Prerak Juthani is a premed student who is about to start medical school at Yale after a successful undergrad at Berkeley. Listen to his story and check out his YouTube channel.
Back to our episode today, Prerak Juthani has a great YouTube channel and is doing something very similar to this podcast. He started a free tutoring company, a club at his undergraduate institution. He has been very entrepreneurial on his journey, finding problems and then solutions to those problems, making him a great applicant to medical school. Now he’s about to start at Yale Medical School.
Listen to this podcast episode with the player above, or keep reading for the highlights and takeaway points.
[03:15] Prerak’s Interest in Medicine
Prerak never knew he wanted to be a doctor. He considers himself lucky, having parents who never forced on him the idea of becoming a doctor, which can be common in Indian-American families.
Prerak is passionate about three things: teaching, learning, and interacting with others. And it was after he started undergrad when he realized that medicine allows for an intersection of these three. The ultimate turning point for him was when his dad was having major heart problems and had a triple bypass during Prerak’s third year in college. He was amazed by how revolutionary being a doctor was, and he wanted to have that kind of impact on someone’s life.
Prerak’s Undergrad Experience: Before He Chose Premed
As an undergrad, Prerak was studying molecular biology and public health. He was passionate about research, so he knew he was going to do school for a while, whether it be for a PhD, Master’s, or even going into health care administration. All he knew was that he wanted to work in the realm of health care. But he didn’t know it was going to be medicine until halfway through his second year of college.My interest in health care came from the ability to strongly impact lives on a daily basis.Click To Tweet
No one in Prerak’s family was actually involved in medicine. Having been tutoring and teaching other students for so long, he describes the feeling of seeing your students’ eyes open when they get something. He says this is probably the same feeling you get as a doctor when you’re interacting with patients. More importantly, what really appealed to him is having a direct impact, solving problems to make real positive change in patients’ lives.
[06:27] Teaching in Premed and Preparing for Medical School
Prerak initially took a lot of undergrad premed courses, and he ended up being a tutor for certain classes. He then worked his way up to being a study-group leader, where he led his own study group alongside the molecular biology class to help students keep up. With this position, he was able to help other students understand the intricacies and magnificence of the human body. Basically, Prerak finds the human body to be mind-blowing, and he’s fascinated by it.To see passion grow in my students is something I really enjoyed.Click To Tweet
Making Premed Information More Accessible
In terms of preparing for medical school, Prerak admits the lack of knowledge he had. He didn’t even know the application cycle would take a year until he was only two months away from graduating. It was this lack of education and the need for improved transparency across premed culture that actually drove him to start his premed organization and YouTube channel.Prerak had to send a hundred to two hundred emails just to find a doctor to shadow. Click To Tweet
Doing his undergrad at the University of California at Berkeley, Prerak explains that resources are present, but some students don’t even know about it. The student population size is just so huge. Because it’s a large public university, no one’s going to spoon-feed you advising or bring the right information to you. So you have to take initiative and figure stuff out on your own.At a large public university, no one's going to spoon-feed you the best premed advising or bring the right information to you.Click To Tweet
[11:33] Prerak Juthani on the Biggest Surprises of Applying to Medical School
Prerak rushed to take the pre-2015 MCAT because he wanted to take the three-hour test rather than the eight-hour test.
He was also shocked by the secondary applications, realizing they don’t take mercy on you at all. Prerak was getting six to seven secondaries a day, and schools wanted them back in like two weeks. He admits to being a slow writer, and trying to meet all the secondary deadlines was just impossible for him. He sent some of those secondaries a month to six weeks late because he just couldn’t finish them sooner.
[Related episode: Does It Matter How Fast I Turn Around My Secondary Essays?]
Secondary Application Strategy
Prerak learned afterward that there are certain secondaries you should prioritize because those schools have more of a rolling admissions process. He didn’t know this. The Ivys don’t work on a rolling basis. So he should have known to prioritize those that had rolling admissions. He was just so overwhelmed that he was going through his inbox and picking the order of schools to reply to randomly. He had no strategy.
So, what he did when he received any secondary application was to make himself feel better by writing all the questions down in an Excel spreadsheet. He’d write down the deadlines and take all their prerequisite information down before he even started working on it. It helped to lay out his little tiny victories along the way.Every little victory in the med school application process is worth celebrating.Click To Tweet
[14:40] Fighting Competition Through Cooperation
One thing that Prerak says was different about his application was the level of entrepreneurship that he showed. Berkeley did a good job in teaching him that if there’s a problem out there, you’re never too small to take it on.
