Hi everyone! Wow. It’s been a minute since I last blogged! These past few months, I took a break from blogging because I’ve been focusing on work and studying for the MCAT. However, I’m at a point where I have a bit more time to blog, so you’ll be hearing from me more often haha! For the longest time, I’ve wanted to make a post about my pre-med journey, but I’ve always delayed it because I felt like I needed to wait for the perfect time. Well, I now realize that there is no better time to start blogging about my pre-med journey than right now because I am applying for medical school this summer! It’ll be really cool to blog about not only my past experiences but also what I’m going through in real time.
Over the next few months, I am planning to post my best pre-med tips, research/student-org/job advice, MCAT study guide, and the med-school application and interview process. These are quite a lot of topics, and knowing me, I’m going to go super in-depth, so please have patience with me as I put everything together. Before we dive into all of these topics in the future, I think it’s important that we start with the very basics- my entire pre-med journey! Keep reading to learn more about why I chose medicine, my career goals, and my journey up to this point.
MY PRE-MED JOURNEY
Why I chose the pre-med track…
There was never a point in my life when I realized I wanted to be a doctor. Since I was a little kid, it was always my dream to become a pediatrician. It’s honestly kind of funny how I, as a child, wanted to be a doctor for other kids.
For most of my life, I grew up in a home daycare and would help my mom take care of the kids whenever I was free. Being surrounded by kids all the time definitely helped foster my love for children and my passion to help them. As for why I chose medicine as my field, I believe that my answer has changed throughout my life. As a kid, my parents probably had some influence to my decision. However, in middle school and high school, I really enjoyed my science classes and learning about the human body. Since medicine is such an intellectually stimulating field where you’re always learning, it felt like the right fit for me. Taking more STEM classes and volunteering in my local hospital in college reaffirmed my decision.
Another major factor that solidified my decision to be a doctor was when I had the opportunity to work with the medically underserved and homeless communities in San Diego. Seeing the drastic disparities in the health field gave me even more motivation to become a doctor and one day help people attain access to quality health care regardless of their identity. Long story short, I want to become a doctor because it is a career where I am able to constantly learn and grow at an intellectual level, while also help others and make an impact in my community.
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I’ve talked about my high school experience in previous posts, which I’ll link below. To sum it all up, the major thing that I did in high school that contributed to my pre-med journey was taking AP classes! I took 7 AP classes and scored well on the tests, which allowed me to skip a lot of general education classes in college. I also took community college classes during my summer breaks, which counted for college credit as well. Because of these two things, I was able to graduate college in 3 years and save thousands of dollars. If you have the option to take AP classes and community college classes, I highly recommend it because it will pay off in the long run!
AP CLASSES I TOOK IN HIGH SCHOOL:
Biology, Chemistry, Statistics, U.S. History, World History, English Literature, Calculus BC
COMMUNITY COLLEGE CLASSES I TOOK IN HIGH SCHOOL:
U.S. Government & Economics
WHAT ARE AP TESTS?
In case you didn’t know, high schools offer AP classes for various subjects. Towards the end of the school year, you take an AP test for that specific class. The highest score you can get is a 5, which is what you want to aim for since it looks really good in your college applications. However, most colleges accept scores of 3, 4, or 5 as college credit, so you can be exempt from taking certain classes!
HELPFUL HIGH SCHOOL POSTS:
6 Things I Wish I Did in High School
Advice for High School Freshman | A Letter to My High School Self
First year: I was a studyholic.
In 2017, I started college at the University of California, San Diego (UCSD) as a Molecular Biology major. I later switched to Biochemistry and Cell Biology during my third year in order to get out of certain classes and graduate early! In case you’re wondering, I was a part of John Muir College, which is one of seven different colleges at UCSD. In my opinion, it’s the best one just because of its prime location on campus and their lenient G.E. requirements.
