Transitioning from Online Learning (Part 2)

 

Asking for Help is a GOOD thing!

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

Time is of the essence.

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

 

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

 

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

 

Self-care is crucial to success!

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

Transitioning from Online Learning (Part 1)

 

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

 

Maximizing your learning during class:

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

 

Taking notes:

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Everyone is unique!

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

 

In-Person Exams

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

 

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

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

 

Focus on topics that you are struggling most with.  

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

 

Use practice exams wisely. 

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

Owen Doane

 Double Major: neuroscience & Music 

 

Favorite class you took at Michigan:

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

Schedule:

 Karan Joseph

Neuroscience (major)

Electrical Engineering (minor)

                                                                                    

Favorite class you took at Michigan:

EECS 320/BIOLCHEM 415

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

What was your pre-med experience:

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

 

Recommendations/advice for current students:

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

Schedule:

 Sydney Edwards

Neuroscience (major)

environment (minor)

                                                                                    

Favorite class you took at Michigan:

 PubHlth 305: Environment & Human Health.

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

Schedule:

 

 Tina Tripathi

 Biomolecular Science (major)

Applied Statistics (minor)

                                                                                    

Favorite class you took at Michigan:

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

 

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

 

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

 

When did you take the MCAT:

First attempt: September 13, 2019;

Second: July 18, 2020

 

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

 

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

 

Schedule:

 

Judy Huynh

 Biology, Health, and Society (Major)

Food and Environment (Minor)

                                                                                    

Favorite class you took at Michigan:

ANTHRCUL 344: Medical Anthropology

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

When/How did you study for the MCAT: 

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

 

When did you take the MCAT: January 2021

 

What was your pre-med experience:

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

 

Recommendations/advice for current students:

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

Schedule:

 

 

Our latest blog post breaks down the components of the pre-med journey and where you can find information about them on our website. Please click here to see a list of all our blogs!

CLINICAL EXPERIENCE

Many med schools require students to have direct experience in medicine, also known as clinical hours. Examples of jobs you could obtain to fulfill this requirement are EMT (emergency medical technician), CNA (certified nurse assistant), MA (medical assistant), Scribe, and Phlebotomy. Certifications for these jobs are often needed, so training can be started freshman year summer, and onwards. By sophomore or junior year, you could start working at the job.

MORE INFO

VOLUNTEERING

Volunteer experiences can be started as soon as freshman year. Many volunteer opportunities are virtual because of the pandemic, making it easier to participate. As a pre-med, you can never have too many volunteer hours, but most aim to have ~100 hours before applying. According to AMCAS in 2018, the average applicant had 400+ volunteer hours.
 Aim for meaningful volunteer experiences with underserved populations. Quality outweighs quantity. Some places you could volunteer are the hospital, nursing homes, homeless shelters etc. Also, try to gain both clinical and nonclinical volunteer experiences.

MORE INFO

SHADOWING

Med schools typically look for applicants who have spent 50-100 hours shadowing physicians. These can be done at any point during undergrad, but it’s best to start early (freshman/sophomore year) so you can gauge your interest in the specific fields of medicine.
It also might be easier to dedicate a set time during one of your breaks (eg. winter, spring, summer) rather than fitting shadowing in during one of your busy college semesters. While shadowing is great, it is a more passive task, so medical schools recommend you spend more time doing active patient-interacting activities.

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MAJOR

Depending on your school/college, there are a variety of major options available! We encourage students to choose what they’re interested and passionate about, because medical schools ultimately don’t have a preference of what you major in.

If you are looking for a more Biology related major, you have time to decide your major and ultimately declare it, but we recommend you look at the LSA major options and create a tentative list of what you might be interested in!

If you are in LSA, but are considering a degree outside of LSA and transferring to a different school (eg. Kinesiology, Public Health, Engineering, etc), it’s important to review deadlines for these schools and adjust your course schedule accordingly to account for your major and pre-med courses.

Alternatively, if you are interested in double majors, it’s also helpful to create a list and a temporary schedule ahead of time (at the end of freshman year/early sophomore year) of your course schedule.

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SUMMER BREAK

We recognize that everyone has different situations/interests, so ultimately choose something that interests you to do during your summer break. Whether this means taking classes, performing research, working a full-time job, or anything else, everyone is unique and you should tailor this time to exploring more of your interests.

Some students decide to take classes during their break, and we recommend that you only take one pre-med class during a half semester (Spring or Summer). Spring and Summer courses are far more accelerated than a normal semester, so these classes require more time and class meetings than during a Fall or Winter semester.

Many students also decide to devote their summers to performing research if they didn’t have a chance to previously partake in research, or want to explore this interest further. There are many research programs both at UMich and nationwide, and a list can be found here.
Summer break can also be a great time to gain more clinical or volunteer experience. As mentioned previously, many clinical experiences can consist of being an EMT, Medical Assistant, Scribe, and more.

