4th-year medical student
Ateneo School of Medicine and Public Health, Philippines
Before Med School
Picking a medical school
It’s not as simple as picking the top school or going to the one your parents picked for you. There are a lot of things to consider for yourself: Location, culture, teaching methods, hospital, school rating… the list goes on and on. This is where you’ll be studying for the next few years, so it has to be your decision.
I suggest trying to attend open houses, campus tours, and talking to students and alumni as you’re able to. These activities can give you a good idea on how life will be on campus. One school may perform well in rankings, but you can find yourself burning out quickly if the culture and teaching format don’t work for you.
Preparing your med school resume
Building a strong resume is one of the most challenging parts because the application process is extremely competitive. Contrary to popular belief, grades aren’t everything. You want your resume to sell you as someone that will be an asset to the school. According to some universities, admissions officers focus on extracurriculars and essays, rather than just grades. You need to tailor your application and essay to them, even if you plan to apply to several other schools.
What most people advise – and what I advise – is to get some relevant experience under your belt, such as volunteering, assisting, or shadowing for different health services. Not only does it make for a good resume, but it gives you experience so you know what field you’re getting into. You can even join school or community organizations that aren’t medicine-related because it shows that you can work in any setting. Medicine is a service industry and you need to prove to them that this work is for you.
The interview can be nerve-wracking. There are a lot of guides out there on how to navigate through the questions, but what matters most is that you stand out. You need to convince them that you have something to offer that others can’t. Like the resume, you need to read about the school to show them that you want to be there.
They will ask many questions, but be ready to be asked, “Why do you want to become a doctor?” You need to be grounded to your reason because without it, it’ll be hard to stay motivated. One of the best ways to express this is by telling a story because that makes it more real and personal. It also helps the interviewer remember and relate to you better.
Entering Med School
What are good study habits? How many hours do pre med students study?
We know that pre-med students study for hours on hours just to get into a good medical school. But don’t let this intimidate you!
There’s a huge difference between studying hard and studying smart.
You should be doing the latter. One thing you can do is to experiment with different study methods to see what works best. I took the risk of doing methods that did not work for me and got lower grades for it. But once you’ve mastered your own study schedule, you can cut your normal study time by a few hours. However, studies have shown that high-performing students study 6 hours per day because they spend time studying before and after lectures.
Before entering med school, you can also lightly brush up on Anatomy, Physiology, and Histology. These are the subjects a lot of my classmates and I struggled with. But you don’t have to hit the books right away! Using online studying resources can help you get familiar with important concepts in a way you can easily understand. You can even test yourself through online quizzes to see if the study method you used is effective!
How do I mentally prepare myself for med school?
My upper classmen used to tell me that I wouldn’t be able to prepare myself for med school. It can get crazy hard and feel almost impossible to pass. Because of that, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed by your workload once classes start. But I’ve learned that it’s better to at least feel prepared.
You need to accept that the next few years will be devoted to studying. There’s too little time and a lot of things to learn. You might even find yourself dropping things you used to love to make time for studies. Many of my classmates made a bucket list of things they want to do before entering med. Some travel, some take up a new hobby, and some even work before starting.
Before med school started, many of my classmates readied their bodies and supplies. Some started exercising to build endurance so that they can study for hours and listen in class without sleeping. Many of us bought new tablets, laptops, or notebooks that would help in studying. They even had checklists of things to prepare for their first day of school. Feeling ready really helps with dealing with the anxiety of a new journey.
At the end of the day…
…it’s okay to be anxious and nervous. We all feel it when entering a new part of our lives. We might even have second thoughts about it. Whenever I feel this way, I remember why I wanted to be a doctor in the first place and how far I’ve come to get to this point. I reassure myself that I belong in med school, because I worked hard for it despite a few roadblocks. We all get bad grades and doubt ourselves sometimes. Many doctors have. But that never stopped them, and it shouldn’t stop you either.