Starting College as a Pre-professional Student

If you’re just starting college and you want to pursue professional school, here are my tips for building a great foundation during your first year.

At this stage, the most important things for you to focus on are study skills and academics. Hands down.

You want to make sure you’re taking courses that are progressing you toward your field (i.e. prerequisite courses, lower level courses that will allow you to progress in a timely manner), but most importantly, you need to focus on making solid grades.


Study Skills

Students entering college struggle with learning how to study for the first time. So many of you did not have to study very much in high school. It’s the first time you’re having to sit down, study, prepare, and read the week before and not the day before. It’s the first time you have to reach out to something other than a textbook, such as Khan Academy videos or supplemental articles.


First and foremost, you want to develop a good foundation for your GPA. My biggest advice for you is to not overload yourself with too many extracurricular activities so that you can definitely get the GPA you need to start with and progress with later.

I do recommend that you join two student groups in your first year in college. One of those should be a pre-professional style group. If your goal is going to physical therapy school, I would find a physical therapy organization on your campus. If you are pre-vet, -med, -law, you want to go ahead and join that student group as early as possible.

The other group is to get involved in something fun. You read that right! It’s very important to balance academics and your pre-professional life with something fun you enjoy doing. So, if you enjoy playing a sport you can join a club team. If you want to develop your leadership or communication skills, you can join a freshman leadership organization. It doesn’t matter what it is. Just something fun. Baking club, scrapbooking club, whatever it may be. So, two student groups: pre-professional and fun. That’s usually what most students can handle and still allow their grades to stay up and study skills stay intact.


I recommend only two groups in that first year. The reason I recommend for students to get involved early is leadership is a very important quality in health professions. At some point, you are going to want to run for leadership positions in these groups. The earlier you can get involved and become dedicated to a particular student group, the more likely you are to get voted into that position or have an opportunity to serve that group. That’s why getting involved early is a good idea.

At this stage, I don’t recommend you get out and do too much community service, or too much medical/vet experience in your field. That would be something I would tell you to move into for your summers or your breaks. Typically students have three to five weeks off during the summer, that’s a perfect time to shadow your family vet/PA/dentist/doctor.

Instead of piling everything into one year I recommend that the focus, as you start as a freshman, be on academics and only getting involved in two student groups.

If you need help getting everything you need to do laid in front of you, I highly recommend meeting with me to develop a timeline that you can use to keep you on track and stress-free. Contact my office to set up a meeting.

Talk soon!

Karen H

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