What’s it like to be Pre-Med?

Last week, I started a series of posts where I talk to someone in a particular program at Illinois. Today’s post is the second blog in the series, and will address the popular Pre-Med program!

The Carle College of Medicine at Illinois welcomed its first class in 2018. Image Credit: Fox Illinois.

I talked to Nori Kasai, a Molecular and Cellular Biology (MCB) major in pre-med. Nori is a transfer student and one of the social chairmen of my fraternity. If you’re set on going to medical school, I hope that Nori’s experiences give you an insight into what pre-med is really like.

What kinds of classes do you need to take as a pre-med student?

I personally have a course schedule that is very focused in cellular biology, but be prepared to take all sorts of courses. Although it’s mostly biology and chemistry, you’ll have a little bit of physics and calculus sprinkled in there.

When picking your courses, it’s super important to work closely with your academic adviser – they’re very experienced, and know which courses are best at preparing undergraduates for med school. Every pre-med student I know has two items on their agenda when picking courses: impressing medical school admissions officers and preparing for the MCAT.

How much time does being in pre-med take up? Do you have space in your schedule for other commitments?

I am a part of a social fraternity, the Marine Corps OCS Program, and the Illinois Lacrosse team. Although these obligations take up a lot of time, it’s taught me how to plan ahead really well. Most of the courses I’m taking are demanding, so I always start homework early. I’ve found that 4 to 5 hours of studying a day is definitely achievable, even with a heavy extracurricular schedule.

Nori was originally at Earlham College on a lacrosse scholarship before transferring to Illinois. Image credit: Nori Kasai.

What’s the best and worst thing about being in pre-med?

My favorite part about being in pre-med is that you feel like your time is never wasted. You’re working to be a part of a cause that’s bigger than you, and that’s a great feeling. I also love my classes – they’re super interesting, and I’m never bored with school. There’s always something new to learn and new to do.

Another thing that I love about pre-med is the flexibility. Most students on the pre-med track are MCB majors, but that doesn’t mean you have to be one too. I know plenty of people who are pre-med and are majoring in something which isn’t biology-related. If you believe that you can take something from your major and apply it to the field of medicine in a unique way, go for it!

Nonetheless, the pre-med track is a stressful one. Although my time management skills have improved, squeezing in all my commitments into my schedule is tiring. The classes aren’t easy either – you will be covering a lot of advanced and difficult topics. However, there is a silver lining to all the work you have to do – the demanding schedule and constant pressure have really helped me grow as a person, and clearly understand what my goals are.

What are your plans after graduation?

As mentioned before, I’m in the Marine Corps OCS Program at Illinois. Straight after graduation, I’m going to serve my country. I’m only going to apply for and attend medical school after my deployment.

It’s a long, hard, and tiring road to becoming a doctor, but the pre-med track at Illinois can help you make a strong first step. If you’re considering doing pre-med, be sure to check out other things like honors societies and RSOs – there’s a lot of Illinois that can help you prepare for medical school.

Franklin

Franklin

Class of 2022
I grew up in Hong Kong, China, and I’ve come across the world to Illinois to major in Astronomy in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. I’ve always thought outer space is super cool, and I love that I’m learning everything that I can about it at Illinois.