Are you a post-bacc pre-med student who is just starting out their journey? First, congratulations on the decision to become a pre-med! If you’re like most post-bacc pre-med students, you’re probably feeling a mix of excitement and anxiety as you think about applying to medical school. Well, don’t worry – we’ve got some advice from first-year medical students (and former post-bacc pre-med students) that will help make your path easier as your transition from post-bacc to medical school.
These tips come from students who completed the Post-Baccalaureate Pre-Medical Program at the University of Vermont to catch up on the necessary requirements for med school and just completed their first year at UVM’s Robert Larner College of Medicine.
Read on for their tips on everything from how to reduce anxiety to taking the MCAT.
1. Trust that the Post-Bacc Pre-Med Program Works
If you don’t have a degree in biology, it can be easy to doubt your capabilities. Remember, the Post-Baccalaureate Premedical Programs offered by many universities across the country are designed for students who have completed their undergraduate degree in fields other than biology or medicine. The goal is to ensure aspiring physicians are ready for admission into medical school. Know that the process has worked for thousands of students before you, and it can work for you too.
“Trust the process; the post-baccalaureate program is one step in a larger health care career. Invest in your post-baccalaureate coursework as the foundational building blocks for your future patients. After you’ve completed all your necessary requirements, you will gain admission to a program, which will give you the skills and knowledge you need to care for your future patients.”
— Jasmine Bazinet-Phillips, MD Candidate, Class of 2025
2. Make a Plan for the MCAT
If you’re a pre-med student, then you know that the MCAT is looming on the horizon. It can make or break your chance of getting into medical school. So, what will you do to ensure you ace it? One thing you can do is make a plan. A plan will help keep you focused and on track. It will also help ensure that you have enough time to study for all the different exam sections.
“Try to set a schedule for the application process and MCAT that includes days off and try to stick to it.”
— Tyler McGuire, MD Candidate, Class of 2025
3. Reduce Med School Application Anxiety
Reducing anxiety is the key to success in anything, including applying to medical school. It feels like there are so many things to do and so much at stake. But it’s important to minimize your anxiety and make the most of this important journey.
“While you are in the application process, stop refreshing your inbox and checking the status of your applications on the portals. Delete your mail app from your phone if you need to. If you have bookmarked the portals, delete them. If you’ve made it this far, you are likely a diligent person, and t’s have been crossed and i’s dotted, and you will find out the news when you find it out. Unless you have a really pointed question, stay off sites like Student Doctor Network and Reddit pre-med threads– sites like these are breeding grounds for anxiety, browbeating, and self-appointed gatekeepers of medical school. Good luck! And go for a bike ride! It’s hard to be fretting or thinking about the MCAT when you are on a bike.”
— Andrew Leckerling, MD Candidate, Class of 2025
4. Invest in Resources
You’ve come this far; it only makes sense to use every resource you can to succeed. There are many tools available explicitly designed to help pre-med students.
“My advice would be to invest in secondary resources like Boards & Beyond and Sketchy. They make a big difference in that they’re designed to help you study, rather than just to pour content down your throat.”
— Sarah Caffry, MD Candidate, Class of 2025
5. Create a File of ‘Wins’
It can be easy to lose track of all you have accomplished as you move on to the next task. Create a file of big wins – like acing an organic chemistry exam or gaining an important internship. This file can boost your confidence and help you when applying to medical school.
“Start thinking about and reflecting on your journey today. I kept a journal (actually, it was just an excel spreadsheet!) where I wrote down a narrative around experiences (professional, clinical, research, hobbies, leadership, shadowing) that impacted me and made me a strong applicant. I also included contacts I had in each role and their contact info. This was a super valuable reference when it came time to write my application.”
— Brittney Palermo (she/her), MD Candidate, Class of 2025
6. Setbacks Are Learning Opportunities
Though it’s never fun to experience a setback, they can be learning opportunities. Every time something doesn’t go according to plan, take the time to reflect on what happened and figure out what you need to do differently next time or if there is another path to follow.
“The medical school journey, starting with the application process, is hard work! It can be stressful and disappointing at times. Don’t get discouraged. Sometimes the setbacks are the best and most meaningful learning opportunities. The journey is also full of excitement and high points. Don’t forget to take the time to appreciate the good moments.”
— Joanna G Pierce, MD Candidate, Class of 2025