Category: Pre-Med

All the blog posts of me talking about my pre-med experience (and occasionally offering some advice).

[Part 3] Navigating Pre-Med at Cornell: Summer Experiences (Internships & Volunteering)


Hello and welcome! This is Part 3 of my six-part, “Navigating Pre-med” series that I will be publishing on my blog.

If you are new here, be sure to check out Part 0: My Background to learn more about my motivations for publishing this series, and information that would give a LOT more context to the information that I will be discussing!

Previous Part: INSERT LINK

And if you missed it: Part 0 – Part 1

My “Unconventional” Internships

I feel that out of all of the things I did in undergrad, the one thing that made me the most “insecure” was my unconventional internships–unconventional as in, while other pre-med students opted for full-time volunteering over the summer, MCAT studying, or biomedical research opportunities, I had spent all three of my summers before senior year in the realm of public health, two of which (summers before junior and senior year) with a consulting firm.

Though I certainly felt like it was a disadvantage to do two summers with a consulting firm, I feel like there were a few pros in doing so. In addition, for a while, I genuinely thought I would be spending my gap years in life science/healthcare/public health consulting, so it was a valuable career-exploration period for me. Furthermore, it gave me real-life work experience in the corporate/professional setting–something I don’t see a lot of pre-med students going out to do because most people opt for, like I said, research or volunteering over the summers.

Why Consulting?

I think I initially came to the field of consulting because I wanted to be able to apply statistics into some form of health-related field. The job itself (both summers) actually turned out to be not-at-all statistics related, which was disappointing, but I did a lot of thinking and learning on my feet. If you could think about learning in your undergrad to be learning with depth, consulting was definitely about learning breadth. It’s not my favorite, but useful and valuable in its own way.

Through consulting, I also had a lot of professional experiences (whether that be conflict resolution, professionalism, meeting etiquette, or just the ins-and-outs of working in a firm: believe it or not, there’s some nuances there) that I doubt I would be exposed to if I had chosen a summer internship in research or volunteering.

The Impacts

Going into my gap-year job search, I panicked a little bit because my experiences were so “unconventional”; the “cornerstone” activities on my resume was business research (you can read more about that in my previous blog post) and two summers of consulting. Sure, there does exist doctors who worked in finance or consulting before, but I almost felt like those individuals decided to go for a career change after they’ve established an initial career in finance or consulting. I, on the other hand, wanted my initial career to be in medicine.

I had an interview with a doctor regarding a gap-year research position, and he noted that on my CV, I spent a chunk of time with these experiences. Instinctively, I mentioned that “I know it’s not conventional…” and he cut me off–“not at all,” he said. He told me there were plenty of doctors like that, and not to worry.

In any case, my experience with consulting gave me a compelling reason and good work experience in my gap year job search. I wouldn’t say it’s 100% related to what I want to do, but pursuing this in the past hasn’t held me back in any way. Sure, having never worked in a wet-lab meant that I got rejected from all the wet-lab jobs, but that was never my intention (bench work) anyway.

I’m thankful to have been exposed to a field that seemed entirely unrelated to medicine. If I were to do this differently, I think I would have chosen to do something different my last summer (i.e., only did consulting for one summer and done research the last one). However, it was an experience for growth and I don’t think I would have realized such a push towards medicine without it. This brings me to my next point:


I mentioned in my last post (where I specifically talked more about volunteering during the school year) that I became interested in volunteering with older individuals the summer before my senior year.

I was looking for volunteering opportunities near me online and realized that there were a lot of hospice agencies looking for volunteers (later, my volunteer coordinator explained to me that they have to actively seek out volunteers–it’s funding related, if I recall correctly). I contacted a couple, and one of them got back to me before too long.

From there, there was an informal interview/orientation, and I was matched with an older individual part of the hospice agency. My job was simple–it was just to be a friend to them, and visit every so often.

I don’t think I realized how this would shape my views on wanting to become a physician. I knew early on in my life that I wanted to be a physician, but while working full-time in the summer with the consulting firm and volunteering with hospice in the weekends, the difference in my heart was so clear and obvious to me: I loved waking up on the weekends to visit the older individual I was paired up with, and I didn’t feel the same way going to my nine-to-five job. It just brought a sense of happiness in my heart, knowing that I was able to help someone in some small way. This was something I never felt in the summers during my full-time job, and this was the push I really needed to start (more aggressively) pursuing my dream of becoming a physician.


