Hope Students Participate in Data Analytics Software Certification

This summer I have had the opportunity to participate in a new skills certification program provided by the Boerigter Center for Calling and Career and the Van Wylen Library. Through a series of online training modules, I am learning how to use a software platform called Tableau

Tableau is an analytic software that focuses on interactive data visualization in order to help people see and understand data. It’s a tool to allow people and businesses to harness data to solve problems in a fast, easy, beautiful, and useful way. Unlike other software platforms, Tableau strives to be usable for anyone and everyone, which some fellow students and I were able to experience firsthand.  

Screen shot of Tableau platform

The Tableau e-learning program is set up in a very straightforward manner that makes the learning process easy to follow along and very doable. To obtain the Tableau certification, you have to pass three “Desktop” courses which go through the fundamentals of Tableau Desktop (what is used to analyze data and create visualizations as pictured above), boost your skills by building off of the fundamentals, and then dive into the advanced skills. 

Each desktop course is made up of modules, and each module has 3+ lessons: an overview graphic, a concept video, a demo video, and an activity. All of the videos are a great way to learn the software because as the person talks you through what they’re doing, you watch how they do it too, and then right after you get to do it yourself in the activity. They do a great job of explaining what’s going on, and the activities are the perfect “hands-on” experience needed to solidify what the videos taught.    

Participating in and completing this experience will be a great benefit for me and my fellow students who are getting the certification this summer.  

  • First, data analytics is an important aspect of business and can be used in so many ways to improve and better understand different companies, whether competition or clients. So knowing how to analyze data and create visualizations to tell a story through the use of a software like Tableau will definitely help students like myself stand out to employers.  
  • Second, Tableau (or a software like it) is used by a lot of organizations, so knowing the program will make learning any of the others so much easier. Plus, companies like to see previous experience with a software, as well as an understanding of it and the ability to use it effectively.
  • Finally, learning a software like Tableau is no easy task. By taking on this initiative the cohort I am a part of can showcase how teachable we are, our eagerness to learn, and our ability to work independently. Also I should note this wasn’t mandatory. We chose to participate during the summer (even amidst a global pandemic when life almost shut down), which shows we have a desire to keep growing and learning outside of the classroom, to better ourselves and to prepare for our future in the workforce. 

I am so thankful for the Boerigter Center and the Van Wylen Library for providing this opportunity! I am also extremely grateful for the generosity of the Hope alumnus, whose donation made this possible at no cost to students. I hope to see more certification programs like this available in the future. 

PathwayU: Joy, Meaning, Purpose

The path toward joy, meaning and purpose. This simple statement piqued my interest as I read an email that introduced me to PathwayU. As my senior year approaches, the reality of life after college is increasingly on my mind and is both exciting and scary to think about. So as I read about this new assessment tool, designed to help students explore and increase their self awareness as well as find career matches, my curiosity encouraged me to spend the next 20 minutes or so to give it a try…and I was not disappointed. 

As a student unsure of a career path to pursue once I graduate, I honestly was eager to see what career matches it gave me based on my interests, values, personality, and workplace preferences—the four assessments for self-discovery. I found each assessment to be straightforward and relatively quick, immediately providing results that are broken down into five sub-categories. The sub-categories are ranked based on your responses, giving you primary and secondary interest, values, workplace preferences, and a breakdown of your personality. 

Every aspect of the results are explained well, with career examples and key takeaways for further consideration, as well as worksheets for deeper exploration and understanding. 

All of the assessments did an accurate job of summarizing my interests, values, personality, and workplace preferences. The results made sense for who I am, how I think, and what my tendencies are. What I liked most about each is the step further it took to match the traits, interest, values, and preferences to general jobs and workplaces that would fit best, as well as specific work examples. It immediately got me thinking about jobs and work areas that I would thrive in based on who I am and my tendencies. 

