What to Expect as an Undergraduate

If you're just entering college and know you want to continue on to medical school, prepare yourself for rigorous coursework with a heavy concentration in math and science. One of the first things you need to do is meet with your academic advisor and choose a science or premed major. Your advisor will help you map out the next four years to ensure you have the proper amount of credits and prerequisite classes needed to adequately prepare for medical school. Biology, chemistry, physics, microbiology, human anatomy and physiology, and an introduction to medical terminology are just a few of the classes an undergraduate student can expect to take in preparation for medical school. Coursework in psychology and human development are also beneficial. Understanding how human beings interact emotionally is very important in medicine. Know that you will spend many hours in science labs—anywhere from two to four hours per science class per week. Get ready for some interesting laboratory experiments. Bachelor's programs are usually a student's introduction to dissection of both larger animals and human cadavers. Even though you're planning on a career in medicine, working with actual human bodies can be disconcerting at first for some students. If you fall into this category, talk to other students and faculty members to see how they first addressed this daunting endeavor. One should also be prepared for stiff competition at the baccalaureate level. Medical school attracts the best and brightest students from around the world. People going into medical field careers need to be at the top of their academic game and always put studies above any other activities. This is a time when the cream rises to the top, so to speak; the less serious students will be quickly weeded out if they can't keep up with the demanding schoolwork.

Academic clubs abound on university campuses, so join your school's premed club as soon as possible. In a premed club you will find students who are just like you. You can discuss plans for the future—like what everyone is doing to prepare for their medical school experience. You can discover and form study groups to help with the heavy coursework and also start preparing for the MCAT, the entrance exam required for medical school. Premed clubs often offer students the opportunity to shadow physicians in the community to let them see what a “day in the life” will be for them someday. Finding part-time employment in the health care realm—either as an aide or orderly in a hospital or nursing home—is another way one might help prepare him or herself for medical school while an undergraduate. Juggling a job with a heavy course load might be challenging, but it will better prepare you for medical school and subsequent residency. Not only will you be faced with medical issues in a real-life setting, but you will be forced to develop coping skills and learn how to manage demands on your time earlier rather than later, when the pressures of medical school is more intense.

Last Updated: 05/21/2014

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