Questioning The Pre-Med Journey

You were Pre-Med, but now you’re not so sure if it’s the right path for you. What’s Next?

 

            Is this a thought you’ve experienced at any point while on your Pre-med journey? If you have, don’t worry you are not alone! Many students wonder if the medical path is right for them while going through their undergraduate careers, or even when they take time off from college. At some point, the thought of another career path, or whether you really want to go to medical school may come into mind. While this may make you feel disoriented, with just a few easy tips, this overbearing decision will be easier for you to manage.

 

            First and foremost, if you ever question whether being Pre-med is the right option for you, you might want to explore medicine and all that it entails to see if you really do enjoy the field and would really like to be a future doctor. A few ways you can explore the medical field are by shadowing doctors, interning, volunteering, doing research, or speaking to students in medical school as well as current doctors about their experiences. Now, you don’t have to do all these things at once; they are simply ways you can immerse yourself into the field of medicine to see if it is the right path for you. There are tons of opportunities for you to get involved, your job is to seek out these opportunities to help you go through your career exploration process.

 

Charlotte, a recent UC Berkeley graduate, stated “I always wanted to go into medicine, but decided due to various reasons to explore what my university had to offer during my time as an upperclassman. I really got into clinical research, and the classes I took built on my budding interest, so for a while I began debating if maybe clinical research or a position in the public health sector was right for me. After exploring, I found my way back to the pre-med track.” As you can see through Charlotte’s story, exploring other options may help you realize whether pursuing a medical degree is the right option for you.

 

However, don’t feel alarmed if you decide on a different healthcare path, or different career path all together, after exploring other options. Brent, a senior at UCLA, explored career options outside the field of medicine and found that dentistry was a better healthcare path for him to pursue. Brent mentioned that no matter what he did, he knew he wanted to have a very hands-on position, leading him to explore the options of either going through the Pre-med track and in hopes of becoming a surgeon, or switching to another healthcare path that involved lots of hands-on exposure. Brent came to the conclusion that he may also be interested in dentistry, since it is so hands-on, and decided to shadow a surgeon to help him get a sense of whether he should stay on the Pre-med track. “In shadowing the surgeon, I found that I would want to see quick results from my work if I were a doctor. In surgery, you do use your hands but results can take up to weeks or months. While I was premed, I had begun to expose myself in other fields such as dentisry. I was fascinated by the quickness of the results, the idea of using your hands with drilling instruments, being creative and paying attention to detail in a localized area, the high patient interaction, and the challenge to make your patient at ease when coming to the office. In addition, the lifestyle for dentists is a lot less draining in my opinion, both during and after school.” While Charlotte’s career exploration took her back to the medical field, Brent’s led him to find another area of interest in the healthcare field. Both options are valid options for students to take; you just have to take advantage of the opportunities available to you to help determine if you are really interested in medicine.

Now, for those of you who are interested in medicine, but either started to take your prerequisites late in your undergraduate career or did not receive grades you were pleased with, you have the option of entering a Postbaccalaureate program for a couple years to help satisfy the coursework and grades needed to apply to medical school. For those of you wondering what a Postbac program is, it is simply a program geared toward college graduates that helps students who want to apply to medical school complete the necessary prerequisite coursework. There are two types of postbac programs: the first is designed for “career changers,” which are those students that have not yet completed their science prerequisites as they were likely to decide on the medical field late in their educational careers. The second is for students who are looking to improve their science course grades by retaking the courses through a postbac program. In Charlotte’s case, she chose to pursue a postbac program before applying to medical school. “I didn’t find it worth it to squeeze in my final prerequisites into my time as an undergrad and decided to avoid overfilled courses by choosing a postbac path. There are various options and everyone’s sure to find a program or school to fit their needs. I’m still continuing to do research and will also be volunteering in a hospital during my studies,” she said. As you can see, there are options available to you, even if the sciences weren’t your topic of interest or strong point while in undergrad. A postbac program can help you build your medical school application, and improve your science prerequisites. A postbac program can be found at undergraduate universities all over the nation.

 

If you still aren’t sure if the Pre-med track is the right track for you after gaining experience and speaking to professionals in the field, you may want to consider some other healthcare professions that may still satisfy your desire to help others and work in a field related to medicine. Some common healthcare careers are: physician’s assistant, pharmacists, physical therapists, speech-language pathologists, chiropractors, occupational therapists, genetic counselors, and veterinarians. These are all healthcare options for you to consider, and at the UCLA Career Center, we have a Career Library filled with books on healthcare career options that also provide you with information on the educational requirements, salary, and working environments for these professionals. Feel free to stop by at the Career Center to further your career exploration process.