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RESEARCH

Many students are drawn to participate in a research project in some form during their undergraduate career, whether it be bench work, clinical research, laboratory tests, etc. It is an invaluable way  to learn more about a field of study that you’re interested in while directly participating in active data collection. While you do not need research experience for medical school, the average matriculant has 1000 + hours of research experience.

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PREMED CLASS REQUIREMENTS

Every Medical School has slightly different requirements, so it is highly recommended you look at the required coursework for the medical schools you want to apply to a year or longer in advance. Some med schools give credit for AP Classes, or classes you were able to test out of. In general, most schools require :

One year of biology with lab.

One year of general chemistry with lab.

One year of organic chemistry with lab.

One year of physics with lab.

At least one semester of biochemistry.

A math requirement (some schools require calculus, some require statistics, some require both)

One year of English.

 

 

Some Additional Reminders

  • Don’t force yourself to continue down a path that you’re no longer interested in. It is never too late to switch out. Medicine is a long-term commitment and it is best to be completely sure of your decision beforehand!
  • Class reputation doesn’t mean you will like it or not– you are the only person to judge that. Also, try not to compare yourself to other pre-meds. Every path is different!
  • Additionally, this is just a guide to help give you an overview of the pre-med track. As mentioned before, everyone’s path looks different! If every pre-med student followed this path, medical school admissions committees would be pretty bored. Find your passion, pursue it outside the classroom, make time for fun, and don’t be afraid to modify the table to include gap years/time off, etc.

 

 

 

Freshman year is an anxious time for most students. While adjusting to the newfound freedom and lifestyle, we are met with many social and academic challenges. On top of that, as a pre-medical student, you are thrown into a track where your success outside of the classroom is just as important as your success within. We have created this guide to help you navigate all aspects of the pre-medical track in hopes that you don’t make the mistakes we did. In this blog post, we will touch on classes, research, volunteering, and clinical exposure.

Classes 

Picking classes and creating a manageable schedule does not have to be difficult or stressful. The best way to make it easy is to go semester by semester. The first thing you want to consider is getting started on your introductory chemistry and biology courses. These intro science classes require time and effort. Their structure and grading may be new to you and require some adjusting to. Always seek help when you need it and do not let yourself fall behind. Join an SLC study group, go to office hours, or meet up (in-person or virtually) with classmates or GSIs for help. There are so many resources for you to use, so take advantage of them!

 

In general, a good rule of thumb is to limit your STEM classes to 2 maximum per semester, especially in your freshman year. This will give you the chance to adjust to college life, get familiar with the structure of exams, grading, office hours, etc. and modify and strengthen your study habits in science classes, which is key to doing well in the many science classes you will be taking as a pre-med. 

 

Here is a link to Newnan’s pdf checklist of pre-med courses to take. It may also be helpful to fill this out with a Newnan advisor or with one of us!

 

Besides science classes, there are many classes you can choose from to fill your schedule. They can be narrowed down into a few categories.

– Language Requirement (LSA only): Freshman year is a good time to take language classes because they are very manageable in terms of workload and are smaller, which makes it easy to meet new people.

– First-Year Writing Requirement (LSA only): The most common classes to take are ENGLISH 124 or 125, but there are many interesting first-year seminars that also fulfill the writing requirement.

LSA Distribution Requirements: The best way to do this is to look at the LSA course guide and filter out humanities, social science classes, or race and ethnicity classes. Some common examples are SOC 100 or 102, ANTHRCUL 101, PSYCH 111, and PHIL 183.

 

If you would like to see a template schedule and read some advice, click here.

If you would like to see past students’ schedules, click here.

 

Finally, take a look at majors you may be interested in. Make a list and look through their prerequisites. The best way to see if you like a major is to try out some of their classes. Remember, your major should be a subject you are genuinely interested in, NOT something you think looks good on applications. More and more, medical schools have emphasized how choosing a science major is not required. Most importantly, they will be able to tell if you are truly passionate about your major or if you chose it simply for application purposes.

 

If you have no clue what your interests are, do not worry. Here are some suggestions to start thinking about as you are considering potential majors:

– Look at a specific subject of interest on the LSA course guide and find a course that sounds interesting to you. Those classes may lead you to new passions/interests you never would have known otherwise.

– Pick one or two classes on topics you have not taken but want to learn more about. Explore something new and you may just find your passion.

– Ask upperclassmen about their experiences with majors you are interested in (or read through this post).

 

Once you have found your major, scheduling your classes will come easy. However, it never hurts to get an extra set of eyes on your schedule; meet with a pre-health Newnan advisor, ask an advisor in your major’s department, or ask one of us! We are here to help.

