SUNY Upstate Medical School Student
Colette Piasecki-Masters '18
What did you do to prepare for med school?
There are the obvious tasks that every pre-medical student needs to check off their list (pre-medical classes, MCAT, letters of recommendation, etc). At Ithaca, you are very lucky to have an incredibly supportive and helpful Pre-Health team and Career Services Department. Take advantage of them! They can help you make an action-plan to build your application starting from day 1! (side note: Make sure you schedule your MCAT months early (seats and locations fill up fast) and give yourself the time to implement your well thought-out study plan. I took mine the winter break of senior year and studied the summer prior, knowing I had planned in a gap year to receive my scores and complete my application). Here's a general rule: Your GPA/MCAT score gets you the interview, your authentic and enthusiastic descriptions of your extracurriculars during the interview get you the spot.
Aside from these critical application features, below are three features I believe prepared me best for the rigors of medical school and the profession:
1. My third summer of undergrad I became a nursing assistant on an elective orthopedics floor. This was my first clinical experience and I loved every moment of it. Many of my friends were EMTs. Find an opportunity that will allow direct patient contact and interaction with the healthcare team. It's vital to know the other healthcare professionals scope of practice (and this will also enable you to justify to yourself and others why an MD is your goal).
2. I can not stress the importance of seeking out and maintaining relationships with people you admire. Whether you meet them in person or you found them online and reached out to them, keep in contact. They will provide encouragement and opportunities that would not be available to you otherwise.
3. I prioritize self-care. For me, this means sleeping ~8 hours per night and exercising for an hour a day. You may think you do not have time for these things, but you do. This is completely necessary to staying sane and keeping your brain functioning. Many get to school and think they can work 12 hours per day and end up burning out. Start prioritizing self-care now so you can practice your time-management skills in a lower-stress setting!
Describe your day-to-day life in and outside med school?
Classes are generally 8 am-4 pm (with a half day Wednesday at SUNY Upstate). I always attend group sessions and lab time, though I have started watching lectures online. Sometime in the day I go to the gym/a park to run. At the end of the day, I return home, eat, spend time with my fiance or friends, then complete a few more hours of work before bed (~2-3 hours). About once or twice per week I schedule myself a clinical or volunteer experience (to remind myself why I'm studying so much in the first place...). Soon, I will be starting in a research lab, which will probably be a couple of hours per week. After classes, I take Friday completely off and, depending on the week, sometimes Saturday too! Occasionally I go home to visit my parents or visit other friends, but usually I'm a vegetable and sit at home reading/watching TV or spending time with friends.
Is there anything that you wish you would have known before entering med school? Is there anything that you’d go back and do differently?
1. You may have imposter syndrome and it's completely normal. In fact, everyone has imposter syndrome. Just know that everyone in your class has multiple strengths and weaknesses. This diversity is a wonderful thing, since it means you will be able to learn so much from each other. What about that one woman who seems like she already knows everything? She was already a Physicians Assistant. Or a lawyer. Or has a PhD. True story, these are all people in my class. Don't be too hard on yourself.
2. It was a surprise to me how much time is spent in class, after having it so good in undergrad. Just be mentally prepared for that.
3. I loved my gap year and I'd highly recommend everyone take one (or two or more!). This will really be the last chance you have to do something random and unrelated to your degree for a long time. Also, this will allow you to get everything prepared prior to you starting, since you need to be ready to hit the ground running. Good luck!