  • The interests and values results helped me nail down what keeps me motivated and energized, and what I find most important. They reminded me that these are important elements for any job because from them my career will be more enjoyable and purposeful. 
  • The personality results even gave me a way to talk about how my traits are strengths in the workplace, giving me a clearer understanding of them and providing me with ways to leverage them when talking to others about myself. 
  • The workplace performance assessment was very different from anything I have taken before—it gives you a list of preferences that you have to filter through by picking the least important first, then the most important, than those in the middle. This made me really think about what matters most to me since all the preferences are good options and things I would want in the workplace. If I want to work for an organization that is a great fit for me, it is crucial to know the values I’d like my ideal employer to emphasize.

I was very surprised by the career matches PathwayU provides because I wasn’t expecting it to be as detailed as it was. It first gives you matches by subject, each with a general description along with a graphic that tells you how many matches it has that are ranked as very strong, strong, good, fair, or weak. 

You then can view the careers individually where you’re provided with a job description, alternative job titles, what you would do on the job, the average salary, programs available at Hope, knowledge, skills, and ability. I was very impressed with how much information it provided in a clear and non overwhelming way, as well as how it easily connected back to the results from the previous assessments. I was given enough information to consider the jobs within the different career paths without needing to do additional research elsewhere. Plus it provided a variety of options instead of the basic jobs that other assessment tools seem to default to. This was encouraging because there are so many different opportunities out there waiting to be found. 

You might be thinking this is just another personality test or career match, which was my first thought when I saw this new tool. However after using it, I have found that this tool is different from others because of how every aspect connects to career options in a genuine and applicable way. It gave me a better understanding of my personality, interests, values, and preferences as well as a way to talk about them and connect them to careers.  

Parent to Parent – Transitioning with Your Student

Many of you have a student who is a high school senior getting ready to head to college. Others have a student who is preparing to leave college for the workforce or graduate school. And some of you may even have both! It can be hard to help our young adults navigate transition, especially when the world itself is constantly changing. Whether your student is going from high school to college or college to the “real world”, we found there to be similarities in what they are experiencing. We thought it could be helpful to hear from a couple of our staff who have either been through or are currently going through this transition. We hope you find some of our thoughts helpful as you walk alongside your student.

If this is your first child to go off to college, how are most parents feeling right now?

Shonn:  To all the other parents out there right now in this situation – I’m with you… times three!  My 18-year old triplets are all coming to Hope this fall.  We don’t have any other kids, so we haven’t been through this before.  But I can share a little bit about how we are feeling, and maybe you are feeling the same way.

While we consciously know our kids will be off on their own, I don’t think the reality has hit yet. Our kids are wrapping up their final commitments for high school, working part-time, etc. So we haven’t had a taste of what it’s going to be like to miss them yet. At the same time, we can tell they are ready for independence. This “readiness” can show up in the form of arguments and other stubborn behaviors. So we are feeling a mix of emotions. Sending them off to Hope will relieve tensions, but we know we will miss them a lot and want to cherish our time together this summer.

What is it like transitioning your student to a new setting/living arrangements?

Amy: I very distinctly remember what it felt like moving our youngest 500 miles from home! I also remember every moment of packing her up, moving her home temporarily, and then to her new apartment 2.5 hrs away…SO much transition and no road map to follow! No one can prepare you for how YOU will feel in these moments. I tried to be the cool helpful mom and in hindsight, I think it would have been better if our daughter saw me being not so “perfect”. It is tough to know how much to share and when it is better to cry for two hours in the car driving away from campus. My best advice is to accept what you are feeling and maybe err on the side of less emotion in front of your child so they know it’s o.k. to let you go and transition successfully. As for transitioning into the “real world”, I tried to take some of my own advice. I shared a bit more with our daughter and let myself be a little more human. The nice part was that she did, and still does, value my opinion around new life decisions and reaches out for advice. If you have not heard of motivational interviewing I encourage you to look it up. Asking questions vs starting with advice works well with your kids in general, and especially as they transition to college or whatever awaits them after college. Asking questions allows them to reach good decisions on their own AND feel supported.

How soon does my student need to know what they want to major in?

