You may have heard it several times from many people, but I will reiterate it again: Med school is nothing like undergraduate. True, you may retake several courses that you took in college, but even then the information is present differently and certain areas may be stressed more than others. The ideal goal to achieve is to take as many courses as possible in your first three years that will help you get a small taste of how med school really is before you matriculate.

First things first, it is highly recommended that you take a course in gross anatomy. One of the most challenging courses in the first semester is anatomy, as it is a course unlike any other, no matter how many cat or frog dissection labs you took. The material is overwhelming, difficult to pronounce, and may seem like learning a different language (besides the fact that many terms are in Latin), and it would be a smart choice to have heard some of it previously. I personally was on the waiting list for an anatomy course at my undergrad, but was unable to take it. Later, I really regretted the fact that I was unable to study it earlier, but alhamdulillah Allah knows best.

Besides anatomy, try your best to take as many life science courses as you can, especially physiology and microbiology. If pharmacology is offered, seize the opportunity and register. Even if you are afraid of the bad reputation the professor has, or are worried that your GPA will be negatively affected, the benefits will outweigh the risks and you will be grateful later on. One of my biggest regrets is that I did not take certain science courses due to my fear of receiving a low grade. If material from any of these classes does not show up on your MCAT, it will definitely be covered in your basic sciences in med school and may make it one less subject to study for. Also, try to take at least two science courses, if not three, together every semester; in med school, you are taking nothing but science classes, so you want to show the admission officers that you are well prepared to take on a rigorous schedule and still earn high grades.

Broadening your realm with several non-science courses is extremely important as well. Med schools don’t want a science nerd with a perfect GPA yet without an inkling of information outside of genetics and biochemistry. They want to see diversity in your field of study. I’m not suggesting that you study a certain field and supplement it with science as a minor, or vice versa, but you need to make sure that you take some courses that are “outside of the box”, such as an Asian global studies course, or a course on fairytales. Pick a language to study, even if its a beginner’s course. Spanish is great, Latin is a good idea for figuring out medical terms, but why not try Swahili or Turkish? You don’t need to be fluent in it, but trying something different will look great on your resume and you’ll have fun as well.

Lastly, but certainly just as important, is your senior year. You most likely have taken the MCAT and have submitted your applications, but still have a few courses left to go. Do your absolute best to have completed most of your requirements, both your major and general education, before your senior year. It’s really the best time to relax and enjoy the senioritis that is bound to come with your graduation date slowly approaching.  Make sure your schedule is free at least twice a week as it is strongly recommended to conduct research during your senior year. It’s a great experience, you really do learn a lot and it is a unique chance to view how a scientific researcher carries out their clinical research to help you as a future physician treat your patient. It does not need to be a completely ambitious or outrageous topic, but something that has potential to perhaps become published. Not only do you build networking relationships with other clinicians from various fields, but it also gives you exposure to a field that you may consider supplementing with your medical training. Many students choose to pursue PhDs along with their medical degree after conduction researching while in college.

There is a lot that goes into preparing academically for med school, but there is a lot more to be gained. It takes patience and perseverance, but it really is worth it at the very end. If your dream is to wear that white coat, then hang it on your door while studying organic chemistry and remind yourself that you will make it one day. Nothing great was ever achieved the easy way, and always remember “In ma3 al 3sr yusra” (with hardship comes ease). Surat Al-Inshirah, ayah 6

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