Last Updated on June 26, 2022 by Laura Turner
Being a pre-medical student means committing to a years-long process aimed at ultimately gaining admission to medical school. No matter how many years away you may currently be from applying, starting the new year with a resolution or two that is geared toward helping you achieve your goal of becoming a physician is a great way of ensure that you are on track. Whether you vow to finally enroll in that EMT class, or to broaden your academic horizons by taking an elective outside your major, find time to build yourself as an applicant while also maintaining a life outside of your pre-medical activities. Consider taking on one or more of the below resolutions, or craft your own to fit your academic and personal needs.
1. Be intentional about your MCAT review
Some pre-medical students approach their MCAT exam date casually, especially if that date is six months in the future. Many juniors and seniors have their sights set on April, May, and June test dates, and many of those same students will not begin to seriously study until one or two months before their exam date. Avoid being one of these late-studying students by resolving to create a reasonable weekly study schedule, and to stick to it for as many as six months in advance of your test date. You will thank yourself later for your dedication.
2. Make time for a new clinical experience outside of your known interests or comfort zone
Occasionally, pre-medical students find themselves tightly focused on a certain specialty within medicine. They take every opportunity they can to explore that single interest while neglecting the rest of the field before them. As you train to become a physician, medicine will continually ask you to step outside your known interests and comfort zone. Do you wish to become a surgeon? You might first have to complete a psychiatry rotation—and you might find that you enjoy it. As a pre-medical student, you are in the exciting position of having access to the whole of medicine. You can miss worthwhile opportunities if you focus too early on a specialty in which you may or may not have interest later. Take 2017 to step outside of your past experiences and what you know. Shadow in surgery if you are interested in family medicine. Accept a position as an ER scribe if all you have done before is research. Try something new, and begin to understand just how wide the field of medicine is.
3. Attend a conference, submit an academic paper, or become involved with new research
It can be intimidating to submit a cover letter for an internship, to register for an intriguing conference, or to email a principal investigator in the hopes of securing a research position in a lab. Even when we have done the hard work, and it is time to submit a paper for possible publication, we find ourselves holding back, wanting everything—our paper, our resume, our proposal—to be perfect before we release our finished product into the world of acceptance or rejection. If you find that you have been hesitant to apply for research positions, to attend conferences, or to submit papers because you do not feel qualified enough, commit to overcoming your fear of failure. Trust in your knowledge and work thus far. The worst any journal, potential employer, potential principal investigator, or anyone else can say is, “No.” Do not let “No” stand in your way of trying this year.
4. Join an extracurricular for pleasure, rather than for resume growth
As a pre-medical student, there is a great deal of pressure to do more—to bolster your resume whenever possible, for instance. While understanding as much about the medical field as you can prior to beginning medical school is wonderful, becoming overwhelmed with its academic and extracurricular prerequisites is a recipe for burnout. In 2017, resolve to participate in an extracurricular activity that will not necessarily be a highlight on your medical school application. Maybe you will finally learn to knit. Maybe you will join an intramural sport. In short, aim to do something intentionally self-serving that will help you feel refreshed in the face of the daunting task of applying to medical school.
Cassie Kosarek, MD is a professional tutor with Varsity Tutors, a live learning platform that connects students with personalized instruction to accelerate academic achievement. She earned her Bachelor of Arts from Bryn Mawr College and was a member of the Class of 2021 at the Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth College.