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Advice to first-year pre-med students

By Anindita Chanda

Section: Opinions

September 15, 2017

These past two weeks I have had many conversations with first-year and sophomore students pursuing the sciences. I feel nostalgic when an underclassmen expresses these worries about the pre-med track or what classes to take because many of their worries were once mine.
Needless to say, I am not worry-free having reached senior status, but it’s an interesting feeling having gone through the “rite of passage,” these underclassman must now go through.
I want to give my two cents on a few issues, including the recommended classes for pre-med students, the possibility of declaring a second major and having an overall healthy college experience.
I have come across a lot of freshmen students who are considering the pre-med program, or want to go into grad school, or are on the fence about which to choose. Regardless, for these students, biology classes are a must.
However, many students do not realize that unlike in high school, they should take biology classes along with chemistry classes. The typical pattern is to take two semesters of general chemistry with lab courses, along with Biology 14 and Biology 15 during your freshman year. Sophomore year, one would take a year of organic chemistry with lab courses, plus Biology 16 and two semesters of biology lab.
You don’t necessarily have to take the classes in that order, but it is important to keep track of the classes you need to both fulfill your requirements for medical school or grad school as well as complete your major.
On that note, if you are an underclassman who might be considering medical or grad school, I would highly recommend that you visit the Pre-health Advising department in Usdan. You can either go to the drop-in hours or schedule an appointment online. Either way, the Pre-Health advising department is, in my opinion, one of the best resources that Brandeis has to offer us. Many students are under the impression that the only time to visit the Pre-health department is when you are a junior or senior and diving into the application cycle—but that is not true. If you are a first-year or sophomore, they will welcome you and provide any guidance they can.
Many underclassmen that I’ve spoken to have also asked me about my major. I tell them my majors are Biology and Anthropology.
The look in their eyes often says: “but Anthropology has nothing to do with Biology” or if they know that I am a hopeful pre-med, “but Anthropology has nothing to do with medicine.”
Well the truth is, I chose to pursue Anthropology as a major simply because I am passionate about it. If anything, my Anthropology major has given me new perspectives on issues I had known or thought little about.
Some students forget the importance of pursuing a field or a class purely out of interest. With that said, you should pursue a second major only if it makes sense for you. So, consider your reasoning. Examine whether you are pursuing the second major because you want to be able to say you have a second major or because you care about what you are learning. As cheesy as it sounds, this consideration is very important, otherwise you will find taking classes for the second major to be a chore.
In the end, or rather from the beginning: It’s important to keep your options open. Always be aware of the fact that the road ahead is going to be difficult, but as long as you plan ahead, stay aware and use the resources we are fortunate to have, you will be okay. Be mindful of the limits that face us, but also keep in mind that there are endless possibilities as long as you take the opportunity to explore.
Go in with a plan, but also be open to the idea that life happens and your plans may need some tweaking—with this perspective, you will have a much healthier academic college experience.

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