On Coming from a Small College
When asked about your undergraduate school, do you find that you inevitably need to include an explanation of where it’s located? If that’s the case, you have no business being at WUSM. Totally kidding! There is nothing to worry about coming from a small school. By now you are used to knowing the majority of your classmates, and working closely with professors and faculty members. Overall, WUSM faculty is very welcoming and open to working with medical students. Don’t worry about being underprepared. In fact, it’s very possible that your undergraduate school prepared you even better than a big name school would have. There’s a good chance that you were instructed more consistently by professors themselves, as opposed to less experienced graduate students. There is also no reason to be intimidated by living in the city. While it may not be open country, the Central West End is a nice place to live that has plenty to do and feels relatively safe. Also, Barnes-Jewish Hospital is a well-known hospital that provides many diverse patient care experiences. Embrace the fact that most have ever heard of your college! You got this!
– Shane J., M1
On Coming from a Large University
At my large state school, I was used to not knowing everyone in our 7,000-strong graduating class. Or even not knowing of everyone. This changed dramatically about one week into orientation at WUSM, and I loved it. Medical schools in general have tightly knit classes, but I would say WUSM’s class is even more so; we’re all in the same room for Anatomy lab, our Facebook group is constantly being updated (with pictures of each other dozing off at school), and we find fun ways to hang out both in and out of class. Medical school feels like high school with slightly more mature people, or a frat with people who really have their acts together. Pros: Everyone knows everything going on with everyone. Cons: Everyone knows everything going on with everyone.
This approachableness also extends to faculty. Your professors have open office policies, a lot of opportunities to get feedback from students, a crazy-fast email response rate (Dr. Gregory Polites), and a general expectation that you will take advantage of these things.
A small class also means plenty of study space. Any of the classrooms are free for us to use for group studying, and we each have our own designated carrel (desk) at school. Trust me, this desk is worth its weight in gold.
– Helena H., M1
On Being a Non-Science Major
A philosophically minded soul (or at least a soul with a philosophy degree) might jokingly note that it’s awfully hard to see the shape of a circle when you’re standing inside it, to know about heat when you’ve never felt cold, or to appreciate the sun if you’ve never seen it set. Everything you need to know about being a physician will be learned in medical school. I spent most of my time in college with non-science people doing non-science things. This experience prepared me for science people and science things, because I am fortunate enough to have an alternative perspective that many do not. I appreciate the immense value as well as the limitations of a medical school education because I spent more time reading Hegel and looking at paintings of grasshoppers than I did memorizing the Krebs cycle.
– Joshua P., M1
On Coming Back to School After Time Off
I took two years off between college and medical school, and was admittedly nervous about being a student again. It had been a while since I’d taken a full course load, and, as an English major, even longer since I’d had science classes. Diving back in felt just a little overwhelming at first, and you might have to spend a little more time than the rest of your class trying to remember the basics, but you get the hang of things quickly enough. Plus, everyone is super willing to help explain something, or share resources. (Maybe you’ll even befriend someone who was a biochemistry teaching assistant for four semesters and get them to teach you everything!) At the end of the day, I’m really glad for my time off. It gave me just enough of a break from school to refresh before I came back.
– Kat Z., M1
On Being a WashU Graduate
Trying a new environment for medical school has its advantages, but there is something to be said for sticking around in St. Louis. I love being able to catch up with friends still in college, either on purpose or accidentally when you see them around town. I get to see many of my friends with real jobs when they come back to campus for recruitment. Some friends are even sticking around in St. Louis for their work. All this provides a nice balance to the feeling of being caught up in the daily grind of med school. Most importantly, it’s unique to be one of a few St. Louis experts in your med school class, so you can share with your new med school friends that cool local brewery/coffeeshop/Thai restaurant that you discovered senior year.
P.S. The Thai restaurant is called Fork and Stix and it’s actually Thai-Japanese fusion. Yum.
– Rob G., M1