Hi I feel really bad because I feel like I took a semester that was too easy. Last semester I took 16 credits (chem 130, 125/6, EECS 183, Honors FYW, Honors 170 & UROP) and was able to get through it with grades that I’m satisfied with but I had a lot going on the passing away of a family member, lots of problems at home, my dad losing his job all while trying to stay afloat with my classes so I wanted to take it a bit easier this semester. I\’m happy things are going better in terms of personal life but none of the chaos I was expecting is here so now I feel horrible that I took an “easy” semester with just bio 172, psych, and a semester of my language req with UROP. I have work but I also find myself unmotivated and constantly scared that I messed up my premed timeline by not taking at least one additional science class this semester. Also, I’m having such a hard time socially as well, I haven’t found any clubs to join, and other than class zooms I don\’t have many people at U of M to talk to (i text my high school friends every now and then but it\’s not the same). Any advice on classes this semester, how you think I can make up for this dip, how to stop feeling like I messed everything up, and any club suggestions would be much appreciated 🙂 I just feel like I’m barely getting by or doing the bare minimum in every aspect of my life rn even though I want to do more.
I just want to start by saying you are not alone. Being premed is tough and it can be very difficult to stay motivated, let alone while taking virtual classes in the middle of a pandemic. This is an exceptionally challenging time, and medical schools are well aware of that and are being especially accommodating. They are accepting more classes pass/fail, being more understanding of lower-credit semesters, and even including a question on the application asking about how Covid-19 affected your academics/extracurriculars. The struggles you have been through do not make you a weak applicant, nor do they invalidate your ability to become a physician! You will have the opportunity to speak about your experiences when you apply, so try not to worry too much about how you will be perceived as an applicant. Focus on doing however much you are capable of and try not to let other students’ schedules/activities influence you. It is always better to do fewer things with more effort than to spread yourself too thin.
It seems as though you are a freshman (based on having taken FYW), so if it helps reassure you, you have many more years ahead of you! Taking one lighter semester will not mess up your premed timeline, and even if you do need more time to apply, that is perfectly fine! In fact, it is becoming more and more common to take gap years (and some would even say they increase your chances of being accepted to med school, simply by virtue of having more experience and more time/energy to submit your best application possible). That said, doing a little less this semester than normal is not a bad thing at all and you will have time to take more classes/gain more experience in future semesters.
In terms of advice, I will be honest with you and say that I am still trying to figure out how to stay motivated right now, however here are a few things that have helped me and could potentially help you, too.
- Maintain a schedule for classes/studying – this is easier said than done but I suggest trying different techniques, such as keeping a planner, filling out your google calendar, creating a weekly schedule in excel, having a daily to-do list, etc. In addition to that, I would highly encourage you to schedule in breaks for food/exercise/relaxation so you don’t burn out!
- Limit your distractions during studying as much as possible – sometimes, putting your phone in another room or turning it off completely can help. Also, putting your email/text notifications on your computer on do-not-disturb can help you stay focused on whatever task you are doing.
- Meeting new people/making friends – as you said, this is very difficult to do virtually. Sometimes, creating/joining group chats for your classes or exchanging contact information with other students can be good ways to make new friends. Find things in common and bond over them; if it helps, schedule times to text/facetime!
- Joining new clubs – if you haven’t already visited maizepages, I would highly suggest it! It lists all the currently running student organizations on campus along with their contact information. I would go through and reach out to a few that you are interested in. Keep in mind, they do not have to be pre-med related! If you have other passions/interests, there is likely a club at UM for it, and honestly, being in a fun/enjoyable club where you get to meet new people is so much better than being in a club you don’t enjoy simply because it “looks good” (trust me, we’ve all made that mistake). Look for clubs that interest you and have manageable time commitments given your availability. If you find yourself overwhelmed or not enjoying the club, you are 100% allowed to leave, no explanation necessary. Clubs are non-committed/voluntary, so do not feel forced to stay if you no longer want to!
