What I wish I’d known about freshman pre-med

Struggle makes success taste so much sweeter

You haven’t even been a freshman for a month, but you’ve managed to dedicate your entire college experience to one thing. I can’t blame you, really, because I did the same thing. So, here are some tips you should really have if you’re a freshman pre-med.

Know yourself

Think long and hard about the next four years of the worst kind of sadomasochistic behavior you’re signing up for when declaring yourself a pre-med. Are you doing this for mommy and daddy? Or because you put biology as a intended field of study on your Common App?

All reasons are valid, however only the ones that come from a place of self-awareness and introspection will keep you going when you (almost) inevitably take PS 1.

Be ready to eat your breakfast and Board Plus-sponsored Greenhouse lattes here

Know your stuff

Are you familiar with the phrase “you don’t know what you don’t know?” My pre-med experience thus far has been living it. I decided to take LS 1a for its sexy animations, retinue of 15,000 different professors (I was bound to like at least one of them, right?), and the nonexistent $200 biochem textbook.

Although I claimed I was simply taking a risk by choosing the “harder” class (I was told to do this), I really was just being cheap and impractical because I turned down the essentially foundational chem class for the (lit AF) biochem one that assumed I had all the fundaments and thus barely tested me on the nitty-gritty chemistry. All this came to bite me in the behind once I took PS 1 and “quit” pre-med.

To be honest, I might resurrect this at some point during chem 17 or 27

Remember you can take it easy

I’ll be honest: all but one of the classes I took last year fulfill pre-med requirements. (My freshman seminar named “What is life?” was basically LS 1a 2.0 so it conceptually counts as a premed course.)

At this point, I’m on a three-year track that allows me to apply to med school in junior year. But your boy needs all the time he can get to persuade Harvard Med, so you can catch me applying to med school well after graduation!

Why did I do this, then? Because I had no idea what else to take. But if you aren’t in this position, please do remember you can take it easy! Besides, doesn’t 60 percent of Harvard pre-meds take a gap year before med school? I def heard this someone…

Hit up the OCS for help, especially for the abroad program you can only do freshman summer as a pre-med

You can’t do this stuff alone

For most of high school, I thought of myself as a self-sufficient student who took whatever his teachers offered (often a lot, but sometimes a little) and made do with the rest. Soon I realized that I was just being a hermetic introvert (not the best kind of introvert, don’t you think?) and decided to try something new.

It’s a good thing I came to campus knowing how important friendships are, because how the hell else would I have done my pset?! I’m not advocating transactional relationships (that’s no-strings-attached/friends-with-benefits stuff for members of Team No Feelings and thus material for a different article), I’m simply telling you that your superhero lifestyle from high school just won’t cut it out here in these streets (read: classes).

So find your study buddies (and cuddle buddies, if you’re about that life), kiss up to your TFs (after all, they grade your stuff), and admit that you’re a better version of yourself when working with others. 🙂

The friends I decided to make. I still keep them around

Don’t throw in the towel just yet

For many students, the pre-med life is difficult. Besides probably the Medicine and Society track of History and Science, no concentration will count all your pre-med requirements for credit. So even just course-wise, being pre-med requires more hurdles to jump over – with chem 17 and chem 27 alone being four feet high.

But your freshman year is only one of a minimum of three years of pre-med life. This might sound daunting at times, but it is actually reassuring, allowing you many opportunities to prove your skill, knowledge, and (more importantly) your steadfast interest to the noble profession of the medical doctor.

Sometimes your feelings are more than just initial frustrations. But at least wait until sophomore year – for your third biology class and second chem class – before throwing in the towel. Things can get better, and struggle makes success taste so much sweeter.

A visual representation of the life you’ve chosen. (Credit David Silverman Photography)