Complete program prerequisites
First, if you think that you want to apply to a certain graduate degree program, look up the application process as soon as possible. Learn about the types of applicants that are accepted. Then, make sure that you include these program prerequisites in your degree planning. Most medical schools have similar course prerequisites. Pay attention to the average GPA and MCAT scores for accepted applicants at your desired program. Although numbers aren’t everything in an application, they are a good benchmark to keep in mind. You may also want to look at the types of extracurricular or work experiences accepted applicants generally have. For example, PA school programs may require a minimum of 500 hours in healthcare work experience. Most medical school applicants have volunteering or research experience as well.
Establish healthy habits
For many students, undergrad is the first time that they have left home. It is so important for you to learn how to care for yourself and structure your time on your own. Early on, figure out what study habits work for you. This will help you to succeed academically in your coursework. Learn to organize your schedule using a paper planner or digital calendar. Try to maintain a healthy sleep schedule. You may want to learn how to cook a few simple meals or practice having a more balanced diet. Also, figure out what types of workouts you like to do. Lastly, figure out ways that help you destress, whether it is through exercise, hobbies, journaling, or even just listening to music. By establishing these habits early, you will have a solid foundation for your adult life and when you move on to a more academically rigorous program. Prioritizing wellness is so important in preventing burnout and being the best healthcare professional that you can be!
Explore clinical and non-clinical interests
For any of the career fields or graduate programs that you are interested in, get experience in that field. If you are planning to apply for medical school, shadow or get hands-on experience in the medical specialties that interest you. I recommend seeking different practice settings, including hospitals, academic centers, and private clinics. Also, get experience in fields that you don’t think you are interested in. You might end up being surprised that you actually are interested in those areas! Then, you can apply to medical school with a greater understanding of what your future career and lifestyle could be like. It is also important to keep pursuing non-clinical interests through your coursework, hobbies, and extracurriculars. These are what make you a unique and more well-rounded student.
Put yourself out there. Even if you are nervous or scared of what others might think, go for it. Your undergraduate years are some of the most flexible years that you will have in your life. It is a great time to try new things. Take that class. Join that club. Run for that leadership position. Present your research. Apply for that job or internship. Be open to opportunities and change. Taking risks and going outside of your comfort zone is how you will grow. Even if you experience setbacks or rejection, you will learn from those experiences and come back stronger.
Always remember to have fun on the journey! Try to approach your coursework and involvements with gratitude and joy. College is also a social experience. Remember to take breaks and go to social events if that is something that you like to do. You will meet so many people, some that will become lifelong friends and connections. You will be so fortunate to have people to support you through both the good and bad times. Together, you will make so many memories. When you look back, you will be proud that you were able to make the most of your undergraduate years.
This post was written by Kayla is an MD/MBA student at Florida International University Herbert Wertheim College of Medicine and Chapman Graduate School of Business. She has a Bachelor’s degree in Biomedical Sciences from the University of South Florida and a Master’s degree in Clinical Embryology from the University of Oxford. Kayla is interested in pursuing pediatrics. In her free time, she enjoys traveling, painting, and spending time with friends and family!