As a prospective student, I was always interested in engaging one-on-one with the students. I wanted to know what life on campus was really like aside from what I heard from faculty speeches and tour guides. The UIUC admissions blog was one way that I could get a genuine sense of Illinois as I discovered a couple of student bloggers who I resonated with — like former U of I pre med student Sivani. Reading her posts was like receiving advice from an older, wiser best friend at the end of a busy day. Not to mention, her writing seemed to read my mind whenever I wondered about life as an MCB major or how to stay energized without coffee (a true skill). I admired her candidness, especially when she wrote about the stress of college. So before the semester began (and through the beauty of social media) I reached out to her for some pre med/blog advice when she mentioned that she’s always wanted to publish about her future plans post graduation. Here’s what she’s been up to, plus some more friendly advice:
It’s getting close to 3 years since I walked across the stage at Krannert Center on a gorgeous 18 degree day in December. I think about how I left this blog incomplete quite frequently actually. Perhaps because when I graduated, I felt weird. I had finished a major milestone, but without an acceptance to medical school or a job lined up, I didn’t feel like I had accomplished anything. It felt like any other day on campus where I just happened to be wearing all blue and surrounded by my family. That feeling of incompleteness was why I stopped blogging — I didn’t feel like I had anything to share with the Illinois family.
However, all that has changed. Thanks to the lovely Fiza for reaching out and getting back in touch, and providing me the opportunity to do something that I have always wanted to do since graduating!
So what have I been up to since graduation? …
Surprise — I’m currently a M3 student (Class of 2020) who just started clinical rotations this past June.
Why did you choose U of I?
I’ll keep it simple: powerhouse academics and research, fantastic campus (I love a good snowy Quad pic even now), close location to my family in Chicagoland, and it’s where I saw myself going to school.
Best restaurants on campus?
Basil Thai in Urbana — their pad thai got me through junior year.
Which extracurriculars or hobbies were you involved in at Illinois?
I was really involved in Alpha Epsilon Delta, and became president my junior year. I was also an MCB Leader. I was an LAS 101 Intern my junior year. Aside from those positions, I researched in the Simons Lab for Visual Cognition and was an independent project student.
In what way did Illinois make you a more competitive applicant for med school?
This is a great question. I think that the coursework I took at U of I through the MCB major/chem minor was extremely rigorous and a great way to show med schools that I was prepared for their curriculums. Molecular and Cellular Biology is a very nuanced field, and it’s rare for most students to have a specialized bio degree outside of general biology or human biology. Furthermore, I had the chance to pursue a wide array of classes in topics that interested me outside of science. I took a great Medical Ethics course my senior year and a fun Bollywood Film Analysis Class my freshman year that I really enjoyed. Furthermore, thanks to the AP credit system, I was able to graduate one semester early and spend that time working in the field to gain experience (I did clinical and translational research at Feinberg in Chicago).
Any college regrets?
I regret not pursuing a Spanish minor. It’s really useful to have command of the language in the healthcare field. Plus, I would have been able to study abroad through the minor, which I deeply regret not being able to do.
Favorite class you took at Illinois?
NEUR/PSYCH 413: Psychopharmacology. Great professor and extremely well taught! It was really interesting to me, and I still love pharm (my favorite class in medical school).
What’s something about college that you didn’t expect?
I didn’t expect myself to have such difficulty sticking to a schedule. However, if I could go back in time to start working on self discipline early, I think it would have been an easier transition during my freshman year.
What’s your favorite memory of Illinois?
I asked myself this exact question 3 years ago and still can’t pick a single memory. I loved everything: from my first MCB 150 lecture in Foellinger, to quiet moments at Krannert by myself on the steps of the amphitheater, to when Alma was gone so you could climb on the statue and take pics, to when she returned and we took pics, to when I would go on morning runs to the Japan House, to when Ellen “came” to campus, and so many more. Sometimes, you just step foot on ground and realize you are home. That’s exactly what happened to me at U of I — I was at home.
Number one tip of advice for pre meds?
Do not quit. When I graduated, I had not heard back from any medical schools yet. I wasn’t hearing back from research positions either. It’s disheartening. However, make sure you rest and keep going. The average M1 is 25 years old. So many of my great friends in med school have taken 1+ gap years. It’s totally normal to want to take some time after undergrad to gain some work experience and travel. Live your life, and make sure medical school is exactly what you want to do before applying.
If you could go back in time to junior/senior year of high school, what advice would you give yourself?
Life is hilariously ironic, as you will come to find out. Perhaps a gap year or two would have been a better idea than jamming in every requirement in 3.5 years!
If I could summarize what the last 3 years have been for me in one word, it’s crazy. If you told me when I was I graduated that I would be holding a human heart in my hand, using a bone saw to help dissect vertebrae, find a fetal heart rate through a pregnant woman’s belly, suture up skin incisions in surgery, intubate a patient, and fly on a private jet to procure organs for transplantation, I would have either laughed (because I didn’t think I’d be that lucky) or cried (because that sounded like a farfetched dream). I’m a dramatic person, to say the least!
However, at Illinois, all of those things AND MORE are possible. You just have to be willing to look for opportunities and seize them when the time is right. Get involved in extracurriculars, make connections with advisors and mentors, pick classes that interest you, apply for internships and leadership positions, travel the world and learn a new language! The world is yours, Illini, and it’s time to start exploring!