 

General Medical School Course Requirements (non-exhaustive)

One Year of Inorganic Chemistry and Lab

One Year of Organic Chemistry and Lab

One Year of Biology and Lab

One Year of Physics and Lab

One additional semester of Biology

One semester of Biochemistry

One semester of Mathematics/Statistics

One semester of English/Writing

Research 

Taking part in research is a great way to learn more about the research process/methodology, improve your critical thinking, and learn more about evidence-based medicine. There are many ways to take part in research at Michigan, the biggest one being the Undergraduate Research Opportunity Program (UROP). UROP is a year-long research program that accepts first-year, second-year, and transfer students, with a deadline in the Spring of the previous academic year. The application process requires you to put down which subjects you’re interested in conducting research in, such as Health Sciences, Humanities, Social Sciences, Life Sciences, Engineering, Physical Sciences and more. Once accepted into the program, you are placed in a seminar group that usually meets biweekly throughout the academic year. These seminars not only introduce you to fellow students who go through the research process with you, but they also facilitate your professional development as a new researcher. There are a large variety of projects available, from behavioral/social science to clinical to more wet-lab based research that you can choose from. UROP has a process allowing you to apply to projects that you’re interested in, with the help of your seminar peer facilitator (an upperclassmen student who was previously involved in UROP) and every student accepted to UROP gets placed in a research lab. There is a symposium at the end of the academic year (April) in which you present your research! The Michigan Research and Discovery Scholars (MRADS) is similar to UROP, but is a residential community in which you reside with your fellow MRADS students in the same housing. The MRADS application process is around the same time as UROP, and both programs allow you to ultimately pursue the same research. However, students are only allowed to participate in one of these programs.

 

Aside from UROP/MRADS, students can also find research assistant postings through the Student Employment website. Additionally, many students find research opportunities by emailing faculty. I would recommend making a list of topics you’re interested in pursuing, and emailing faculty/professors that conduct research in these subjects. Another option is if you enjoy one of your academic classes, you could reach out to the professor and ask if they have any research opportunities. PMH also has previous blog posts regarding research, linked below, that are beneficial!

https://premedhubumich.com/applying-for-a-research-position/

https://premedhubumich.com/research-areas-topics/

 

Volunteering (Medical and Non-medical) 

Volunteering is a great way for a pre-medical undergraduate student to learn more about the career in medicine by interacting with patients or develop the essential characteristic of kindness and altruism in order to become a future doctor. Whether the volunteering experience is related to medicine, it is a wonderful opportunity to help out a community and also show medical schools that you care about the well being of others. There are multiple ways to get involved in volunteering at Michigan. Even though the recent COVID-19 situation forbids in-person volunteering at Michigan medicine. There are still various ways to volunteer with the hospital system at Michigan.Volunteering opportunities include packaging masks and sanitizers. It will be a good idea to email the volunteering department to learn more about the ways to get involved. Besides Michigan medicine, there are also other volunteering opportunities available. You can check them out at the career center website:https://careercenter.umich.edu/article/volunteering-employment-and-gap-year-resources  In addition, joining an organization concentrated on volunteering or rushing a pre-medical fraternity can also open doors to more volunteering resources. You can check out all clubs at Michigan by browsing through Maize Page:  https://maizepages.umich.edu/  It is important to remember that it is a special time right now, and don’t get discouraged if you are not able to find a volunteer position right away. There will be more opportunities available later on as the pandemic gets better and also remember that you have four years here to explore. 

Clinical Exposure 

Gaining clinical experience is beneficial for your medical school application. It demonstrates your commitment to entering a health profession. Various activities encompass clinical experience; what counts is pretty broad. Generally, they include clinical volunteering, clinical positions, and shadowing. I will break each of these categories down further. 

 

However, it may be difficult to gain clinical experience at the moment due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

 

Clinical Volunteering

Clinical volunteering is exactly what it sounds like: volunteer work done in a healthcare setting. This can include volunteering at a hospital or a hospice, or any forms of patient interaction (patient interaction can always be counted as a clinical experience, but clinical experience can’t always be counted as patient interaction re:more on this). As long as you are volunteering in a healthcare setting, it falls under clinical volunteering, thus it is clinical experience.

 

The UMich Career Center has a comprehensive list of clinical opportunities here. This list includes nearby clinics, hospitals, summer camps/programs (i.e. Camp Kesem), and more that you can work with!

 

Study abroads (more here)  or Alternative Spring Breaks (volunteer trips) can also be a way to gain clinical experience if you are working among and interacting with health professionals or patients. 

