Back in November, I wrote about why I chose to major in Community Health (CH). I briefly had mentioned that I was planning to apply to medical school as an aspiring physician.
I knew since high school, I wanted to go into medicine and become a doctor. Being able to spend time and listen to patient stories in addition to being able to treat their illnesses was something that attracted me into medicine. Particular fields of medicine that I am most interested in were Surgery, Pediatrics and OB/GYN.
In order to become a physician, students must take specific prerequisites including one year of biology, chemistry, physics and one semester of organic chemistry and biochemistry. We also have to take the Medical College Admissions Test (MCAT), which is usually an eight hour exam that includes all the topics above in addition to psychology and sociology. Most of the time, student’s take additional science courses such as genetics, molecular biology, cellular biology, and more!
Every premed student’s timeline of when they took their prereqs are different. Some factors that play into when students take the prerequisites include having AP credits, student’s level of comfort with material and the advice they get from the pre-health committee. For me, I did not have any STEM related AP credit, so I had to start from the beginning. I would not worry if you also do not have any AP credit because the college level classes are much more in depth than high school courses. This might be important when you take the MCAT because you may not remember information from high school. So, I took General Biology 13 and 14 my first year and General Chemistry 1 and 2 my Sophomore year. When I transitioned to taking college level courses I had to learn how to really study and not just memorize information. Taking those courses prepared me to take the “more challenging” science courses such as organic chemistry, physics and biochemistry. Looking back, I definitely would not have been ready to be slammed with both general biology and general chemistry right when I entered college. Lastly, each college’s pre-health advising committee, which helps students plan their premed journey and apply to health related graduate schools, recommends taking the prerequisites at different times. I know at my friend’s college they do recommend doubling up on prerequisites on their very first semester at Tufts, but at Tufts they do not recommend it because students are transitioning.
I knew entering college that being premed was difficult and I thought I was mentally and emotionally prepared to take the classes. What I was not prepared for was a global pandemic that would drastically change everything such as having in person lectures and labs, which are essential to learning lab techniques and building important relationships with professors (who you may want to write your letter of recommendation).
Things that have helped me stay sane were to remember the reason why I wanted to be a physician in the first place. Many of my friends realized that medical school was not for them early on when they took the first couple of science courses, and that is okay! Whenever I was struggling, I really needed to think and ask myself if this path was truly for me. It sounds philosophical but thinking and reflecting about my motivations to pursue medicine was important to help me continue when I was struggling. In addition, having friends who I can talk to and create study groups with helped me immensely. We were all able to combine forces and get through a difficult topic together. This also helped me to reinforce my learning because we were able to test each other on material. Lastly, this year I was able to get in tune with my health and listen to what my body needs. For example, my body was aching and in pain from attending zoom classes all day. Thankfully, my insurance covers seeing a physical therapist once a week. Something as simple as stretches on YouTube or, if financially possible, seeing a specialist can make a big difference in your health. I learned to not jeopardize my mental health along with succeeding in all my classes; there should always be a balance.
I can promise you that being premed is not going to be easy, but I do believe that it is worth the trials and tribulations if you are genuinely passionate about it. There were many times that I questioned if I was a good enough student, but at the end of the day, my “why” factor and resilience was my motivating force that kept me sane through my premed journey.