How do I prepare for Medical School or Dental School?

Shaun getting involved in extracurricular activities – Husky Hungama

This is a question that most Pre-Med/Pre-Dental students ask themselves as they make the transition from high school to college to continue their undergraduate studies. As a Pre-Dental student, this was the same question I asked myself when I started my freshman year at UConn. When I first started thinking about dental school, I didn’t know where to begin or who to talk to about my future aspirations.

The first step is to do research about the field you are interested in to see if it is a potential career path that fits your interests. Most people will tell you to speak with a Pre-Med/Dental advisor first, but from experience, it’s better to read about the field first so you are well-versed about the opportunities available and requirements that need to be met prior to applying to a dental program. For me, I started to research dentistry while I was a senior in high school. Despite spending many hours researching different dental programs, I found that doing this was extremely helpful because it showed me what dental schools were looking for from a well-rounded applicant. After doing some research, I met with not only Pre-Med/Dental advisors, but also spoke with other students who were currently applying to dental programs to hear their advice about what they did to become a well-rounded applicant and what they would do differently if they were to change the way they prepared their application for dental school.

After taking all of these steps, one of the most important things in this whole process is to shadow a physician or dentist by contacting different medical or dental practices. I believe this is a crucial step because when you are shadowing a physician or dentist in the field, you can see hands on what kind of work they do on a daily basis and what the work entails. For most people, this is a checkpoint because it gives you an idea of what kind of work you may potentially do as a physician or dentist. If you feel passionate about this work and you are certain that this is the career you want to pursue, then every measure you take beyond this point will become easier. When I shadowed different dentists during my winter and summer breaks, I knew that this was the career I wanted to pursue in my life. For me, not only did the dental procedures and the work environment of a dentist inspire me greatly, but it was the impact a dentist can have on their patient’s self-esteem that truly touched me.

After the first two years of undergrad, I began my preparation for the dental admission test (DAT) where I scheduled study sessions for two and half months prior to taking the DAT. This was a very stressful point in my college career because I had to be very disciplined in keeping up with my study schedule so I could perform well on the DAT.  Despite this struggle, I can assure you that creating a tight schedule with breaks included will make this difficult time easier. After taking the DAT, I remember starting to write my personal statement which required a lot of time and effort to write. One thing I would suggest is to start writing your personal statement in advance because it is the one of most important factors of your dental application that admissions committees will review and it is not something that can be written overnight. My personal statement took three months to write and after doing many edits on it, I soon was able to reach a point where I was satisfied with my work by making small changes on it each day.

Among all of the pre-requisite courses, shadowing hours, extracurricular activities, research, and employment opportunities I had throughout my undergraduate studies, one thing I learned was never to give up. At some point, you will reach a roadblock, by not doing well in a class or feeling overwhelmed with all of the responsibilities that you are given. When you reach this point, ask yourself one question, how bad do I want it? If you want something as bad as you want to breathe, I assure you everything will fall in place.

Passing Organic Chemistry 101

Every day after class, I always went to the study room in my residence hall to review and practice the material taught in class. All that’s necessary is a whiteboard (to save some paper), molecular model set, textbook, class notes, and determination to not fall behind!
Every day after class, I always went to the study room in my residence hall to review and practice the material taught in class. All that’s necessary is a whiteboard (to save some paper), molecular model set, textbook, class notes, and determination to not fall behind!

Going into my sophomore year, like all the other pre-med and pre-vet students, I was absolutely terrified of taking Organic Chemistry. Notoriously known as the “weed-out class”, it is without a doubt one of the toughest courses students must take to prove themselves “worthy” of working in the healthcare field. Talking to other students that took the course already didn’t help much because all I heard at that point was that it was such a difficult course. I was certain I was going to have a hell of a year- and I was definitely right.

The funny thing is though, looking back at it, I don’t think it was too bad.

