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Being Pre-med

What is something I wish I could have done differently with my pre-med experience at Columbia?

    I wish that I knew more about the whole process before it was actually time to go through the madness of applications and interviews. If I had to do it again I would have probably taken all my premed requirements freshman and sophomore year so that I could have studied abroad my junior year. Instead I am studying abroad my senior year, which I am super happy about, but I think it would have been great to get all the premed stuff and MCATs done as early as possible. In terms of work-load, it would probably have been much harder to take all the courses in two years that I took in three. My advice to any premed students is to become acquainted with a premed student older than you so that you can ask them as many questions as possible so that you are prepared for the long process ahead.

-Celia Rivera, CC'04, Biology, Current applicant

    I wish that I had done more community service earlier in my college years. Also, if you're given an option to take the same class, but an easier version or a harder version, choose the easier one. Schools often don't know the difference, and you're putting yourself on the line by taking the harder class when you have no need to. This is especially true for Calculus classes at many schools.

-Lucas Bejar, CC'04, Neuroscience, Current applicant

    I wish I had gone a abroad and tried a different subject for study.

-Jennifer Bodine, CC'04, Chemistry, AMSA Co-President

    I was happy with my undergrad experience, and there is very little I would have changed. The only thing I felt I could've done a little better in terms of pre-med was getting all the components of my medical school applications done sooner (however, I applied during the AMCAS year that their server worked like a turtle on sedatives, so I don't entirely blame myself). The primary application (sort of like a "commonapplication") and personal essay wasn't so bad; it was those secondaries from specific schools that had long essays that dragged out for me.

    Also in terms of applying, if you get an interview to a school, make sure you both write a letter to thank the interviewer AND write a letter a month or two after that to the admission's dean if you are still strongly considering the school (telling the dean that you have given some thought and still love the school). Admission's officers are good at recognizing fluff, so don't just say something like "I want to go to Cornell because I like PBL." Personalize your letters so that they realize why you specifically out of the thousands of applicants feel that their school would be a good fit for you (i.e., do you have family in the area; have you spoken to current students -- which any interviewed student can arrange if they just call the admissions office and ask; is there something unique about you that makes you a good fit for their program?). The initial application is important, but the little extras after you fill out the application mean a lot as well (but don't stress about those until after you fill out the initial application -- one step at a time! I'm just saying that you should not be dormant after you fill out the application thinking "well, the ball's completely on their court now." Don't take this as a reason to be overbearing, as that would be just as bad if not worse).

-Alex Arriaga, CC'02, Math, Cornell Med Class '06

    Study more ;) ... Actually I would've done some research. I did minimal to none, and that's OK, but medicine is FULL of it and you feel a little out of the loop if you don't know much about what's going on. Fortunately it's never too late...doing some now.

-Hector Rivera, CC'03, Biology, Harvard Med Class '07


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