October 11, 2021 12:05 PM

Insider insights on getting into, and thriving, during medical school

University of Michigan medical students answer pre-meds’ questions ranging from how to prepare for interviews to how to stay well while juggling medical school.


It’s no secret that getting accepted into medical school is highly competitive, and for those who are admitted, making the choice of which school to attend can feel overwhelming.

Hearing insights and advice directly from those who have successfully navigated the process and are currently thriving in medical school ahead of you, though, can be invaluable.

Here, five University of Michigan medical students share their experiences for current and future applicants, breaking down some of the most asked about elements of the process (you can also watch their livestream Q&A video above.)

Preparing for medical school interviews:

Kelsey, fourth-year medical student: I think it's important to think about your most important experiences to you. I would pick three or four things that feel really meaningful. I was an EMT prior to coming to medical school. I made sure I really had crafted my story around that and what was important for me to share. I also was a middle school teacher. I thought through those experiences and what valuable lessons I learned from those and what I want to convey to an interviewer. It's important to practice with friends and family.

In general, there's kind of standard interview questions that get asked at a lot of different interviews: what are your strengths, what are your weaknesses, what's a challenge you have overcome. Having a couple of prepared answers will help alleviate a lot of stress when you’re interviewing. 

The importance of engaged and supportive medical school faculty:

Chelsie, second-year medical student: I had never in my life been interested in cardiology. Now I'm interested in doing a cardiology fellowship. It was due to me being able to reach out to faculty and talk to them about their experiences. It's not like having to beg or pull teeth. Michigan is a great institution with brilliant faculty members. People who are leading their fields. To be able to work with these people, learn from them, hear about their backgrounds and how they got to where they are, in hopes of maybe me getting there one day, it's so inspiring. It gives you more fuel to keep going when you have faculty who validate you constantly.

Learning the medical school grading structure:

Matt, first-year medical student: One thing that is unique or nearly unique about Michigan Medical School is we only do one preclinical year. It is a true pass or fail. I've been blown away the first few weeks of school. We had a quiz after the first week and folks were sending their big study guides they put together in our class group chats. The preclinical year is six blocks. Those are little terms, with midterms in there. You have a final block exam at the end of each of those blocks, which range from four weeks to ten weeks.

Clinical training during medical school:

Kelsey: Clinical year is great. We do it the second year versus the third year. You do a bunch of rotations. You have so much responsibility if you want it. You answer pages, you go see your patients, and you really get to own them. But, at the end of the day, I have residents, an intern, a senior faculty and an attending faculty who are all looking over my shoulder and making sure I'm not making mistakes when it comes to taking care of the patient. It's incredible learning without the scary pressure that you’re going to mess anything up.

I can wholeheartedly say the Michigan process works, and you learn a lot. I feel really ready and excited for residency.

SEE ALSO: What does it take to get into Michigan’s medical school? Just ask the new dean

Quintin, fourth-year medical student: Not only are we getting the experience of being able to perform things, write notes, come up with differential diagnoses, and fully manage our patients as best we can with a lot of the guidance that was discussed, but we are also allowed to flex our teaching minds.

You realize as a medical student that it’s really helpful to have a resident who is interested in teaching, and I am one of those people who is very interested in it. So it was nice to work on that now, see what works and see what I can carry forward or what would I change as I move forward into residency.

Finding support, wellbeing and balance during medical school:

Xinghao, second-year MSTP student: Our learning community, M-Home, has a lot of spirit. It's about support and community, and that's important. My house counselor, Christine, I’ve cried to her on multiple occasions. I will admit that. If you end up in Fitzbutler House, you probably will cry to her too. Medical school is hard. Life is hard.  Definitely having a support system that cares about your emotions and how happy you feel in school makes it all worth it. 

"Medical school is hard. Life is hard. Definitely having a support system that cares about your emotions and how happy you feel in school makes it all worth it."
Xinghao, second-year medical student

Chelsie: I advocate talking to someone, whether it's a counselor or a therapist, or talking to your classmates. They have been where you are. They can give you advice on balance. It can't be all about school all the time. It's important to find those things you love doing.

I think Michigan helps us find that. They encourage us to do those things we loved doing prior to starting medical school. Our program promotes our wellbeing and wants what's best for us. They want us to be great students and well-rounded people. 

Getting a dual degree while becoming an M.D.:

Quintin: I was interested in research my first two years of medical school. But in the meetings. I found I didn't have the understanding that I wanted in order to keep up with the conversations and research happening. I found the master’s in clinical research. It's a funded program; I was able to get the year covered in terms of tuition and living. I see myself moving toward academic surgery. My primary research mentor has been outstanding and supportive. There are residents in the group as well. I'm getting levels of mentorship throughout. It speaks to the Michigan environment the support you get. 

Living in a new city during medical school:

Matt: I'm a west coast dude. I love Arizona, so I was a little hesitant to come out to the Midwest. The most surprising thing about Ann Arbor has been the food. The food here is so good. Shout out Monahan’s Seafood Market! The best fish sandwich I ever had. Cooked to order fish fresh out of the case. Huge surprise.

SEE ALSO: Mock Paging Curriculum: An Interprofessional Experience

Chelsie: Even though University of Michigan is so big, it's still a small town. It has that feel to it. Home-like and loving. The people are nice and warm and inviting. I'm from the south so I'm used to southern hospitality. We do that out of obligation. When you come to the south, we are supposed to take care of you. In Ann Arbor, they do it because they want to do it. I feel like it's a big hug when I'm here.

Choosing the right medical school for you:

Xinghao: [For me at Michigan it was] 100% the people. I feel very at home. I feel like I’m with people who have similar goals as me, who want to do a lot in this world. One of the things that really stood out to me was what kind of populations students here care about: people who need an advocate, a public health leader, someone to go to Congress and fight for them. My classmates are driven, not only for their own careers, but for how their careers are going to influence the society as a whole.