Shonn:  They have time.  Ideally students will be ready to make that decision during their second year of college. My triplets are all in different places on this one… one kid has a pretty sure idea, one kid has two or three things he is interested in, and one is undecided.  The great thing about Hope is that we meet students wherever they are at.

Before I started working at Hope, I was a lot more anxious about making sure my kids had solid career direction when they were young. But I’ve changed my perspective. High school seniors these days are constantly being asked about plans for their lives, and yet their awareness is limited.  The Boerigter Center for Calling and Career has multiple assessments, resources, and advisors that can help your student find the alignment of their strengths and interests.  In addition, we strongly encourage job shadowing and informational interviewing with alumni to learn about possible careers. College is an excellent time to discern career options, and Hope is an excellent place to do it.

How do you help your student manage their workload/management of time within these transition times?

Amy: Our youngest is a real go-getter so we never worried about her spending enough time on school but more making sure she wasn’t taking on too much and maintaining good balance. I realized early on that this drive could be her downfall. I learned that when she felt she was failing it really meant she was getting a B/C in a class, which for the record, “B’s and C’s get degrees”; and jobs! She rarely got so overwhelmed that she “crashed” but I learned that it happened a bit more for her in college because I wasn’t there saying no to things. What really worked early on was for me to immediately ask “what can I take off your plate/help with?” We transitioned then to “what can I give you permission to take off your plate?” Finally coming to “what do you know you need to take off your plate?” I leaned into the first two the most early on in college but then gradually shifted to more of the 2nd and 3rd questions, helping her make the transition from needing me to being able to navigate challenges more independently. This insight was truly a God moment as it was so helpful! We still do this dance together and I believe it helped her so much as she transitioned post college and tackled a new set of big decisions

We hope you find these learned lessons and reflections helpful. Transitions are challenging, especially now when they are coming daily. As parents we do our best to guide and support and have to trust that others will also help them along the way. At Hope, we use our village, our community, to help your student discern their path. It is a privilege to be a part of their lives! The Boerigter Center is here for them as they navigate major, career, and life decisions.

7 Tips for a Better Handshake Experience

Handshake is a great resource for current students and alumni to get their name out to employers, sign up for events, and find an internship or job! It’s a resource that’s easy to use and so beneficial when you capitalize on the features it provides. The following are 7 tips to help you make the most of your profile on Handshake. 

First, tailor your profile so it represents who you are and gives seeking employers a chance to get an initial sense of you as a person. Keep the different aspects of your profile updated, such as your past experiences, your profile picture, your resume, your skills/courses/projects, and your career interests. Adding career interests is often overlooked by students, but it’s actually very beneficial to include. Handshake will give you tailored job suggestions based on the interests you add, and it will help recruiters find you. Interestingly, 80% of students who share their interests on Handshake receive a message from a recruiter, so taking the time to do this step is definitely worth it. 

Second, upload your resume. This step isn’t complicated and will make applying for jobs much faster! All you need to do is go to Documents under your name. Click Select from Computer and then add a Word Document or PDF―Handshake will try to change every document into a PDF, so I recommend you simply upload a PDF since the conversion Handshake has to do does not always work, resulting in a failure to upload. After you choose your document, make sure you set the document type as resume so that it shows up to employers.

Third, use filters during your job search. Searching for a job is easier than you think when using Handshake. All you need to do is use one or more of the many filters available under the job search bar, such as Full-Time Job, Part-Time Job, Internship, and On-Campus. These filters will narrow the job pool, making it less overwhelming to look through and will help you save time since it takes out the jobs that don’t fit what you’re looking for. As you look through the job options, you can favorite those you’re interested in and might want to apply to later. All you need to do is click the star button which will  allow you to quickly find it later. Also, while you’re there, don’t miss out of the save your search option! 

Fourth, make your profile public. This way, employers who are connected with Hope College on Handshake can see who you are and potentially recruit you. A public profile helps get your name out there and will better your chances at connecting with an employer and finding a job or opportunity you desire. 