 

Lastly, if you decide that a career in the healthcare field is no longer right for you, there are other options out there that you can explore. Vesta, a Peer Advisor at the UCLA Career Center, was once a pre-med student, but over time, she came to realize medicine, or a career in healthcare, was not for her. “I still found it all extremely interesting and important, but I didn’t wake up in the morning excited to go to class and learn science, or do healthcare for the rest of my life. And that got me thinking, is there something I could be learning about/doing in the future that would make me happier? And there was. So I decided to pursue that and it made all the difference,” Vesta said. She explored her options and decided to pursue a career in the film industry instead. If you are interested in getting a sense of what other career paths may be right for you, feel free to make an appointment to meet with a career counselor at the UCLA Career Center, or take one of several assessments we offer to help you gain a better sense of what career may work best for you.

 

Now that you’re aware of ways to determine if the Pre-med path is right for you, I wish you the best of luck in your career exploration process and in your future endeavors. And remember, there is nothing wrong with switching career paths. It’s important to find your passion, and to do what you love, as you’ll be the one in this field throughout your professional life. As Confucius said, “do what you love and you’ll never have to work a day in your life.”

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Confessions of a Peer Advisor (Vol. 7): Taking a Gap Year

As a graduating senior, I am taking a gap year. And I am not alone. According to an unscientific remark made by my twin sister (who, unsurprisingly, is also about to be a recent college graduate), most students graduating from college do not find work or go to graduate school right away (she’s going to graduate school right away and perhaps she said this to make me feel better but that is beside the point- I’m sure there’s some merit in there somewhere). We’ve all heard bits and pieces about why this could be- we’re the “boomerang” generation, prone to returning home to our parents after we graduate since we can’t make it in the flailing labor market, we’re idealistic “millenials” who want to find ourselves and have tossed practicality into the wind. Whatever the reason, gap years are coming upon a bunch of us very soon, and we’re going to have to deal with them one way or another.

At the beginning of my senior year, I knew I wanted to take a gap year. I have a bad case of young people idealism; I just can’t wrap my brain around being in a job for 30+ years and having a routine and being comfortable all the time. I know, God forbid. Sometimes I even relish all the apprehension and fear that comes with the job search and the post-grad decisions because in the face of what is coming for a lot of us (having a job for a long time), these will be the times that will make us happy to be grounded one day.

And I’m not necessarily a student that doesn’t know what she wants to do yet (although that is a separate transformative journey I went on). I have a post it note of the top 5 things I want to do in life and I have no plans to choose- I want to do all of them. I’m just figuring out where I should start.

And that’s where my gap year comes in. I’m looking into 1-, 2-year programs that will take me to faraway lands (the east coast) to teach or do service work. A lot of popular gap years are in this realm. One thing college grads do have is that unbridled enthusiasm for changing the world, and some organizations have learned to capitalize on it.

But gap years can take you home. That’s ok. Gap years can take you to another country for a while, to see what it’s like and experience a new culture. Gap years can be a time to relax your brain from the four years of mental gymnastics you put it through during college. Gap years can be a time you make a LinkedIn profile, connect with professionals, and pursue the job hunt relentlessly in a time where you don’t have to worry about that upcoming midterm.

Gap years are common. Gap years are confusing, and scary. Gap years could even be necessary. Honestly, I’m not sure what to expect. The only common denominator I have found in all my post-grad plans is that I want to get out, meet people, and do stuff. Where? I don’t know. Who? Good question. What stuff? Not sure yet! My goal in life is to always rack up experience, and I firmly believe that neither I, nor any recent grad out there, can do that much wrong in our decisions, as long as your goal is to better yourself and keep trying for whatever it is you want.

Thus I encourage you to repeat the mantra- get out, meet people, do stuff- throughout your gap year decision-making process to remind yourself that no matter what you do in your gap year, you are making great strides for your future by even taking this time to gain a better understanding of yourself and reflect on where you truly want to be.

