Advice for Prehealth Students Who Do Not Have a Prehealth Advisor

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Jason D’Antonio, PhD, health professions program director at Carnegie Mellon University, shares advice for premeds and applicants who don’t have access to an advisor.      

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Two College Students in Front of Academic Building

Readying yourself for a career in health care can take years of careful planning and preparation. While some aspects of this journey are straightforward, other elements can be challenging. Given that medical schools desire applicants who possess intellectual readiness as well as evidence of having developed important life skills, you are encouraged to start your preparation as early as possible.

Below is important advice for premeds from a prehealth advisor perspective:

Take Ownership of Your Undergraduate Experience

  • Be thoughtful and intentional when selecting courses and your extracurricular activities to stretch your intellectual curiosities and develop important inter- and intrapersonal skills.
  • Develop a growth mindset by exploring new ideas that challenge you.
  • Engage with your peers, faculty, and mentors to foster relationships with people from diverse backgrounds.
  • Participate in a research project that will enhance your critical and analytical thinking skills.
  • Manage your time and ask for help when you need it.

Learn about the Health Care Field through Clinical Experiences

As you seek out opportunities to gain clinical experience, find ways to learn about the roles of different health care providers, engage directly with patients and family members, and learn about the health care system. Spending time with patients and their loved ones is an opportunity for you to develop empathy and compassion. It is also recommended that your time spent volunteering in health care is frequent and consistent. Medical schools look for evidence of your commitment and awareness of medicine, both of which come from spending significant time in the clinical setting around health care providers and patients. In doing so, pay attention to the important competencies exhibited by health care providers.

Engage in Community Service

Engaging in community service will reinforce the importance of helping people in your community, such as:

  • Finding opportunities that will help you develop and refine your oral and written communication skills.
  • Collaboratively engaging with others to learn how to effectively work in a team setting.
  • Providing help and assistance to people from diverse cultural and socioeconomic backgrounds so that you more deeply appreciate the importance of fostering diversity, equity, and inclusion.
  • Advocating for social justice in your local community.

Learn Life Skills Through Employment and Leadership Opportunities

Employment and leadership roles are particularly important for students to learn, grow, and mature throughout and beyond college. Various types of jobs, whether on or off campus, will require you to demonstrate commitment, reliability, professionalism, and integrity. However, it takes time to develop these life skills in parallel with your academic preparation. You are encouraged to start early with developing effective time management, proactively planning, and asking for help along the way.

Below is a list of suggested practices that can help you develop important professional attributes and life skills valued by medical schools:

  • Serving your academic community as a residential assistant.
  • Providing academic support to students as a teaching assistant or supplemental instructor.
  • Taking on a leadership role with student organizations or student government.
  • Engaging in research with a faculty member.
  • Serving as an orientation counselor, campus tour guide, or campus ambassador.
  • Finding employment that enables you to interact with and provide a service to others.
  • Engaging in activities that support and advance social justice initiatives such as working with refugees, elderly people, or underserved populations in your community.

Seek On-Campus Support

A prehalth advisor is just one of many resources that may be available on your campus. Here are some additional places you can find advice and tips for preparing for medical school:

  • Explore your on-campus academic excellence or student support options, such as a writing center or career and professional development center.
  • Be a conscientious consumer of prehealth information obtained from internet sources.
  • Ask for advice from more experienced prehealth students.
  • Register with your alumni office to find connections with alumni in health care.
  • Access the AAMC website and attend free webinars to learn more about the medical education journey for prehealth students.

Explore Additional Resources

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