This post was a little bit more anecdotal than I intended, though I feel like what I had to say throughout all of this is to not be afraid to be “different”–even if it’s something as strange or “unrelated” as consulting. It has taught me a lot, but moreover it gave me a sense of direction, something I really needed.

Yes, there are things I would change about my summer internship decisions, but I don’t regret how I’ve spent my summers. At the end of the day, it didn’t hold me back in any big way when it came to searching for gap year positions, and I feel like it brought me invaluable insight with regards to the professional working environment.

I’ll see you guys back here next week with some resources of planning out our health career!

[Part 2] Navigating Pre-Med at Cornell: Semester Experiences (Research, Teaching, Volunteering)


Hello and welcome! This is Part 2 of my “Navigating Pre-med” series that I will be publishing on my blog.

If you are new here, be sure to check out Part 0: My Background to learn more about my motivations for publishing this series, and information that would give a LOT more context to the information that I will be discussing!

Previous Part: Coursework


I would say that beyond coursework, the activities that I have done during the semester that was related to pre-med falls into three main categories: research, teaching, and volunteering. In this part I will be discussing my experiences, how I came to get these opportunities, my general thoughts on them, and finally, more information/resources on things you can do as a Cornell student that falls into these categories.


In freshman year spring, I was introduced by my peer adviser to a professor in the Cornell SC Johnson School of Business. Though I only had one semester of Biological Statistics under my belt, and I explained to the professor I was considering pre-med (as you might be able to imagine, his research had very little to do with medicine–also side note, it’s might be a hit-or-miss to mention pre-med to a research professor; you don’t want to seem like you’re only doing research for pre-med), he took a chance with me and allowed me to be a part of his lab.

I’ve been doing research with the same professor for six semesters now, investigating various business topics with data science. Through this research experience I was able to concretely apply my interest for statistics, and my professor was able to introduce me to someone who does do medical research. This resulted in my first published paper where I was responsible for the statistics, and of course more connections!

Thoughts and Advice

In general, it really doesn’t matter what field you do your research in. I will admit it still makes me wonder if adcoms will really take me seriously since the majority of my research was done in the business field, but as I had thought initially, the concepts I learned through my experience could easily be applied to the medical field since data is universal.

There are plenty of my friends who do wet-lab biomedical research, but there are also plenty that work in psych and nutritional sciences. Here is a few piece of general advice when going into research during your undergrad:

  1. Make sure it’s something you’re interested in: or at least, something that you enjoy doing. Though the context of business is still a little bit foreign to me, and I wouldn’t say that looking at different business phenomenons and concepts is my calling, I do enjoy the critical thinking aspect of each of my projects as well as the technical (coding) portions of it. This all contributed to me really building a relationship with my professor and fellow lab mates, and of course is the reason why I remained so long in this lab.
  2. When approaching professors… don’t straight up offer them your resume. Usually it helps to look over their publications, and then send them an email asking if you could talk to them about their work. Also, if you take a professor’s class and really enjoyed the content, see if they have any research positions available! Alternatively, see if someone can introduce you to a professor you’re interested in working in.
  3. The Cornell Student Employment portal usually will list some professors who are looking for paid research help. These can range from cleaning glassware to an actual research assistant. If picking up a job that focuses on lab maintenance, see if you can ask if you can “get promoted” to a research assistant and do research with the professor after a certain amount of time working with them.
  4. Finally, stay consistent and persistent! You may not get the first research assistant position you apply for, and you may not LIKE the first professor or position you work as. However, if you can, settle down fairly early (perhaps sophomore year) so you can work on building not just skills but connections throughout the rest of your time in undergrad!


I started as a teaching assistant for ILRST/STSCI 2100: Introductory Statistics in my sophomore spring semester (so going into my senior spring, I would be a fifth semester TA). I worked with the same professor for the last four semesters, taught the same class, and really, really enjoyed it.

My responsibilities include leading a weekly discussion, replying to piazza posts, grading (homeworks and exams) and holding office hours. It was definitely very, very intimidating at first since I was responsible for creating lesson plans for my students and teaching them without the professor or graduate student, but after four semesters, I would say that I’m definitely getting the hang of it. It helped me build a lot of confidence as well as solidify my understanding of the fundamentals of statistics.

