experience. Branch out and make as many friends as you want, and explore college life. School and life will only get more hectic as you get further into your pre-med journey so make sure to enjoy as much as possible. Don’t put too much on your plate. Try to get used to the rigor of college classes and potentially get involved in one or two extracurriculars.

Spring Term after freshman year is a very good time to catch up on coursework if you feel behind, or it can be a good time to get ahead on coursework. Being able to focus on one tough class is very helpful and is a good way to really learn the material well for the MCAT.  It’s also a great way to enjoy Ann Arbor in the summer! 

 

 Just breathe. Everything will be okay.

 

 

 

Name: Margarete Wallner                    Major(s) and minor(s): Neuroscience

Favorite class you took at Michigan: NEUROL 455: For those of you fellow Neuroscience majors out there, this is an excellent senior-level seminar to take during your fall semester senior year! Dr. Leventhal is an excellent instructor. Not only is he a neurologist himself, but he also does applied research related to the causes of Parkinson’s Disease. This class has no exams, which I found enjoyable as many of my science-based classes were solely based on exams. You have take-home quizzes based on assigned scientific articles. During the semester you also have to give a presentation to the class about one of the assigned scientific articles. Dr. Leventhal always pushed us to think critically in class and was a very helpful/supportive instructor. I would take this class again if I could!

When/How did you study for the MCAT: Studied for about 10 hours a week during my fall semester of my junior year. Did weekly Kaplan MCAT course (3 hours/week).

When did you take the MCAT: Mid January of my junior year.

What was your pre-med experience: My pre-med experience was quite fast paced. I took all my medical school prerequisites relatively early. I liked this, because my last three semesters in college I got to take classes I truly enjoyed. I volunteered at Ozone House as a crisis line volunteer, at Michigan Medicine, as well as an academic tutor for local underserved youth. I participated in numerous extracurricular activities related improving academic accessibility at the university and served as a SLC Course Leader for Chem 130 for two years.

Recommendations/advice for current students: If I had to give three pieces of advice regarding my pre-med experience at Michigan, it would be this: 1) It is totally okay to take a gap year, and in fact, I encourage it. If I had to go back and change anything, it would be to take a gap year. Not only do you have an extra year of experience to vouch for in your application, but it is often looked highly upon applicants to take a gap year. 2) Take the MCAT when you are truly ready! I rushed to take my MCAT because I felt I was on a strict timeline in order to apply on time. Although many medical schools will say that they look at your application holistically, (unfortunately, in my opinion), the MCAT will be weighed relatively heavily in your application. Of course, there are extenuating circumstances where this isn’t true. However, if you take the practice AAMC MCAT practice exams and are not scoring where you would like to see yourself scoring, WAIT. Study more, nail down your strategies, and take the MCAT when you get your goal score on the AAMC MCAT practice exams.

Classes:

 
1st year
2nd year
3rd year
4th year

Fall

  • CHEM 125/126
  • CHEM 130
  • HONORS 241 (Great Performances)
  • MATH 116
  • UC 280 (UROP)
  • BIOLOGY 225
  • BIOLOGY 226
  • CHEM 220 (SLC-related course)
  • PSYCH 230
  • WOMENSTD 220
  • HONORS 291 (research)
  • BIOLOGY 222
  • CHEM 230
  • SOC 302
  • MCDB 300 (research)
  • BIOLOGY 305
  • NEUROL 455
  • PUBHLTH 403
  • JAZZ 450 (meditation)
  • MCDB 400 (research)

Winter

  • ANTHRCUL 101 (Honors)
  • BIOLOGY 173 (ARC)
  • CHEM 210
  • CHEM 211
  • ENGLISH 140 (1st-year writing seminar)
  • UC 280 (UROP)
  • MCDB 310
  • PHYSICS 135
  • PHYSICS 136
  • PUBHLTH 310
  • STATS 250
  • MCDB 300 (research)
  • JAZZ 450 (meditation)
  • PSYCH 336
  • PSYCH 337
  • SOC 495 (Social Inequalities in Health)
  • MCDB 300 (research)
  • HUMGEN 480

Spring

  • CHEM 215
  • CHEM 216
  • PHYSICS 235
  • PHYSICS 236
   

 

Name: Kiran Ajani

 

 

 

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

Favorite class you took at Michigan: ANATOMY 403: Although this class was worth every one of its 5 credits, it was so fascinating to learn about the body in this much detail. Since this course is offered through the medical school, it is a great introduction into what you will see and learn about when you are a medical student. It does take quite a bit of time to learn all the material, but I found it to be extremely relevant.