Passing organic chemistry requires study skills that transcends the ones learned in high school. It demands true dedication and extensive self-discipline. Most importantly, it honestly depends on how badly you want to succeed. I probably spent 6 hours at a time every day, locked in the study rooms in my dorm or at the library. My social life obviously became non-existent but I had decided that sacrificing leisure was worth it if it meant getting an A in the class.

The key is taking time out of your day to solve all the problems provided at the end of the chapter. As they say, “practice makes perfect”; there is no other way to learn the material. It’ll take hours to do the problems and understand how and why each reaction takes place and there will be moments when you question why you’re even going through all of this and if it’s even worth all the trouble. However, when that test day comes, you’re not as nervous as half your classmates and it turns out that you know the answers to all the questions because you already did them while solving all the practice problems.

Another thing to definitely do is go to your professor’s office hours. Even if your professor is not around, the organic chemistry professors on campus are all great and extremely helpful. I went to Professor Bailey’s office hours before class each day to review the materials and ask questions and got so much out of it. It’s also great because you get to have a faculty that knows you and is willing to write you a letter of recommendation.

Although it sounds like grueling work and perhaps even discouraging to know that there is no easy way out, it’s definitely worth all the trouble seeing that A on your transcript and seeing that you basically now know half of biochemistry!

Junior Year as Told by a Premed Student

My reaction after watching a birth for the first time! I want to be a neonatal doctor, so getting to see a birth was very exciting.
My reaction after watching a birth for the first time! I want to be a neonatal doctor, so getting to see a birth was very exciting.

Junior year is notoriously very difficult, regardless of major or pre-professional program, there is a lot at stake. Students are tasked with gearing up for their last two years of college by planning classes, making sure to meet all requirements, and thinking about what their next step will be. Whether you plan on attending graduate school, entering the workforce, or taking time off, there is a lot to consider and it can be extremely overwhelming. I am an Allied Health Sciences major, beginning my junior year, and I plan on attending medical school following graduation. I do not plan on taking a gap year before going to medical school, so a lot is happening this year, and it’s happening very fast. I have spent a lot of time preparing for this year, and now I am working on how to manage classes, study for the MCAT, and find ways to improve my application to be the most competitive.

First, the MCAT. I plan on taking it in early 2018, and to do this, and do well, I have a lot of studying. It is important to think about your own study habits and how comfortable you are with the material when preparing for an exam of this magnitude. You must find what will work for you to be successful, because everyone learns and takes tests differently. Personally, I have found it helpful to enroll in an MCAT prep course through Kaplan. This course includes guided online sessions for three hours each week, study books, and personalized assignments that are geared to help you in areas you need improvement. This is just one of the many ways people go about preparing for the MCAT. Find what will work for you and make you successful. Additionally, make studying a priority along with all of your other classes!

A second thing that can be stressful about applying to medical school is the application itself. While this is many months away, it does not hurt to think about what you can do now to improve your application, makings yourself a more competitive applicant. What types of things are you involved in? Do you have any volunteer or clinical work in a hospital? These are a couple of questions you can ask yourself, and if you find that you are missing something, try to search for opportunities to fill the gap. For example, this past summer I traveled to Spain where I was able to shadow doctors in a hospital for a month. This was great exposure to the medical field, and I learned a lot about Continue reading

My First FNCE: Learning about the Field of Nutrition and Dietetics

Me and my nutrition friends pose for a photo at FNCE 2016.
Me and my nutrition friends pose for a photo at FNCE 2016.

In the Fall of 2016, I began my journey to become a Registered Dietitian (RD) in the Coordinated Program in Dietetics. It was a busy semester—a full course-load plus my introduction to supervised clinical practice in a long-term care facility. As the semester kicked into gear with exams and projects, I—like many students—put all my focus into simply studying and getting good grades.

In October, all of the students in my program were encouraged to attend the Food and Nutrition Conference and Expo (FNCE) in Boston. It was a treat that the conference that draws nutrition professionals from across the country was going to be held so close to UConn. As the conference approached, we all worried about the time taken out of our studies. When were we going to study for that microbiology exam? When is that lab report going to get done?

