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Tips & Resources for Pre-medical Students

**Preparing for Medical School: Strategies & Resources for Success**

Plan Strategically

  • Pace yourself – start somewhat conservatively
  • Pay attention to prerequisites
  • Take full, challenging course loads but don’t overload
  • Drop if you need to – watch the academic calendar
  • Don’t get over-involved in activities – they are important, but academics are priority #1
  • See your pre-med adviser regularly

Remember the Meaning Behind the Madness

  • Choose activities and a course of study that are meaningful to you
  • Maintain a focus on learning (avoid checklist thinking)
  • Invest – actively pursue opportunities (academic and non-academic)
  • Stay balanced – don’t abandon hobbies/interests outside of healthcare/medicine
  • Take responsibility for being informed and making decisions
  • Seek and be open to feedback on your plans and ideas 

Take Advantage of Resources

Pre-medical Advising (M305 SMSU, 503-725-3822)

  • Information on prerequisites for med school, pre-med activities and opportunities, and the med school application process
  • Assistance with course planning and determining MCAT/application timing
  • Advice on the Health Sciences Letter service, letters of evaluation
  • Feedback on personal statement for med school application
  • Encouragement and support

Major Advising

  • Information and guidance on the requirements for your major
  • Opportunity for intellectual discourse, opportunities within the field of study
  • Check with your major department to find out how to make an appointment

Faculty Office Hours

  • Assistance with course material and advice on how to succeed in the class
  • Hours and location typically listed on course syllabus

The Learning Center (2nd Floor, University Library, 503-725-4448)

  • Math and science tutoring
  • Academic coaching
  • Workshops on time management and strategies for multiple choice and essay exams

Chemistry Tutoring Room (221 SB1)

  • Assistance with chemistry from graduate students

Writing Center (188 CH, 503-725-3570)

  • Assistance with writing assignments and your personal statement 

Career Center (402 USB, 503-725-4613)

  • Volunteering and work opportunities
  • Mock interviews and feedback on personal statement for med school

Student Health & Counseling Center (200 UCB, 503-725-2800)

  • Help dealing with stress and depression
  • Testing for disabilities

Disability Resource Center (503-725-4150)

  • Disability counseling, educational training, advocacy, and accommodations 

OHSU Center for Diversity and Inclusion (503-494-5657)

  • Advising for prospective college student interested in OHSU programs with the goal of advancing the academic, career and personal development of underrepresented minority and disadvantaged student populations.

**Preparing for Medical School: Gaining Exposure to the Field**

Participate in Events and Opportunities

  • READ the emails you receive from the pre-medicine listserv
  • Join student organizations such as the Portland Pre-Health Society (PPS)
  • Look for and research special programs and opportunities on your own
  • Select and participate in the activities you find interesting/useful
  • Push yourself to pursue new and challenging opportunities  


  • Get a list of healthcare exposure sites and programs from the pre-medical adviser
  • Ask the Portland Pre-Health Society (PPS) Volunteer Coordinator for information on opportunities
  • Sign up for CareerConnect through the Career Center
  • Research volunteer opportunities on your own


  • Volunteer first so that you can be TB-tested and HIPAA-trained and become comfortable in the healthcare setting. Then you can let physicians know about this background when you ask if you can job-shadow.
  • Make an effort to network with physicians and be willing to hear the answer, “no,” several times until you hear, “yes.” You can network within your volunteering location and also by going to local events, lectures, and conferences where you may meet physicians. You can even use the Internet or phone book to find contacts at local clinics or hospitals that you find interesting.
  • Start out by requesting an informational interview (simply request 30 minutes of the physician’s time). Informational interviews are a key part of learning about any field. Conducting an informational interview is an excellent way to learn about medicine, healthcare, and various specialties while using only a small amount of the physician’s time and allowing him or her to meet and learn a bit about you as well. It allows you both to become acclimated before you bring up the topic of shadowing. Talk with the pre-med adviser and/or the Career Center for ideas on questions to ask in an informational interview.
  • Be reasonable and flexible when making your job-shadowing request. Long term, regular shadowing is preferred, but if a physician can only have you shadow for a day, take it!
  • Make the most of the shadowing experience. Engage in the experience by developing learning goals for yourself and sharing those with the physician, asking questions (when appropriate), conducting outside research to complement your learning, and offering to contribute non-clinical duties such as cleaning exam rooms and the waiting area, filing, etc. (you would be offering to help out not in order to get “hands-on” experience, but rather to return the favor and give back). As the mentoring relationship develops, consider exploring whether the physician is willing to allow you to engage in more of a “preceptorship,” wherein one practices basic skills such as patient interviewing.

Work in the Field

  • Some students pursue jobs within the field. However, if you elect to pursue work in the field, avoid committing to a job with a schedule and hours so intensive that your academics and other activities will be compromised. Because it can be difficult to balance a job with pre-medical studies, many students do not work in the field until their senior year or post-graduation. Working in the field is not required in order to be a competitive candidate.
  • Many jobs in the medical field require formal training/certification. However, two positions that do not are “medical scribe” and “research assistant.” As such, it is fairly common for pre-medical students to secure these positions at area hospitals and clinics when their schedules allow room for a job commitment. Other jobs that pre-medical students might pursue in healthcare tend to require special skills/training (e.g. CNA, CMA, phlebotomy, EMT, or paramedic training). Training in these areas is not available at PSU; check with area community colleges for programs (and with OHSU for paramedic training).