Fifth, it’s okay if you have trouble finding a job. If you find yourself struggling, you can schedule an appointment with the Boerigter Center through Handshake! There are appointments for job search, internships, mock interviews, and more. You can schedule an appointment by logging in, clicking Career Center, select Appointments, choose Schedule a New Appointment, and set up what you need. If you have any questions, send an email to careers@hope.edu and someone will get back to you. 

Sixth, know that jobs aren’t the only thing you can find on Handshake. The Boerigter Center offers a variety of sessions and events that you can register for through Handshake. All you need to do is look for the Events button on the top of your homepage. Check them out and sign up for what interests you! 

Lastly, be active on Handshake. Being active is the best way to find and get the job or opportunity you want, so take the necessary steps by registering for events, using the filters when searching for jobs or internships, interact with employers, apply for a job/internship, join the Hope College Connection, or schedule an appointment―get your resume reviewed, network, make a plan, or have a mock interview―to practice and prepare. Remember if you ever feel stuck, do not hesitate to reach out to the Boerigter by sending an email to careers@hope.edu, they love to help students! 

I hope you now feel more prepared and ready to make the most of your Handshake account with all the features it offers. Take a few minutes to update your profile today and use the other tips to begin the hunt for your next job or internship. You got this! 

Shadowing for Success

In the first few months and years of their college experience we work with many students tossing around ideas of what they would like to do with their future. Enter our DiscoverWork program, a formal job shadowing experience that lets students “test out” what their future could look like.

After students attend their opportunity we ask them to reflect on the experience with their host and share how it helped inform their next best step. Here are a few highlights from the most recent cycle:

Rachel Foy | Host: Derek Root ’02 | Supply Chain Management

Rachel (left) and host Derek Root (right)

“I think the most important thing that I took away from my experience was that people take many different paths in life. There is not one set path to get somewhere. It was cool to learn Mr. Root’s background since this supports this idea. I would have never guessed someone with an undergrad in Religion would end up as a supply chain manager.”

Marissa Ervin & Abby Krueger | Host: Kelly Arnold ’19 Digital Marketing

“My favorite part of the day consisted of speaking with Kelly’s co-workers in the department about their experiences and path to the industry. I appreciate the collaboration within the work. It seemed like every person played a role in creating digital content and they really have to trust each other to do their job and do it well to ultimately create a polished product.” -Marissa

Abby (left), Kelly (center), Marissa (right) at Herman Miller’s Design Yard

“While we of course talked about specific career paths, including digital marketing, the bulk of what we talked about and what has a significant impact on me was the importance of finding a PLACE rather than a JOB. They highly encouraged us to find companies with which our values align, companies with great culture, and places that value you as a person. Almost everyone in this department had changed roles at some point, many multiple times. Their point was that, the specifics of your job of course matter, but the environment, culture, and care given towards you in your work environment generates far more satisfaction than any task or project ever could.” – Abby Krueger

Marketea Abbott | Host: Tawny Brooks ’00 | Law

Tawny Brooks ’00 (left) & Marketea Abbott (right)

“If I learned anything from Mrs. Brooks, it is that success is not “one route fits all”, it is expansive and flexible. It is unique to each person. I can earn a Master’s in Social Work and still go to law school if I choose. My passion for people can look very different depending on how I want it to turn out. I have been blessed to continue learning and working through those thoughts. I am eager to see where God will move me.”

Julia Loula | Host: Dr. Melissa Richardson (Hope Parent)|Medical

Julia (left) with Dr. Richardson (right)

“The most important thing that I learned from my shadowing experience is that medicine is something that aligns with who I am and is something that I could see myself doing every day as a future career. Additionally, it was helpful to ask about the work-life balance in Dr. Richardson’s job as that is something that I have been considering a lot lately. She encouraged me that having a balance, and things like a family that come with that, is more than possible and not something that should ever hold me back from the profession.”

Whether you are a student seeking to learn more about a certain profession or an alumni, parent, or friend of Hope that wants to host a student, The Boerigter Center for Calling and Career invites you to apply for our next round of DiscoverWork. Head into The Hope College Connection and click the DiscoverWork tab to get started.

