Commit to a major if haven’t already chosen one. Keep in mind that professional schools do not actually care what your diploma says. Instead, they want to know what courses you took and what grades you earned. Your grades in introductory courses will not determine your future, but graduate programs will look closely at the grades you earn in upper-division science courses. If necessary, get help from the Center for Learning. Plan to take challenging courses, but don’t do this just to impress others. If you don’t enjoy the courses you are taking or you don’t see their relevance, you may need to adjust your academic plans.
Continue to meet each quarter with your faculty advisor to review your progress. Pin down your four-year plan, checking the time schedule (to see when courses are offered) and course descriptions (to be sure that you have completed the pre-requisites). Explore the possibility of adding a minor in another discipline. For example, the Bioethics and Humanities minor gives students unique insights into current events and allows students to appreciate the history, philosophy, and sociology of the health sciences. Even if you cannot fit in a minor, you can take additional courses in psychology, sociology, theology, and any other area that interests you. Humanities courses will help you think critically and develop the skills to communicate effectively with patients and understand their social, spiritual, and emotional needs.
Take PPHS 1800 (Health Care Career Seminar) in the spring. This one-credit pass-fail course is highly recommended for all pre-professional students and is required for pre-medical, pre-dental, and pre-veterinary students who intend to take PPHS 3400 later. In PPHS 1800, you will use reading and writing activities to sharpen your sense of vocation and reflect more deeply on current issues and your own experiences.
At this point in your college career, you have enough academic history and experience to evaluate your talents and interests and think more deeply about possible professions. This is a time for vocational reflection. In other words, you will need to identify the good work to which you are called. You will connect your understanding of health care to your sense of mission—and you will begin working to articulate this sense of vocation. On a more practical level, you should be narrowing down your career choices and carefully exploring the requirements of different types of professional schools.
During your second year, you should continue volunteering, with the goal of participating in at least 20 hours of community service. The John Perkins Center is a good place to start. Plan to begin or to continue job shadowing to accumulate at least 20 hour per year. See the advice on community service and shadowing (links require SPU login). Begin to build relationships with professors, supervisors, and other mentors whom you might eventually ask to write a letter of recommendation for your application to a professional school.
Students who have completed PPHS 1800 can take advantage of medical mentoring opportunities through SPU’s mentoring program housed in the Center for Applied Learning.
If you are interested in research and have completed introductory science courses, look into working in a lab on or off campus. Immersion into scientific research can help you better understand the science behind health and disease. You can also learn how scientists think, you can learn new problem-solving strategies, and you can pick up some technical skills. However, if you are not interested in research or do not feel that it is relevant to your career pathway, you should not feel compelled to work in a laboratory or clinical research setting. Like most other aspects of pre-professional training, you gain nothing by “checking a box” for research experience. Spend your time and energy on activities that will be worthwhile for your chosen pathway.
Consider attending in-person or virtual events related to your future profession. Look for information sessions, health fairs, and open houses. Attending with a friend and preparing some general questions ahead of time can minimize feelings of awkwardness. Students at some professional schools organize informal outreach events for college students. You can also attend speaker events and other presentations at local universities, research centers, and hospitals.
The summer following your second year is the prefect time to participate in an internship, and many summer programs are aimed at second-year and third-year college students. These programs usually cover living expenses and provide a stipend (payment), since participants cannot work during the internship. Admission to summer programs is highly competitive, so if you are not eligible or are not accepted, you can look for a summer job that broadens your exposure to health care or strengthens your customer-service skills. Keep track of what you learn in your journal or e-portfolio.
The Biology department sponsors four scholarships for PPHS students. Applications are available in early spring and are open to all PPHS students, not just Biology majors.
Take time to reflect on your personal growth (requires SPU login). How have your college experiences helped you develop a professional outlook? Who are your mentors? Why are they good models? What activities have gotten you out of your comfort zone? What will set you apart from other applicants to professional school? How have you practiced leadership? In what areas do you feel most competent? Which areas need more attention?