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 junior year (2017)

What was your pre-med experience: I had a very good experience at Michigan, in no small part due to the many pre-med (and non-pre-med) friends I met along the way. Pre-med courses at this university can be very difficult, but by taking advantage of SLC study groups and generally studying with friends, I was able to form a community and support network to help me through it. In addition, many of the professors for these courses are helpful and easy to talk to, whether you need help with the schoolwork or want to ask for a letter of recommendation.

Recommendations/advice for current students: Michigan has innumerable opportunities, both related to medicine and not – you can volunteer or work at the hospital, partake in all kinds of research, and join various student organizations. As much as you can, take advantage of these. Push yourself to find new activities that you find stimulating and educational, and pursue what you’re passionate about through these experiences. You have an exciting few years ahead of you, so make the most of them!

Classes:

  1st year 2nd year 3rd year 4th year

Fall

  • GTBOOKS 191
  • CHEM 130
  • CHEM 125/126
  • STATS 250
  • PSYCH 250
  • CHEM 215
  • CHEM 216
  • PHYSICS 135
  • PHYSICS 136
  • PSYCH 230
  • BIOLOGY 200
  • BIOLOGY 225
  • BIOLOGY 226
  • CHEM 230
  • ASIAN 230
  • MCDB 300
  • MIDEAST 321
  • PSYCH 447
  • PSYCH 424

Winter

  • CHEM 210
  • CHEM 211
  • BIOLOGY 173
  • SOC 100
  • HISTORY 105
  • PHYSICS 235
  • PHYSICS 236
  • MCDB 310
  • PSYCH 240
  • WOMENSTD 220
  • BIOLOGY 200
  • ANATOMY 403
  • PSYCH 358
  • PSYCH 349
  • RELIGION 258
  • PSYCH 339
  • PSYCH 418
  • PSYCH 426

 

Below we have provided an example order of how you might split up your science classes. This schedule is VERY subjective. Each of these groups can be split between semesters or years (PLEASE don’t take 4+ STEM classes in one semester), but are a general guideline for popular premed classes that may help to take before the MCAT. Many of the classes listed also have alternates that may be helpful to look into: for example, there are 3 biochems offered, or 3 sets of physics, or 3 pchems. Talk to an advisor for more specific questions.

First Semester: CHEM 125/126/130, BIO 171, STATS 250, PSYCH 111

Second Semester: BIO 172, BIO 173, CHEM 210/211

Third Semester: CHEM 215/216, PHYSICS 135/136, BIO 225

Fourth Semester: CHEM 230, PHYSICS 235/236, MCDB 310

                                 —-MCAT —-

Junior/Senior year: Finish Major and Graduation Requirements


Which classes to take and not take together

When you register for classes, it is be helpful to look at the syllabus to get an idea of what type of class it is. Some classes may be very focused on exams, some may have a lot of writing, some may be math heavy, some may be memorization heavy, etc. I always try to take no more than two of each of these types of classes per semester.

For example, bio classes are often memorization heavy and there’s only so many slides you can commit to memory in a semester, so I wouldn’t take something like physiol and biochem and microbio all together.

Similarly, don’t take your upper level writing together with all other humanities if you don’t find writing to be your strong suite; taking only one or two writing classes allows you to spend more time on each paper you hand in.

Another thing to consider once you have access to all syllabi for the semester is how well the exams are spaced out. Most of the time, exams are spread out enough to make studying for them manageable. However, it is possible that a combination of classes you choose makes all of your first midterms, second midterms, and third midterms land in the same week, and some people are better at managing such a situation better than others.


Additionally, below are our board’s own experiences with U of M courses in our best and worst semesters. We hope you can learn from our experiences!