Thoughts and Advice

I highly recommend some sort of experience teaching or tutoring in undergrad. It holds you accountable for your knowledge in the subject, and then you get extremely familiar with it after several semesters. From what I know, here are some classes at Cornell that look for undergraduate TA’s:

  • The Learning Strategies Center — they look for statistics tutors, chemistry (general and organic chemistry), and bio tutors.
  • BIOG 1500 (Investigative Lab) — Look for undergraduate TAs to assist graduate TAs during labs
  • CHEM 1070/1080 — They’re officially called “course assistants”, and they TA the workshops for CHEM 1070/1080, generally “float” around the room to help students with chemistry as they write it out on the boards. They seem really tight-knit (together and with the professor!) though the time commitment also seems to be pretty great.
  • Undergrad physics TAs — they assist grad TAs in running discussions (and I think office hours?)
  • BIOMG 3300 TAs — This is an autotutorial biochemistry course, so they need a LOT of undergraduate staff to run the study center. You will need to take the class before you apply as a TA, and it looks like the time commitment is somewhere a little more than 3 hours a week.
  • Introductory Statistics — besides what I TA’d (ILRST 2100), another intro biostats course also looks for undergrad TAs (STSCI 2150).
  • Computer Science courses — They’re separated up into “consultants” and “TA’s”–it seems pretty competitive especially for non-CS majors, as I was rejected for both positions after getting an A in the course I was applying for. (I’m not completely sure what the criteria was but there didn’t seem to be a major criteria when the professor talked about it in class)

Finally, some courses (I know in particular, the stats department does it) look for graders, so it may be a way to get some experience and cash at the same time too.


I did pre-med related volunteering in high school (hospital, hippotherapy) though I got into this fairly late in undergrad. I did miscellaneous volunteering for three of my years in undergrad (mainly involving the Asian American community/some political activism) but unfortunately did not really love/get into it enough.

I started volunteering with a hospice agency the summer before my senior year, and that was a game-changer–I realized I loved working with the older population, and joined a few service oriented clubs once I got back to campus (yup, it’s never too late…!) in order to continue volunteering with organizations that serve older individuals (hospice/retirement homes etc!). This is something that became really near and dear to my heart in a short period of time and something I intend on doing throughout my gap year(s). I wish I realized this a lot sooner, but I still feel like it’s better late than never.

I also volunteer with Crisis Text Line, which is fulfilling and fairly easy to get trained/qualified though not a part of Cornell. It’s also really easy to jump on and volunteer whenever you want as long as you have a stable internet connection and some privacy (like your dormroom/bedroom).

Thoughts and Advice

Try a bunch of things Freshmen year–go to Club Fest, try out some (or a lot of) service clubs, and pick one or two to stick with for the entire undergrad (especially important if you’re planning on going straight into med school). You’re probably going to need both clinical and non-clinical volunteering, (Clinical = some face-to-face patient interactions) and amass a not-insignificant number of hours and stay committed to it for a few years.

There are certainly a lot of really creative volunteering opportunities at Cornell: there are music groups that visit senior homes, groups that translate for patients, groups that work with kids with special needs, so on and so forth. I definitely wish I got out there and tried some of these out earlier in the game!

My advice though, is still that you should like what you’re doing, if not really love/connect with it. I really enjoy volunteering both with CTL and visiting residents at the retirement home/hospice–and in fact, the latter was the reason I wake up in the mornings on the weekends the summer before my senior year. It’s not that loving what you’re doing is a requirement, but it’s certainly a lot less painless (yes I still have off-days! I don’t love it all the time, and yes sometimes I would rather be lazy too!) since you do have to commit to it.

Closing Thoughts

I spent a lot of time in my undergrad doing research and TAing, and less time on volunteering, though I’m slowly starting to catch up. I think the most important takeaway with this installment is just that you should always, always enjoy what you’re doing in terms of those three things, because otherwise it would seriously be painful because you would have to devote so much time to it. But, if done well it can definitely be fulfilling and an incredibly positive experience, not just as a “pre-med” but for life as well.

I’ll be back soon to discuss

[Part 1] Navigating Pre-Med at Cornell: Coursework


Hello and welcome! This is Part 1 of my “Navigating Pre-med” series that I will be publishing on my blog.

