P is for Premed Problems
The reason I’m not going abroad this year, unlike 65% of the class of 2015 is because, besides being a Neuroscience Major, I’m also Pre-med. I know, I know, right now you're all like;
For some people, being pre-med is equal to having no social life, being super competitive about course grades, spending so much time in the science quad and being over-committed in both academic life and volunteer work. I, on the other hand, am not one of those people. I get at least 7 hours of sleep per night, I try to avoid the many wonderful people I know so that I can work on homework, and I make it a rule to never study in the science quad because I’ll end up having philosophical discussions about the meaning of life as it relates to being premed at Kenyon.
If you’re pre-med and considering Kenyon (or are already enrolled at Kenyon), this post is for you. The aim of this post is not to tell you to choose Kenyon because you need to make that decision on your own (COME TO KENYON!!!). However, this post is going to give you an idea of how to navigate the pre-med process at Kenyon, or at other small liberal arts colleges like Kenyon.
First of all, the main problem with being pre-med – or pre-anything, for that matter – at Kenyon is that it’s not an option for a major. You will have to complete requirements for a separate major while working on the requirements for Medical/Veterinary/Dental/Business/Insert-other-Graduate-program-here school. Most people choose a major closely related to the field they want to study but, after spending almost 3 years with my pre-med problems, I am inclined to disagree with them. College is all about finding yourself and figuring out your raison d’être, what makes you wake up in the morning with a smile on your face. You’ll quickly discover that four years is a long time to be bogged down with a major you’re not really interested in. You’ll hate your schoolwork and it WILL show on your transcript, making it even harder for you to get into medical school at the end of your time here.
Kenyon’s academic program makes it easy to sample different majors while fulfilling distribution requirements. Yes, it might be easy to cross off the pre-med requirements with a major in Biology, Chemistry, Molecular Biology or Biochemistry, but if the medical school application process is about selling your strengths, you'll fall really short when compared with those applicants who actually love those subjects. Choose a major that interests you, and fulfill the medical school requirements on the side (which can be found here). I know so many people that are History, English, Math, Neuroscience, Sociology, Physics, Anthropology and Music majors, and are pre-med. I also know a lot of happy Chemistry, Biology, Biochemistry, Molecular Biology and Biochemistry majors. Don’t be afraid to find what you love and major in it!
The fact that being on a pre-professional track does not constitute a major is actually a blessing for Kenyon students because there is diversity in interests of medical school applicants from Kenyon, and from other schools like Kenyon. I can imagine a medical school interviewer being excited to see an MLL (Modern Languages and Literature) major – with Russian as the primary language and Chinese as a secondary language – after seeing 4 pre-med majors and 3 Biology majors in one day.
After deciding what you want to major in comes the hard part: excelling at your major. I challenge you to challenge yourself in this. There’s really nothing quite like that feeling of looking back on an exam and thinking that you put in the absolute best you could. Some days will be harder than others because there are so many distractions in college! You’ll discover that television shows, games, parties, relationships and even Facebook take on a whole new level when your parents aren’t making most of those decisions for you. It really boils down to discipline and how well you manage your time. And, as I say this, I am still figuring out how best I work.
I wouldn’t advise that you make a time-table and just glue yourself to it because people are different. Personally, I love to have a schedule with just the basic important things; class meeting times, organization meetings, rehearsals and work. Then I can tailor my study time to fit into these other things depending on the workload of that particular week. Medical schools want to train individuals, not robots, so try to be flexible in your time management.
Make use of the resources available to you. These resources include professors, peers, academic advising staff, the health and counseling center, tutoring sessions, the writing center and the dining hall (yes, food is important). Kenyon professors are very accessible. They have hours set aside each week to just talk to students about the courses and about life in general. From a Medical school perspective, this gives you the opportunity to get help in a course when you need it, and to make friends with those professors that will write you great recommendation letters. You can’t compare a recommendation letter for one of 25 students to a recommendation letter for one of 500 students in an Introductory Biology lecture, but it still falls on you – the student – to make that relationship one worth writing about.
Participation in class is also a huge part of your grade (it ranges from 10-33%), so you’ll have to learn how to articulate your point in front of people. And, there is no harm in asking questions from your peers or from upperclassmen. It’s a small school! Don’t try to get lost in the crowd because there is NO crowd, and it’ll just look weird on your transcript.
Finally, you know what they say, “all work and no play makes Philander a dull bishop!” Don’t be afraid to play! Join clubs, be involved on campus. Medical schools want to see a well-rounded individual who has a passion for learning and a great amount of altruism. Make use of opportunities to give back to the Kenyon community, after all, you do obtain so much from it! And, while you’re doing all these things, don’t take your eyes off the prize! Try to obtain as much medical experience possible. Shadow doctors, volunteer in hospitals during breaks and get involved in scientific research with that professor whose research you find intellectually stimulating! Don’t see medical experience as something you have to tick off your list. You are CHOOSING to be pre-med, so why not try to be the best pre-med student you can be?
However, if after shadowing a few times in your freshman year, you realize it’s just not what you’re interested in, you can start working on a new path instead of wasting four years preparing to do something you’re not really interested in. As Shery Hemkin, my faculty advisor and the current head of the Chemistry Department and Co-chair of the Neuroscience department, always says “this is a marathon, and not a sprint.” I hope you enjoy your training in high school, and I wish you a happy race to Medical School!
In other news. Organic chemistry is literally kicking my butt!! I wish I could get an A by just sending my professor this really cool organic chemistry pick up line I found;