Preparing for Medical School
Step one: Relax.
You might be “pre-med” or “pre-dental” or “pre-vet,” but you can still be relaxed while thoroughly enjoying college. Remember you have come to a liberal arts college where you can explore your interests. There are whole fields of study at college that will excite your intellect and stimulate your imagination.
Over the course of time, you should aim to become a complete, balanced person who can combine work and play, communicate with others, and have interests outside the classroom, library, and lab. Develop strategies for dealing with stress (e.g., exercise) and for minimizing its occurrence (e.g., get enough sleep). Careers in the medical professions are stressful and developing ways to cope with it while you are in college will help you prepare. In addition, when you apply, schools will want to see that you know how to lead a balanced life.
You do not have to have all A’s to get into medical school. Do the best you can, but do not beat yourself up if you are disappointed in a grade. At the same time, use your courses to determine if a career in science is the right choice for you. Explore all your strengths with an open mind.
Evaluate your interests and goals. Ask yourself whether you are certain you want a career in one of the medical professions. How do you know? Have you had practical experience in the field? Volunteer work, shadowing, internships and research will help you determine your goals. Many people discover other options and interests during—and after—college because they are introduced to possibilities they never before imagined and to aspects of themselves they did not know existed.
While a graduate program in the medical professions and a career as a doctor, dentist, or veterinarian can be extremely rewarding in many ways, you will need to be independent, a critical thinker, have the ability to think outside the box, and be able to handle the unexpected. You will have to make good decisions very quickly and under difficult circumstances. You will need to be able to handle responsibility well, deal with stress, and be able to tolerate frequent evaluation. Even applying to the schools in the medical professions requires a lot of independence, responsibility, and the ability to do research on your own about what individual schools need and want. Take time to reflect on whether this is the career that best suits you. Learn about how you deal with challenges and responsibilities to decide how you want to go forward.
Get to know your professors well. One major advantage of a small, liberal arts college is the availability of the faculty and their willingness to help you and desire to get to know you. If you have questions about the material, do not let yourself get behind. See the professor as soon as possible. But get to know your professors even if you do not have questions about the material. In the end, you will enjoy college more and, from a practical perspective, no matter which medical profession you are planning to enter, you will need letters of recommendation in the future.
When you need help, get it. Wellesley is rich with layers of resources for help. You are not expected to be perfect. In addition to professors, there are tutors who help students at all levels; do not hesitate to use a tutor, even if you never used one before in high school. College if very different and the tutors would not exist if you were the only person not understanding something. Also available are Class Deans, the PLTC, the Counseling Service at the Stone Center, Residence Life, and other sources of assistance to which you can and should turn for help when needed.
Join the various medical professions societies and clubs on campus, such as the Hippocratic Society, Pre-Dental Society, Pre-Veterinary Society, and Wellesley Women for Public Health, even if you are not entirely sure you will be pursuing your currently chosen career.
Take advantage of all the resources available to you at Wellesley, such as the Center for Work and Service (CWS). For example, they offer summer stipends and they can help you find shadowing opportunities. Check out their website at www.wellesley.edu/cws, register for MyCWS and stop in at the excellent CWS library on the fourth floor of Green Hall. Join the W Network through the Alumnae Office website or through the CWS website. It is a way for undergraduates to connect to alumnae. This past year we saw the beginning and continuing growth of a “Women in Medicine” group of alumnae on the W Network.
If you want to see Sheila Brachfeld-Child, the Director of Medical Profession Advising, you can sign up for an appointment time or come to drop-ins, which will be posted on our Sakai site.