If you are new here, be sure to check out Part 0: My Background to learn more about my motivations for publishing this series, and information that would give a LOT more context to the information that I will be discussing!

Previous Part: My Background


In general, the coursework that was required is really split into three parts: (1) Pre-med requirements, (2) Major requirements, and (3) Cornell distribution requirements (which varies from college-to-college). I was also a music minor, though I won’t be discussing too much about that here.

Because my major was pretty different from the pre-med, I did have to take several more classes than say, what a biology major would have to take. This just emphasizes the fact that you really can be any major and still be pre-med. In fact, I have no regrets for choosing my major–it was such a big part of my college application way back then, and it has opened so many doors for me. That’s an entirely different post on its own, however.

Pre-med Requirements

For those who are new to pre-med, it’s not a major but a track. What that means is that it will never show up anywhere on my diploma, but instead is a series of classes that I need to take/fulfill in order to apply for med school.

When it comes down to it, the classes you need to take really depends on what medical school you want to apply to–for example, some medical schools might require two semesters of organic chemistry while others might only require one. I ended up looking at the Cornell Health Careers Guide, which I will be referencing as I go. It covers most (if not all) of the things med schools could ask, so I felt that it was safe to follow along to cover all my bases.

An overview of the requirements listed is as follows:

  • 2 semesters of introductory biology
  • 1 semester of biology lab
  • 2 semesters of general chemistry (with lab)
  • 2 semesters of organic chemistry
  • 1 semester of organic chemistry lab
  • 2 semesters of biochemistry (though some courses at Cornell can allow you to finish it in 1 semester)
  • 2 semesters of physics
  • 2 semesters of English (some medical schools require 1, some require 2–some also allow you to go with AP test scores)
  • 1 semester of calculus
  • 1 semester of statistics
  • 1 semester of social sciences (some but not all medical schools require psychology/sociology, and many allow you to go with AP test scores)

Biometry & Statistics Major Requirements

Required coursework for my major (Following the Major Requirements for students who entered Fall 2015 or Spring 2016) is as follows:

  • Calculus 1 & 2 (2 Semesters)
  • Multivariable Calculus (1 semester)
  • Linear Algebra (1 semester)
  • Biological Statistics I & II (2 semesters)
  • Probability Models and Inference (1 semester)
  • Statistical Computing (1 semester)
  • Linear Models (1 semester)
  • Theory of Statistics (1 semester)
  • 4 Advanced Electives to go towards my concentration (I started with mathematical statistics but switched to general in my last semester)

The only “overlap” was calculus and statistics–and I end up taking way more of statistics than being pre-med actually requires.

College Distribution Requirements

Distribution requirements for the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences are as follows: (this changes for each college, so I won’t go into too much details or specifics here, other than outline what I actually take)

  • 2 credits of PE
  • 18 credits of physical and life sciences (easily covered by the pre-med requirements)
  • 12 credits of social sciences and humanities (covered mostly by my interest in music and AP credits)
  • 9 credits of written and oral expression (covered by AP credits and my freshman writing seminar!)

Thankfully, many of these distribution requirements were able to be “stacked” with the pre-med requirements.

What I Actually Took

Now, the exciting part! I’ve broken these up into semesters, with a short description of what requirements it actually fulfilled.

They will be tagged with either ‘M’ for ‘Major’, ‘C’ for ‘College’, or ‘P’ for ‘Pre-Med’ depending on what exactly it fulfilled. I also took several classes for fun (like orchestra!) so those classes aren’t tagged at all.

Freshman Year, Fall Semester

  • BIOG 1440: Comparative Physiology [P, C]
  • CHIN 2209: Intermediate Chinese for Heritage Students I [C]
  • MATH 1920: Multivariable Calculus for Engineers [M, P, C]
  • BTRY 3010: Biological Statistics I [M, P, C]
  • PE 1170: Swing Dance I [C]
  • MUSIC 4621: Cornell Chamber Orchestra

Freshman Year, Spring Semester

  • BIOG 1350: Cell & Developmental Biology [P]
  • BTRY 3020: Biological Statistics II [M]
  • ENGL 1111: Writing Across Cultures [C]
  • CHIN 2210: Intermediate Chinese for Heritage Students II [C]
  • MUSIC 4621: Cornell Chamber Orchestra
  • MUSIC 3501: Individual Instruction in Viola

