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Ameer

Things to know about premed before freshman year?

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Hey guys

So currently, I've completed high school, moving on to McMaster university in the fall. I'm going into the chemical and physical sciences, hoping to major in medical physics. I've already picked out my courses for first year, which includes physics, chemistry, biology, and calculus courses.

I was wondering, what can I start doing now (or this fall) to make my self a strong candidate for med schools?

Whether it'd be advice for what I should be doing on my spare time, or what kind of things I should be involved in, I'd appreciate any helpful tips.

thanks :)

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Man, right now just enjoy your free time. You will have plenty of time during university to join clubs, volunteer, and further explore your new interests. Enjoy your summer and do things that you want to do (without thinking about how it will make you a stronger candidate).

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GPA is king, so focus on adjusting to university style learning. Keep up with notes and lectures, and set goals on what grades you want to be getting. Sad reality, but GPA is something that's incredibly hard to change once it's gone down (not impossible though). Extracurriculars are a lower priority at the moment, but get started on one or two that you have a passion for and can see doing long term.  Admissions committees generally like commitment, so having extracurriculars that span over a long period by the time you apply will be helpful.  Once your academics stabilize and you've got a flow going, start building on a diversity of things (leadership, research, etc). Don't rush these things though, you can always add more after you graduate but you can't really change your GPA.  Also, just do extracurriculars you enjoy; you don't really get bonus points for medical related things, so just keep things diverse and interesting (volunteering in the hospital or doing medical research are not pre-requisites for med school).

Read whatever admissions statisics all the schools release to get a sense of where you need to be.  Most schools generally don't really care what major you're in, and care moreso what GPA and/course load you had, so don't go taking hard courses that you won't enjoy if you think it'll impress admissions. Also, I'd recommend taking the MCAT sometime during 2nd year, or late 1st year, as a lot of the sciences material is based on those lectures, and you'll have an advantage of having fresh memory of ochem and what not.

Side note, try not to spend your summers in summer school or studying, go enjoy these summers while you can :) Work hard during the school year on academics, but spend your summers traveling, doing hobbies, or anything you enjoy.  My biggest regret was doing two years of summer school when there were so many other things I could've done with 3-4 months of vacation.

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What are you passionate about?  I generally advise students going into first year to pick ONE, and only ONE EC, whether that is work (because they have to) or a volunteer experience (that they are passionate about) as long as neither takes up too much time.  As others have said, your GPA is the most important thing to worry about, so when you start first year, focus on that first, with maybe once EC (work if you have to, or else something you are passionate about) as long as it doesn't take up too much time, until you know you have a good grasp on your studies.

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Focus on grades. Focus on grades. Focus on grades. 

Extracurriculars can wait for now. You can get started once you have a handle on your school work. Also, make sure all your grades are even so you can maximize your GPA. By that I mean for four courses  85, 85, 85, 85 (3.9 cumulative GPA) is better than 75, 85, 85, 96 (3.7 cumulative GPA).

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15 hours ago, isitlunchtimeyet said:

Focus on grades. Focus on grades. Focus on grades. 

Extracurriculars can wait for now. You can get started once you have a handle on your school work. Also, make sure all your grades are even so you can maximize your GPA. By that I mean for four courses  85, 85, 85, 85 (3.9 cumulative GPA) is better than 75, 85, 85, 96 (3.7 cumulative GPA).

Starting next year as well, and I'm slightly confused as to how this (GPA) works. So, unlike in high-school where your 95 can even out your 75, your 75 actually brings everything down? That means that there's basically no room for error.....(?) 

Also, does this mean that if you get, say, a 3.4 GPA or below in first year that you can never get a certain cumulative GPA, such as 3.8/3.9/4.0? Would one sub-par year disallow you to ever achieve a 3.9+ cGPA? 

That's no fun. 

 

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1 hour ago, ginsberg said:

Also, does this mean that if you get, say, a 3.4 GPA or below in first year that you can never get a certain cumulative GPA, such as 3.8/3.9/4.0? Would one sub-par year disallow you to ever achieve a 3.9+ cGPA? 

