Alumni Advice

This page serves two purposes:  to recognize the significant achievements of our recent graduates who have been accepted into health professions graduate programs and to provide them with the opportunity to pass on some words of wisdom to you, our current pre-health students.

We hope you find their advice inspiring!

And, to any other UCSB alumni who have gone on to various careers in healthcare, we encourage you to reach out to our pre-health advisors so that we can share stories of your experiences as UCSB students and current healthcare professionals with our current students!  Just send an email to:  


Nikki B. 
B.S. Biopsychology, UCSB Class of 2013 
Master of Public Health, UCD Class of 2015 
Allopathic Medicine (MD)/Neuroscience (PhD), Rosalind Franklin University of Medicine and Science, Chicago 
Comparison is the thief of joy - your path to medicine is entirely your own, and does not need to precisely match that of your peers. Take that gap year(s), do that extracurricular activity just because you love it and not because you "should", apply for medical school more than once if that's what it takes! Passion, perseverance, and empathy make for a better physician than any grade or test score ever will. 

  Alexandra O.

B.S. Microbiology, UCSB Class of 2016

Physician Assistant Studies and Public Health, Touro University, California

"Do extracurriculars that you like to do! Don’t just do something because you think it will look good on your resume."

Janelle L.

B.S. Biological Science, UCSB Class of 2019

Physical Therapy, Cal State Northridge

"For students thinking about pursuing physical therapy, I would recommend becoming familiar with the admission requirements early on so that they can plan out what they need to do; is a good resource. Also, I would recommend that students volunteer in a variety of physical therapy settings to see if physical therapy is for them and because PT schools prefer (and sometimes require) that applicants have volunteering experience in multiple different settings; Sansum Clinic and Cottage Rehabilitation Hospital are two local options for obtaining PT volunteering experience."

Carly S.

B.A. Sociology, UCSB Class of 2019

Occupational Therapy, Dominican University of California

  Mark S.

B.S. Biological Science, UCSB Class of 2019

Allopathic Medicine (MD), University of Maryland School of Medicine

"There is no shortcut to success, you must make sacrifices, be disciplined, and work very hard."

Shasen B.

B.A. Psychology, UCSB Class of 2015

Dentistry, Columbia University College of Dental Medicine

"My advice for pre-health students is to plan ahead, stay organized, go the extra mile, and always believe in yourself and the positive impact you can have on others."

Eva E.

B.A. Environmental Studies, UCSB Class of 2009

Physical Therapy, Cal State Northridge

"Excel in school and form good habits. I didn’t know that I wanted to go into the medical field as an undergrad but I did well in school and 7 years later when applying to graduate school, my GPA is part of what helped me get into grad school. I would also advise future health professionals to get as much experience as possible and to view your classmates as your fellow professional colleagues, not your competition."

David B.

B.A. Biological Science, UCSB Class of 2014

Allopathic Medicine (MD), UC Irvine School of Medicine

"The process of applying to medical school requires you to jump through a lot of different hoops—and above all, you need to be strategic in doing so. The process entails much more than just grades, but if you don’t have the minimum GPA, then it’s tough to get past that first hurdle. In college, your GPA should be your #1 priority, and don’t let extracurriculars or volunteer activities take away from your studies. Enjoy your undergraduate career and fill it with things that you are passionate about!"

  Ellen S.

B.S. Biological Science, Class of 2015

Physician Assistant Studies and Public Health, Touro University, California

"Get as much experience in your field as possible by volunteering and taking up a part time job. Also travel and explore while you can!"

Summer B.

B.S. Cell and Developmental Biology , UCSB Class of 2017

Allopathic Medicine (MD), UC San Diego School of Medicine

"My advice to current pre-health students would be to stay involved with activities and/or people that continue to inspire you to work in healthcare. The classes are challenging and the work load can be draining so having a steady source of inspiration is important!"

Matt D.

B.S. Biopsychology, UCSB Class of 2018

Allopathic Medicine (MD), David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA

My advice for students interested in the health professions is to stay true to yourself. Refrain from comparing yourself to others and always keep an open mind. Leave ample time for reflection and do not partake in experiences that you are not genuinely passionate about. In the end, professional programs will gauge your interest in medicine based off the passion you convey when discussing your experiences. If you have not accomplished anything that particularly excites you, you will not be a very impressive candidate. By staying true to myself, I was able to cultivate a unique college experience that set me apart from my peers while also providing me with memories I will cherish forever. For example, during my time at UCSB, I was able to play on UCSB's 6-time national champion ultimate frisbee team, work as a white water river rafting guide on the Kern River, and serve as a ski patroller in Lake Tahoe. During my interviews, I received far more questions about these experiences than I did regarding my honors thesis, shadowing experiences, and academic pursuits. Seek out opportunities that truly speak to you and pursue them wholeheartedly. Everything else will fall into place.”