 

Kiran

My worst semester was the second semester of my freshman year. I was taking BIOLOGY 173, CHEM 210 and 211, HISTORY 105 (Intro to Religion), and SOC 100. I think the reason why this was my worst semester was because I never had exposure to organic chemistry in high school, so studying for Orgo 1 took up a lot of time. Additionally, although I was interested in religion as a topic (and am now minoring in Religion), HISTORY 105 turned out to be slightly different than what I expected, making it harder for me to complete those assignments. Finally, BIOLOGY 173 (like most labs at Michigan) took up a decent amount of time, because we were required to complete pre-labs, 2 papers, 2 presentations, and 2 quizzes. I think this combination of classes – where the subjects were either new or required my full attention – in addition to being a freshman led to me getting a little overwhelmed.

My best semester was actually the following semester, which was fall of my sophomore year. I took CHEM 215 and 216, PHYSICS 135 and 136, PSYCH 230 (Behavioral Neuroscience), and BIOLOGY 200 (Independent Research). I actually really enjoyed this combination of classes, mostly because of the scientific nature of subjects. Taking Orgo 2 (which I found to be easier and generally better than Orgo 1) and Physics 1 (which is often perceived to be one of the easier pre-med courses) concurrently definitely worked out well. PSYCH 230 was also fairly science-heavy, but I really enjoyed the focus on the brain, especially since I am a BCN major. Finally, BIOLOGY 200 allowed me to explore research on my own for the first time. This was also the semester when I started joining more student orgs, and when I learned that I work more efficiently when I am busy.

 

Lindsay

My best semester was the fall of my junior year. I was taking pchem BIOPHYS 370(3)/MCDB 310(3)/AMCULT 214(3)/EEB 472(3)/EHS 474(3). I was also doing 15 hours of research and 4 hours volunteering per week. Honestly, I think I did well because I went to all of my classes and reached out to professors/GSIs whenever I was having a hard time understanding the course material. This meant going to office hours or scheduling a time to meet my professors about 3 hours/week, but I think it was worth it. Plus, my relationships with my professors ended up being great, so much so that three of my letters of recommendation will be written by professors I had the fall of my junior year. I also made sure to give myself time to relax and blow off steam. It seems counterintuitive to commit to do more things during a week on top of school and research obligations, but I found that adding social events into my schedule made me more efficient at and happy to do school work.

My worst semester was winter of my sophomore year. I was taking BIO 172(4)/CHEM 210(4)/MATH 215(4)/UROP 280(4). I was also doing about 15 hours of research and 4 hours volunteering per week.  I think that semester went so poorly because I never reached out for help when I was having trouble understanding concepts, and I was too stubborn to change my study style that was clearly not working. I’m not naturally good at memorizing, and I was stubborn and did not make an effort to switch to a study method that matched the demands of the course. Also, I was having issues with my mental and physical health that I think added to my inability to focus in class and retain information I was taught. My ability to succeed in school since the winter of my sophomore year has coincided with improvements in my state of mind and a better social life.

 

Margarete

My worst semester was the fall semester of my junior year. That semester I took Chem 230, Bio 222 (neuroscience major core class), Soc 302 (essentially the introductory sociology class for Pre-Meds), and MCDB 300 (3 credits of research for the lab I work in). I know this may not seem like a heavy course load, but I was also studying for the MCAT. So in addition to 3 hours of volunteering at the hospital, 4 hours of volunteering at Ozone House, 12 hours of research, my Chem 130 course leader and facilitator job, and numerous other extracurriculars, I was trying to study for what was the hardest exam I was going to take in my life thus far. Reflecting on this time, I realize that I committed myself to too many activities while trying to study for the MCAT. If I had to go back and change anything, I would change the time I took the MCAT. Knowing myself and my standardized test-taking abilities, I should have studied for the MCAT while I wasn’t taking any classes, particularly the summer after my sophomore or junior year. Additionally, my anxiety and ADHD ramped up during this stressful time, so I think that negatively affected my MCAT studying experience.

