UVA Alumni Q&A: Advice from a Medical School Student


John Han graduated from UVA with his undergraduate degree in May 2020 and received his master's degree in Philosophy from UVA in May 2021. He is now a first-year medical student at the Washington University in St. Louis School of Medicine. He is now sharing advice for things he wish he knew before starting medical school, which is so helpful for students who are either just getting started on their pre-health journey or for those who are about to apply for medical school. Read below for our Q&A with John!

  • What are 5 things you wish you knew before starting medical school?
    • 1. Med school is FUN. The content is interesting, my classmates are friendly, the patients are amazing, and there's always something to get involved in.
    • 2. I'm not as stressed as I was in college, but I'm busier. There's a lot of material to cover, but thankfully most med school curricula are now pass-fail.
    • 3. Staying close to friends and family gets tougher. Set aside even a few minutes a day to reach out and call, FaceTime, or DM loved ones. Same goes for hobbies, maintaining second languages, and other life activities. 
    • 4. You'll have an easy time finding your people in your class-- your next BFF's in this stage of life. Just put yourself out there and hang out with folks you get along with!
    • 5. There's plenty of funding, mentorship, and infrastructure for wet-lab or clinical research in med school, but I discovered I could work (and even publish) in philosophy/bioethics-- a big passion of mine in undergrad. 
  • If you could go back, what would you do differently during your time at UVA as an undergraduate student and during your medical school application process?
    • I would improve my studying habits so that I could have more time for the extracurriculars I loved, hobbies, hanging out with friends, and sleep. I'd also be more choosy and focus on extracurriculars that mattered to me as a person (perhaps more activism) and as a pre-med student (perhaps more clinical volunteering).
  • What are some skills you recommend developing during your undergraduate years to make entering medical school a smoother transition?
    • Soft Skills-- time management, financial management (bitcoin doesn't count), diet/fitness, sleep/self-care routine, networking skills
    • Hard Skills-- scientific writing, knowledge from your Bio classes and MCAT (the content does show up in med school), optional but nice to have: foreign language, statistics, or coding
  • Are there any undergraduate activities that your fellow medical school classmates have shared that you think would be beneficial for UVA students to explore as undergrads?
    • Literally almost any CIO, part-time job, or extracurricular activity that you discover some passion in, can discuss at length, and do for a sustained period (300+ hours)
    • Research- wet lab is the norm, but other fields like public health or anthropology are amazing areas to explore and work in
    • Volunteer or Activism CIO's
    • Clinical Volunteering (I worked at Remote Area Medical)
    • Scribing or other paid clinical work
    • Shadowing
  • What general advice do you have for students that are looking to attend medical school? Or anything else you would like to share with us?
    • Treat yourself and practice self care. Find mentors and peers who support you especially when you are lost. Applying to med school is lengthy and expensive, and often confusing, so prepare early and never be afraid to ask questions. And I promise you'll do great :)