Zachary C.

B.S. Biochemistry–Molecular Biology , UCSB Class of 2017

Pharmacy, UCSF

"Do not seek out experiences just to have something on your resume or to log hours. Rather, pursue opportunities for which you have a sincere passion, which will allow you to find what you enjoy doing as well as provide the fuel to help you gain the most from these experiences."

  Andrew G.

B.A. Biological Science, UCSB Class of 2018

Dentistry, UCLA

"Use all the resources available to you at UCSB and seek mentors, whether it be other students, alumni, your professors, and especially the advisors. You’ll be provided with a wealth of knowledge that will accelerate your success. Be sure to join clubs and participate in extracurriculars. You’ll meet great people, learn a lot, have an awesome time, and diversify your real-world experiences...all of which will open more doors for you. "

Binh P.

B.S. Biological Science, Class of 2018

Dentistry, Tufts University School of Dental Medicine

"1. Find the reason which brings you to the healthcare field that also makes you very proud and happy each time you share it to your friends, family, and strangers.

I did not know that I was going to dentistry until my Junior year at UCSB, not because I was not interested in healthcare field, but because I did not yet figure out why I want to be in it or what my future would turn out to be if I just simply "jumped" into dentistry. Once I found out what it was to provide dental care to the underserved communities like the one I came from in Vietnam, I felt that my heart was always full each time I brought that reason up to my interviewers, friends, families, and other students. Dental school will be very challenging for me, even if I did well at UCSB. However, I see myself powering through the days of countless assignments and fatigue, because of that reason alone. So, what is yours? Why are you here? Family aspirations? Childhood memory? You know you will succeed in and continue with the field, through all the awaiting hardships, once you take pride in that reason.

2. Take care of yourself, be proud.

I would bet that you are feeling overwhelmed, excited, worried, determined, sleep-deprived and anxious just thinking about where you will end up or how you will do on those MCAT, DAT, OAT, etc. I was too. In fact, I still am, even I already got accepted to dental schools. It is a very very long and exhausting process- from trying to get all those good grades to doing as many activities as you can, to aiming to do research and keeping up with your hobbies- it seems like you all do not have enough time to do everything. And you are right. You will not, possibly, have all the time to do everything. So take care of yourself. Play your favorite sports for a few minutes a day, take a short break and go to the beach for a fresh air, go to IV for your favorite food to treat yourself after an exam or on the weekends, listen to your favorite music, grab Lily tacos with your friends now and then- because you deserve it. These short breaks from studying will not hurt you, I promise. I even skipped some classes, sometimes, so I could be in additional volleyball classes with my friends and coach. It made me happy (as long as I was not behind!) and re-energized!

And be proud! It is so difficult to not compare your test scores to the classmates who got a higher one, to not hate yourself for not doing as well in classes as you thought despite studying so hard. But you know what is harder? To not give up when things get rough. So, if you are still here and trying your absolute best to get into the healthcare field, you should be so very proud of yourself! The world ahead of you and me will be even tougher. So take pride in whatever achievements that bring a smile to your face- whether you was able to improve your grade from a C to a B or wake up early to study- you are already set for success! All the best, your fellow Gaucho."

Audrey D.

B.S. Biopsychology, UCSB Class of 2014

Physician Assistant Studies, Elon University

"I graduated from UCSB in December 2014 and my advice, at least for the PA profession, is to not rush into the career straight out of undergrad. PA programs require thousands of hours of experience for a reason - they expect you to have developed real skills working with patients, and have valuable experience that they can't teach. In the classroom, I learn as much from my classmates as I do from my professors: some have been nurses, paramedics, radiology techs, and even oncology researchers for years! I love that we can each share our expertise. I knew I wanted to be a PA since college, but I remember going to a UCSB Pre-PA Association meeting and feeling really discouraged that I wouldn't have enough patient hours by the time I graduated. I wasn't told at that time that the average age of PA students is 26. My advice would be to lean into the gap year(s) and pick up everything you can, even if you think you may not want to go into that particular field.