CONFESSIONS OF A PEER ADVISOR (VOL. 6): DECIDING ON A GRAD SCHOOL

CONFESSIONS OF A PEER ADVISOR (VOL. 6): DECIDING ON A GRAD SCHOOL

After several long months of working on graduate school applications, preparing for examinations like the GRE, hunting down letter of recommendation writers, and maintaining your grades and extracurricular activities at school, the hard work has finally paid off- you’ve been accepted to graduate school! Congratulations! A huge weight is now lifted off your shoulders, as you now know you will definitely have a school to go to in the fall. But after you’ve heard back from your potential graduate schools, you’re faced with one more important decision: Which graduate school are you going to attend?

As a current student at UCLA and a Peer Advisor at the UCLA Career Center who recently had to make this decision, I understand how difficult it could be to make that final decision. There are so many different factors that come into play, but from what I’ve learned through my experience, and through information I’ve gathered while speaking with counselors, mentors, and various professionals, I’ve learned that there are a few important questions to ask yourself when trying to make this decision:

1) How will a degree from a certain graduate school affect your future career plans?

Sometimes, within certain fields, there are some programs that have better reputations than others. Some specialize in areas that others do not. Take a look at the career path you are interested in pursuing, and see which school will more likely get you there. You can take a look at the different opportunities the school would offer you, such as internships, graduate assistantships, the opportunity to T.A., the option of writing a thesis (if that’s what you’re interested in), etc., to help you answer this question. You can also take a look at how the experiences and education you gain through this program will be transferrable into a future career within the field.

2) If you are interested in research, what opportunities are there for you to start doing research at a given school? Are there any faculty members doing research within an area you are interested in?

For those of you interested in research, you probably have a particular topic you are extremely interested in, and would like to learn more about to be able to one day conduct your own research. If that’s the case, check out the site for your graduate school and read the biographies for some of the faculty members. See what types of research they’ve done, and if you’d like working with any of the faculty advisors or have an interest in something they’ve done research in.

3) Bouncing off the previous question, would type of faculty involvement are you looking for while in your graduate program?

Some programs have extremely supportive and involved faculty members that are involved in your academic career every step of the way, while others allow you more space to be independent, supporting you and providing you with extra guidance when need be. Determine what type of faculty involvement you’d like throughout your graduate career. You can get a little bit more information on this by attending an information session for your program, or by contacting a faculty member within the program.

4) Which program curriculum do you like best?

While the programs you applied to are all most likely within one field, they will each have very different courses and ways of developing their curriculum. Look through the course descriptions on the program sites, and see which curriculum interests you most. Whether you’re looking for a program that will challenge you, a program that will let you express your passion, or a program that will best prepare you for what’s to come after graduate school, there will be a curriculum that will satisfy your needs best.

5) What is the cost of the program and how long is the program?

Graduate school can get expensive, and that may be something to consider when trying weighing the pros and cons between varying schools. Determine if you’d be willing to pay any amount for a quality education, or if you’d prefer a school that be more affordable. With that, it’s also important to consider the length of the program, as that may affect the cost. Or in some cases, a certain program may be longer, or shorter, than what you’d like, so make sure to consider the program length before committing to a school.

These are a few of the main questions I asked myself when deciding on a graduate school, and hopefully they will help you make that final decision as well! A couple other things to note are the school or program ranking, and the location of the school.

Feel free to make an appointment to meet with a Career Counselor at the UCLA Career Center if you need a little more guidance in making that final decision.

Best of luck on deciding on a graduate school, and congratulations on entering the new chapter of your life 🙂

Nicole

 

CONFESSIONS OF A PEER ADVISOR (VOL 3): APPLYING TO GRADUATE SCHOOL

“Which graduate schools am I going to apply to?”

“How do I know if this is the right program for me?”

“How many letters of rec does this school need? What’s the desired GPA?”

Applying to graduate school comes with many questions, and if you’re like me, these questions can stress you out a good bit. Figuring out where to apply, when the apps are due, how many letters of recommendation you need for each school, what benefits each program has (the list goes on and on) can all be super overwhelming. However, I’ve learned that with just a few easy steps, you’ll be able to simplify the application process for yourself.

