You’re in college now and if there’s anything you must understand is that you’re not in high school anymore and that’s kind of a big deal. As you make the transition from being a part of the upperclassmen to being fresh meat, there will be many changes in your life. There will be many times where you are faced with the unknown but it is all part of the process and in the end will make you a better premed. As you move forward along the path to becom- ing a doctor, here are some things you should consider in your first year in college.

FAILING TO MEET WITH YOUR ADVISOR

As a freshman, you may or may not know a lot about what it is going to take to get accepted into medical school. Regardless of what you think you may know about the process, you should meet with your premedical or pre-health advisor as early as possible. It is your freshman year and while your course schedule may be set for the most part, there are going to be many decisions to come. Your advisor can provide access to an array of things including, but not limited to, topics like your prerequisite and upper-level coursework and providing information on volunteering, research, or shadowing opportunities. The point is – if you are a freshman and you’ve made the decision to pursue medicine (and you’re serious about it) meet with your school’s advisor to begin talks about your long-term plan for applying to medical school. Developing a relationship with your advisor can even be helpful if you plan on applying to a summer program, in which they can provide guidance as you prepare your application for a competitive program.

THINKING A SCIENCE MAJOR IS A MUST

It is quite simple – if you are interested in going to medical school, you can major in whatever the heck you would like to. As long as you fulfill the basic requirements for the medical schools you are interested in applying to, then you’re pretty much set. There is no need to overload yourself with a ton of science courses if that is not where your interest truly is. While most medical school applicants do major in the sciences, other choose humanities, math, statistics, and social science. In fact, there is a growing trend among medical school admission committees who value applicants with humanities backgrounds. Medicine and health care are changing and the world of medical education will try to keep pace. Earlier this year, the Ichan School of Medicine at Mount Sinai became the first medical school in the nation to offer early acceptance to college sophomores from any major and with no MCAT requirement. While Ichan SOM may be the first to take this “revolutionary” step, it will definitely not be the last. Yes, having a background in science may be helpful when it comes time to 1.) take the MCAT and 2.) learn complex information in medical school, but it is quite okay to explore your other interest during your undergraduate years. Besides, once you’re in medical school you’ll be exposed to more science than you’ll know what to do with.

NOT DEVELOPING RELATIONSHIPS WITH PROFESSORS

While applying to school may seem a ways away when you are only a freshman in college, you must begin to cultivate relationships with professors for one simple reason – recommendations. It is never too early to start thinking about the individuals who may ultimately write your letters of recommendation (or evaluation). In fact, according to a report published by the American Association of Medical Colleges, admissions officers say that non-academic data, such as interviews and letters of recommendation, are the most important data for deciding who to accept into their school. And getting to know your professors is much easier than you may think. Beyond performing well in a course you may be taking, many times professors are involved in activities outside of the classroom which you can get involved with as well.

THINKING FRESHMAN YEAR DOESN’T REALLY COUNT

What are you talking about? If you believe that your first year in college doesn’t really matter and you can start getting serious about pursuing your career in medicine next year, think again. Not only will medical school look at the grade you received as a freshman, they will also take notice of the overall trend of your academic performance. And this will not be a quick glance. To medical school admission committees, every single grade counts and it gets a little deeper than that. They will look over your transcript with a fine-tooth comb to not only get a your academic performance, but also your course load per semester, course levels, and the number of science courses you completed. The good news is that even if you do have a bit of a struggle during your freshman year, and for what- ever reason your academics takes a hit, most medical schools can look pass a less than impressive grade or two in your freshman year, as long as they see that you improved overtime.

This article was published in the September/October 2013 issue of PreMedLife magazine.