As a freshman, I lived in the campus dorms and took classes that were required by Muir College and the biology department. Here’s a picture of the different classes I took as a freshman! Because of the AP tests that I took in high school, I didn’t have to take any lower division biology or calculus classes.
Looking back at freshman year, I had a great time getting to know the people that I lived with. To this day, I am still friends with them! If you were to ask any of them what I was like my freshman year, they would probably tell you that I was always studying, which is true! I’ve always had really good study habits and was able to adjust to college academics pretty easily. However, I think that I over-studied to a fault, because I often turned down hanging out with friends and enjoying the once in a lifetime experience of dorm life. I also wish that I had joined student orgs and started volunteering or working my freshman year. Remember, you should always have a healthy work/school/life balance or else you will burn out. College is also one of the best times to meet people, be more social, and have new experiences!
Overall, my freshman year was mostly studying and getting adjusted to living away from home. Although I wish that I had been more social, I don’t entirely regret it because I finished the year with a 4.0. This was a huge achievement for me considering that freshman year is super challenging because of the newness of everything.
Second year: I joined student orgs and got a job!
The summer after my freshman year, I decided that I wanted to be more involved on campus, whether that be through student orgs or work. One day, I was scrolling through Facebook and saw an officer position opening for a new student org called Healing Hands at UCSD. This org’s mission was to provide better healthcare access to the medically underserved and homeless communities in San Diego. Their mission really resonated with me, so I applied for their Director of Publicity position since I already had social media and graphic design experience through my blog. After interviewing for the position, I eventually got it!
Most of my second year was pretty much dedicated to Healing Hands at UCSD, which I am so grateful to have been a part of. Not only did I design the org’s logos, flyers, and newsletters and establish its social media presence, I also had the opportunity to volunteer for the homeless and increase student awareness of the disparities in healthcare. Some of the volunteer opportunities included making and distributing health kits, cooking and serving meals, and assisting doctors at pop-up clinics. I will eventually make a post about my experiences in student org life if you’re interested in learning more about it!
My second year consisted of even more studying as I took challenging classes such as organic chemistry, physics, and upper division biology classes. My organic chemistry professor wasn’t the best, so I decided to stop attending lecture and just get tutoring from a free program called OASIS. This program was founded to provide academic help and guidance to at risk and first-generation college students (like me!). Getting extra help was one of the best decisions I made in college and something I wish I had done earlier. Not only did they help me get an A in organic chemistry, I also was inspired to become a tutor for the program. Towards the end of my second year, I began training so that I could start tutoring my third year. I’ll talk more about it later!
Another major thing to happen during my second year was that I became a volunteer for UC San Diego Health. I will be honest, it was a very limited experience since hospital volunteers don’t actually do clinical work. I did enjoy talking to the patients and learning more about the hospital environment! However, because of school, extracurricular, and work commitments, I had to stop volunteering after a few months.
The last significant event of second year was I was hired as a student assistant at the Moores Cancer Center. My job was not super exciting in the beginning since I was mostly doing administrative work. However, I was later given a research project that I’ll talk more about below. Even though I wish I had done research sooner, I don’t regret taking this job because the schedule was flexible, and I gained exposure to oncology. I don’t think I would have been interested in oncology had I not taken this position. Everything happens for a reason!
Here are the classes I took my second year:
Summer After Second Year:
The summer after second year, I decided to stay in San Diego to continue working at the Moores Cancer Center. I also finished up training for the OASIS tutoring position, so I was given the opportunity to teach general chemistry to incoming freshmen. My role as a tutor was unique because I wasn’t just there to help them with homework, I had to actually create lesson plans that went over the most important topics during lecture. Since students rarely have a chance to collaborate in class, tutors are encouraged to get students to participate through group work and activities. Tutoring was such a fun and rewarding experience that I continued to do it throughout my third year!
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Third year: My last year of college.
