A little over a year ago I was still waiting to hear from some of the twenty or so med schools I had applied to. I was making lists of pros and cons about the schools I got into and planning trips to visit them again. It was a stressful time, knowing that I had such a big decision to make, but in the end, I had a gut feeling about Carle Illinois. I believe that if you know yourself well, your gut feeling can tell you a lot.

That gut feeling didn’t really hit me until I visited Carle Illinois for Second Look last March. I had two school visits planned on the same weekend, back to back. Carle Illinois was second, and as soon as I arrived, I felt a sense of excitement about the med school. The faculty and staff were all super passionate about Carle Illinois and very invested in the students. There was so much energy, and I really liked the idea of going to a more interdisciplinary med school that integrates innovation. 

I also knew that the small class size here would be good for me. One of the things I learned about myself in undergrad is that I learn better in a smaller class environment. A big lecture hall might be more my comfort zone in some ways, but in a smaller group of students, you have to be more active and involved, which is how I learn best. 

The Problem-Based Learning (PBL) style here is valuable for me because you get real-life medical cases that are clinically relevant, and you learn by thinking through them, not just by memorizing facts. PBLs involve smaller groups of eight students working together with a faculty facilitator to learn biological systems and problem-solve around the medical cases. It reminds me of one of the reasons I always liked math so much in high school— you can work with friends on problems you’re trying to solve, each bringing different knowledge and perspectives. 

I actually majored in Applied Math and Biology as an undergrad, which was a good way to complete my pre-med requirements and keep studying math, which was very important to me. I did wonder if not having an engineering background would be an issue at Carle Illinois, so I asked about it at Showcase and Second Look. From hearing about their experiences here, it was clear it wasn’t a problem for other non-engineering students, so I didn’t let that hold me back from choosing Carle Illinois.  

Now that I’ve been a student here for seven months, I am able to see how I’m benefiting from the small class size and PBL-style of learning. I’ve also enjoyed things about Carle Illinois that I didn’t expect, such as the interprofessional learning experiences with other colleges at the University of Illinois, like the law school, vet med school, and school of social work. I’m very glad I followed my gut feeling a year ago and found the school that’s the right fit for me.