Editor’s Note: Ignacio Calles ’14, a University of St. Thomas biology alumnus, went from being a homeless high school dropout to attending New York University School of Medicine. He shares his tips for preparing for medical school:
There isn’t anything in college that can prepare you for the medical school workload. The real marker of a successful student is going to be the ability to shake off a failure and come back stronger than ever. So, in college, push yourself in your pre med classes.
Take Med School Classes That Challenge You in New Ways
Always take on as much as you can and never shy away from a challenge. Definitely take a physiology class, an anatomy class and a cell biology class. Some people shy away from those because they’re hard and people are protective of their GPA. If it’s that scary to you, wait until your senior year. The bottom line is that exposure to these things before you get to med school will be invaluable. You don’t want to be struggling to memorize 400 slides and look up words that everyone else already knows at the same time.
To Prepare for a Medical Career, First Know Yourself
Med school life (and from what I hear, all graduate education) pushes you to your emotional limits. You’ll inevitably doubt yourself and wonder what exactly you’re doing with your life. If you haven’t learned how to navigate your own mental insecurities, they’ll take you over. Explore your interests, practice yoga, write poetry, or do anything else that helps you learn more about yourself. Develop a concrete identity that you can build on once you get here.
Step Outside Your Comfort Zone…Doctor’s Orders!
The most important skill you can cultivate when preparing for medical school is an ability to step outside of your comfort zone. You’re going to constantly be asked to do things that you’ve never done before, in front of people whose opinions you really care about. So, try new things! Eat foods you’ve never tasted, go dancing, speak in front of crowds, take a spontaneous trip somewhere foreign, learn a language, and do anything else you can to boost your confidence.
Medical School Can Be Stressful…Ask for Help
One thing they never tell you to expect when you go to medical school: Your very identity will evolve. Your entire class will be going through an identity crisis right along with you. Trying to navigate it alone is nearly impossible. Become comfortable reaching out to people and admitting your own humanity.
Good luck and much love!