Four Year Planning
We can definitely help you think about how to fit the prerequisite classes into a four-year plan. You’ll find that there will always be more to do at Princeton—academics, co-curriculars, internships, and other activities—than time allows. Learning to prioritize and manage your time efficiently day to day and even year to year is challenging. We’re happy to help you weigh choices—choosing concentrations/certificates, taking summer or postbac courses to make room for your interests—and to talk through the implications of those choices.
We have also created a few templates to help you map out your requirements into a four-year plan. Our Majors & Prehealth Guide includes a number of sample four-year plans for different concentrations, as well. We often help students pencil their plans into a similar timeline during an individual appointment, so don’t hesitate to come in to do some of this planning.
Meeting with HPA Advisers
Hi HPA – I haven’t been in recently, but I feel like I’m following along with online resources, talking to friends, and am generally on track. Is there a reason I should come in anyway? I feel bad taking up your time if I don’t have a specific question.
You don’t have to feel bad about coming in at any point – that’s what we’re here for. Here are a few reasons it may be worthwhile to schedule a visit or come by during drop-ins even if you don’t have a specific question that you feel you need an adviser to answer:
· You can come by just to make sure you’re as on track as you think that you are and to take a few minutes reflecting on pre-health life (sometimes it’s hard to find time to reflect amidst the busyness of the rest of life).
· We’ve worked with hundreds of students beyond those you may come in contact with in your peer group whose perspectives we can lend to the way that you’re thinking about your life as a pre-health student.
· If you get to know the advisers before any problems arise, you’ll feel more comfortable talking with us in the case that they do.
· If you have a specific vision for what you’d like to do in the future and are looking for examples from older students or alums who have done similar things, we may be a good source to make an initial connection.
· If you’re premed or pre-dental, we’ll be working closely with you to provide our committee letter of recommendation when you apply, so it may feel more comfortable to have already established a relationship with our office before that process begins.
We’re sorry that you felt rushed in your first meeting with us! Here are some things to keep in mind in working with us at HPA:
- The beginning of the school year is always really hectic. Most students are using drop-in hours at that time to ask quick questions about courses they’re interested in, or stopping by as returning visitors and giving us updates on what they did over the summer. For a first meeting, it might be more comfortable to come in a few weeks into the semester – we’re usually particularly quiet during midterms and reading period.
- You can call ahead of coming to HPA for drop-in hours (609.258.3144) and ask Jen how busy it is, and how likely it’ll be that you’ll be seen.
- If you want broad, general information about being premed at Princeton, please read through the FAQ and Preparing Guide and then ask more specific questions that you have as a follow-up. This will make our conversation much more fruitful and efficient!
- If you do want to generally introduce yourself during drop-ins rather than set up an appointment, it can help to bring your resume so that we can quickly get a sense of what you’ve been doing as a start to the conversation.
- You can schedule a 20-minute appointment via Calendly. If none of the appointments work in your schedule, shoot us an email at hpa@ with your schedule and we’ll try to set something up.
- Twenty minutes may seem too short. If it feels like we have a lot more to talk about, we will often set up a follow-up meeting at the end of our appointment, or continue conversations in email, so know that you’re not limited to just one meeting all semester. It can also help to include some details about why you want to meet when you set up the appointment, so we can be prepared for the meeting.
- You (alone or with a small group) can invite us to lunch in your residential college or eating club – if we don’t have other obligations, we’re happy to sit and chat with you and your friends in a more relaxed setting.
- If you’re planning to apply to health professions school this year, know that we have also set aside some appointments this semester to meet with potential applicants so that you can talk with us about your candidacy before your pre-application interview. These will begin after the Applicant Workshops, which will occur right around fall break.
There are a couple of great opportunities for basic information and perspective that are currently not as utilized as they could be. The first is our fabulous HPA Peer Advisers – they’re all enthusiastic, helpful, and are happy to talk with any student about their pre-health paths. We select and train HPA PAs and they’re in touch with us regularly. Similarly, “Jock Docs” are pre-health varsity athletes who are available to support their peers.
If you’re the first in your family to pursue medicine, we have an Aspiring Docs Conversation Series, so let us know if you’re interested in participating!
Our website is another rich source of information. Be sure to check out our Preparing for a Career in the Health Professions guide – you can find it on our website or pick up a hard copy from our office at any time. Our FAQ and First-Year student “Prehealth 101” info session are also available on the website, and we have a page highlighting resources for first-year students.
