Super Star Blogs!

The Worst Major for Pre-Medical Students!

“What should my major be?” This question is asked thousands of times around the country as high school graduates are preparing to start college.  It is a rather fascinating question when you think about it.  They are really asking, “Could you please tell me what to study while I’m paying thousands and thousands of dollars in college?”  Well, I can’t tell you what the best major is, but I can tell you what the worst major is…are you ready for it…it’s the one that you are not interested in!

The pre-medical journey has become somewhat cookie cutter.  Major in biology, get great gpa, score high on your MCAT, do research, volunteer in a hospital, and shadow.  Boom!  If you do those few things, you’re in!  You’ll be Dr. Insert Your Name Here!   There is nothing wrong with this journey by any means, but if you’re not enjoying it, then you’ve chosen the wrong path to your dream.  You only have a few years in college and that time will come and go quicker than you can imagine!  Enjoy it!  Learn what you want to learn! Just remember to do the prerequisites along the way.

Gone are the days that you have to be a biology or chemistry major to become a medical doctor!  Pre-medical students should understand that medical schools have prerequisite courses for a reason.  The reason is simple; these are the courses they feel you should be competent in if you desire to do well in medical school.  As long as you are competent in these courses, they couldn’t care less what other classes you take.  In today’s world, we need more holistic doctors!  We need businessmen to direct the intensive care units, artists to make the first incision in the operating room, actors to make children laugh as they listen to their rapidly beating hearts.  Medicine has always been, but now is better appreciated to be a field vastly greater than the hard sciences.

When you are deciding what major to choose, pick the one that you find most interesting and can be passionate about.  In case it has not been clearly conveyed thus far; you do not have to major in a hard science to go to medical school.  The field of Medicine is big enough and welcoming enough to incorporate the skill set you will acquire from majoring in whatever discipline you choose!  So go after the best major for a pre-medical student, the one you find most interesting!

Top 5 Ways to Spend Your Summer!

Summer time will come and summer time will go! Before you know it, you’ll be getting ready for the next school year. As a pre-medical student, it is very important that you spend your summers wisely and enhance your medical school candidacy. Below is a list of our Top 5 summer activities!

1. Clinical Experience: There are many ways to get clinical experience during your summer break. Examples include shadowing a physician/medical provider, scribing, working or volunteering at a hospital. Do not let this process intimidate you. There are many opportunities out there but you must be proactive in getting one. You may start by speaking with your premedical advisor to get a list of opportunities or physician contacts. Try going to an area hospital and asking about volunteer opportunities. Hospitals can always use a helping hand! There are also websites dedicated to help you find a scribe position. In this day and age of electronic medical records (EMRs) physicians are more and more interesting in scribes. If you will be home for the summer, consider asking your family doctor if you can shadow him or her once a week. Most physicians would love to provide guidance and mentorship, especially your hometown doc!
2. Medical School Hosted Summer Program: Be on the lookout for summer programs as these are great opportunities to travel, familiarize yourself with a medical program and their staff, as well as networking with other premedical students. Most students make lifelong friendships through these programs. There is a wide variety of programs available. These are primarily research or clinical and some even offer an MCAT prep course. Many programs offer a stipend as well as room and board which means; no ramen noodles for the summer, yes! You will want to begin looking for summer programs early (November or December) because they have limited spots and can be very competitive. Many of these applications are due by February or March.
3. Research: It would be nice to do research away from home in a summer program, but you can also work with a professor at your own school. A benefit of conducting research at your own program is that you can then continue your project into the school year. Many skills can be picked up doing research (both basic and clinical). You do not necessarily have to know or choose the type of research you like at this point. It is a time to learn a new skill set and gain a basic idea of what is done behind the scenes. There is a good chance the research you do now will catch up to you in the future. Aside from learning and perhaps getting a paycheck, another goal of your research should be to present an abstract or publish a paper from your findings. This may take some time so you will need some stick-to-itiveness. Ultimately, when you are applying to medical school, this will pay off in your favor!
4. Travelling Abroad: Sounds like fun! What a great way to explore and learn. You will certainly make lifetime memories and it is always impressive on your CV/resume. Find something unique to do, something you may never again have the opportunity to do. While abroad, some students do medical missions work, take a foreign language, or take other educational courses. This will bring up great conversation at your interviews.
5. Studying for MCAT: It’s no fun but it’s got to be done. This test can make or break your chances of getting into medical so it may not be a bad idea to dedicate a summer to prepare. This is especially important for those with GPA scores

As a pre med student, your summers are like gold…extremely valuable! It is of utmost importance that you use them to become a better applicant. With that said, it is also very important that you have fun doing it!

