Apr 01

10 Tips For Pre-Meds

I recently unearthed a super-long email (if you didn’t know before, I’m reallyreally verbose) that I sent to a friend about 2-ish years ago, so I thought I’d share the pertinent advice! This is more specific to people who want to go into medicine, but parts of it are probably relevant to a whole lot of other programs.

These are my top 10 tips for pre-meds, how to prepare for medical school while you’re in college, whilst making the most of your college experience! (Be forewarned, however, that I was somewhat of a workaholic in undergrad, and that part of me hasn’t really changed all that much. :] )


  1. Find out early what your major requires of you, and if you can, make sure you complete all requirements for med school before you graduate. Because trying to get into classes when you’ve already graduated with two degrees puts you at the bottom of the priority bucket (…especially if you’re trying to retake classes).
  2. I’ve talked before on how sometimes, working towards your dreams requires making sacrifices, but don’t be afraid to still have a life. I think medical schools do like to see that you have a life outside of school–just don’t go overboard with it. The key (as with most everything in life) is to find a balance.
  3. Apply as early as possible. Most of the schools are on rolling admission, so the earlier you apply, the better your chances of getting secondaries/an interview. Secondaries are basically their chance to (a) get more money from you, and (b) (sorry) get to know you a little better. They usually have several essay questions, but once you answer one of them, you can basically cut and paste things from it to answer the rest, since they usually don’t get too crazy with their questions.
  4. For interviews, most schools just really want to see what kind of person you are (aka preferably someone kind + considerate, and not a sociopath), so just relax and be yourself. I know the whole “being yourself” thing sounds super cliche, but it’s true. (Unless you really are a sociopath, in which case, please don’t apply. 😡 )To practice for my interviews, I just pulled up the questions from SDN’s* Interview Feedback page and had my parents or a friend ask them to me. It might help to record yourself answering questions (or to just answer them while standing in front of a mirror). It helps you to see if you have any weird mannerisms and if you make any weird facial expressions while answering questions.
  5. Save up money to take your MCAT, apply to schools, pay for secondaries, a professional-lookin’ clothes + traveling to and from interviews. It all adds up and it is not cheap. ;_; For the record, this is not the time to test out your super-short skirts, stiletto heels, multiple facial piercings, and/or pink and purple hair.
  6. Shadow different doctors, and try to get a good letter of recommendation from at least one of them.
    This lets medical schools know that you at least have somewhat of an idea of what it takes to become a doctor, and that it takes hard work. It is nowhere near as “glamorous” as society makes it out to be, and generally speaking, you do not spend all your spare time (hah) rolling around in mountains of cash.Do NOT become a doctor because you want to be rich. There are better ways to do it. I live on < $10k/year, and I’m still looking at ~$250k in loans by the time I graduate. And no, this does not include the interest on said loans.
  7. If you can find community service that involves direct patient interaction, do it! My internships and clinical experiences were monumentally helpful for me because it gave me a good idea of what to expect, and the direct patient care experience was extremely valuable.
  8. Do research if you can. MD schools tend to care about this than DO schools. I hated research, so I initially chose not to do any, because I loved doing community service a billion times more.I never ended up applying to any MD programs because I was fairly hell-bent on Family Medicine/primary care from the start, but I did eventually go to an accelerated grad school program too, where I did research on different FM residency programs across the country, and whether or not they provided any training to residents on how to work with individuals with developmental disabilities.
  9. Taking Anatomy, Biochemistry, Microbiology & Immunology would probably make med school a lot easier for you. Of those, I would make a majormajor plug for Anatomy (especially one that involves a lab with human cadavers), because that’s the section most of the people in my class (and a lot of people I’ve talked to) failed or had a ton of trouble with. Since I took it in undergrad, it was a piece of cake for me and I barely had to study that part, so it left me with a lot of time to (a) study everything else, and (b) tutor other people in it.
  10. Try to get at least 5 recommendation letters from professors/directors of places you’ve volunteered at/physicians. I would also fudge the deadline a little so there’s more leeway.

