Welcome to a new school year. I’m hoping you are pumped! The goal is to take full advantage of this year and make it the best one so far. If you are a freshman in college, a first year medical student or an intern the first few weeks can be challenging adapting to a new environment and learning system. It is critical that you get off to a good start. Things are quite a bit different from when I trained but the same key principles to achieve success remain. These are my tips for the school year.
1. Set Goals
Please, please, please sit down and set your goals. Too many students miss very important deadlines and miss major opportunities simply because of poor planning and failing to set goals. Make a list including these things:
• GPA you aim to achieve (It better be a 4.0)
• Classes you plan on taking
• Organizations you will join and take leadership in
• Important calendar dates (including conferences you will attend, MCAT date, letter of rec request date)
• Dates you will reach out to your mentor
Diverse Medicine has a nice application year timeline available listing important dates. Feel free to message me if you are unable to find this.
2. Gain Meaningful Knowledge
This should be obvious but I really want you to think about this one. Rote memorization has a purpose but I can’t stress the importance of digesting the material you are learning. This of course is more important the higher up the ladder you go. So many of us take classes with a mentality of “I just need to pass or get by” but I challenge you to dive a little deeper. Information is gold and you never know when it will come up again. As a medical doctor, people expect you to have a strong knowledge base. Every day I encounter patients from all walks of like and I am able to establish a stronger relationship with them when I am knowledgeable about their environment, job, or any other subject they bring up. That economics class, Spanish class, art class will most likely be used at some point in your career. Understand what your teacher is teaching.
3. Find a Way to Diversify Yourself
The perfect 4.0 student with excellent MCAT scores may look good on paper but may be a horrible doctor if they are not diverse. Diversity is not only your race/ethnicity or gender but more any unique attributes and experiences you have to offer. Don’t get sucked into the premed and med school rat race trying to keep up with your peers. Think outside the box and experience life. As Dr. Dale would say, “I didn’t even know there was a box.” Do something unique that piques your interest and find a way it may relate to medicine. Believe me, everything can be connected to medicine. Diversifying yourself gives you that special niche. To this day, I still remember a student interviewing with me for medical school who was a circus performer. He easily stole the show.
4. Keep Track
Y’all are doing some amazing things. Every time a student communicates with me I am amazed by the types of things he or she is doing. Make sure you are keeping track. I am sure those applying or those who already applied to medical school can attest to the fact that it is tough filling your application and having to recollect what you did back during you freshman year of college. The earlier you start this, the less it will hurt. I always advise premeds to keep their Diverse Medicine profiles up to date so it will make applying much easier and you never know if a medical school is watching. Don’t forget to use your profile link in your email signature.
5. Find A Mentor
You can never give solid advice without recommending (1) goal setting and (2) finding solid mentorship. This was an area I struggled with as a shy premed student with little guidance. I had no clue how approachable most doctors actually were. A good mentor can open many doors for you. A mentor does not have to look like you or come from the same place you do but they should have traversed the path successfully and be were you want to be. It is best to have a few advisers but not too many that you get confused. I recommend finding mentors with these traits.
1. Someone who is passionate about helping and wants to give back.
2. Someone who recently successfully accomplished what you are aiming for.
3. Someone who is seasoned and has a lot of connections.
4. Someone who is okay with saying they don’t know the answer but are willing to direct you to someone who may know.
Most mentors will be extremely busy so you will need to be understanding and respectful of their time. Take cue from them and routinely check in with him or her.
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