On the first day of the conference, I watched the President of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics speak.  She spoke of how far the field of dietetics has come since its advent, and the importance of the work that dietitians do.  It struck me how proud I was to be entering a field dedicated to helping people become healthier in diverse ways— Continue reading

My Journey as an Animal Science Major

Kelly and a sheepKelly and a horseComing to UConn has been one of the greatest experiences in my life. Animal science has meant the world to me since I was 5 years old so when I got accepted into UConn I was very excited. However, as a young freshman I did not know exactly what this major was all about. I knew I was going to be learning about animals, anatomy, nutrition, etc. but I never knew that I was going to have the opportunity to start hands-on experience right away.

When I started my journey in the Ratcliffe Hicks School of Agriculture two years ago, I had the opportunity to work a lot with animals through some independent studies. My freshman year, I also took an intro to ANSC course where I had to pick an animal to train. I was assigned a horse, which I thought would be amazing since I have never worked with horses before so I thought it would be a great opportunity to start learning about horses my first semester in college.

My first day training my horse, Tamale, was fun. I remember I groomed her that day, but when I was about to leave she stepped on my toe and it was one of the most painful things in the world. I couldn’t walk or stand on that toe for a while. At the time I did not know how to take the bus so I walked to all my classes on crutches. However, if it wasn’t for my little accident with the horse, I would not have been reassigned to a chicken, where I won first place in the Poultry advance category at Little I. My sophomore year, I had another unfortunate experience while Continue reading

An Open Letter to Freshmen

As a senior, I’ve begun to look back at my four years at this university. This is a place that I’ve learned to love and call home. As I reflect upon my experience here, I realized that I’ve accomplished most of what I wanted to while having the time of my life. That being said, I’ve learned quite a few lessons and some things I wish I had known earlier. So to the entire new freshmen class, this is my advice to you:

Yarden at a Club Gymnastics competition
Yarden at a Club Gymnastics competition

Take care of your health: This is bar none, the most important thing in my eyes. Sleep is excruciatingly important for memory, alertness, weight, and overall wellness. One night of poor sleep can lead to days of negative effects. Eat right: nutrients fuel our body, make sure you are eating well-balanced meals, and don’t skip meals. It is detrimental to your well-being and energy levels. Exercise: Find something that works for you. Not everyone wants the typical treadmill workout and that’s completely fine! Try a BodyWise class, or get involved in a fun club that involves physical activity. If none of that is for you, try to walk to class instead of taking the bus! Not only is it good for you, but it’s also beautiful and can be a huge stress reliever after a long day.

Get involved: Whether it’s a sorority or fraternity, a club sports team, an intramural team, an academic club, community service events, a religious group like Hillel or the campus church; it doesn’t matter- just get involved in something! It is a wonderful way to meet people and gives you things outside of class to be a part of.

Grades are important: Coming from high school into Continue reading

Balancing School and Work: A Few Tricks of the Trade

Christopher Wojick in Wilton, CT preparing for a day of work (September 2016)
Christopher Wojick in Wilton, CT preparing for a day of work (September 2016)

Every full-time college student is challenged with managing a busy schedule, but those who also have jobs frequently find maintaining just-the-right balance between work and studies downright stress provoking. As one of those students who’s always worked while going to school, I thought I’d share with you a few tricks of the trade that I developed after a fair amount of trail and error, and a botched assignment or two along the way.

First . . . Keep a calendar and update it constantly. Forgetting something as seemingly insignificant as a homework assignment can make or break a class grade. I’ve found that noting everything in my Apple calendar has kept my school and work life from colliding—and imploding—on more than one occasion.

I start the scheduling process on Day One of classes by inputting each major assignment listed on the syllabus into my calendar. That gives me a framework for what lies ahead and allows me to better plot out my semester.

Because the Apple calendar program automatically updates to your mobile devices, staying caught up is a breeze. Rather than digging through notebooks trying to remember when various assignments are due, I can just take out my phone or computer and click on the calendar app for a quick review of what’s in store. It’s as easy as that!

