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If you could go back and change one thing, to prepare you for med school, what would it be?

I've heard that med school is very tough, and I want to prepare as best as I can. #medical-school #premed

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Rachel’s Answer

I would take an anatomy course prior if possible. Gross anatomy can be a difficult weed out class in med school, and it would have been nice to have been exposed to the information prior to starting.

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James’s Answer

hi ashley,

i graduated med school in 1993.

first and foremost, i would have spent all five years of college taking Spanish courses. i can't stress to you enough how incredibly helpless you are when you can't communicate to patients. i had already taken 3 years of Spanish in high school and placed out of several college level Spanish courses, but that was nowhere near good enough to communicate complicated medical ideas.

a distant second would be to go into medical school with friends. because of my personality i tried to lone wolf it through med school. bad idea. you really need to have study partners. if for nothing else, you can vent steam with them. but you'll also find that there's no way to be on top of all classes at all times. and you're going to miss some classes due to illness and such. so it helps to have a study group. my suggestion is to locate pre-meds at your college and find out where they're going to apply. once you've all matched then become good friends with those going to your med school.

third, i'd prepare for clinical life. most med students find the first 2 years of academics rigorous but familiar. the second two years, in the hospital, are another animal entirely. i wasn't prepared to deal with patients and get my hands dirty. if you somehow get the opportunity it would really help you to be an EMT, or phlebotomist, or nurse, etc.

however, i'm sensing in your question that you are asking about academics. of course, you need to satisfy all of the med school prerequisites. but you really shouldn't let that stop you from taking the "recommended" courses. the ones i'd recommend are Biochemistry, Physiology, and Immunology. of those three, Biochemistry was undoubtedly the most critical.

another course that i sort of accidentally came upon and took was "Medical Terminology." it was offered in the Department of Classics and turned out to be the most relevant college class i ever took. knowing the Latin or Greek root of medical words helps you to know what they mean. so i didn't have to look up terms as often as other students.

lastly, i'm going to throw in a word for exercise. very early on in med school you'll start feeling the stress. that's when you'll notice your classmates hitting the gym. exercise, any kind of exercise, can be very beneficial to keep your mind clear. if you haven't developed any particular exercise regimen you should start hanging out at the gym now so you can find out what works for you. i lifted weights and played racquetball. others took aerobics classes. others yoga. some played baskeball or rugby. etc.

good luck!

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Yasemin’s Answer

Hi Ashley! Great question! I would definitely keep my GPA as stellar as possible and enroll in science courses that expand beyond the prerequisites such as anatomy, cell/molecular bio and genetics. These are just a couple but there is more; also be sure to obtain good study habits. I think I expanded my studying skills the most when preparing for the MCAT and taking organic chemistry. You want to learn to think differently and approach problems with a different perspective than what you may be use to in high school. I think you really expand these skills with time by taking more difficult courses and learning to approach them with more mature thinking. Your professors can help you with this novel thinking, so be sure to attend office hours. I would also volunteer and get clinical experience as well, these experiences make you a well rounded candidate but also give you a glimpse of the practical side of medicine. Last but definitely not least, please try to study well for the MCAT; be devoted and focused and give yourself time. If you aren't doing well on practice exams go over each question you get wrong and try to assess why you did get it wrong, i.e., did you not know the information enough to answer, did you run out of time, get nervous, or misread something in the passage or question? Also take many practice exams and make sure that your scores on those are close to your goal score, as they are predictive of the actual exam and give you confidence for test day!

Best of luck!

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Estelle’s Answer

Definitely would have studied much harder for the MCAT. It has become such an important part of the medical school application process.

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Joey’s Answer

Hi Ashley,
I'm guessing you are asking more about academics in how you can prepare. However, I would suggest if you have any places you'd like to visit or any aspirations of travel, take the chance now while you can. Based on what I've seen from a family member going through med school, (who is now a family physician), you don't get a lot of free time. And any free time you do get, you spend studying and preparing for the next semester/exam/residency.
Good luck.

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Richard’s Answer

I did not take the MCAT prep as seriously as I should have.

Devote an entire summer to studying for the MCAT and consider paying for a prep course if you can afford it.