My best semester was actually the winter semester of my junior year. I took my MCAT in the middle of January, which, naturally wasn’t a particularly fun or positive experience. However, after that was over, it was smooth sailing for the rest of the semester. I continued with the previous extracurriculars and activities I was doing in the fall semester of junior year. Additionally, I wasn’t taking any “Pre-Med” classes. I took Psych 335 and Psych 336 which are neuroscience electives for my major. Additionally, I took Soc 495, which is an upper-level elective focusing on global and local health disparities. I really enjoyed this class as it challenged me to think in a way that was quite different than the way I was challenged in my STEM classes. I also took Jazz 450, which is a meditation class on North Campus. I can say that this class really taught me how to channel my anxiety into a productive, mindful practice, and taught me useful skills to manage my anxiety during my MCAT test day. Additionally, I had no Friday classes for the first time. Every Friday, I would take a mental health day and I believe that this taught me to learn how to reset and ground myself so I could have a productive weekend and following week.

 

Peyton

My worst semester was the fall semester of my junior year. During this, I was taking biochemistry (biochemistry department version), re-taking CHEM 210, and taking Genetics. Off the top of my head, I can’t even remember what else I was taking, because those classes were massively neglected. My thought process for taking this many science classes at once was that Orgo 1 would not be very intense, as I had already taken it once, even though I hadn’t received a satisfactory enough grade in the class. I had also taken Orgo 2 during the term preceding the fall, and I had done much better than I did in Orgo 1 initially. This was the first mistake — Orgo 1 was still nearly as difficult as it was the first time that I took it, only this time I had to juggle biochem and genetics on top of it. You can probably guess how those two classes went. HORRIBLE. It’s probably possible for some genius student to juggle all these classes, but it was not possible for me at all. I ended up retaking both biochemistry and genetics. Not fun.

My best semester was the fall semester of my senior year. By that time, I was finished with the majority of the pre-medical requirements and focusing on finishing both of my majors. I was taking an African history class (AAS 246: Africa to 1850), a new enforced class for the Neuroscience major (BIO 222: Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience), a Neuroscience major elective (MCDB 421: Topic in Neurobiology – Sensory Circuits and Disease), a microbiology class (MICRBIOL 405: Microbiology and Infectious Diseases), and an experimentally-focused small group lecture that counted as a lab credit for both my Psychology and Neuroscience majors (PSYCH 402: Experimental Designs & Methods in Behavioral and Cognitive Neuroscience). This semester was extremely enjoyable to me because every class was advanced-level material in topics that I was interested in. I was thoroughly challenged but not overwhelmed. I actually didn’t know how well I did overall until I finished the semester, but I still was content with the course load during the term.

 

Brooke

My worst semester so far was the fall semester of my sophomore year, but I think this semester (winter my junior year) will end up being my worst semester after it is finished. For both of these semesters, I decided to take two hard science courses at the same time. For my fall semester, I was taking PSYCH 240/BIO 225/MCDB 310/SOC 302. Not only was biochem and Animal Phys super hard, but all of my classes that semester were classes that you needed to memorize all of the material to do well. I would recommend taking some classes that require memorization with ones that require problem-solving and not all of one type. This semester I am taking genetics with orgo 3, which again are two very hard science courses. In addition to taking classes both semesters, I was and currently, am doing research and various volunteer activities. From my experience with both of these semesters, I advise to not take more than one hard science course at one time unless you absolutely have to or taking harder science courses with easier classes to help balance out the workload. For example, I would recommend to not take biochem and pchem together.

My best semester was the winter semester of my sophomore year.  At the time, I was taking physics, a chem class, behavioral neuroscience, and a humanities course. In my opinion, the classes balanced out; I was taking two easier classes and two harder classes. Also, I was doing research, volunteering at the hospital during the week, and volunteering with hospice on the weekend, so I was not hectically busy. I think this ended up being my best semester because everything was balanced with my workload from classes and my extracurriculars.

 

Pooja

My worst semester was the fall of junior year. My classes weren’t too challenging (except pchem) but I really struggled a lot because I took on too many non-school commitments at over 40 hours a week, plus had a full-time course load: ASIANLAN 115(4)/CHEM 230(3)/WS 432(3)/COMPLIT 100(3)/INDEP RESEARCH(2). I also finished the MCAT in September of that semester, so I was a little bit burnt out from all the studying and stress from waiting for my scores.

My best semester was probably the fall of sophomore year because I took really challenging but interesting courses but did well in them because I enjoyed them so much and was highly motivated. I took PHYSIOL 201(4)/CHEM 215(3)/PSYCH 280(4)/ANTHRCUL 325(4) while working about 12 hours a week, research for about 6 hours a week, a couple extracurriculars, and participating on a dance team about 8 hours a week.