Second . . . Spend time mapping out your schedule for both work and school. Setting up a balanced Continue reading

Why it is Okay to be Unsure

When it came time to start college, I found myself a little lost about which major to go with.  Being Pre-Med I thought I had to go the traditional biology or chemistry route. I realized that I wasn’t that passionate for either of those options and the stress began to pile up. It felt like I was making a life or death decision. What I didn’t know at the time was that there were several majors and tracks out there for me to follow which all could lead me to my ultimate goals. I was lucky enough to hear about Allied Health Sciences from one of my coworkers and as soon as I read up on it I knew it was the right fit for me. For some of you that are currently stressing over the different potential majors, there’s one thing I can tell you: It’ll all be okay!

Assisting a surgical procedure while studying abroad in South Africa.

UConn has amazing counselors and advisors that will make this decision much easier. They take the time and will walk you through the stressful parts and ease your tension. Since they have helped hundreds of students that have been in your position, they’re well versed in what you need and what you’re feeling. While some stress and anxiety during this process is normal and expected, you have to recognize that this is not a make it or break it decision. The reason for this is that most majors require the same general education courses. While you’re taking those – usually during your first two years – you have a chance to explore the different options and find the right fit for you. You can do all of this without disturbing your planned time table in college. Everyone’s experience will not be the same – you wouldn’t want it to be anyway. Your interests and passions might change over time and all you can do is accept it and go with it.  Just understand that there is room for thing to change!

The initial college plan that I had my freshman year was not even close to what it turned out to be. In my head, I was going to graduate in 4 years and start medical school right away. Five years later, I’m still here (graduating May 7th!) but I’ve taken advantage of everything UConn had to offer me. I’ve made friends that will remain with me for life, joined a frat and even got to study abroad twice! Life – especially college life – is full of surprises. Plan A might not always work out, but don’t worry Plan B tends to be much better.

Tips for Managing Your Time in College

ClockIt’s no secret that being in college is a huge time commitment. Students typically prioritize academics, but in addition to their course load, there’s extracurricular activities, jobs, a social life, and mental and physical health that all need to be considered as well. Being a sophomore this semester, I’m starting to realize more than ever that managing my time and stress levels is a daunting task. Despite the fact that balancing it all can be quite intimidating, I’ve found that it is definitely doable if you put some thought and effort into it. Planning is the key to all of it, but there are some specific goals I like to keep in mind when I’m allocating my time to certain tasks.

The first is to keep up with my studies. With so much going on, it’s hard to remember sometimes that your education really should come first. Although sometimes it’s necessary, it’s not ideal to always be cramming for that exam or quiz. I find that it just causes more stress and I don’t usually perform as well. Instead, I try to figure out which classes I need to devote more time to and those that I don’t in order to balance my studying better and not get behind. Through some trial and error, find study habits that work for you personally and Continue reading

Surviving to Senior Year

Starting out freshman year I thought that four years was a long time and that I had everything figured out. Now at the end of my senior year at UConn, I can say that time flew and I learned a lot more “life lessons” that I expected; some of which I would like to pass on to you.

Freshman Orientation- Summer 2011
Freshman Orientation- Summer 2011
  1. Live in the moment

College is going to fly by and before you know you will be studying for your last undergraduate exam. Is that exciting? Of course! But it’s all too easy to rush through things to get your to-do list done and survive a semester. Take some time to appreciate where you are and pay a little more attention to what you are doing. Put down the phone and enjoy just hanging out with your friends. Live in the moment and seize the day!

  1. Caution when taking advice

Some of the best classes I have taken here at UConn were the ones my classmates said “That class is so hard, don’t take it.” Classes go differently for a lot of people and someone’s worst class may be your best class, but you will never know until you try it out. Instead of taking their advice as fact, try it for yourself. And the opposite holds true as well. Trust me, when someone says, “That class is easy,” don’t write it off or you will learn the hard way not to…

  1. Expect the ups and downs

As much as I hate to admit it, getting your undergraduate degree isn’t the constant party that the movies make it out to be. There will be Continue reading