*Student Doctor Network (SDN) contains a wealth of resources + information for pre-meds, but I’d advise you to stay out of the “What are my chances?” forums. Last I checked (…back in ’08), it was pretty soul-sucking, and it felt like people were just posting all their scores + stats to brag, but mayhaps things have changed?

I’d also recommend looking into the mission statements of each school that you apply to–find out what they’re looking for in an applicant, find out about their accreditation status and if there are any curriculum changes.

If you can get a hold of a student from a program you’re interested in and they don’t mind being grilled, do it!

  • Are there any other pieces of advice that you think would be helpful? Share them in the comments!

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  1. Daffney

    Good for you for going for it! I work as a Respiratory Therapist and had at one point considered med school and decided it wasn’t for me, but I love how you stress personality. My only add on as a person who interacts with med students and resident physicians would be to not get caught up in dredge of it (hard to do when you are working 80 plus hours a week) and to try and appreciate what a difference you are making, because you are making a big one. I would also say to be kind to everyone you interact with, all the way down to the janitorial staff. It’s amazing how much easier the entire team can make your life if they like you. It’s easy to get busy and lose all the niceties that come with such an arduous schedule, but know that we in nursing and allied health love our patients and really want to make your life easier if you let us. 🙂

    1. Farrah

      Oh, for sure! I may have to a post for during med school, because these are all things I wish more people still had/did (being kind to everyone, no matter who they are, and not forgetting about why they went into the field to begin with). It’s so easy to lose sight of that!

      I definitely appreciate everything that the entire team does–without it, we really wouldn’t be able to function, and having a team that works together really makes the experience much better for our patients! :] Thanks for everything that you do!

  2. Alyssa @ Renaissancerunnergirl

    Great tips! I should do one of these for law school…and perhaps on why one should or should not go to law school 😉
    Alyssa @ Renaissancerunnergirl recently posted…A Breakfast Is BornMy Profile

    1. Farrah

      That’d be awesome! :] I may have to do one on whether or not someone should go to med school, haha.

  3. Hannah @ CleanEatingVeggieGirl

    This is a GREAT post!! As an Academic Advisor who works with some pre-med students, these are great suggestions 🙂
    Hannah @ CleanEatingVeggieGirl recently posted…An Update on My Health and DietMy Profile

    1. Farrah

      Thanks! They’re definitely things I wish I’d known when I first started college! :O

  4. Julie @ Running in a Skirt

    Great post! I obviously am not going to Med School anytime soon, but I still enjoy hearing about the process!
    Julie @ Running in a Skirt recently posted…6 Ways to Workout for Free {Video}My Profile

    1. Farrah

      Thanks, Julie! 😀 It’s so hard to believe that in a little over a year, I’ll actually be done with it! :O

  5. Amber

    I love how positive you are always, and your insights into the medical field 🙂
    Amber recently posted…April is IBS Awareness MonthMy Profile

    1. Farrah

      Thank you! I’ve definitely been trying to be! 😀

  6. Mags

    This is great advice for anyone, even not doing pre-med. I especially like the “find balance” part. It’s so important to take time for yourself and it doesn’t make you any less dedicated.
    Mags recently posted…The Funky Brunch Cafe- Play with your Food in Savannah, GAMy Profile

    1. Farrah

      That one can be the hardest one sometimes, but it’s so important!

  7. Jess @hellotofit

    Great tips! And I think some of these could apply to people who aren’t planning on going to med school – like getting things done early and not being afraid to still have a life!
    Jess @hellotofit recently posted…Try This Thursday 4/2 – variation of runner’s stretchMy Profile

    1. Farrah

      Yes indeed! It definitely helps with productivity! :]

  8. Amanda Remlinger (@Momwhotris)

    Great tips. I bet this will really help folks’ who are thinking about med school. I wanted to major in nursing at one point in time. Then I saw blood. The end.

    1. Farrah

      hehehe, thanks! Good thing you found out early though! 😛

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