Third year was by far the most difficult year yet. I had a ton of responsibilities on my plate and had to balance those while taking upper division biology classes. My extracurricular activities included my job at the cancer center (8 hours/week), tutoring organic chemistry (8 hours/week), and serving as president for my student-org Healing Hands (10-15 hrs/week). Yup, it was a lot of tears, late nights, and time spent in the library, but thank God I managed to get through it! If you want to learn about my time management secrets, read this post!
During my spring quarter, the pandemic hit, so I was back at home in the Bay Area attending school through Zoom. I will admit, it was nice waking up 5 minutes before class and logging into lecture haha! Although my cancer center job was on hold, I was still tutoring organic chemistry through Zoom. I stayed at home from March to May and moved back to San Diego in June.
Here are the classes I took my third year:
LIST OF MY FAVORITE COLLEGE POSTS:
How I Graduated College In 3 Years
20 Must-Have Apps for College Students
How to Take Aesthetic Notes on Your iPad
20 Insanely Easy Ways to Save Money in College
5 Life-Changing Organization Tips for Online Classes
Advice Every First Generation College Student Needs to Hear
How To Get A 4.0 GPA This Year | 12 Realistic Tips From a Straight-A Student
Read This If You’re Losing Motivation to Study (8 Tips on How to Feel Motivated to Study Again)
Summer after Third Year:
I graduated college in June 2020 through an online commencement (read about it here!). However, I had to finish up two more classes during the summer before I could officially be done with college. Overall, I graduated college with a 3.966 GPA!
Here are the classes I took during the summer after third year:
During this time, my PI (principal investigator) gave me a research project where I had to collaborate with a biotech company called Miltenyi to determine what was the best way to store fresh patient tumors for future use. It was a really unique opportunity because I was involved from the very beginning and essentially established the lab’s protocol for dissociating and cryopreserving fresh tumors. One thing I learned from this research experience is that things rarely go as planned the first time. Research is all about trial and error, so you’ve got to have patience! It’s okay if things don’t work out the first time. It’s practically expected. Read this post to learn more about how you can get an undergraduate research position!
Fourth Year: My Gap Year!
My gap year spans from September 2020 to the present! I continued to work part time as a laboratory assistant at the Moores Cancer Center while studying for the MCAT. I eventually took the MCAT in March and am waiting for my results. Don’t worry, I’m going to make a huge post about my MCAT experience and tips once I know how I did. I don’t want to spoil anything haha!
Since then, I left the Moores Cancer Center and am now working at an ophthalmology clinic as a medical assistant. It was actually my first day today, and I’m really looking forward to gaining more clinical experience, working with patients, and learning more about how the medical system works! For the next few months, I’ll also be working on my medical school application. It’s crazy how the time has finally come to apply. Basically my whole life has led up to this moment, and it’s only the beginning! I’m excited to see where I end up going for med school and am happy that I get to bring you along for the ride. 🙂
If you read to the end, thank you so much!! If not, I completely understand haha! It’s a lot of information. To sum it all up, here’s a TLDR version of this post:
- First Year:
- studied A LOT
- didn’t go out much, join clubs, or work.
- Second Year:
- served as Director of Publicity for a homeless outreach student org called Healing Hands
- started training to become a chemistry tutor
- volunteered at the hospital
- worked as a student assistant at the Moores Cancer Center
- Third Year:
- tutored general and organic chemistry
- worked as a student assistant at the Cancer Center
- served as President of Healing Hands
- graduated college with 3.966 GPA
- Gap Year:
- worked as research assistant at the Cancer Center
- studied for the MCAT
- currently a medical assistant at an ophthalmology clinic
- currently applying to medical school
As you can see, I have different types of experiences under my belt including volunteer, clinical, research, and leadership. These are all things that medical schools will be looking for in my application and interviews. Look out for my next post where I’ll talk more about everything I wish I knew when I started college as a pre-med student. I hope this post gave you more insight into who I am and my journey as a pre-med student! Thank you so much for reading!