Knowing where to turn as a pre-med to find practical advice is an important part of planning for medical school.
What does it mean to be a pre-med? I recall asking myself this when I was a freshman in college. I had just decided on pursuing the pre-med route to medical school and was already feeling intimidated. Of course, I also turned to Google for career guidance—which only multiplied my fears and reservations. Every time I would discover something new about being a pre-med, I felt like I was just adding more information to a stockpile of unorganized files taking up all the leftover space in the matrix of my brain.
Seeking career guidance before medical school
Luckily, I solved most of my problems by getting solid advice on pre-med planning, which in turn made my path to medical school five times clearer. In fact, the secret ingredient to easing most pre-med troublescan be found by doing one simple thing: asking for help.
At most universities, there are plenty of services available to the thousands of pre-professional students who, just like you feel a bit lost when it comes to planning for the future. So, how do you take advantage of these services? Here are three easy steps for connecting yourself to an endless number of resources that will in turn help guide you in your journey as a pre-med.
1. Schedule a meeting with your pre-med advisor
At most universities, there are advisors who specialize in pre-professional career guidance. Any student who has an interest in law, business, or medicine usually has the opportunity to connect with someone whose sole purpose is to help college students receive admission to professional schools in these fields.
Most likely, the easiest way to contact your university’s pre-med or pre-health advisor is by calling or visiting your school’s biology department. Since all medical school applicants are required to take certain biology classes as an undergrad, the biology department is used to receiving calls from pre-med students. Usually, they will have someone available for you to speak to and can even help you in scheduling an appointment with an advisor.
When I first scheduled an appointment with the pre-health advisor at my school, all I had to do was walk into the biology department office and fill out a one-sided sheet of paper. When I met with my advisor a few weeks later, he gave me a well thought-out list of which classes I should take as an undergrad and spoke with me about what I should do to make myself a better medical school applicant. To this day, I still visit him about once or twice a year, and he is always helpful in guiding me through my remaining years as an undergrad.
2. Join a pre-med club
While receiving advice from an advisor is helpful, it’s also helpful to surround yourself with peers who are facing the same kinds of challenges as you. The most valuable pre-med opportunity at any university is getting involved on campus. Whether you are a first-year college student without any idea of whether medicine is the right career choice for you or a fourth-year student currently in the process of applying to medical school, joining a pre-med club will give you the opportunity to open your horizons and hear from students who are just like you.
Remember: What makes for a qualified pre-med student isn’t always about what’s on paper. Other traits—such as character, drive, and a willingness to serve others—will also help you succeed as a pre-med. These are all qualities that can be demonstrated to admissions committees through involvement in pre-med organizations or clubs. If you are interested in joining one on your college campus, find out if the American Medical Student Association has a chapter at your school. Not only are they the oldest national organization of medical students in the country, but they are also national partners with Kaplan and can provide you with plenty of resources to help you succeed.
3. Tap into your network
Do you have a family member who is a doctor? Have you ever thought about asking them about their experience as a pre-med student? What about your primary care physician? Think about your personal network of family and friends and consider whether they might be a good resource for career guidance. Every time you introduce yourself to someone new who works in medicine, ask about their pre-med experiences to expose yourself to new information.
If your pre-professional network is limited or you don’t know anyone in the field of medicine personally, do not be afraid to go on Youtube and look up videos from doctors and medical school admissions officers giving career guidance and medical school advice to aspiring doctors. Spend some time doing research on the internet and familiarize yourself with what medical schools have to say about the type of applicants they are looking for. Technology can be a powerful tool, so be sure to use it to help maximize your success.
Are you an ambitious pre-med? Grab our free countdown to medical school guide to start planning for your future as a physician.
Brought to you in partnership with Kaplan Test Prep. Serrina is a 20 year old pre-med student at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, majoring in biology and minoring in both business administration and psychology. She enjoys reading books ranging from mystery to politics, collecting the newest issues of Marvel comics, and spending time with her friends and family during her free time.