 

Note: Many students volunteer through UMich Medicine here. They’re not admitting new volunteers currently due to COVID-19, but if you’re interested, I would keep the future information dates on your calendar because spots fill up very quickly. Additionally, you could look at volunteering at the VA hospital or St. Joe’s Hospital (which are less competitive because they require a bus to access).

 

Clinical Positions

You can also gain clinical experience through a job. For instance:

  • Medical Scribing: “Scribing is a paid opportunity to shadow doctors in the emergency department. There are a few companies that work in the Ann Arbor area, but be warned that the hours do tend to be long as you are working at a doctor’s pace. If you are looking for a scribing opportunity, check out companies like PhysAssist or ScribeAmerica, and watch for job openings through Handshake” (source). You can read more about scribing in this blogpost
  • Clinical Research Position: this involves research that involves a hospital or some clinical setting. You can find such positions using the student employment website (note: I would suggest looking under the recent posting section to simplify your search because other sections also contain jobs that were posted a while back and weren’t taken down). More on the clinical research can be found here (near the bottom of the page).
  • Other jobs: phlebotomist, nurse assistant, medical assistant, EMT, doula, medical interpreter/translator, or home health-taker (there are many more possibilities, but these are some). Some of these positions require certifications. These certifications can typically be completed over the summer at a community college. Upon completing required coursework, you will be able to take a test to achieve certification. More on this here. Some notes:
    • Many pre-med clubs (such as AMSA) offer opportunities to take a phlebotomy course.
    • Washtenaw Community College offers some coursework if you are staying in AA for a summer and need something to do.

 

Shadowing

Shadowing, while not necessarily required, can make you look more competitive for medical schools AND (more importantly) introduce you to healthcare setting dynamics and various fields in medicine. Many students struggle to find shadowing opportunities due to limited connections, but don’t be afraid to send an email to a professor you’d like to shadow. You can browse through doctors here. I personally cold-emailed and found a doctor to shadow! In my email: I introduced myself, briefly talked about my medical-related ambitions (doctors are busy, so it’s best to keep it to a paragraph or two), and attached my resume. 

 

Another opportunity I was made aware of was “Webshadower.” I heard about it through a newsletter sent out by a University Pre-Med-related Handshake newsletter. This is new, so I haven’t personally tried it. More on joining a career track through Handshake here.

Advice/Tips 

  • Don’t compare yourself to other pre-med students on campus on grades or number of activities that you guys are involved in. Everyone has their own perks and remember medical school admission is a holistic review. Just do whatever you are passionate about and try your best. 
  • Choose a major and extracurriculars that you’re truly passionate about — it can be tough to not give into the mindset of “medical schools would be impressed by this”. At the end of the day, you are unique and your passions will show through clearly in your application, which is what matters the most rather than perhaps trying to fit into the “typical pre-med” mold. It’s encouraged to choose your undergraduate career on these interests, even if they aren’t science based! (Lakshmi)
    • In addition, choosing a major that you are passionate about will be evident in your medical school interviews. If you’re able to follow your passions in undergrad (while still taking the necessary prerequisite courses) you will be a more standout candidate than someone who tried to fit the “typical pre-med” mold. 
  • Keep an open mind regarding how your undergraduate experience may progress. I know many people have come into college with a certain expectation of their major/future career, only to find a passion or interest in a different subject. Whether this means switching majors or choosing to pursue the pre-med track later in college or in life — this is normal! 
  • Do not be afraid to ask for help! Whether it is learning the material in your classes to looking over your resume for a research position, asking for help is not a sign of weakness; it’s a sign of strength and determination to improve. Keep in mind that it’s okay to experience challenges or fall down a few times, but what’s most important is getting back up. Being pre-med is not easy nor meant to be! Be kind to yourself, learn from your mistakes, and keep moving forward. 
  • Seek advice from advisors, upperclassmen, medical students, etc. BUT take their advice with a grain of salt. There is NO recipe for getting into medical school. Remember that everyone’s path is different and filled with unique ups and downs. Stay true to yourself. 
  • I know taking a bunch of tough courses all at once may seem like a great idea initially, but the stress is not worth it. Prolonged stress can lead to burnout, which is all too common among premeds today. Take some time to invest in hobbies beyond the scope of medicine, get sleep, practice healthy care habits, or binge a Netflix show every once in a while! However, if you are confident, or want to take a heavy course load, then don’t let this piece of advice scare you or steer you away! 
  • General note during this time of the pandemic: take it easy on yourself. If you’re stressed about losing a potential shadowing or clinical opportunity that you had lined up, know that everyone else is too. COVID is impacting so many people in so many different ways, and now is a great time to do some reflecting on why you want to be a doctor in lieu of getting some in person experiences.

 

 

The Transfer Experience

 

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

 

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

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

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

 

How did your extracurricular activities change after transferring? 

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

How was your social transition experience in university adjustment? 

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

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