Back when he was a first- and second-year student at Berkeley, he felt like he was in a very dark place. He felt so incompetent. But then in this third year, he realized a lot of people felt the same way. So he created an organization to fight this, and their motto was “fighting competition through cooperation.” They did this by providing free one-on-one tutoring and advising to incoming students. Prerak stresses the importance of learning from your experiences and fixing the problems you identify.If there's a problem out there, don't just live with it. Fix it, so no one has to live with it again.Click To Tweet
Prerak Juthani’s Entrepreneurial Projects as a Premed
Both of these were intended to fix big problems he saw, the first one being organic chemistry. His YouTube channel was intended to increase access for premed advising. Prerek describes how medical schools respected this. Medical schools like to see that you identified a problem and were willing to address it. This was something he talked a lot about in his interviews, and he thinks it was a big reason he got in.Medical schools like to see that you identified a problem and were willing to address it.Click To Tweet
[17:11] Applying to Medical School as an Indian-American
Prerak didn’t feel any explicit disadvantage when applying to medical school as an Indian-American, but he did notice there were a lot of questions that hinted at diversity. The diversity question was always so hard for him to answer because he can’t rely on just saying he is Indian-American.
Medical schools already have a lot of Indian-Americans. So, he couldn’t answer that question as easily as an underrepresented minority could have. So when Prerak was writing his secondaries, he answered the diversity questions by saying that his immigrant experiences made him unique. He says this is probably not the best answer, considering there are a lot of successful immigrants.
[Related resource: Medical School Secondary Application Essay Library.]
Answering Secondary Application Questions About Diversity
When writing your answers to diversity questions in the secondary application, think outside the box of just race, sexuality, and other identity groups. If you go to any school’s Office of Diversity and Affairs, it’s always about race, sexuality, or immigrants. That can limit your conception of diversity. But once he started interviewing, Prerak started to realize that diversity is more about your experiences. I actually don’t recommend talking about race and ethnicity in diversity questions.Diversity is more about your experiences. What are you passionate about? And where have those passions brought you in your life?Click To Tweet
Finding the Diversity in Your Story
Prerak caught the attention of his interviewers when he mentioned the board game he created. It was pretty different from what interviewers normally hear. It contrasts against most students doing research-type activities.
He then realized that his real diversity was his entrepreneurial drive to solve the problems he sees. Now, he thinks that should have been his answer to the diversity questions—he should have emphasized the board game he created.
Understand that medical school interviewers get bored with students saying the same answers over and over again. They just want to hear something different. They just want to have a conversation with you. The interview trail is about testing different things you could bring up in the conversation and seeing what people react to.
[21:25] Prerak Juthani on Why You Should Go Off-Script in Your Interviews
Prerak says he prepared for his interview like any applicant would, but he was too scripted. He remembers interviewing at UC Davis, and he brought up the Office of Social Welfare, and the interviewer didn’t even know they had one of those. He felt like this came off as him doing way too much research and not giving genuine answers to the questions.
As you go through your medical school interviews, you will start seeing people’s reactions and noticing what people want to talk about. Prerak noticed that knowing your general answer to all the common questions is a good thing, but it’s also phenomenal to go off-script—to really just speak from your heart.In his interview at Yale School of Medicine, where he was accepted, he didn't stick to any of his rehearsed answers.Click To Tweet
He thinks that his interview with Yale was where he felt that he didn’t stick to any of his prepared answers. For example, he had prepared an answer for why he wanted to go to Yale, but he didn’t even use it. He just said that all the students there looked so happy. It’s something he hadn’t seen at any other med school. This answer, which was based on his honest impression, came off as much more genuine.
[23:20] Checking Off Boxes
Med schools are not looking for any one type of person. They want people who are passionate about what they do and how they do it. Many students think you need to do ABCDE to get into med school. But med schools can tell when someone has done something because they need to versus when they’ve done something because they want to and they’re passionate about it.
Prerak went into research because he thought it was something he had to do to get into med school. So for the first two years, he was literally just taking instructions, never asking questions, and never understanding what he was doing. He just thought he had to do it because he needed it on his application.
His wake-up call was when his research mentor thought he was only doing it for the application. He was told that if he wasn’t asking thought-provoking questions, there was no reason for him to be around.You just can't be doing things because you have to do them. You need to be engaged or not do them at all.Click To Tweet
After this, he took a much more active approach to research. He got involved in molecular research. By the end, he was able to write a thesis and was able to substantiate exactly why he was doing things. This would have never happened when he was doing it for the sake of doing it, which he did for the first two years. And he’s glad he made that shift.