Notes: by the end of freshman year, I was almost done with fulfilling the majority of the college distribution requirements just based on pre-med/major and AP credits alone. In addition, I was taking Chinese for fun, and was happy to find out it actually satisfied a distribution requirement. :)

Sophomore Year, Fall Semester

  • CHEM 2070: General Chemistry [P, C]
  • BIOG 1500: Investigative Biology Lab [P]
  • BTRY 3080: Probability Models and Inference [M]
  • MATH 2310: Linear Algebra with Applications [M]
  • BTRY 4990: Undergraduate Research
  • AEM 1240: Rose Scholars Program
  • CHEM 1070: General Chemistry I Workshop
  • MUSIC 4651: Chamber Music Ensemble

Sophomore Year, Spring Semester

  • AEM 1240: Rose Scholars Program
  • BTRY 3520: Statistical Computing [M]
  • BTRY 4990 Undergraduate Research
  • CHEM 1080: Intro to Critical Thinking
  • CHEM 2080: General Chemistry II [P]
  • CS 1110: Intro to Computing using Python [M]
  • MUSIC 3501: Individual Instruction in Piano
  • MUSIC 4621: Cornell Chamber Orchestra
  • MUSIC 4651: Chamber Music Ensemble

Notes: Both CHEM 1070 and CHEM 1080 were chemistry “workshops”, i.e., one-credit courses that is designed to supplement the content in the main chemistry courses (2070 and 2080). Rose Scholars Program is a residence-hall, one-credit course that I needed to add to my schedule in order to continue being able to live in my dorm :’). Moreover, even though undergraduate research was done with my major’s course code, it actually didn’t count towards any requirements.

Junior Year, Fall Semester

  • AEM 1240: Rose Scholars Program
  • BTRY 4030: Linear Models with Matrices [M]
  • BTRY 4990: Undergraduate Research
  • CHEM 3570: Organic Chemistry for the Life Sciences I [P]
  • MATH 3040: Prove It!
  • MUSIC 2224: Mozart in History, History in Mozart
  • MUSIC 3514: Individual Instruction in Piano
  • MUSIC 4621: Cornell Chamber Orchestra

Notes: Prove It! Was a course I took so I could familiarize myself with math proofs and Analysis, which I would take the following semester.

Junior Year, Spring Semester

  • AEM 1240: Rose Scholars Program
  • BTRY 4090: Theory of Statistics [M]
  • BTRY 4990: Undergraduate Research
  • CHEM 3580: Organic Chemistry for the Life Sciences II [P]
  • MATH 3110: Introduction to Analysis [M]
  • MUSIC 2208: History of Western Music II
  • MUSIC 3514: Individual Instruction in Piano
  • MUSIC 4621: Cornell Chamber Orchestra

Senior Year, Fall Semester

  • BIOMG 3300: Principles of Biochemistry [P]
  • BTRY 4270: Survival Analysis [M]
  • BTRY 4990: Undergraduate research
  • CHEM 2510: Intro to Experimental Organic Chemistry [P]
  • MUSIC 1101: Elements of Music
  • MUSIC 3514: Individual Instruction in Piano
  • MUSIC 4621: Cornell Chamber Orchestra
  • MUSIC 4651: Chamber Music Ensemble
  • PHYS 2207: Physics for the Life Sciences II [P]

Notes: The biochemisty class I took is a one-semester, 4-credit biochemistry course. If you were a bio major you would have to take an additional 1-credit course, but this course condensed two-semesters of information into one.

Senior Year, Spring Semester–What I’m currently enrolled in

  • BTRY 4110: Categorical Data [M]
  • EDUC 2200: Intro to Adult Learning [C]
  • HADM 4300: Introduction to Wines
  • PE 1272: Walking Tours[C]
  • PHYS 2208: Physics for the Life Sciences II [P]
  • BTRY 4990: Undergraduate research
  • MUSIC 3514: Individual Instruction in Piano

Notes: At this point I’m done! The Education course satisfies my final college requirement (diversity), and my last pre-med and last major course will also happen in my last semester.

