Secrets for pre-medical students

Being a college student is difficult. Being a pre-med student is even more difficult. Here are eight tips to help students on their journey.

1. The No. 1 most helpful thing to do is to go to the pre-med seminars. The pre-med seminar — or, as pre-med adviser Barbara Trask lovingly refers to them, the “blood and guts” information sessions — will be held this year on Sept. 19 and 26 at 12:30 and 6 p.m. Wayne Samuelson, dean of admissions for the University of Utah Medical School, will be speaking about admissions to their program during the Sept. 26 session at 6 p.m. At these seminars, Trask will go through all the processes, paperwork, deadlines and tests involved in applying to medical school, along with what it’s like to be a pre-med as well as a medical student. Wayne Samuelson, dean of Admissions for the University of Utah Medical School, also participates in these seminars and speaks specifically about the medical school programs available at the University of Utah.

2.  Meet with your adviser. Students should meet with their adviser, Ali Miller, at least once a semester their freshman year. In later years, they can determine how frequently they should be coming in and meeting with her. As students get further in their degree, they need to start meeting with Trask as well.

3. Get involved as much as you can. Students should always balance their schedule, but medical schools not only look at what classes applicants are taking, but also what extracurricular activities they are involved in. These activities can include work, service, clubs and leadership positions, as well as any other activity that might be important to their application.

4. If you want to go to medical school, it is not necessary to be a biology major. Medical schools don’t care what the undergraduate degree is in; they care about why the student chose the degree. It becomes very important to not just pick any ‘willy-nilly’ major, but to pick something very specific to what the student’s goals, interests and pursuits are in medicine. There are a lot of different areas out there, if students aren’t sure of what they want to do. Zoology and microbiology majors become good defaults because they are science-based. There is no right or wrong major; for medical schools, it really comes down to whether students have picked majors randomly, or if they are making solid, thought-out decisions.

5. To get into medical school, certain undergraduate classes are required. These classes are listed on the WSU website. If students go to the A-Z index and look under ‘P’ for pre-professional programs, they are going to find a list of courses specific to their specialty. For example, the undergraduate chemistry courses required for all pre-med students actually fulfill the requirements for a chemistry minor, but still allow students to choose a major in other areas.

6. Always journal. First, students need to always write down the facts, times, places and what they did for extracurricular activities. Having a specific jump drive or notebook for writing dedicated to a student’s pre-med program is going to be extremely helpful in the long run. In addition to the facts while journaling, students are to write down any ‘aha!’ moments that reinforce their want to join the medical field. Those moments will become very important when it comes time to apply to medical school. Since it is very hard to recall those moments after the fact, the time to start journaling is now.

7. Evaluate yourself. Students should always step back after every semester and really evaluate their coursework and extracurricular work, and how their classwork has helped them pursue medicine. A big part of getting into medical school is a full-circle, thought-out realization of why a student really want to pursue medicine. If students go into a medical school interview and answer questions about their future in a very short-term mindset, they are not going to get very far with admissions.

8. Always meet with your adviser if you are stuck or have a question. Students are more than welcome to come in and discuss concerns with the pre-med advisers. The advisers want to help students pursue their own specific goals, not just the goals of a medical school application.
To make an appointment with Miller or Trask, call Susan Himelright at 801-626-7755.