Pretty much but many universities (all?) will drop your worst year, though it would obviously be better to just do good.

1 hour ago, ginsberg said:

Starting next year as well, and I'm slightly confused as to how this (GPA) works. So, unlike in high-school where your 95 can even out your 75, your 75 actually brings everything down? That means that there's basically no room for error.....(?) 

Yep so say a 94 a 94 and a 70 would be an A an A and a B- = (4 + 4 + 2.67)/3 = 3.56 where a 90 a 90 and a 79 would be an A an A and a B+ = (4+4+3.3)/3 = 3.78. Every class will give you a percentage mark which is then associated with a letter (different universities have different scales for what percent equals a particular letter grade). These letters are then averaged to give you a GPA. You can actually get fairly different percentages in a class and still end up with the same letter grade which is all most schools (or all schools I'm not really sure) care about.

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2 hours ago, ballsortahard said:

You can actually get fairly different percentages in a class and still end up with the same letter grade which is all most schools (or all schools I'm not really sure) care about.

To add to this. I think more schools just give the letter grade on transcripts and/or only care about the letter grade.

But some schools (UBC is the main one I can think of) will actually give both percentage and letter grade on transcripts and then calculate your GPA using percentage. In that case, if your transcript doesn't have a percentage they convert it to a percentage in the middle of the grade range (e.g. 4.0 becomes 95%).

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Your h.s. grades are an indicator of nothing. The most important attributes you can bring with you to university are a strong work ethic, humility, common sense and being grounded. Do not become a party animal, recognize that academics are your first priority, do not become involved with a needy or unstable significant other who will bring you down and ruin your career chances! Study smart for you, do what works for you, if you have an academic issue, go to counselling and don't wait. Do not involve yourself with ECs until you have academics under control. Time and stress management are extremely important. Treat your studies professionally and do not fall behind. Remain motivated and keep your eye on the goal no matter what.

During undergrad, I lost all my friends b/c I studied so hard, I was ottally exhausted at the end of every semester. However, I became a straight A student, got into medicine on my first attempt and my best friends are all med school classmates now. We are all residents in different cities, hardly able to see each other and will be close for life. For sure, you will stumble somewhere along the way, we all do, learn from your mistakes, take it on the chin, do not feel sorry for yourself and move forward. And do something kind every day!

I became a self-reflective self-learner. I skipped classes where the exams were multiple choice and based on the text, as I was able to use the lecture time far more effectively than taking notes in class. In med school, I skipped the lectures as we received the notes anyways and I could go through the notesd quicker than the lecture time and I studfies the material more efficiently on my own. You will learn how you learn best. 

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20 hours ago, ginsberg said:

Starting next year as well, and I'm slightly confused as to how this (GPA) works. So, unlike in high-school where your 95 can even out your 75, your 75 actually brings everything down? That means that there's basically no room for error.....(?) 

Also, does this mean that if you get, say, a 3.4 GPA or below in first year that you can never get a certain cumulative GPA, such as 3.8/3.9/4.0? Would one sub-par year disallow you to ever achieve a 3.9+ cGPA? 

That's no fun. 

 

Yeah that's something I wish I had known earlier. In high school I got by by slacking on some classes, nailing others and ending up with a descent average. However in university if you're aiming for med you can't do that. 

Here's how you calculate your cumulative GPA: take the grade you're given in each class and convert it to a GPA using the OMSAS scale (this is only for ontario schools though I believe). Take the GPAs for the individual classes and find the average. This is your cumulative GPA.

One thing to keep in mind is if you have a bad year (ex. 3.4) or even two bad years you still have a chance because some med schools use different GPA calculations when looking at your application (ex. UWO takes two best years over 3.7 and UofT removes 1.0 of your lowest marks for every full time year you have completed at the point of your application). So if your GPAs were 3.1, 3.5, 3.8 and 4.0 and you have a decent MCAT and extracurriculars you would still be super competitive for UWO since you'd have a 3.9 GPA in spite of the first two years. 

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