Reflections from a Graduating Senior: Mentors Matter

With only a few days left of my senior year of college, I find myself reflecting on the people that have made a difference during my time at Hope College. Most of the people that come to mind have become very important mentors and I hope they continue to be. 

Over the years I have learned that a mentor is someone in your life who cares for you and they truly want to coach, motivate, challenge, protect, and connect you to opportunities. I was lucky to have quite a few mentors during my time at Hope. Some of them started as professors or advisors and the relationship grew into a mentorship, while others I sought out with the desire of them becoming my mentor. No matter how the relationship formed, each and every mentor that I have has played an important role in my life whether it be helping me network for my career or simply giving me the everyday life advice that I was seeking. 

I truly believe in the power of a mentor and lucky for us Hope College students, so does the Boerigter Center for Calling and Career (BCCC). The BCCC recently launched a platform called the Hope College Connection which allows students to connect with alumni, parents, and friends of the college. Through The Hope College Connection you can explore the directory by geography, class year or major and easily set up appointments for informational interviews for networking purposes. This platform is evidence of how special the Hope College community is because there are already over 2,000 mentors that have joined and want to connect with students. I had the opportunity to connect with a few of them and I wanted to share the insight that I gained from my time with them. 

Mentor Spotlight

Andrea Paolo Mainardi ‘86  | Disrupting the Status Quo @ New Dimension in Sport® | Milan, Italy

One of the things that stood out to me as I was talking to Andrea was how passionate he was about lifelong learning. He talked about how he still looks back on some of the notes he took during his business classes. Learning didn’t stop after he left Hope College and he is continuing to learn by constantly challenging himself with new material. Also, as someone who is in a sports market that is hard to enter, his advice of having a strong personal network was very insightful. 

Andrew Van Pernis ‘96 | Project Manager at DreamWorks Animation | Glendale, CA

Andrew is someone who believes in giving back and he loves to do so by coming back to Hope every once and awhile to share about his experience and offer any advice. This is evidence of the special Hope College community that we are a part of. Andrew also reminded me of how most people take various routes to get to the place where they are. Andrew pursued multiple experiences such as a grad program, teaching, and working for a startup company before he settled down at Dreamworks.

Justine Post ‘09 | Social Worker, Advocate for Rural Communities | Graham, NC

Justine graduated right after the 2008 financial crisis so she understands the struggle that some of the seniors are facing in the current job search. She reminded me of the importance of a network that can also support you emotionally and mentally especially during these times. Justine looks back and remembers that she pieced some things together to make things work in her first two years after graduation but she reassured me that she landed on her feet and found a way to make it all work. Justine also shared about how Hope allowed for her to identify her strengths and find her passions outside of academia. 

Cathy Fall | Hope Parent | Occupational Therapist at Waterford School District | Waterford, MI

Cathy is a passionate occupational therapist who reminded me of the importance of using your strengths to discern your career path. As a parent of three students at Hope College, she understands how a Hope College education benefits individuals. She joined The Hope College Connection because she loves what she does and wants to share any advice that she can offer to Hope students. 

Lessons Learned

After meeting with each one of these mentors I took some time to reflect on the words that they shared with me. Here are the top 5 things I learned that I hope you can also find valuable : 

  1. Building your personal network is important to both your career and personal development. You can start doing this by joining the Hope College Connection. 
  2. Hope College parents, alumni, and friends are more than willing to give you advice and share their personal and professional experiences.
  3. Networking does not have to be intimidating or scary because there are people that want to help you. 
  4. You do not have to have everything figured out right after graduation. Most of the mentors shared that their journey after graduation had some unexpected twists and turns. 
  5. Pursue lifelong learning. It is important to keep challenging yourself even after exiting the educational setting. 

What if my summer internship is canceled?

