DEM's Declassified Pre-Health Survival Guide

If I were to receive a penny every time someone told me I was “crazy” for trying to become a health professional, I would have enough money to pay for school three times over. I’m sure I’m not the only one.

Transitioning from high school to college is already stressful as it is. Adding on the difficult classes, trying to understand the requirements for our future professional schools, shadowing, volunteering, all at the same time can become overwhelming. Take a deep breath and hang on tight to your stethoscope, because here’s how you can survive the pre-health lifestyle.

  1. See an advisor ASAP – Advisors will become your best friends throughout your time in college. The best suggestion is to see your advisor sometime throughout your first year in college and become familiar with the requirements of the specific field you are looking into. Here are some questions you can ask if you’re unsure:

  2. What are the requirements for someone in this field? For example, what classes are needed, how many shadowing/volunteering hours minimum, what are the GPA requirements?

  3. How does the application process work for professional schools in this field? When does the application open and close, does it require letters of recommendation, how can you improve your profile?

  4. Look into different tracks – Feeling unsure if the field you chose is best for you? Almost all of us go through the same feeling at one point. Becoming familiar with the different requirements, applications, and processes of different fields is suggested if you’re considering a switch. Another way to know whether you are on the right track is by shadowing professionals in different fields to understand their day by day routine and choosing the one that stood out the most to you.

  5. Shadowing– Not only is shadowing imperative to know what the best pre-health track for you is, but it is a requirement for professional schools. Most schools require a minimum 100-150 hours of shadowing. The earlier you can shadow at a nearby clinic or hospital, the easier the hours can accumulate and the more confidence you will gain working in the field. Typically, college students would shadow for 3-6 hours a week, depending on the rigor of their schedule.

  6. Volunteering – In addition to shadowing, serving your community is very important and shows who you are as a person. Most institutions require 100-150 hours of volunteering for admissions. You can find different opportunities at a local church, park, or even on campus. Dedicating minimum 20 hours a month on community service and volunteering would be a great way to start.

  7. Classes – Classes should be a priority when you’re in college. At the beginning, classes are much easier as they are usually your introductory courses and some university requirements. However, towards the end of your degree, classes will require more time and will be much more difficult. One thing you must come to terms with is that everyone goes at their own pace; getting your degree is not a competition nor a race. Different people have different limits to what they can juggle all at once. Learning what your learning pace is will be the key to your academic success.

  8. Staying healthy – I cannot emphasize enough how important mental and physical health is in all of our lives. Throughout the madness of your undergraduate program, your health must be your first priority. Find a way to take an hour minimum for yourself everyday- go to the gym, talk to friends, watch a movie or a show, anything that would make you happy and disconnect from the college realm.

So, we have to attend classes, volunteer, shadow, see advisors, pass all our classes, (maybe) work, and stay sane all at once? It may sound impossible at first, but with the right scheduling and planning, you can excel in your undergraduate program.