1) DO YOUR RESEARCH: this is an extremely simple but vital part of the application process. You want to figure out what type of program you’d be interested in, and what schools would have such a program. Now, the hunt for grad schools may be a little difficult, so you can use sites like gradschools.com to help you out. On this site, you can search for graduate schools by the field you’d be interested in, along with class format (online, on campus, hybrid), and location. Location can be an important factor to many of you, so make sure to consider this before applying. If you’re looking for a more personal way to find graduate schools with the program you’re interested in, you can always make an appointment with a career counselor at the UCLA Career Center to have them help you do your research. You can also find groups on Facebook for the program of your interest to see where other students with similar interests are planning to apply. Once you’ve figured out your desired schools, you can move on to the next step…

2) CONTACT THE GRADUATE SCHOOLS/ PREPARE: you’ve prepared a list of graduate schools you’re interested in, contact the graduate schools and speak to a representative about their school. This will help you get a better sense of the school and if it would be a good fit for you. You can also see if the school can send you any additional information on their program. Lastly, it never hurts to have a contact at the school if you have any questions regarding the program or need help with the application. After contacting the school and narrowing down the list of schools you’ll be applying to, you can start preparing the varying materials you’ll need for your application. If a school requires you to take the GRE, start studying for the test now! It’s much less overwhelming to study for the test before starting the application process. Next, figure out how many letters of recommendation each school requires, and make sure you have enough professors/ professionals to write these letters for you. Make sure your writers know that you’ll need letters in the near future so they can start preparing your letter. The Career Center offers a Letter of Reference Service, so if you’re applying to a graduate school that requires a hard copy of the letters, you can always use this service so you don’t have to ask for the letters from your professors more than once. The Career Center will store the letters for you and send them out upon request. Lastly, make sure to have access to official transcripts and know how to send them to your desired schools.

3) GET ORGANIZED: now that you’re finished all the preparation, it’s time to get organized! I know this sounds like common sense, but it really does take make a huge difference in simplifying your application process. Once you know where you want to apply, how many letters of rec you need, the program’s desired GPA, the application deadlines, etc., create a spreadsheet on Excel that contains all this information. Trust me when I saw it will make your life MUCH easier. Initially, I felt like I could handle remembering all this information on my own, but putting it on a spreadsheet helps break everything down for you and assures you won’t miss any important deadlines or documents, so be sure to get organized!

4) APPLY: after you’ve gone through these simple steps, you’re ready to apply! Start filling out the application, and use the information you’ve gathered to make the application process run much more smoothly. Once you have personal statement drafts ready, you can always come to the Career Center and have a career counselor look over them for you. You can also have a career counselor or peer advisor critique your resume to ensure you’re selling yourself to the graduate schools as best as possible.

Hopefully these simple steps will help you through your application process.
Best of luck in your future endeavors, I know you can do it 🙂

GAP YEAR: What opportunities are available during my year off? Click here to find out!

“Should I take a year off after I graduate? Or should I apply for graduate school straight from college? A lot of people have told me that if I take a year off, then I’ll never go back to school! But then again, I’ve heard other people tell me that it is essential to get some hands-on experience before going back to school! I’m so confused! What do I do?!”

Ah, the gap year. Before we get into the nitty gritty of gap year opportunities, let’s begin with a couple of quick tips in regards to your potential year off:

  • Relax and take a deep breath – it is completely normal to take a year off, and most college graduates do it. Don’t listen to those students who regret their gap year because they “were unable to get back into school mode.” This is definitely not the case for everyone. If you’re determined to go back to school, you will go back to school. Some students even claim that a gap year enables them to go back to school with renewed vigor and motivation!
  • Research more about the different opportunities available to you – you can do anything from finding an internship, teaching abroad (like in Japan!), traveling the world, or even learning a new language! The opportunities are truly endless.
  • If you do in fact want to go back to school, make sure your gap year activities are worthwhile – for instance, if you are applying to a Clinical Psychology program, it would be worthwhile to volunteer in a shelter for battered women or rape victims.
  • Use your gap year as a way to get to know yourself better – this is the time when you want to try out new things, volunteer at different places, learn more about research and clinical processes, travel to different countries, etc. Be adventurous and creative!

If you would like to learn more about the pros and cons of a Gap Year, then visit the UCLA Career Center Library (2nd largest library in the nation!) to read more about it. We have compiled a couple of books that we thought would be the best guide for those who are considering taking a year off…and especially for those in search of international opportunities.

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The 100 Best Volunteer Vacations to Enrich Your Life by Pam Grout

  • Discusses pros and cons of volunteer vacations
  • Divided into seven chapters – North America & the Caribbean, central and South America, Europe, Middle East, Africa, Asia, and Australia and around.

Your Gap Year by Susan Griffith

  • Why take a gap year?