 

Ruchira

My best semester was my first semester at college. At the time, I was taking PHYSICS 135/ SPANISH 232/BIO 173/ ENG 125 along with 8 hours of research and 3 hours of volunteering a week. Overall, my workload was not too heavy and I had a lot of energy because it was my first semester, so I was able to do well in my classes. PHYSICS 135 ( before it was changed!) and BIO 173, were also good options to ease my way into the rigorous science curriculum here.

My worst semester was fall of sophomore year. I was taking CHEM 215/BIO 222/CHEM 216/HISTORY 282. I was also doing research 8 hours a week, volunteering 2 hours a week, and working 4 hours a week. Still, the workload was not too heavy. I struggled because my test dates overlapped or fell very close to each other several times, which made it hard to study for my classes.

 

Pragathi

One of my worst semesters was the second semester of freshman year when I was taking Stats 250, Chem 215/216, Psych 280 with an honors conversion, and Women’s Studies 220 for my minor. Not only were my stats and chem exams frequently in the same week (my finals were on the same day and that did not work out well), but it was also a really heavy workload for someone that still wasn’t fully adjusted to the rigor of college. While it didn’t turn out to be the best semester for me, I did learn from it and it never happened again.

My best semester was last semester where I took Biochem Lab (Chem 252), Biochem (MCDB 310), a women’s studies class for my minor, and an anthro class as a GPA booster. To be fair, I only had a credit load of 12 credits this semester which not only helped a lot with time management but also really allowed me to focus on Biochem and do the best that I could in a class that I knew was demanding and really memorization heavy. I did have many extracurriculars going on as well (It was my first semester being an RA, I was doing 15 hours of research a week, and I was volunteering, in addition to my campus orgs), so it actually worked out in the end for me and wasn’t too heavy of a workload.

 

Liam

My worst semester was definitely second semester freshman year. I was taking BIO 120 (first-year seminar about diseases), BIO 173 (intro to bio lab), intensive Latin (8 credits), and was still enrolled in the UROP program. Bio120 was a pretty straightforward class, just had to keep up with the readings to do well. Bio 173 was fairly easy too, but it did require a lot of outside work as there were papers and exams to study for. The main reason I suffered so much that semester was due to intensive Latin. As a pre-med student, I wanted to get out of my LSA language requirement as fast as possible so that I could start taking more science classes. After meeting with an advisor, I was told that one of my options was to take an intensive language course, which merges semesters 3+4 of a standard language course. The class met for roughly 10 hours a week, and there were only 2 other students in the class, so if one of us slacked on homework/readings, it was impossible to hide. I have still yet to put in more time and effort into one class than I did with intensive Latin. While I was incredibly miserable at the time, the payoff was great as I never had to worry about my language requirement after freshman year. For anyone trying to get out of their requirements as fast as possible, this is one option (I believe there are intensive language courses for most of the popular languages offered at Michigan), just be mindful of the other classes you’re taking along with it as you will need to devote the majority of your studying to this class.

My best semester was winter of sophomore year, when I was taking CHEM 215/216, PHYSICS 235/236, ANTHRCUL 370 (a linguistics class counting as an R+E requirement), and working in my research lab. I loved orgo 1, and orgo 2 proved to be just more of the same, building on most of the concepts taught in the first class. Physics 1 at the time was pretty easy too, but I’ve heard that recently the class has been changed to be much more difficult. ANTHRCUL 370 was also pretty easy, even though it was a 300 level class there wasn’t a lot of prior knowledge required for the class, and the exam questions were taken straight from the lecture and discussion sessions. Even the 10 page paper at the end of it wasn’t too bad since we got to choose our own topics and worked closely with our GSI to help form the best paper possible. None of my classes were too demanding this semester, so I was also able to put more hours into my research lab, which eventually paid off with a summer job offer.

Overall, the way you plan out your schedule can play a pivotal role in how your semester goes. If you have a question on taking two classes together or how to plan your own schedule, feel free to post a question on this website or come to one of our office hours or workshops. Good luck scheduling!

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.