Lastly, while it may be easy to feel unmotivated and frustrated, your feelings are not invalid. However, when things get tough, you should remind yourself that you are capable and worthy of getting into medical school and accomplishing your goals. No matter what anyone says, you can accomplish anything you set your mind to, and while it may not seem like it now, eventually everything works out in the end. Keep your head up and know that you are not alone. We will always be here to support you along your premed journey and have full confidence that you will make it to med school 🙂
I hope that was reassuring and helpful! Please do not hesitate to reach out if you have any questions.
You can do this!
Leen, PMH Advisor
Adding onto what Leen said, I want to emphasize that we are here for you if you ever want to talk to us (under the Peer Advising tab) and you are not alone! I’m so sorry to hear about your loss of a family member, but I’m glad to hear that things are going better. I think it’s also great that you took this time for self-reflection, and in light of these issues decided to take a lighter semester – taking care of your mental health should always be a priority!
As for meeting new people, I can pass along some opportunities I’m aware of, the first of which is the Wolverine Support Network. I have heard great things about people’s experience in these weekly groups, and it’s a great chance to meet others virtually! If you are a freshman, there is a Community Matters Cohort Program that you could try emailing the email listed at the bottom to see if you could still join. I also highly recommend checking out Maizepages to look for clubs you are interested in! I’d emphasize to not only join pre-med/health clubs, but also take this time to join clubs related to any other interests/passions you may have! This will not only be a great balance with your classes, but will also let you meet people who enjoy the same hobbies as you. Lastly, your classes can also be a great way to meet new people! If these classes have a groupme or discussions, I’d recommend reaching out to some of your classmates.
Something that has also helped me a lot with virtual classes is having a planner, and making a to-do list everyday! Physically checking off an item on my to-do list gives me a sense of accomplishment (even if the item was a really small task), so I would recommend this. It’s important to give yourself break and flexible dates, again prioritizing what feels right for you!
Lastly, I want to emphasize that there is no set pre-med timeline, and you are on your unique journey! You have plenty of time to fit in your remaining pre-med courses, and take things at your own pace. If you do find yourself having more time with your schedule, you could get involved with some volunteer organizations on campus or virtual volunteering – both can be great ways to meet others!
I hope this was helpful! If you have any further questions or want to talk, please feel free to stop by our advising hours and I’d be more than happy to chat or help you find clubs you’d be interested in.
Lakshmi, PMH Advisor
What is considered a light semester vs. a normal vs. heavy semester? Just to get a better idea when scheduling next semester how many credits is normal vs too much. Is 14 a “light” semester?
What is considered a light/ heavy semester largely depends on your perception and not the number of credits. Taking a 12 credit semester with Genetics and Biochemistry would probably be much harder than a 16 credit semester with only major elective science classes. Med schools are aware that credits assignment for classes and class difficulty is very different in various universities, so as long as you take a full credit course load(12+ credits) and graduate within 4 years, it will not harm your application. Even if you enroll part-time or take longer than 4 years to graduate, as long as you can explain it ( eg. interest in a different major or courses, or time-taking extracurriculars) you will be fine.
In order to satisfy premed requirements, a normal semester would usually be taking two BCPM classes of moderate to high-level difficulty with one to two classes you consider to be easier. A harder semester would probably mean 3 or more BCPM classes of moderate to high-level difficulty. What would be considered easy is largely dependent on you. Different students will find certain classes/ topics more or less difficult. More than thinking about the semester load, it is important to think about the implications of the classes you take now. (For example, will taking easier classes now, mean you will take a heavy load while studying for the MCAT?) I would recommend that you try to have an approximate plan of when you will take certain courses, and how it impacts your application timeline. The LSA unofficial audit checklist is a great resource to help you with that. We would also love to help you make a plan in our advising hours!
Sounds great Ruchira! I really don’t have any idea on what classes are hard and not and I don’t know very many upperclassmen at school so I’d really appreciate the guidance. I’ll stop by during your office hours when are they?
Our advising office hours are 6-10 pm every Sunday-Wednesday over zoom. I have linked the advising page here. If you scroll down and click expand all, you should be able to see what times each PMH board member will be in the zoom room next week. We will look forward to seeing you!