Santa Clara University

Pre-Health program

MD Prep. Overview

Freshman Year:  The main goal in your first year at SCU is to successfully transition from high school to college, with establishment of a sound academic performance as your primary focus.  This involves further development of what you already know about your learning style, becoming better at time management, and striving to strike a balance between studies, exercise and your social life.  For most aspiring pre-medical students, it is not quite time to place a strong emphasis on what will become the experiential portion of your medical school application.  Do not try too much too fast; establish yourself academically first.  The summer following freshman year is certainly an appropriate time to volunteer in a clinic, shadow a physician, or do whatever your interests in people and medicine lead you toward.  Depending on financial circumstances, you may need to work for pay during the summer.

Sophomore Year:  The main goals of your second year at SCU are to 1) continue academic excellence, 2) begin seeking out experiential activities, at least some of which must be medically related.  Perhaps checking into the SCU EMT program is of interest to you; perhaps a Spring Break immersion experience with the campus branch of Global Medical Brigades; perhaps joining and even seeking a leadership position in one of the several pre-health student clubs on campus.  Go with your interests; maybe that will be a research project with one of the Biology or Chemistry/Biochemistry Department faculty members.  Do not think of the experientials as a laundry list to be checked off; do what really engages you.  In your a planning to study abroad in the Fall Term of your junior year, you will need to get the logistics taken care of during your sophomore year.  The summer after sophomore year is especially ideal for an immersion experience, perhaps with Casa de la Solidaridad in El Salvador or with Child Family Health International, or International Service Learning.  See the experiential activities page for details.

Junior Year:  Continuing excellent academics and additional experiential activities is the best strategy during the third year here at SCU.  A few of your classmates may be beginning to talk about preparing for the MCAT (Medical College Admission Test) and applying to medical school in June.  One must apply to medical school more than a year prior to entry, so those students seeking to move directly from SCU to medical school will be following the preparation just described.  For most students, this approach is NOT the wisest one!  You are far likelier to be accepted to a medical school if you have taken at least one year off between SCU graduation and medical school matriculation.  Most medical school evaluation committees are valuing the additional maturity and life experience of a year off more with each passing year.  From a common sense standpoint, do you want to base your medical school application on what you accomplished in just the first three years of your college education?  Having a fourth year of academic work prior to the MCAT and more experiential activities makes you a stronger candidate.

Senior Year:  At this point you are taking the last of the important upper division science courses needed for medical school admission and focusing on MCAT preparation.  April or May of senior year is the ideal time to take the MCAT, since your score will be back in time for you to submit your AMCAS (American Medical College Application Service) electronic application during the first week of June.  Your all important personal statement is likely crafted in your 4th SCU year and you are in the process of obtaining letter of recommendation committments from faculty and others who know you best.  This also the time to plan how to spend your year off.  If you fear a year off will cause a loss of momentum or you will forget how to study, it is likely your "fire in the belly" for medical school is not sufficient.  Many students work for pay, join the Jesuit Volunteer Corps, or mix some traveling with volunteer work during their year off.