School before WUSM

On Coming From a Small College

I am from a small liberal arts college in Minnesota. When people ask the classic question of what school I graduated from, I usually leave it at that, because after graduating and moving to DC for several gap years, I soon realized that for people from the coasts, the concept of what and where Minnesota is can be confusing enough. So while considering WUSM, I was a bit nervous about whether this school would be the fit for me. A large majority of the students come from the top universities in the country with environments very different than my own. Yet I have found that this class is full of wonderful (and freakishly smart) people whom I can’t imagine going through this experience without. Despite going to class in a lecture hall full of 120+ other students (where the max I have ever experienced before was 30), I never felt like an anonymous face in a crowd and there are always a number of classmates I can turn to for help. I believe that the closeness of the medical school class is one of the greatest strengths of WUSM. Also, like your small college, everyone here knows everything about each other’s happenings, so you will soon feel right at home.

— Anna Trier, M1

On Coming From a Large University

At WUSM you will notice that many positives carry over from what you had at a large university. There are world-renowned professors teaching the curriculum, extensive opportunities for research, clubs outside of class and incredible resources for student life. You also will notice that the negatives of a large university have vanished; no more 600-person chemistry classes! Yay! There also will not be a 20-minute line to get lunch! The cafes and lunch spots are easy to peruse, and there is no pressure from the cashier to say your order in three seconds. Overall, WUSM is a perfect mix of a small cohort within an expansive health care system. You will feel comfortable with your classmates and have the care and attention you need, all while in a hospital large enough to get lost in.

— Will Gerull, M1

On Being a Non-Science Major

Coming in with a degree in music, I was slightly concerned that I would lag behind my classmates with science degrees. Don’t worry. WUSM makes the transition very manageable. You will learn everything you need to know in medical school. A vast majority of the information is new to everyone so you won’t really feel behind because you were a non-science major. Sure, others may have more of a background in some of courses, but everyone will have weaknesses. Some topics might come easier to you than they do for others. Just be yourself and enjoy the experience!

— Josh Mendoza, M1

On Gap Year(s)

As “non-traditional” application routes become more traditional, it’s important to think about the pros and cons of taking a gap year (or several) before medical school. After undergrad, I spent one year as a neuroscience research lab manager and two years working at a Federally Qualified Health Center. These have been some of my most impactful experiences, both in things I can put on paper and things I cannot. I got a couple of publications and experiences to write about in essays, but more importantly, I interacted firsthand with patients and doctors in a health care setting. It provided a foundation of experience from which I can now build upon and has shaped how I interact with medicine. Of course, spending three years out of a classroom setting comes with some consequences. Not only do I sometimes feel old compared with my classmates, but it took me a few weeks to adjust back into “school mode” and remember that work no longer ends at 5 p.m. Luckily, WUSM’s academic schedule is set up so that there is a fairly long period before the first set of exams happen, giving students ample time to re-acclimate. Faculty members and TAs also are more than happy to help establish study habits at any time. In retrospect, those years I took off will be some of the most important of my career, and I definitely made the right decision.

— Curtis Austin, M1

On Coming Directly from College

Congratulations on graduating college and directly entering 17th grade! The first year of medical school is very similar to college, as you busy yourself with classes, exams and extracurricular activities. Around half the class will have just graduated and will be your age, so you have buddies who share similar experiences. Thus, the transition is fairly simple and straightforward. You will also soon realize that the other half of the class is older, more experienced and seasoned. They are very cool to get to know and talk to. Just don’t ask how old they are or complain that you are getting old. In conclusion, first year is going to be great even if you have just come directly from college. No looking back now! (And who wants to look back at their pre-med days?)

— I-Ling Chiang, M1

On Being a Wash U Grad

After four years as an undergraduate at Washington University, St. Louis hasn’t lost its charm. In fact, the idea that I’ve spent some of my most formative years here, interacting with the community and the city, gives me tremendous pride and ownership for a place I’ve come to know as a second home. Now as a WUSM student, however, I see even more profoundly that St. Louis, including its people, cultures, history and future trajectory, lie vastly beyond the scope of my college experience, and it makes me excited to learn more. Your undergraduate experience here will make you a great resource for your classmates who are new transplants, but your journey as a WUSM student will be unprecedented and full of discoveries. Your mileage may differ, but in my experience as a returning Washington University student, familiarity breeds content. And the best part — you will definitely be greeted by friends, old and new, all around town.

— Jane Wang, M1