We put new appointments on Calendly about two weeks in advance, so keep checking back from time to time, and hopefully you’ll be able to find one! HPA tends to be pretty quiet during reading period, so that may be a good time to schedule a meeting if you don’t have pressing concerns. You can also try coming during drop-in hours – we’re almost always able to see everyone who stops by. Drop-in hours for the week are posted on our website and our Facebook page.
Our main role as advisers is to make ourselves as available to you as possible when you need us. Many students find it useful to check in with us once per semester. You can update us on how you’re doing (and on your thinking about medicine and other health professional career paths), and we’re able to alert you to upcoming events, opportunities, and deadlines that you may not be aware of.
Bare minimum: we recommend visiting us once a year to update us on your progress and discuss your future plans. We do see advisees more frequently than once or twice a year, certainly, when they are experiencing academic difficulty or when they have something fun to share with us—like a med school acceptance!—and we always welcome that.
Even if you decide to step back from the prehealth curriculum at Princeton and do postbac work to complete your requirements, we’d still like you to make yourself known to us as an aspiring physician or veterinarian or dentist. And we are always happy to talk to you about clinical and service experience. Don’t be a stranger!
Q: How many times does a typical student meet with an HPA adviser before they go to medical school? How often does HPA recommend that I come in to meet?
A: Interesting question! Looking at the alums who started medical and dental school this year for whom we wrote a committee letter, the average was 12. The number of meetings varied from four to over 30!
Minimally, an applicant is required to meet with an HPA adviser once for a preapplication interview, which is part of the process to receive the committee letter (read more about the importance of a committee letter here). Most students have met with an adviser at least a couple of times in the years leading up to that interview. When they're about to apply, most applicants meet with us a few times to discuss parts of their application (personal statement, where to apply, letters of recommendation) and then a few more times to update us on their progress (e.g., getting interviews, deciding where to attend). We also wrote committee letters for applicants from Class of 2017 to 2022, so some of the applicants had a long history of working with us, and more advising appointments with us as a result.
At a minimum, we recommend visiting HPA once a year to update us about your progress and discuss your future plans. The better we know you, the more we can provide suggestions along the way. In the busyness of life, it can be hard to squeeze in self-reflection. You can schedule meetings with us to make sure that you take 20 minutes from time to time to take stock of your prehealth preparation.
The HPA office is open all summer during regular business hours, Monday through Friday from 8:30am-4:30pm (any exceptions will be listed on our website). We welcome you to come by and use the resources available (e.g., the materials from individual health professions schools and the access to the MSAR online), borrow books (including MCAT prep materials) from our HPA library, and eat candy and enjoy the air conditioning. The advisers need to focus the majority of their time writing committee letters, so we won’t have drop-in hours. We will be scheduling a limited number of appointments during the week (call to make an appointment), but for any quick questions that you might have, please try emailing hpa@ first – if we can’t address the question by email, we’d be happy to schedule an appointment. Current applicants will also have access to online drop-in hours.
Sophomore year can be especially challenging for pre-health students – rigor of classes often ramps up, you have to make some hard decisions (eating club vs not, major), you feel like your summer has to “count” compared to last year, you may be taking on leadership in organizations, and you’re still trying to figure out how to manage your time and academic expectations, but at the same time, you feel like you’re expected to know what you’re doing because you’ve been here for over a year now. We would be happy to meet and talk this through! Here’s some food for thought in the meantime:
- If you’re thinking of applying direct entry (starting med school the fall right after you graduate), this is the last summer when you can engage in activities that you’ll be able to draw from when you write your application. Your application will be submitted next June. Choose your summer plans accordingly, especially when it comes to direct interaction with patients – if you haven’t had any, prioritize that. There are many ways to gain clinical experience – you could do it as a full-time summer opportunity, or alongside another job/internship.
- Talking through your experiences with an HPA Peer Adviser will give you another perspective. They can talk about what they’ve done as pre-health students, which might make your appointment with an HPA adviser more productive. Feel free to email with any of them or set up a time to meet and talk.
- We have suggestions on our website for action steps by class year (here are the expanded ideas for sophomores). Reference these alongside the Dean of the College’s Sophomore Action Plan for ideas.
- We will have a Sophomore Success Series of workshops starting after spring break – be sure to check them out – we’ll advertise them in Vitals!