BYU Pre-Medical Club Peer Mentoring Program supports students during medical school application season

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The BYU Pre-Medical Club Peer Mentoring Program, a subset of the BYU Pre-Medical Club, is providing support and guidance to pre-med students as medical school applications open next month. The group consists of around 150 mentors, mentees and officers and was created by pre-medical students looking to build a community of students going through the application process. (Photo by Megan Zaugg)

The BYU Pre-Medical Club Peer Mentoring Program, a subset of the BYU Pre-Medical Club, is providing support and guidance to pre-med students as medical school applications open next month.

The program consists of around 150 mentors, mentees and officers and was created by pre-medical students looking to build a community of students going through the application process.

BYU pre-medical student Ryan Winborg said although there are several resources for pre-medical students at BYU, such as the Pre-Professional Advisement Center, they felt BYU lacked a community in which students could interact with one another on a more personal level.

“The founders were looking for resources at BYU to see how they could talk with other pre-med students about these experiences and get advice to just become better,” Winborg said.

Winborg said the program started with a “trial period” of a small batch of mentors last summer.

“It ended up being a huge success,” Winborg said. “They launched an even bigger program in the fall. Since then, it’s just taken off.”

The program assigns a mentor to each student to share advice, provide guidance and relate experiences to their mentees as they navigate the medical school application process.

Medical schools require their applicants to write essays, take entrance exams, provide community service, gain clinical patient exposure and more to be considered for acceptance.

Winborg said the many components of applying to medical school is both daunting and complicated for new pre-medical students.

“We do all of these things while also still trying to be a college student and enjoy the experience, as well as everything that comes with being a young adult,” Winborg said.

Winborg emphasized that the group does not take the place of other resources on campus for pre-medical students.

“This program cannot and is not designed to replace the advisement center,” Winborg said. “That is the best place you can go for customized help.”

Winborg said the program is meant to add to the experience and provide opportunities to connect with others.

“Where the mentorship program really shines is you’re able to take that customized help from the pre-professional advisement center and go to your peer mentor and say ‘okay, how do I actually do this?'” Winborg said.

Winborg said collaboration among students allows them to find resources and opportunities which are “sometimes underneath the surface.”

“It inspired me to want to give those opportunities to other people,” Winborg said. “When you see other people helping others, you want to jump in and do that too.”

BYU pre-medical student Megan Hansen said her favorite part about the program is the support the community provides.

“Sometimes it just lends itself to being a very competitive environment and track,” Hansen said. “We feel the pressure to be as good as we can. What I love most about this program is how we can all be in it together.”

Hansen said the program is about collaboration and not about competition.

“Let’s support each other, let’s be friends and let’s encourage each other,” Hansen said.

Hansen started as a mentor in the program and is now part of the program’s internal committee.

“I was really lucky to end up with a mentor who was pre-med and female,” Hansen said. “She was able to help me out with the experience of applying to medical school as a woman, so that was really helpful.”

BYU pre-medical student David Kotter said the program came at an opportune moment for BYU students.

“It came at a really good time because this was right in the middle of a pandemic,” Kotter said. “Most people had kind of drifted out of social circles and this gave me a community and a bunch of friends.”

Kotter said he loves the program’s sentiment that everyone can get into a medical school.

“Everyone at BYU could get in,” Kotter said. “We can work together to make sure that everybody does.”

Kotter said with so many exceptional students applying for medical school, it can sometimes feel like a “rat race.”

“If you can learn how to collaborate and not compete, then you’re going to get out of the race, you’re going to save your mental health and you’re going to learn more,” Kotter said.

Winborg, Hansen and Kotter said God’s involvement in the program has been fundamental.

“One thing we decided to do is pray right before we started our meetings,” Winborg said. “We’re at BYU and we are trying to be a faithful people. Why not let God take it to the next level?”

Since BYU is founded and supported by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the university aims to provide an education that is both “intellectually enlarging” and “spiritually strengthening.”

“As the program continues, that’s going to be our focus: ‘How do we make this a true BYU experience?'” Winborg said.

More information about the BYU Pre-Medical Club can be found on their instagram page.

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