All pre-health students go through the same general experiences: enroll in prerequisites, volunteer in the community, take an entrance exam, and become leaders on their campus. The following pre-health pearls were designed to help you keep track of all of these responsibilities! 

  • Keep track of all preceptorships (shadowing), volunteering, employment, and awards with LinkedIn. This has been a lifesaver in compiling the information I need for applications. It also shows you off to the professional world!
  • Think ahead with school breaks. Plan on shadowing or completing an in-depth volunteering experience on your spring, fall, and winter breaks. Seek summer school or an internship over the summer.
  • If you are interested in research, reach out to a professor working on projects that interest you. Apply for REUs or research experience for undergraduates. This is a national program to provide stipends and funding for undergraduates completing a research assistantship during summer break.
  • Do your best to dedicate time to healthcare related activities. If you can, be paid to scribe or be a medical assistant. If paid options are not possible, volunteer at a local hospital, senior home, homeless shelter, or therapy group.
  • Shadowing a variety of physicians or other medical professionals is important, but focus healthcare-related activities with hands-on opportunities. Being able to talk to strangers of all backgrounds is an important skill to focus on growing!
  • Print out copies of your official high school transcript and ACT/SAT scores when you graduate high school. This information will be required for some medical schools and all medical schools in Texas.
  • Don’t apply until you know you are a competitive applicant. If it takes an additional year to enroll in a specialized masters program or retake pre-requisites to get into your top school, I promise it’s worth it!
  • Check-in with your academic and pre-health advisers at least once a semester. The more people you have looking over your degree plan, the more likely you will be successful in completing your degree!
  • Each semester, reflect on your experiences. Collect any outstanding facts about these experiences. For example, if you organized a fundraiser, collect data on how many people were involved, how many items were donated, and which population was affected by your donation. At the end of 8+ semesters, preparing this way will make writing application essays a much easier process!

Want more pearls specific to your pre-health specialty? Find your pearls below! If you don’t see what you are seeking, reach out to us at our Contact page or tweet us at @MedicalRedhead.

  • Longevity is the keyword of a pre-medical application. Find extracurriculars and leadership positions that you can make a serious commitment to (1-5 hours weekly at a minimum). This isn’t a rule per se, but an applicant who has served as a volunteer at a Food Bank for 3 semesters will provide a better argument for their application than an applicant who collected 50 hours of volunteering in one year amongst 6 different charities.

     

  • Choose extracurriculars that you are passionate about. One of my post-bacc classmates got into medical school after trying four times, and she purely credits it to how she changed her personal statement to discuss what she learned from being a classically-trained musician. Admission committee members want to see passion in their medical class, so choose something that makes you happy!

     

  • Healthcare and leadership experience is more important than shadowing. A lot of feedback gained from #MedTwitter has shared that shadowing is not as important as sometimes emphasized. If possible, get hands-on with your extracurriculars.

     

  • With the above said, exposure to healthcare is an unstated requirement. If you do not have exposure to real-life healthcare, then you do not know what you are applying for. As much as I love the show, Grey’s Anatomy is the furthest thing from a real hospital. Choose experiences that expose you to healthcare realities. Examples may include volunteering at a retirement home or becoming a medical assistant. Some of the more interesting examples I have heard from post-bacc classmates include earning counseling certifications, performing insurance billing, or volunteering with their county’s Medical Corp.

     

  • No experience is boring, but every experience can be shared in a boring way. You do not need to have shadowed a brain surgery or backpacked across Europe to ‘find yourself’ in order to be an interesting applicant. During my first application cycle, all of my file reviews touched on how they enjoyed reading about my experience volunteering in a mail room of a homeless shelter. Was it a sexy, dramatic experience? Nope. But, I portrayed the experience in an emotionally-investing manner and discussed the people I met along the way. I was kindly told by one file review that my presentation of the experience was a huge positive for my application. Don’t discount the experience gained from your opportunities!

     

  • If you want it, you will get it. Many pre-meds (myself included) struggle to afford classes and rent, not even to mention the tremendous financial burden the MCAT and applications place on a pre-medical student. Consider this pre-med journey to be the first of many financial sacrifices in your overall journey. Seek counseling from your Pre-Health/Academic advisor or Financial Aid. Sadly, in my experience, I learned too late that many scholarships are not advertised unless a student is self-seeking. If you need to take a break financially to work or complete coursework at a community college, there is no shame. Let me repeat — There is no shame. If you want it, you will do what is necessary for your unique journey to achieve it.

     

  • Preview your application booklets prior to the April of your application cycle. This means scouring AMCAS, AACOMAS, and TMDSAS to review every single detail relevant to your application. I recommend reviewing these prior to April so that you know how to prepare for that May 1st or June 1st opening date. Did you know you need your SAT/ACT scores? That you may need your high school transcripts? That you have to report the population of your hometown? These are simple questions that can easily throw a wrench in your application timeline if you wait until opening day to seek these answers. Early birds get the acceptance letters!

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