A Guide to Life as a “Pre-Medical” Student at Yale
Mark Chung, personal illustrator
This is one episode in a series from News’ SciTech desk aimed at helping readers engage with the University’s health and science resources, research, and programs.
For those aspiring to receive a white coat and take the Hippocratic Oath, medical school is the college end goal.
Yale does not have a pre-medical major, but prospective medical students generally meet the prerequisites for admission to medical school – the most common being general chemistry, general biology, organic chemistry, physics , mathematics, biochemistry and psychology.
Students report that being pre-med can sometimes be an overwhelming, but often rewarding process.
“At the end of the day, I remember that yes, it’s a lot of work to be pre-med. But my work goes towards a goal that I am ready to dedicate my life to, ”said Elizabeth Lin ’25.
Who can students turn to for advice?
Dean of Quantitative Reasoning Science and Education Sandy Chang ’88 is a resource for pre-med students to rely on.
“Having gone through the medical school application process as an undergraduate student at Yale, I know the challenges of applying to medical school,” Chang said. said. “I’m also on the Yale Med admissions committee for the MD-PHD program…so I know the current challenges of entering a medical program.”
Alongside Kristin McJunkins, who is director of Health Professions Advising & STEM Connect at the Yale Office of Career Strategy, or OCS, and Laurie Coppola, senior associate director of health professions and STEM Advising at OCS, Chang works with pre- med students to provide individual advice and support.
“I love eating with students,” Chang said. “I give informal advice about medical school, [everything from] what courses should you take, when should you do research, when should you do your clinical volunteer experience, why should you take a gap year.
Pre-medical counseling appointments with McJunkins and Coppola can be scheduled through the SCO website. Students looking for advice on how to keep up with their schoolwork can contact the Academic Strategies Program at the Poorvu Center for Teaching and Learning.
What types of courses and majors are typical for pre-med students?
Although the course schedule for each pre-med student varies, some of the more common courses that pre-med students may take in their first year may include a combination of the following: a chemistry sequence such as CHEM 161/165 or CHEM 163/167 for general, or CHEM 174 and sometimes 175 for organic, a chemistry lab like CHEM 134L/136L for general, CHEM 222L and sometimes 223L for organic, the biology intro sequence of BIOL 101 -104, a math course, a writing course, a language course, or a first-year seminar.
Chang created a “Guide to STEM Activities at Yale”, with a section in particular focused on providing advice to pre-med students. The guide also includes a more detailed look at the course schedule for pre-med students throughout their four years at Yale.
Molecular, cellular and developmental biology, molecular biophysics and biochemistry, and history of science, medicine and public health are all popular choices for medical students, with their major requirements overlapping with prerequisite courses. .
Many students also pursue majors outside of the biological sciences and still manage to gain admission into medical schools. Although these students must complete additional requirements outside of their majors — the pre-med prerequisites — pre-med students can also major outside of STEM, according to Chang.
Allen Ryu ‘23 is studying Computer Science and Mathematics – an unconventional major while being on the pre-med track. Ryu is very interested in theoretical concepts in computer science, and although he is pursuing a career in medicine, he believes that computer skills and knowledge will come in handy later on, especially with applications to medicine.
“As technology develops in the biomedical field, there are more and more applications of the theories […] of computing put into medicine,” Ryu said. “For example, the lab I currently work in is a biomedical engineering lab, and the research I’m doing is basically creating a new way to diagnose a certain condition using machine learning technologies.
To dismiss or not to dismiss?
For a pre-med student, four years at Yale is followed by four years of medical school, depending on the specialty, three to seven years of a residency program, and maybe even one to two years of stock Exchange.
Many prospective pre-med students choose to take a break from school for a year or two. Gap years can be beneficial, adding time to improve one’s academic level, gain more pre-medical experience, and work on application components.
“Most students take a gap year and they do better,” Chang said. “Admissions committee loves gap year students, thinks gap year students are less stressed, more medically focused, know why they come into [medicine], and why they want to go to medical school. I just think I’m going straight to the point [to medical school applications] after your junior year, which I did, you have to do everything by the end of your junior year, and it’s very, very stressful.
The lengthy medical school application process can be stressful in itself, taking a lot of consideration before you even decide to submit.
Although she isn’t considering taking a gap year herself because she’s sure of her goal to pursue medical school, Hannah Huang ‘24 recognized an increasing relevance of gap years for pre-medical students.
“Overall, gap years are a very good thing to consider for anyone who is pre-med,” Huang said. “I really think being pre-med and getting to the point of applying to med school is more of a marathon than a race…because it’s something you want to take on when you know you’re ready. “
What extracurricular programs should pre-med students get involved in?
Medical schools consider not only a student’s academics, but also the experiences and skills they have that can benefit them as a doctor.
Extracurricular activities weigh heavily as a factor in medical school admissions. The most popular pre-medical extracurricular programs include clinical volunteer experience, experiences involving direct exposure to patients, service work, physician shadowing opportunities, and scientific research.
However, it can also be helpful to branch out from these traditional pre-medical after-school programs.
Toni Oluwatade ‘24, a student currently on the pre-med path, once mentored New Haven high school students as part of the Urban Improvement Corps and completed lab research on polycystic ovary syndrome.
However, Oluwatade notes that many of her extracurricular activities don’t necessarily fit the “traditional pre-med trajectory”, but she thinks “it’s also important to do things that interest you that might not fit the trajectory. common pre-medical”. .”
Oluwatade plays club football and is involved with Yale Students for Christ as a freshman Bible study leader
“I think teaching and serving the first years taught me a lot about learning and communicating with other people,” Oluwatade said. “Mentoring is a really good skill to have going into medicine, especially because I want to be a pediatrician. I know that mentorship is an integral part of being a doctor with children because they will not only see you as their doctor, but also as a role model.
Ultimately, nearly 90% of medical school applicants at Yale College are admitted to a US medical school.