Pre-Med Advice for Your First Year of College
Updated: Nov 15, 2020
PHHS '18, Middlebury College '22
Many students come in declaring that they are Pre-Med, but it is much more than just taking the required coursework. Clinical experience and shadowing can help you figure out if you really want to dedicate the next few years to medicine. As an incoming freshman, use your summer to get ahead! Email professors whose research interests you, build connections with other students and alumni, and find volunteer opportunities at clinics or hospitals near your campus. A successful candidate for medical schools is one who shows that they are serious about their career path. My college offers students an opportunity to become licensed EMTs, translate for Spanish speaking patients at a free clinic, or volunteer at our local hospital’s ER. These experiences are incredible and provide the hands-on experience that medical schools look for.
It is also important to plan out courses for the next two years, especially if you are looking to matriculate into medical schools directly. Don’t be afraid of taking two science classes with laboratory portions in one semester, it is manageable! Just for reference, medical schools expect 1 year of biology, 1 year of physics, 1 semester of calculus, 1 semester of statistics, and 2 years of chemistry (including organic chemistry I & II). They also suggest taking biochemistry, psychology, and advanced biology, like genetics, but this isn’t typically required. This may seem a lot, but sometimes AP credits can substitute for these requirements, as long as you take upper-level classes in those subjects later on.
Research is also becoming very valuable for medical school candidates. A lot of summer research programs applications open in late August and are usually due by December or January. By building strong relationships with professors, you can secure letters of recommendation early on! There’s also a lot of specific summer programs for first-generation or underrepresented minorities.
In terms of declaring a major, you should follow whatever you truly like doing. Your major does not have to be science-related! I am majoring in Molecular Biology and Biochemistry with an Education Studies minor at a small liberal arts college in Vermont. Attending a liberal arts program is also very favorable because it shows that you are truly passionate about learning interdisciplinary subject matters just because they interest you.
You can also take time to learn about different clubs that your school offers so that you can get involved early on. Some colleges have clubs that can help prepare you for the MCAT or the interview process when the time comes. For reference, if you wish to attend medical school right after graduating college in 2024, you should take the MCAT by October 2023, at the latest. Most applications will open in June 2023 and accept students for interviews on a rolling basis. Again, this information may seem daunting, but the sooner you get started, the easier it is to balance your academic and social life. If the medicine is truly what you want to do, you will achieve your goals!
While it takes a lot of effort to truly follow the Pre-Med path, make sure that you take time to relax, hang out with your friends, and pursue new hobbies. Four years go by really fast, but the friends you make in college last a long time. All of these amazing experiences can help you answer the critical “why medicine” question. If you want any more advice, please reach out to me at Pkaur@middlebury.edu. I am happy to answer any questions or provide tips on how to get summer opportunities!