How to Write a Curriculum Vitae – A Guide for Pre Med Students!

Latin for “course of my life”, the curriculum vitae (or CV for short) is your opportunity to shine. It is here you can demonstrate how hard you have worked over the past few years and why you deserve to matriculate to medical school. Both CVs and resumes are tools to market one’s self. Although some use these words interchangeably, in academic settings it would be best to stick with the term CV. A CV is different from a resume in that it is generally longer, more detailed and used for academic purposes rather than job employment. Let’s explore some common questions about CV.

When do I start writing CV?

Now. You want to start as early as you can by maintaining a portfolio with pertinent activities. Open a file and begin documenting activities, awards, publications or any other significant event. Date each event as you go. This will save a lot of trouble in the future when trying to think back. For now, document any significant event but realize you will likely have to narrow this down to pertinent material when composing your final draft.

What should I include? 

For the most part, your CV should have the following categories as long as you have information you can include.

Identification/Contact:  Include your full name at the top followed by any contact information you find appropriate (address, phone, email, etc). Make sure to use professional email accounts and make sure the account will remain active. If your email is CrazyDude101@hotmail.com , please create a new one. Remember, you do not know where this information will end up being circulated. If you use non-personal contact such as a school operator or school mail box make sure you really can be reached this way.

Education:  List all institutions you have attended since graduating from high school. Include city, state, and years of attendance. Don’t forget to include summer school.

Professional Experience:  Record inter/externships, advisory board committee, volunteering at hospitals, and other jobs for pay etc.. You may briefly explain your position or role there.

Teaching Experience:  This includes tutoring and mentoring.

Professional Organizations:  List all organizations you are part of, the years you were involved and any leadership positions you held.

Honors and Awards:  Mention Dean’s list, scholarships, and recognitions. Remember, the further you are in your training the more you will need to narrow this list into more relevant information. For example, when applying for medical school they are looking for more well-rounded candidates so an award for MVP of your intramural ping pong team may be worth mentioning while this probably should not be included in an application for a residency position.

Research/Publications:  List any research work you have taken part in. Include published papers, abstracts, and poster presentations. Make sure to use correct formatting here and to keep the data up to date. If an article has been accepted for publication but is not yet formally published make sure to include “in press”.

Personal Info:  This is where you can personalize your CV by mentioning your hobbies, interests, languages, and relevant activities. Keep this short and sweet avoiding verbose language. Including interesting hobbies such as skydiving or spelunking may be advantageous.

 

What should I exclude?

A cover letter. These are used more for job resumes.

Do not include a title. They already know this.

Your goals in life.

Your GPA, SAT or MCAT score.

Irrelevant details and accomplishments.

Age, marital status, religious preference, or political views.

Personal information that is too personal such as your social security number or salary.

Your social media URL information.

A photo of yourself. Or any photo for that matter.

Misspellings and grammatical errors.

References.

A lie!

How long should it be?

Your CV should be at least 2 pages long. The further your training and career go the longer it will get. At some point you may have to have a regular and abbreviated version.

 

How should I order things?

Unless specified by a particular institution, I would recommend arranging things in reverse chronological order. Start with your most recent experiences. Most people want to know what was recently done and care less about what you accomplished 10 years ago.

 

How should I structure and design my CV?

You want this document to be pleasing to the eye. Do not merge sections together but instead consider using lines to separators in between sections. Avoid using color and bogus fonts. Remember, many people reading these are in their middle ages. It is always nice to print out your CV on nice sturdy paper.

Anything else to remember?

In closing, start early and keep your CV up to date. Allow your CV to have its own unique character but it must be pleasing to the eye. Review your CV for mistakes. Always have access to your CV. Place it in your email or store it in a cloud. If you are attending a career fair print out a few copies and take them with you. When you are finally ready, upload your CV in PreMed Star. You will be one step closer to becoming a great applicant.

How to Get Recruited to Medical School!-Pre-Med Marketing 101

Gaining admission to medical school isn’t getting any easier. GPA and MCAT averages are increasing, everyone has a stellar CV, and most important, more and more students are applying! With all of these challenges facing you, how do you stand out among the crowd? Well, allow me to show you! Grab your pen and paper….this is Pre-Med Marketing 101.

Have you ever walked onto a completely empty car dealership lot? Unless you are the owner of a dealership, I feel confident in saying that you probably haven’t. The first principle of marketing is that you must have a product to market. In the case of getting into medical school, you are the product. A key determinant of how successful a salesperson will be is how good his or her product is. If you sell me a watch today that breaks tomorrow, I’ll throw the watch into the garbage and never purchase from you again. So before you sell yourself to a medical school, make sure you are a good candidate.