Some Thoughts

I was averaging around 20-22 credits each semester (with the lowest at 17 in Freshman year, highest at 24 in Senior year), but I feel like if I were to do it over, I might not have put as much of an emphasis on music (and completing my music minor) and opted for lighter course loads each semester. It’s definitely doable as I was only knocking out one or two requirements for major/pre-med every semester.

Moreover, because I didn’t take chemistry until sophomore year, I found myself in the position of having to take at least one gap year. That’s something that I’m totally OK with now, and more and more people are doing, but if you want to avoid the gap year, then it’s probably more advisable to start chemistry freshman year (as most of my peers are doing) with biology (or deferring biology to sophomore or junior year) and thus you will be ready to take the MCAT by junior year.

Most of the courses I took do not require you to take them “in order”–for example, you can definitely take organic chemistry or biochemistry without first taking general chemistry or biology. That said, I’m glad I took them in that particular order (general, organic, then biochem) because they do get more difficult to study for, and study skills is something I only started to build up in college.

On top of the things I would do differently, I think I would have consulted with an adviser more, or asked more people about the classes I was taking. There was quite a few of mistakes in there: if I were to start over, I might not have gone with the mathematical statistics concentration in the beginning (I would have gone general to begin with), I would have taken chemistry earlier on and biology later on, and one thing I should’ve done was take advantage of course help such as office hours and tutoring in freshman year (I didn’t even know those support systems existed until sophomore year–yikes). In general, I made plenty of mistakes, but I still finished–so it’s OK!


Mistakes were made, but it’s OK!

I ended up only taking a few major courses/pre-med courses a semester, so majoring in something other than biology or chemistry and doing Pre-Med is definitely doable.

In the next installment, I will be talking about my various pre-med related experiences during the school year (including shadowing, research, TA-ing, etc.). See you guys then!

Next Part: Semester Experiences [Link to be updated next week!]

[Part 0] Navigating Pre-Med at Cornell: My Background

Hello and welcome! This is Part 0 of my “Navigating Pre-med” series that I will be publishing on my blog. It’s split up into several parts, which I will update and add here as I go!

Next Part: Coursework
Parts will be added as they are posted!

Purpose & A Caveat

I thought it would be cool to document my pre-med experience thus far (yah mom I’m still pre-med!) as well as maybe provide an avenue of information for those of you who are considering pursuing pre-med at Cornell.

Please note that this is MY personal experience, and I’m not attempting to tell you that there’s a single certain way to go about doing pre-med. Though I will offer some advice and mention things I’ve learned in this series, it’s important to take all of this with a grain of salt. There’s about a million ways people have gotten into med school, and I have not applied yet, nor gotten into a med school (so, technically even though I am at the end of my journey at Cornell, it’s still pretty early in the process for me).

Who this is for: Prospective Cornell students/High school Cornell admits interested on going to Cornell for pre-med, people currently at Cornell and considering pre-med, people who just want to see how someone else (me) did it.

So, without any further ado, here we go!

My Background

Some background information: I’m currently a second semester senior majoring in Biometry and Statistics concentrating in General Statistics in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (CALS) with a minor in music.

That basically just means my required coursework includes that of the statistics major and of pre-med, which isn’t any different from say, if I were to major in biology (my coursework would have to include that of the biology major and pre-med). The only difference is that there is less overlap between the statistics major and pre-med and I have to take a lot more math classes than what applying to medical school would require.

I will dive into the nitty-gritty of the specific courses I’ve taken at Cornell in the next part.

The Process So Far…

I spent a lot of my undergrad wondering and deciding whether the med school path was right for me–I would say I “committed” to this path rather late, so you will see plenty of my “exploring career options”, the most influential being consulting. Thus, as I’m describing my journey, it’ll seem like I started kinda late–even though I was taking the courses required from the very beginning, the rest of it was slow to catch up.

So, what else did you do?

Besides the coursework, here is also a brief overview of the things I have done in my time at Cornell related to pre-med, many of which I will of course, talk more about in the later sections of this series.

  • Research
  • Work as a teaching assistant
  • Orchestra
  • Volunteering (Hospice and Retirement Homes)
  • Summer work experiences such as consulting and doing research at the CDC

What’s next for you?

MCAT, more shadowing, gap years working, and then the application process!

Intrigued? Click here to go to the next part where I talk about my coursework: Next Part: Coursework