Volunteering Around the Globe by Suzanne Stone

  • What types of volunteering (and international) opportunities are available for students? How can students figure out the type of volunteering that they want to do?

The Big Trip

  • Another great read for those interested in traveling the world and finding opportunities across the globe!

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….that the UCLA Career Center provides you with Opportunity Lists on BruinView, where you can access updated lists of various internships, volunteer options, research programs, etc.? As a matter of fact, the Career Center recently added a new list of Gap Year options. Here are the steps to get there (with pictures!):

1. Sign on to your BruinView account (if you have not registered, REGISTER NOW!) through career.ucla.edu/BruinView.

2. Under the Resources tab, click on Opportunity Lists.

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3. Scroll down all the way to the bottom of the page, and click on either FELLOWSHIPS // Pre-Med Gap Year Programs or GAP Year (all majors) – Ideas to get you started.

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4. Finally, after clicking on either post (we’ll stick to “All Majors” for now), you should come to this page:

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Clearly, this is just a snapshot of the page, but now that you know the steps to get there, you can learn more about your gap year options on your own!

For more information, visit the UCLA Career Center or get connected with us through our website, Facebook and Twitter!

Are you applying to graduate school? Take our poll and read about how the Career Center can help you with the application process!

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Applying to graduate school can be a daunting and scary task. With most deadline coming up within the next month or so, putting those finishing touches on that personal statement and getting those letters of reference in are crucial to your application timeline. The UCLA Career Center has counselors that are available to help you with your personal statement, come in and receive one on one feedback to make sure you turn in a statement worthy of acceptance.

Check out our library where we have books with information about top graduate schools in various fields, guides on applying to your dream school and even books on personal statements.

Have you heard of our Letters of Reference service? You can load letters into a centralized account, gather your letters and have us send them to your dreams schools.

Come into the career center today and learn more about how we can help you!!!

A Case Study in that Daunting Question: “What Am I Going to Do After Graduation?”

Ever wonder what you were going to do after you graduate?

Most students will face this crossroads eventually, whether the date is far away, or looming just on the horizon. Those students who have not committed themselves to pre-professional tracks might ask themselves:

  • “I’ve chosen my major..now what?”

  • “Should I go to grad school or should I not go to grad school?”

  • “If I do go to decide to go to grad school, what kind of program should I pursue?”

If you find yourself asking these questions, don’t become overwhelmed. While it may seem extremely stressful to make these decisions at a young age, it might help to remember that most bachelor’s degrees are versatile and will adequately prepare you for any type of post-undergraduate arrangement you might desire.

The “what am I going to do with my life after graduation” question is daunting, but the Career Center has many resources—one-on one Career Counseling, Career Assessments, Workshops, JumpStarts, and books—that can help you along any step of the decision making process.

Consider the following student as a case study. Don’t be alarmed if it seems specific; the advice provided can be applied to a range of majors who are trying to answer the same type of question.

  • “I’m a psychology major. I know I want to go to grad school, but I’m not sure if I should get a master’s in psychology or go to law school. I hear that you can do anything with a law degree, so I think I might do that to keep my options open. How can I decide?”

Psychology is one of the most popular majors at UCLA—it’s not surprising given how many options it can provide in terms of the post-grad dilemma. If this sounds remotely anything like you, the Career Center Library has a plethora of books that can help.

You can start by exploring the “Psychology” section in the back of our Career Lab. There, you’ll find books like “Career Paths in Psychology: Where Your Degree Can Take You” by Robert J. Sternberg, which can help you get a better idea of the many different career paths you have available to you, and the steps you need to take to get there.

Once you are aware of the different steps required to reaching your career goal, you can move to the front of the Career Lab for help in actually getting there. Does your coveted career require graduate school? Before you lock in on it, check with “Is Graduate School Really for You?” by Amanda I. Seligman.

And suffice it to say that not all graduate schooling is created equal. Often times, graduate school is a huge investment and you want to make sure you walk out with a degree that can get you to the career you want. It’s true that law school can prepare you with many skills that make you an extremely competitive candidate in the job market, but you shouldn’t do it just to “keep your options open.” Before you invest a lot of hard work, time, and money into a degree in law, make sure to read Career Center books such as “Do You Really Want To Be a Lawyer” by Susan J. Bell and “What Can You Do With A Law Degree” by Deborah Arron to make an educated choice.Image