What does a good pre-medical student look like? This is similar to asking what a good car looks like. It really depends on what you want from the car. If you have a large family, you may want a van or large SUV. If you are a businessman, you may want a luxury sedan. If you do construction, you’d love to have a pickup truck. While these are all different types of vehicles, to truly be considered good, they all need to have a reliable engine, functional brakes, and safety airbags. Comparing this to the pre-medical student “product”, in order to be considered good, you need a respectable GPA, a respectable MCAT score, and a good resume of activities and accomplishments. If you don’t have these things, then your product won’t sell, and perhaps it shouldn’t even be marketed. I say perhaps rather than definitely because sometimes you don’t know if you have a good product without testing the waters.

In business, the term “go to market” means that the product is deemed presentable to the world for sales. After you have confirmed that you are a good candidate, or if you need to test the waters, it’s time to go to market. I’m sure this concept is new to many readers. You may be wondering, how do I do this in the pre-medical world? Well, it’s really not that hard…there are 3 simple steps.­­

Step 1: Evaluate the market to get a sense of what is out there. You want to know where to promote your product. There are a few places that every pre-medical student should market themselves:
1. Medical School recruitment fairs (local and national). Traditionally, these fairs are where initial connections are made and networking begins. Attending such fairs demonstrates to the school that you care enough to put the time and effort into attending.
2. Medical School events. Actually visiting local medical schools and sitting in on their various evening or lunchtime events is a great way to meet faculty, staff, and students. This will help you get your foot in the door. Furthermore, it is something you can do once per semester and everyone will remeber you as the student who went the extra mile.
3. PreMed StAR. In the age of internet technology, online networking is of utmost importance and you should definitely use it to promote yourself. PreMed StAR allows students to create a profile and market themselves to medical schools. Schools can then recruit and interact directly with these students.

Step 2: Prepare your “go to market” package. A common mistake I have seen pre-medical students make is showing up to a recruitment fair or student event unprepared. Poorly dressed, no resume available (on hand or ready to email), and unable to answer basic questions about their goals. These students did not prepare to go to market. This is how you do it:
1. Draft your resume/CV. It is in your best interest to always appear professional and an easy way to do that is to hand a recruiter your resume. Typically, good recruiters return home after exhibiting at fairs and review all the materials they acquired. You want your resume to be among these materials.
2. Look the part. If I look at you, can I imagine my life in your hands? Before going to market, ensure you “look” the part. By “look”, I do not mean you must be a certain height, weight, or skin complexion. Rather, you should simply appear well kempt in regard to hair and clothing.
3. Practice your value proposition. In business, a value proposition is a statement that tells the potential buyer why what you have to offer is valuable and worth their investment. We typically think of medical school as being expensive for the students, but it is also expensive for the school to educate them. Consider your value proposition your elevator speech. In 30 seconds, you must be able to tell anybody why they should believe you will one day be a great physician. Stand tall, speak with confidence, and smile!

Step 3: Go to Market. You have worked extremely hard to get beyond steps 1 and 2…Now, it’s market time! Preperation is of minimal value if you do not show up for the big game. If you’ve done everything I have suggested to this point, you are 10 steps ahead of the competition. Here is how you finish the raace strong:
1. Execute! Carry out what you rehearsed in Step 2 above to perfection.
2. Network! Meet as many people as possible. Shake as many hands as you can. You don’t want the one person who you didn’t meet to be the one with your full ride medical school scholarship.
3. Follow up. Within 1 week of meeting a school representative, be sure to follow up with a nice email/message letting him or her know you are extremely delighted to have met and hope to stay in touch.

There are far too many great candidates in today’s pre-medical pool for you not to market yourself. Getting recruited is not difficult, just follow the 3 steps; Evaluate, Prepare, and Go!

Top 10 Mistakes Pre-Medical Students Make

WeTop 10 all go through it. We all have regrets in life. They simply become painful, inescapable daydreams of “what could have been” if only I had only… I often remind young college freshmen who have finally gotten a taste of freedom stepping out of their parent’s home, that what they choose to do in the next 4 years just may dictate the rest of their lives. Our 20s can make or break our future sometimes. Many adults in their 40s and 50s look back wishing they had only taken school more seriously or that they didn’t give up on their dreams. Life is similar to a race in which a poor start can be detrimental to your finish. As we get older, it will become tougher and tougher to reach your goals but it is never too late. I will now share with you my top 10 mistakes premedical students make. I hope this will encourage young students to stay on the right track by avoiding these pitfalls.

