Applying to medical school isn’t tough for students to do on their own, said neuroscience junior Zach Miller.
But getting help navigating the prerequisite courses, Medical College Admission Test and letters of recommendation required to apply “is a nice benefit for just about everybody,” he said.
While University of Minnesota centers and student groups offer resources and networking opportunities for students considering medical school, there is no pre-med major, and some students say pre-med resources are poorly advertised.
“It’s just not promoted as well as it could be,” Miller said.
The Health Careers Center offers a series of courses for credit called “The Future Physician” for students interested in a medical career, said assistant director Tricia Todd, as well as online workshops, career counseling and a class on writing personal statements.
“Part of our goal is to help [students] realize what this field really is,” she said.
Pre-med students would have to try to miss all the services the center provides, said Wes Powers, a microbiology junior.
“They do a phenomenal job,” he said.
Since students from any major can apply to medical school, many of them ask questions of their college advisers that they might not be as well-prepared to answer as the Health Careers Center staff.
The center tries to keep advisers across all colleges in the loop, but Todd said turnover makes it difficult.
“That’s a full-time job keeping up, telling the advisers about us,” she said.
Karen Ly, a biology, science and environment junior in the College of Liberal Arts, said her advisers know little about medical school.
“I feel like my advisers aren’t that much help,” she said.
Because the University is so large, students may not interact with their advisers often, said Nathan Wanderman, a second-year medical student.
“On a spectrum of support, the University of Minnesota is pretty near the bottom,” Wanderman said. “It’s something other schools do a great job of, and there’s no reason why we can’t measure up.”
Of Big Ten schools, only Penn State University offers a formal pre-med major, while other universities offer pre-med tracks or early acceptance programs. All Big Ten colleges offer some sort of advising for pre-med students.
However, Wanderman added individual faculty members — especially the ones who teach classes many pre-med students take — can be very helpful in writing letters of recommendation and helping students find research opportunities.
“There’s a lot of people out there that, if you devote time to seeking them out, are happy and eager to give you advice,” Wanderman said.
Most medical schools are looking for applicants with a combination of academic excellence, exposure to clinical settings and an orientation toward service, said Stephanie Chervin, a pre-health adviser at the University of Michigan.
Chervin said she helps students determine the best time to take the MCAT, how to make a list of target schools and how to obtain letters of recommendation from professors who may have many large classes.
But she added reaching out for help is “100 percent on the student.”
Powers said pre-med students need to be proactive in seeking out resources.
“Preparation for med school is not something that’s going to be handed out,” he said. “You don’t want med students that need stuff handed to them.”