[26:40] Dealing with Premed Self-Doubt
Prerak jokingly says that second-guessing yourself is a prerequisite to be a premed. Self-doubt is normal for premeds because the path is so long and brutal. It’s designed to be long and brutal so that it can show your resilience. If you have the determination to stick through all the premed requirements, then you might be able to make it through ten more years of schooling.At the end of the day, experiencing moments of self-doubt makes you stronger.Click To Tweet
Premed is not as hard as it’s going to get. Med school gets difficult. Residency gets difficult. You’re going to have those times where you’re going to question yourself. But at the end of the day, if you know you’ve stuck through it so far, and you have the passion to remain committed to it, you can keep going.
It speaks to your character and your drive when you succeed through the difficult parts of this path. Resilience is an important trait in a doctor. Prerak mentions a Chinese proverb: If you fall down seven times, stand up eight.
[28:05] Choosing Which Medical School to Go To
Basically, Prerak narrowed his choice down to Yale and UCLA. His main factor was financial: Yale could offer him a better financial incentive.He saw going to medical school at Yale as a chance to leave California for four years and expand his comfort zone.Click To Tweet
He’s also been in California his whole life, so he saw Yale medical school as a chance to leave for four years and expand his comfort zone and the challenges he’s going to encounter. Another thing he liked about Yale medical school was it being forward-thinking in terms of the lack of competition. Yale was one of the first med schools that implemented the pass/fail system. They have tests but they’re not intended to intimidate you.
The system at Yale’s medical school is geared toward making sure every student feels comfortable and can make the most out of their education, learning as much as possible. Prerak describes this sense that students can do what they want at Yale. Yale provides students with a larger degree of freedom and autonomy than other medical schools.
[29:50] The Impetus for Prerak’s YouTube Channel
Prerak read the book When Breath Becomes Air, as well as the books of Atul Gawande, and realized they were very good about documenting the experiences of the authors. Those books documented big changes in the authors’ careers and recounted many interactions with patients and fellow doctors.
Prerak wondered how these authors were able to keep track of all their patient encounters and retell them with such an enormous amount of detail. He was just fascinated by their level of self-reflection. Prerak knew he wasn’t a writer, but he loves to talk. So he created this forum in his Youtube channel where he could go to medical school and reflect on the things happening to him. He documented his growth as a doctor to be.Prerak Juthani started his Youtube channel in January 2017.Click To Tweet
Prerak Juthani started his Youtube channel in January 2017. As he progresses, he wants to use the channel as an outlet for pretty much anything and everything that impacts him meaningfully. It’s his way of documenting his journey and reflecting on things. He will continue to use the channel as an outlet for anything he thinks is important and which he thinks other people should know.
Recommended Videos by Prerak Juthani on the MCAT and Diversity
All premeds out there should watch Prerak’s video on how to go about approaching the MCAT. It’s called All You Need to Do to Kill the MCAT.
Another video of Prerak’s that you should check out is How to Answer the “Diversity” Question.
That video is crucial because diversity is so much broader than just sexuality or race. And this is applicable not only to med school applications but also to college applications and applying for volunteer positions.
The diversity question can show up a lot—almost every medical school will ask it—so getting a holistic perspective on diversity is important. You need to figure out early what makes you diverse, so you can foster your own unique interests and pursuits. Developing your diversity factor is super beneficial.Diversity is so much broader than just sexuality or race.Click To Tweet
[34:00] Words of Wisdom from Prerak Juthani
Take things one step at a time. The premed journey is a never-ending slope upward. Every day you will have new challenges. Every day you will face self-doubt for another reason. At the end of the day, you want to have a level of dedication where you know that you’re just going to get back up if something knocks you down.You can only connect the dots looking backward. You cannot connect them looking forward. - Steve JobsClick To Tweet
Take it one day at a time. You can’t know in advance where life is going to take you. A quote from Steve Jobs that he loves is “You can only connect the dots looking backward. You cannot connect them looking forward.” If you take it one day at a time, you can let your unique path unfold as you go.
Links and Other Resources
- Prerak Juthani on YouTube
- React! (Prerak’s Organic Chemistry Board Game)
- Related episode: This Med Student Took a Leave of Absence and Started Osmosis.
- Related episode: The One Thing You Need to Do to Stand Out as a Premed!
- Need MCAT Prep? Save on tutoring, classes, and full-length practice tests by using promo code “MSHQ” at Blueprint MCAT (formerly Next Step Test Prep)!