1) WRONG FRIENDS:  I cannot emphasize this enough. Show me your friends and I will tell you who you are. Never underestimate the influence those you keep in company have on your life. If you want to become a doctor then associate with doctors and other premeds. I am not suggesting that you dismiss old friends because it is great to have a diverse group of friends but a serious mistake made by many students is that they select or continue to associate with friends who are more focused on parties, alcohol, or other distractors.

2) DOING TOO MUCH:  Burn out is real. It is understandable that many students need to work in order to pay their way through school. However, you are to blame if you have selected a job which distracts you from your goals as a student. Instead of working as a waiter/waitress why not apply for a job at the library or as a receptionist at the local gym or student health center where you will likely have quiet time for yourself. Time management is also very important for the student athlete, those holding leadership positions, and those with other obligations. You must know when these extracurricular activities become a detriment and take some time off from them if necessary.

3) CAN’T PAY TUITION:  I am not a proponent of relying heavily on student loans but sometimes they are unavoidable. There are many scholarship opportunities out there that many students simply fail to apply for. Who doesn’t like free money? Taking a good hour each week to search for these may save you from being forced to work or taking out more loans. Remember, the better you are able to perform in school the more likely you will be rewarded with scholarship money. Try to be prepared and research in order to avoid having to take time off from school.

4) I DIDN’T KNOW:  When are you taking the MCAT? What are you going to do the summer before senior year? When is the deadline for this application? Don’t be the student who did not take an organic chemistry class because you were not aware it was a prerequisite and now you have to change your entire summer schedule. Be prepared as early as possible. Attend premed meetings and communicate with upperclassmen to make sure you are on track.

5) BEWARE OF SOCIAL NETWORKS:  Schools are watching you. Your professor or boss may also be watching. In this highly connected world most people are only a Google or Facebook search away. It is hard to take serious a premed student who has posted a half dressed photo on their Facebook profile or even if your friend is the one posting inappropriate comments all the time. It matters little how well you’ve done on the verbal section of your MCAT if your writing on social networks is barely interpretable. It’s okay to show character on these websites but be mindful that others are watching.

6) WRONG MAJOR:  You do not need to major in biology or chemistry to be accepted into medical school. In fact, according to AAMC 2012 data, only 51% of medical school matriculates majored in the biological sciences. Nonetheless, GPA and MCAT scores were similar across the different majors. The good side in choosing a major in the biological sciences is that you will be learning material that you will certainly come across again in the future. However, for some these classes may be too challenging. Never select a major or minor solely based on convenience or interest if the material is too difficult for you. You also want to avoid a major which is known to be very easy. If you need to switch, do it fast before it becomes too late. Also, make sure you know what prerequisites are needed.

7) ALL YOU KNOW IS MEDICINE:  We all have come across that student who can name every bone in the body but cannot name the most popular music artist in the world. Medical schools are searching for well-rounded students. Patients want doctors they can interact with instead of robots. College is a great time to meet a variety of people with different cultures, participate in intramural sports, and try new things. I personally still look back and partially regret not joining my friends in a study abroad program. But then again, I used the time for research.

8) NOT BEING TRUE TO YOURSELF:  It is important that you join the rat race, which is medicine for the right reason. Do not be pressured into this or you just may regret it. If your best answer to why you want to become a doctor truly is because you “want to help others” or your “parents are making you do this” then you just may want to think things over. If you are shadowing a provider or volunteering only to get a checkmark on your application rather than truly using the time to explore the field then you need to have a one-on-one with yourself. Why spend the next 7-12 years of your life studying, taking board exams and spending late nights in the hospital if this is not your passion?

9) DISMISSING ADVICE:  It is important to know where to go and where not to go for guidance. Half of the battle in getting into medical school is speaking with others who have taken your path. Both younger and older physicians can provide great perspectives. No man or woman is an island. Those who make it to medical school almost always have interacted with a mentor even if they did not see this person in that way. I highly encourage you to find a local physician and get a mentor!

10) STAY ENCOURAGED:  Hard work and persistence pays off. You can go to any medical school across the nation and find at least 10 stories that will inspire you. It is not an easy path for any doctor. Life does not pause while we are in school. Tragedies will happen and life may take a toll on your grades but I guarantee there are others who have also been through a similar situation. I always say you need the thunderstorm in order to appreciate the sunshine. If you are serious about this journey you will persevere and ultimately get there. When I interview candidates for work in my clinic, my questions tend to be about how they coped during stressful and tough times. I am very impressed when I hear they have had a battle in life or failed at one time but learned a great lesson and stood up to the challenge. Stay focused and motivated. While still young, there is no time to wallow in regrets. There is plenty of time. Roll up your sleeves and get back to fighting for your dreams.

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