Valuable Pre-Med Tips from MD Student at Sidney Kimmel Medical College

Hello Terps! It’s that time of the week again! Today, we are so grateful for the opportunity to interview a distinguished alum: Keenan Sobol! Keenan graduated from UMD in Spring of 2017 with a major in General Biology. He was also a member of the University Honors College. Currently in his fourth year of an MD program at the Jefferson Medical College (now renamed to (Sidney Kimmel Medical College), Keenan shares valuable tips and insight about academics and life at medical school!

Life at UMD

Originally from Ohio, Keenan arrived at the University of Maryland in 2013. As a student in the University Honors College, Keenan also was a teaching assistant for Organic Chemistry I lab for a few years where he enjoyed teaching science topics. He also spent his weekends volunteering at the Children's National Hospital in D.C. After graduating from UMD in 2017, Keenan took a gap year before medical school and conducted clinical research in orthopedics in Philadelphia. He was able to observe and work with a trauma surgeon and oncologist. From interacting with patients in the clinic to collecting samples in the Operating Room, Keenan gained exposure in conducting research, ethics, and hospital work, which served as a stepping stone for his career in medicine.  

Sometimes, as a freshman in undergrad, it may feel that you need to hit the ground running. It’s a gradual process! As a student at the University of Maryland, you have access to a plethora of great resources! I recommend taking advantage of the HPAO list-serve, the variety of clinical and volunteering opportunities you can gain as well as the close proximity to D.C.!”

Keenan also emphasizes the importance of customizing your final years of undergrad to take courses you enjoy and learn about diverse disciplines!

“Seniors, take time during your final year of undergrad to take unique classes that appeal to your interest! I did an honors seminar class and was able to research and learn about Harry Potter and historical fiction. Don’t forget to explore your passion outside of academics, too!”

Committee Packet Tips

The Committee Letter process at UMD is very helpful and organized! Through this experience, you will be able to write essays that correlate strongly with the secondary applications you will receive, gain suggestions and revisions for your personal statement from an advisor, and practice your interviewing skills with a Mock Interview”

Keenan says that spending time to brainstorm, reflect, and write the short answer responses for the Committee Packet was very beneficial as it provided a framework for secondary essays, which a month after primary applications are submitted. It’s important to write your personal statement early! There are many valuable opportunities at Maryland. Keenan emphasizes utilizing the help of your professors, the Writing Center, and the workshops hosted by HPAO. He also mentions to take advantage of the Mock Interview offered through the Committee Packet - not all schools offer this! In addition, the alumni network can be a very helpful resource during the cycle as you get interview requests. Contacting former UMD students who attend the medical school can help you gain insight into clinical opportunities, the level of academic rigor, and the overall school life.  

Advice on Study Strategies in Medical School 

Keenan discusses transition from undergrad to medical school. He emphasizes the variety of study strategies to experiment with; everyone has different study techniques. Some medical students prefer to skim through the lectures, see what will likely be emphasized, and use outside resources to learn the material. Others will watch the live-streamed version of the lectures or attend lectures in-person. It’s all about what works for you!

“It’s a learning experience! It may be easy to compare yourself to your peers and feel that you should be excelling in the same way. Remember that everyone goes at their own pace.”

“Keep in mind that you will need to remember what you are learning for the long-term, as there are board exams during medical school.”

Keenan discusses how taking notes in undergrad varies from medical school. In college, Keenan would take notes on a Word document during lecture and create a summary afterwards to review his understanding. In medical school, the amount of content that needs to be learned is high. Keenan adeptly adjusted his study strategies and found ways to balance his time so that he can take notes and create summary sheets in lecture. He mentions that it takes time and experimenting, but it will be worth it!

Medical School Life

As a 4th year medical school student at Sidney Kimmel Medical College (SKMC), Keenan is currently applying for residency programs. Located in Philadelphia, SKMC was founded in 1824 and is well-known for its resources and life within the metropolitan city. The school has one of the largest medical school classes in the country. Keenan said that classes have about 270 students. Adjusting to the rigor of medical school will take time. However, SKMC provides ample resources and a supportive environment for students to learn effectively and efficiently.

The MD curriculum at SKMC spans four years with three phases. The first phase consists of the preclinical years of medical school, which ends during early Spring of the student’s second year. After this, the student will write their STEP 1 Board exam. The second phase comprises 8 clinical rotations, which are each 6 to 8 weeks, lasting a total of about 3 to 4 years. These rotations give students a variety of exposure to different fields within the medical career. The final phase is the student’s 4th year, which is focused on specialties in medicine.

Golden Tips:

  • As you navigate the pre-med journey, it is important to have mentors who can guide you and support you. Find a role model or mentor who will inspire you as you pursue the pre-med path!
  • Ask your professors and mentors to look over your personal statement! You will need to go through multiple drafts to write a concise and purposeful statement. Take time to revise and rewrite it.
  • Once you receive an interview request, I recommend contacting current medical students at the school! This will help you gain insight into the curriculum and life at that medical school.
  • You can do this! Believe in yourself - you may find that getting into medical school is much harder than once you are in! 

Stay happy and healthy Terps! See you next Tuesday! 

With care, 


Editor: Supraja Kanipakam