Preparing for Med School Early: A Pre-Med Student’s GuideThere’s a lot more to applying for med school than just picking out a major with “Pre-Med” attached to it.

Good Grades Start Now.

I’m sure you know that your grades are a big deal if you’re applying to med school, so don’t be tempted to give in to too many parties or late-nights when you should be studying. Take your studies seriously starting now-its easier to maintain a steadily growing GPA than to try to recoer a bad one late in the game.

Know Your Deadlines.

Unlike regular college apps, your med school applications will be due the summer before your senior year of college. In fact, it is best if you apply long before the application is due, to position yourself for the best possible opportunity. Learn how to apply here.

Start Researching Schools.

Learning what schools look for and want can help you prepare to be a good candidate. Whether you need to boost your GPA or raise your MCAT score, researching now can save you a lot of stress come application time. The Princeton Review’s annual Best 166 Medical Schools is a great resource (the title could change as med schools are added, so watch for that).

Know and Take all the Required Classes.

Just because your major doesn’t require certain courses, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take them. Some colleges waive courses like basic Biology based on AP scores, but a lot of med schools still want you to take the class. Peruse the admission requirements of a few schools you might want to apply to, and plan to schedule those classes for yourself.

Prepare for the MCAT by Junior Year.

Since applications have to be in the summer of your Junior year, you don’t want to wait too long to take the MCAT. (Your application can be delayed while schools wait to receive your scores). Start by taking a practice MCAT, and then plan to devote about 6 months to studying beforehand. If you think you can stick to it, invest in a preparatory course like a Kaplan course-they can really help you raise your MCAT score. Find out more here.

Make Friends With Your Professors.

Med schools require letters of recommendation from both science and non-science professors, so don’t skip out on classes in your liberal arts fields. If you’re not planning to take many non-science or math courses, make sure you do really well-and make an impression on your professor-in the ones you do. Work hard in class, and get some face time at office hours so your professors know who you are, and respect you.

Be Extra-Curricular.

The more well-rounded you are, the better (but don’t over-do it-don’t be in clubs just to get the hours). Get involved in volunteer activities, clubs, and organizations that you feel passionate about. Work a part-time job. Get some real-world experience in the medical field, but don’t neglect the wider spectrum of opportunities you have in college.