6 Essential Tips For The Freshman Pre-Med

Medical School
November 2, 2019

Congratulations freshman pre-meds! You are taking the first steps on your path to becoming a doctor!

We will just come out and say it. Becoming a doctor is a tough and long road. You are going to hit some bumps, maybe take a wrong turn or two, but if you stick with it, you will end up with one of the most rewarding careers imaginable. 

However, if you can make that path just a bit easier, why wouldn’t you? That is why we made these tips for the freshman pre-med. If you follow them, it will help your chances of getting into medical school and also help you enjoy yourself a little more along the way there.

1. Plan Ahead

Good news. If you are a freshman pre-med reading this, you are already ahead of the game!

Planning ahead allows you to stay on top of the things you need to do to get into medical school. 

Here are some things to think about:

  • Your GPA: The higher your grades, the better (obviously). If you are wondering how high it should be, the average med school matriculant (aka a person who got into medical school) had a 3.73 GPA. Of course, this is going to vary depending on the schools you apply to. Work to keep those grades up in the beginning and you won’t be stressing later to get extra good grades later. 
  • Your MCAT: The standardized test to get into medical school. The average matriculant score was 511.5. You usually take this exam at the end of your junior year. That is why it is best to avoid taking harder classes in your junior year
  • Your Experiences: The extras that you do outside of the classroom. Two good experiences to have under your belt are clinical experiences and research experiences. You can find research experience through your school or through summer programs. You can find clinical experience through shadowing and volunteering. Ask your professors and look for unique opportunities that would look good on your application.
  • Your Letters of Recommendation: You need to have letters of recommendation from people (usually professors) that you have worked and developed relationships with. Check out tip number 5 for some more info.

This is not everything that you need for your application (you can find that on the AAMC website), but these are the main things you can start thinking about and working on now.

Your life tends to get a little busier starting at the end of your junior year. You will have the MCAT to take, the application to fill out, and interviews to go on during your senior year. That is why you should talk to your advisor and see if you can front load your harder classes. Then you won’t have to worry about them when you are studying for your MCAT or going on interviews.

However, if you don’t want to worry about front-loading your classes, you could plan on taking a gap year. A gap year can be a great way to beef up your application and planning for one will ensure that you have something valuable to do during it.

2. Pick A Major That Suits You

You don’t have to be a biology major if you don’t want to. 

In fact, you can pick any major you want! And there may be some benefits to doing so.

The main benefit is that a unique major can help you stand out and become a well-rounded applicant. This is not to say that it is “better” to pick a different major than bio. It just means that your major is not a major determinant in your med school chances and each major will have their own benefits.

If you are struggling to decide on the right major for you, we have a post that will take you through the different majors, and their respective advantages and disadvantages

3. Practice Self-Discipline

Self-discipline will make your life much easier. With it, you can make the most of the 24 hours you are given in a day.

You can practice self-discipline through scheduling and building habits. Start by blocking out three things:

  • Your class/extracurricular time
  • Your study time
  • Your relaxation time

Forcing yourself to study during your designated study time will help ensure you are not pushing things off to the last minute. 

Having designated relaxation time helps you see the light at the end of the tunnel. This can help you get through those tough times when you really don’t feel like studying anymore. After you are finished, that relaxation time will feel earned.

It may be hard to stick to the schedule you set for yourself at first. That is okay. Think of your self-discipline as a muscle. It may be weak at the moment since you haven’t worked it out very hard. However, if you work it out every day, it will get stronger. Then sitting down during your study periods will become second nature.

Self-discipline also comes in handy during medical school. Trust us...

4. Don’t Be Afraid To Stand Out

There are general rules and guidelines that you should follow to get into medical school. However, there is not a distinct path that everyone has to follow. 

In fact, doing the same basic thing that everyone else does can hurt your chances to get into medical school. That is because there is nothing that makes your application stand out.

So don’t be afraid to tread off the beaten path to find those uncommon experiences.

This could be taking a gap year and participating in Teach for America. It could be participating in very exclusive or particularly interesting research. It could be a student organization that you created and managed.

Whatever it is, putting in the extra time and dedication to try those unique experiences can really help your application stand out.

5. Meet With Professors

And not only with the ones that you take classes with.

Look up the professors at your school. What have they done and what are they doing? Are they researching something that is interesting to you? If they are, reach out to them to ask if they would be willing to have a chat.

Do this with as many professors as you would like. More likely than not, you are going to find that professor that will turn into a mentor. They can get you involved in research that you are interested in. They can also introduce you to people who can help you get those unique experiences! And of course, they can write you letters of recommendation down the line. 

These professors will likely have their own practical tips to help you get into medical school as well. The effort it takes to forge those relationships will be worth it.

6. Avoid Burnout

We kind of already alluded to this with our self-discipline tip, but it is important to emphasize. 

If you are working at every waking second, it can lead to burnout. Burnout will leave you unhappy with what you are doing and cause you to lose motivation and actually end up hurting your grades.

Remember, you have a long road to doctorhood and you should not be miserable all the way there.

Pre-med is difficult, but that does not mean your life has to solely revolve around it. 

So schedule in those relaxation times. Take that spring break vacation with your friends. Force yourself to do the things that you have always wanted to do.

These breaks rejuvenate you and help you still have a life while you are becoming a doctor.

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