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First Year of College for pre-Med students

Posted on Feb, 23 2014 | Pre-Med

Notes from a successful MD:

During my freshman year, I made several mistakes and encountered tragedies that made it difficult to recover both academically and emotionally. However, after graduating and being excited about my younger sister going away to college this fall, I wanted to help her find success as a freshman and a future pre-medical student.

Although my sister and I are very different, we have one common interest: helping people. She may change her mind about medical school but she is always eager to help people and I could not be more proud. This is the great thing about pre-medical and post-baccalaureate students. We are different but we share a common goal. It is sort of like the phrase, “all roads lead to Rome”–or medical school, if that is where you intend to be.

Above all, it is important to communicate with your support team (family, friends, significant others) and advisors so that they can help you make the best of your college experience and help you find the support that you need to succeed.

1. Pick a Manageable Schedule

This is sometimes difficult as a freshman in college. Especially if your university has a four-year plan that sort of forces you to adhere to a strict schedule. My mistake my freshman year was that I piled on too many courses and did not factor in the time required to study for those courses and complete assignments. Professors say that for every hour spent in lecture, multiply that by two to find the amount of time required to study for each course.

Managing your schedule and time spent focusing on coursework is crucial to success. If you are a bit confused, this is the time to look for resources that can help you focus. Being overwhelmed by my environment made college less enjoyable and I would have benefited from learning how to manage my schedule early on so that I could spend my undergraduate years practicing and perfecting what works best for me.

It is important to be flexible with a new atmosphere and academic requirements. Being flexible means making compromises and utilizing management skills that can benefit you long term. This also means learning how to manage a challenging schedule.

2. Focus & Practice Self-Discipline

Self-discipline applies to: academics, extracurriculars, and personal health and development. Self-discipline requires you to make sacrifices or compromises that will improve your chances of succeeding in college. When you say you are going to study–do it. If you know that you need to exercise–do it. If you know that you need to improve your health–do it.

I made the mistake of giving in to distractions instead of focusing on the tasks at hand. Distractions come in all forms but it is crucial to know when to block out what does not serves as a positive influence to your life.

A great way to practice self-discipline is to take the time to create a schedule that you seriously intend to follow. Making a list of things you want to accomplish in a day and pushing yourself to accomplish those things is how you focus and practice self-discipline. I swear, it feels awesome accomplishing what you set out to do.

3. Seek Help and Support

Every one has their own individual problems and different forms stress. Recognizing what causes your stress is the first opportunity to immediately fix it. Long term stress is terrible and the inability to seek support is tragic. If you know that you have a problem, do not be afraid to ask for help.

It does not matter if it is academic support, freshman workshops about time management or stress relief, mental health support, or issues with personal health. There is no shame in having trouble understanding calculus or molecular biology or even trouble with anxiety or depression. Seek out a knowledgeable, qualified person who can help you solve a problem. Look up your campus resources and use them or seek out a mentor.

I made the mistake of being a “suffer in silence” type of person. Afraid to ask for help because I considered it a sign of weakness or stupidity. This was the time that I should have sought immediate help. When I struggled with Physics and Calculus II I should have spent every single day in those academic help clinics. Instead, I went home and tried to “figure it out myself”. It did NOT work for me. If you have such resources available please, please use them! I’m so serious.

When you end the semester with an awesome GPA, you’re a step closer to making it easier on yourself when you’re applying to medical school.

4. Find a Mentor, Role Model, or Pre-Med Society

Great Physician Authors Some people idolize actors or musicians. Some future doctors consider physicians like Benjamin Carson, Katrina Firlik, Mae Jemison, Oliver Sacks, Sanjay Gupta, and Stephen Joseph Bergman (Samuel Shem) to be excellent role models.

During your freshman year, look around for mentor programs or pre-medical societies. Mentors, role models, and members of pre-med societies can be of great support because they have the experience and knowledge to help you try to understand the journey through college and towards medical school.

You should also find a professor and ask for tips on succeeding in their class or in college. You can tell which professors are great and which professors would rather chew glass than help a student. When you find that professor (the good one, not the glass chewer), do not forget them. When you’re thinking of who would write a great recommendation for you it will be easy to know who to call.

I wish that I had utilized mentorship programs as a freshman. They were always advertised but I seriously thought I could find out everything I needed to know by myself and I did not need someone advising me. This is the worst attitude to have because failure burns when you finally feel it. The one thing that I forgot was something my mother told me long ago: no man is an island. Everyone needs a bit of help sometimes, all you have to do is look for it.

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