The Boerigter Center is here to support you through these unprecedented times and we want to help you navigate plans for a meaningful summer. Please know we are taking appointments virtually through Handshake. Here are some ideas of what you can do if your summer plans have changed:

  • Ask the employer if you can continue your internship by working remotely – maybe they have projects that they could assign you that you can work on from home.
  • Prepare to be the best candidate moving forward by working on your interviewing skills (schedule a virtual mock interview appointment or use InterviewStream) and update your resume.
  • Find a summer job.
  • Consider a micro-internship or shadowing experience.
  • Volunteer in your community.
  • Explore PathwayU.
  • Focus on your professional development! Take online tutorials and listen to podcasts related to your potential career fields of interest.
  • Connect with alumni through The Hope College Connection and set up some informational interviews.
  • Research graduate programs.
  • Study for MCATs, LSATs, GREs, etc.
  • Learn a new foreign language.
  • Be creative! Build a professional portfolio. Start a blog.  Play music. Start a journal. 
  • Learn life skills or pick up new hobbies like cooking, gardening, or photography.
  • Practice self-care. 

Bringing Joy, One Cup of Coffee at a Time

How do you find your calling? What is your purpose – the thing that you just know you were created to do?

Mark Dykema ’07

I recently sat down with Mark Dykema, a local business owner and 2007 Hope College grad. As a student, he had opportunities to reflect on his strengths through classes and conversations with his mentor, professor Steve Vanderveen. He recognized that from a young age, he developed a sense of drive and determination to work hard, and he wasn’t afraid to take risks. He worked as an intern at an insurance agency, and continued in that profession after graduation. But his entrepreneurial spirit continued to be strong, and he decided to take a leap of faith and become the Biggby Coffee franchise owner in the Holland/Zeeland area.
Mark’s business got off to a strong start, thanks to his grit and resolve to make it successful. Then, through a series of unexpected events, Mark found himself in a position to re-evaluate his life’s purpose. Take a few minutes to hear the rest of the story: https://vimeo.com/375494181 

Whether you are a student, family member, or one of our many alumni, I hope Mark’s story shows that it’s OK if you don’t have your life’s calling figured out while you are still in college. As you journey through your career, take time to reflect on your gifts and the path God has put you on. Take a step back and recognize how your calling is bigger than a certain profession. Mark discovered his calling to bring perpetual joy to others. How about you?

Want to connect with other alums like Mark? Check out The Hope College Connection at connection.hope.edu

We’re here for you! COVID-19 Employer Update and Resources

To protect the well-being of our staff, students, and employer partners, Hope College has moved to online operations through April 13, 2020. Please note that this date may be subject to change as the college continues to monitor the situation and follows guidelines from Michigan’s governor. All on-campus recruitment events (interviews, tabling, employer visits, etc.) have been cancelled. We, however, will continue to provide virtual services to all of our students and employer partners. Students have been directed to use Handshake and other remote services to continue active job/internship searches and we encourage you to do the same.

Handshake Reminders

Please continue to post your opportunities on Handshake. If you are interested in conducting virtual interviews or events please contact our office (careers@hope.edu).

Current Internships

We are encouraging students to pursue internships to the extent they are comfortable doing so at this time. We expect interns to follow the lead of employers in terms of social distancing and remote work.

For more information on how our campus is monitoring the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, visit hope.edu/coronavirus.

For any questions, please contact our office (careers@hope.edu). Additionally, while we are not onsite monitoring our phone system, should you call, please a voicemail and it will be returned as soon as possible.

Best wishes,

The Boerigter Center for Calling and Career Team

careers@hope.edu

What Pre-Health Students Wish Their Parents Knew

Person Wearing Academic Dress

Parents are understandably invested in their students’ education in more ways than just one, but sometimes the questions and added pressure from parents can get overwhelming. To answer some of these questions for students and parents, I surveyed Hope College pre-health students on what they wish their parents knew about college, the pre-health tracks, or the health profession itself, as well as questions that they commonly are asked. Most of the topics were centered around the application process and what it takes to be admitted to medical school, including extracurriculars, classes and grades. Some students also responded with how their parents’ can support or have supported them through the process. 

