Here you go. Take a deep breath. You have gotten into one of the top institutions for research and STEM. Remember you are here for a reason, and your admission was not a fluke in the system. You deserve to be here no matter how hard it can get. Baby Premeds, it is okay to be nervous (it means you care!), and it is okay to be anxious about the long journey ahead of you. This is just one step in a lengthy process- so be smart about it.
- Space Out Stem Classes
Bruinwalk is your best friend. I made the unfortunate decision to pack all my STEM courses in the same few quarters, and I ended up doing very poorly due to imposter syndrome and feeling very stressed. Plan out only the two first years, because I promise you will be able to graduate on time. Use Bruinwalk to see which professors are teaching and take the reviews to heart. If it is a hard STEM course, balance with an easy writing or GE course.
- Utilize Upperclassmen
The sad truth is that the UCLA counseling department is not helpful. UCLA teaches you to be a go-getter, and a go-getter is something you must become to survive. This isn’t meant to be scary, but rather urges you to find resources outside of UCLA counseling, such as upperclassmen. Never be scared to ask someone older for advice, because as Bruins, we are helpful and open to talk about anything UCLA related! Ask questions about classes, how to get into research, organizations and so on. The older kids are valuable resources, so find them and use them.
- Follow Your Interests
I know it seems like to get into medical school there is a long checklist, and to some extent there is, but it should never stray you away from following your own passions. Medical schools love interesting people, so do not drown yourself in only typical pre-med work. Join the yoga studio where you have been wanting to work! It is okay if you don’t do research or clinical work for a summer; go on the long retreat in the mountains that has been on your bucket list. These experiences will shape your application, despite them not having direct relevance to medicine. Trust me.
- Get Ahead Of Hours
Regardless of your stats or research on your resume for medical schools, it is critical to have concrete proof that you want to work in a clinical setting and you are a selfless person who gives back to their community. I recommend getting ahead of both volunteer and clinical hours by shadowing, finding a volunteer project you are genuinely interested in or volunteering at a hospital. Find something you like that fulfills these requirements around your second or third year at UCLA.
- Get Those Certifications
If you are taking a gap year and definitely solely want to get clinical hours, then get some sort of certification early. Getting a medical assistant, EMT or surgical tech certification requires around 8 months to a year depending on a program, so work on this during summer to have it in your tool box for when you apply to jobs in the future prior to medical school.
- Build Your Network
Just because you are premed does not mean networking isn't necessary or valuable. It is so essential to build your network of older premeds, medical students and even physicians. It will help you during the application cycle, and it might even get you jobs or shadowing gigs in the future. Have a strong support network, especially at UCLA, so you can get the inside scoop of what to do and not to do.
- Be Open To Research
Medical schools thrive off innovation and research. Get involved at any UCLA lab by simply emailing professors, or find a list of research PIs on any UCLA website and email them with your interest and resume. It is okay if you don’t get a response or get rejected, keep going and something will stick eventually!
- Everyone Has Their Own Path
It is easy to get caught up in the comparing game, but I promise you that when it comes to being pre-med, everyone has their own journey. Some people may take 0 gap years, some may take 3 years, some may have more clinical experience and someone else may have more research. It is okay if you are doing things differently from your peers.
It is easy to get imposter syndrome as a UCLA pre-med student. You are at one of the top schools in the country with a lot of amazing, smart and talented people. Rather than comparing, build your support system, because no one can go through this pre-med journey alone. Focus on your own self and do not worry about others. Most importantly, do not lose hope. Yes, this process is long and difficult, and it may beat you black and blue. But remember: you are here for a reason, and you are capable of achieving greatness.
Good luck Baby Bruins!