1. Being realistic
The old phrase, “Past performance is not an indicator of future success,” is so true for this program. While every single student admitted into the SGU pre-med program as a transfer student was a straight-A student coming in, little over 1/3 of the students moved on to pre-med 3/2. Students who already took courses such as biochemistry, anatomy, and other higher-level sciences did best, while others struggled to keep up with 20 credits of new material. Additionally, the students who had matriculated from pre-med 2/2 were exposed to much of the material in the previous classes (giving them a leg up over the transfer students with a more traditional background). While most admission counselors wont tell you, the probably of successfully completing this program on time [if at all] is less than 50%.
The truth is that this program (especially pre-med year 3) is difficult. It is designed to weed out students to a much greater extent than the traditional pre-med requirements for medical school admissions.
2. Being prepared
The most common measure of success in pre-med 3/1 was previous exposure to course material. This includes: Anatomy, Biochemistry, and Genetics. For pre-med 3/2, this would also include: Microbiology, Molecular Biology, and Physiology. Unarguably, students who had taken these courses previously earned a full grade higher than those who did not. While some students were able to pull out a few A’s without having had the course material before, they did struggle in other classes which were neglected due to lack of time (which was spent studying for the harder classes).
Hence, if I had to do it all over again, I would have taken these classes before coming into the pre-med program. And — since all the classes mentioned above WILL be repeated in some form in medical school, repeated exposure and over-learning the material would certainly ease the stress associated with these classes in medical school.
3. Knowing how to maximize time
This last one is tricky. While most students have developed study methods which have produced good grades in the past, more likely than not these methods will prove inadequate for the volume of material covered. Additionally, the depth of knowledge required will test the student’s ability to pull out important information from lecture notes — understanding the concepts and knowing some details will not be enough to get even a B on most tests. This means knowing how to study quickly and effectively is critical to class success. While most student have to figure out there own method for studying, here are the biggest time savers that I found:
- Make lots of charts that compare and contrast information for easy review. You will not have time to review all your lecture slides before a test (or even during the weeks before a test). Condense information as much as possible into chart when possible. Also, keep in mind that professor like to test the exceptions in any particular grouping — so make sure those are highlighted in your charts.
- Always carry flash cards. Sometimes the time between classes isn’t enough for a full review session, or you’ll find yourself in a situation where time feels like it’s slipping by (like when you’re waiting for the bus, etc.). Always carry cards for items that you don’t know, and move cards that you do know into another pile. Don’t expect to memorize a stack of 50 cards in one day, but trying to get 10 to 20 cards moved into your “know” pile is a reasonable goal.
- Study what you don’t know. While reviewing material that you have mastered is a good ego boost, it’s a complete waste of time in a program that requires you to maximize every minute. Once you have mastered a topic, section, or item — move on!
- If you fall behind, move on. This is probably one of the hardest things to learn how to do when you’re stubbornly trying to finish mastering a section despite the class moving on the to next topic. The truth is, if you have no mastered the material for one week, you’re time is up and you have to move on to the next week. Otherwise, you’ll be stuck in a constant game a catch-up. If you do fall behind, move those notes into a review pile that you can cover during your regular review schedule — but do not sacrifice study time for new material to master any old material.
- Start studying the very fist week. With 20 credits, there will not be enough time (or head space) to cram all the material you need to know for each test. Additionally, classes that seem easy will sneak up on you, requiring that you spend a ridiculous amount of time on projects, research papers, etc. Start working on your study schedule on the first day of classes to build up your routine for studies.
While this is a reflection of my experience, it’s in no way universal for every student. Some students, again, had no problem with the program. Others, even with all the information listed above, could not make it. Hopefully, this information will help prepare someone else who is interested or enrolled in the SGU premed program.