The Application Process: 

Related questions: When do you apply to graduate school and how? How long does the application process take? What makes a good applicant? What does and what doesn’t matter? When should you take the MCAT? What is a gap year? Why are you taking a gap year and how are you going to afford it? How do medical schools look at gap years? When do you choose a specialty?

One of the most common topics that pre-health students said their parents asked them about was the application process. The first thing to know about the application process for medical school (or any post-graduate health program) is that it is different than it was 20 years ago; getting into graduate school, especially medical school, is harder than it used to be. Graduate schools now consider students holistically rather than from academic performance alone, so it is much more competitive to get in and extracurriculars have much more importance than they used to. While good grades get your foot in the door, valuable experiences and reflective essays are what secure your spot. The acceptance rate for medical school applicants with GPAs of 3.79 or higher and Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) scores in the 95th percentile or higher for the 2017-2018 and 2019-2020 cycles was 87.8%—that means 12.2% of applicants with the best scores and grades are still not accepted despite their academic achievements. The overall acceptance rate of all applicants to medical school was 41.9%. This demonstrates that grades are not everything when applying to medical school (or graduate school) and it is very difficult to get in. 

As for the “when?” of the application process, it depends on the preferences of the student and whether they choose to take a gap year or not. If students do not want to take a gap year, they have to complete all MCAT prerequisites by the end of their junior year and take the MCAT in April or May in order to begin applying during the summer before their senior year. However, gap years are becoming more and more common and many students use the extra year to gain additional valuable experiences in order to be more competitive applicants. The average age of matriculants to the MSU College of Human Medicine for the 2017-2018 and 2019-2020 cycles was 25 years old and to the WMU Homer Stryker School of Medicine was 24.7 years, demonstrating that many successful medical school applicants take a gap year. For students who are planning on taking the MCAT at the end of their senior year, a gap year will be necessary during the following year while they apply. Many students work with organizations such as Teach for America or the Peace Corps following graduation. It is very important for students to evaluate their candidacy prior to applying to medical school (or graduate school) because the process is very expensive between application fees, secondary application fees, and travelling to interviews. Since there is no way to know what the applicant pool with look like in a given year, it is important that students put their best foot forward when applying, which can sometimes mean taking a gap year. 

Some students reported that their parents commonly ask them when they choose a specialty, and the answer is—not until the third or fourth year of medical school. While students may have some idea of their specialty interests prior to applying to medical school, this has no impact on the application process unless they are specifically planning on working in an under served area of medicine which could influence where they apply. 

Blue and Silver Stetoscope

Extracurriculars: 

Related questions: Should you be doing extracurriculars? Shouldn’t you be focusing on your classes? Are you doing a lot of shadowing? 

As mentioned before, extracurriculars are very important for pre-health students. Extracurriculars are how potential medical students prove that they meet the competencies that medical schools are looking for through actions rather than words alone. Students could probably write a solid essay about working with diverse people, but experiences can demonstrate that the applicant actually has a history of working with diverse people along with a commitment to serving. Experiences provide the students with real-life examples to strengthen their essays for demonstration rather than explanation. Good experiences also tend to help students grow as people, so more, and higher quality, experiences help make students more well-rounded individuals who will be more equipped to care for a wider variety of people in medicine. Applicants are required to write short activity essays, usually for around 15 activities, in addition to choosing their top three activities to write more about. This does not include secondary, or school specific, applications which target different competencies that medical schools are looking for, and demonstration through examples, when applicable, is always better than descriptions with no evidence. These experience essays are also an opportunity for applicants to demonstrate how they fit with the mission of the schools that they are applying to. 

Aside from extracurriculars, job shadowing is also important to the application process. Dental schools as well as occupational and physical therapy programs require a certain number of shadowing hours prior to applying. While medical schools do not require specific numbers of hours, shadowing is still considered during the application process. Shadowing is important because it demonstrates that the applicant has some idea of what it will actually be like in the profession so that they know what they are getting themselves into prior to going through medical school. 