I first worked as a Medical Assistant which taught me basic skills. Later I became an EMT which taught me the reality of providing healthcare to the underserved as well as how to manage the fast pace of the ED. Right before school, I worked at a healthcare consulting company which gave me insight into the complicated world of insurance and financial incentives, and I got to read a ton of charts to determine if certain treatments were "medically necessary." Every bit of my experience has given me the ability to better understand what is being taught in the short 27 months of PA school, as well as participate in the classroom discussions intended to make us all better providers.

In your application, PA programs look for evidence of maturity and a strong sense of self in terms of what kind of a provider you want to be, and how you want to shape medicine. Even though I worked and volunteered throughout my time at UCSB, I can't say I was fully ready to be where I am today when I graduated. So don't be discouraged! Enjoy a long wade in the sea of medicine while you can, because PA school is a sprint in the deep end."

  Carmen L.

B.S. Zoology, UCSB Class of 2015

Vet Medicine, UC, Davis

"I think it’s important to realize and remember what we’re actually studying so hard for - and to focus more on learning material than getting A’s on exams and in courses. Also - ENJOY UCSB - I feel like I missed many opportunities and didn’t fully take in all UCSB had to offer until my last year, and now that I'm at Davis, I really miss it."

Travis S.

B.S. Pharmacology, UCSB Class of 2015

Osteopathic Medicine (DO)/Master in Public Health, Touro University, California

"Complete secondary applications as quickly as possible after you receive them.  Make the most of gap years, even if you need to take more than you planned to. I spent the last three years exploring emergency medical care as an ED scribe and an EMT, then took my scribe experience into a primary care setting this last year. Follow your curiosity; not only will it build your application for next cycle, but it will provide a foundation to learn upon in medical school. Good luck!"

Emily L.

B.S. Biological Science, UCSB Class of 2015

Physician Assistant Studies, Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine

“During my time at UCSB I was a medical scribe at SB Cottage Hospital. I continued to scribe after I graduated in 2015 and in 2017 I was accepted into a Master of Public Health program at Boston University. I focused on infectious diseases epidemiology and biostatistics and graduated three semesters later. During my time at BU, I continued scribing at Massachusetts General Hospital and during the summer of 2017 I completed my master's thesis in Uganda.

After graduating with a MPH, I had six months off where I worked as an assistant manager at a yoga studio then traveled to Bali where I became a yoga teacher! Equipped with a perspective shaped by my background in public health and alternative medicine, I continued on the medical track which led me to my acceptance into the Physician Assistant Program at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. I am now completing my second year and will graduate as a physician assistant in May 2020."

Jeffrey M.

B.A. Chemistry, UCSB Class of 2017

Allopathic Medicine (MD), California University of Health Sciences School of Medicine

“1) General advice for being a premed: make sure you don't overwhelm yourself by taking on too much at once. Try to take breaks and enjoy college while you can. Make sure you stay on top of your work, GPA repair can be tough to do.

2) Advice for MCAT: Make sure you give yourself ample time to study and do practice problems. Don't try to do too much in a given day, take breaks every now and then to help you recharge. Take lots of practice tests to gauge how you're progressing, what you're good at, and what you need to improve on. Try to use multiple resources to be exposed to different styles of questions.

3) Advice on the application cycle for med school: The process is long and can seem daunting, but if you break it down it becomes much more manageable. Start your personal statement and activity writing 6 months in advance to get multiple rounds of edits in. Try to pre-write your secondary essays if at all possible. Absolutely do mock interviews and try to do them with different people.”

Alek K.

B.S. in Biochemistry, UCSB Class of 2014

Osteopathic Medicine (DO), Rocky Vista University

“Major in what you're interested in and not necessarily what you think admissions committees will want to see. Basically any scientific major will cover the prerequisite courses required for medical school.

-Don't feel like 1 bad grade will ruin your application. Schools appreciate upward trends and seeing how an applicant can learn from previous mistakes. Beyond your undergraduate degree, there are also Academic Enhancement Programs where you can take additional upper division biology electives that can help boost your GPA and show that you can handle the more advanced courses.

-Schools care about more than just your GPA and MCAT. Make sure you have continuity in your extracurricular activities throughout your 4 years at UCSB. Shadow physicians from different specialties. Find clinical or non-clinical volunteer opportunities. Do a summer research project for one of your professors. The hours will add up and make you a more well-rounded applicant."