Academic Life: 

Related questions: What GPA do you need to get into medical school? What order should you take classes in? Why can’t you graduate early? Are you keeping up with your classes? Will the courses you are taking really help you get into medical school? What happens if you do not do well on an exam or in a class? Didn’t you say you had a challenging semester last semester? Why do you have to put so much time into your labs, aren’t they the same as your regular courses? Aren’t you a pre-med major? 

On the topic of academics, as I touched on before, GPA and MCAT scores are the first step to getting at least an interview during the application process. Applicants must prove that they will be able to handle the rigorous curriculum of medical school successfully. However, not all of the MCAT and medical school requirements are physical science courses. There is a section on the MCAT titled “Psychological, Social, and Biological Foundations of Behavior” which requires knowledge in psychology and sociology. Other than the prerequisites, major and minor classes do not necessarily matter. Some can be helpful towards building other skills that will be valuable for medical school such as cultural competency and building an ethical framework for decision making. 

On the subject of major, there is no such thing as a pre-med major at Hope College. As mentioned above, there are prerequisite courses that are required for the MCAT and medical schools that pre-med students must take, but these are alongside a chosen major. Many pre-med students choose to major in sciences such as chemistry or biology due to the large amount of overlap between the major requirements and prerequisites, but it is not required to major in a physical science to apply to medical school. Many successful applicants to major in other fields such as psychology, a foreign language, economics, or history. 

As far as grades go, getting one bad grade on an exam or in a class is not the end of the world for your student. Although maintaining a good GPA is important, this does not mean that the occasional B or C will completely ruin a student’s chances of getting into medical school. And individual exam grades do not matter as long as the student does well in the class overall. However, the pressure to maintain good grades can be intense, which may be why your medical student always tells you that they are having a challenging semester. 

Apart from this topic, science labs are separate from lecture courses at Hope, although they are usually co-requisites. This means that labs have their own assignments and time commitments completely separate from the lecture portion even though it seems like they should go together. In addition, labs are three hours long and lab reports are normally not quick to write which ends up being a large time commitment for pre-health students while taking prerequisite science courses. 

Person Writing on the Notebook

Supporting Your Pre-Health Student: 
Related questions: Why don’t you take some time for yourself? Why don’t you go out more? Why are you ignoring me? How can we help you?

Many students responded to the survey saying that they wish their parents knew just how much support they need and want. Pre-health tracks are difficult because of the rigor of the prerequisite curriculum and the pressure to perform well in classes on top of the time commitment of required extracurriculars. Supporting your student is different for every student but some ways include listening, encouraging, and reassuring your student through difficult times. One student who responded to the survey wrote about how grateful they are for their parents’ support—specifically for listening without trying to “fix” and reminding them that there is more to life than classes and grades through updates from home. They added that knowing that their parents’ were always there with a listening ear is encouraging. Another student responded saying that students most need their parents’ support in times of doubt; if your student tells you that they do not want to be pre-health anymore, it is up to you to decide whether they are serious or not, but reminding them of what brought them to this career path in the first place can be the push they need to make it through a difficult time. Although each student is different, these are ways that you could try to help encourage your student through difficult times. Other ways that you might be able to support your student could be doing research on your own to learn about the application process and meeting them where they are at. Many pre-med students are very focused and driven and likely feel like they cannot take time for themselves lest their grades drop or due to the pressures of extracurriculars. Asking about a (non-existent) social life or lack of self-care can feel like criticism if presented in certain ways, so listening to your student with empathy can go a long way. Encouraging them through the busyness and trying to understand their situation can help to make them feel more supported. On top of this, students may not have very much time to chat on the phone or respond with more than a quick text message—as one student said: we are not ignoring you, we are just really busy sometimes (or all the time). 

As far as supporting your student through the actual process, connections for shadowing opportunities often come from friends of the family or people the student already knows, so parents can be instrumental in making these connections for their students. Do not do the work of setting the shadowing up for them, but connecting them with the right people is a way that you can help.

Getting into graduate school for any health profession is extremely competitive and supporting your child through the process can be instrumental to their success, even if that just means lending a listening ear. 

Sources: The Association of American Medical Colleges –  https://www.aamc.org/