Spotlight: Chijioke “CJ” Ikonte Jr.

The SNMA-MAPS board members are a great resource here at UChicago. The spotlight blog posts are an opportunity for you guys to get to know the board better and receive great advice. Don’t hesitate to reach out to them for more information!
CJ Headshot
Chijoke “CJ” Ikonte Jr.
Co-Student Liason
Class of 2015
1.) What career were you interested in before you came to UChicago?
Before I came to UChicago, I was actually pretty interested in engineering. I wanted to get a degree in mechanical engineering and enter the workforce with that. Turns out UChicago doesn’t have an engineering program lol. But they do have an awesome Biological Sciences Program.
2.) How has your perspective on that career changed in your time here?
I think engineering is a great career, but I began to realize that the reason I wanted to be an engineer was because all my friends wanted to be engineers, and my dad was an engineer early in his career. I didn’t have that many reasons why I wanted to be an engineer. On the other hand, the more I researched physicians and what they do on a day to day basis, I realized that primary hands on treatment of individuals was what I really had interest in, and I could think of a plethora of reasons why I would be a good physician. Evaluating myself and not others made me figure out what I really wanted to do.
3.) What do you think students should focus on in their first year and first summer?
I would say the thing you should really focus on your first year is getting your ducks in a row academically. This school is pretty challenging, and it can be even harder if you are a science major/pre-med. You can do all the extra-curricular activities you want, but if your grades aren’t where they need to be, it’s going to be a very stressful time when you apply to med school. It’s tempting to arrive on campus and want to jump into every organization, shadow and all that, but you have 4 years to do that. Spend your fist couple quarters figuring out studying techniques, what works for you and what doesn’t. Learn how to have academic success first, then go do all the extra-curricular’s you want. It’ll pay off in the long run. Not saying extra activities aren’t important, but don’t let participation in those activities drag your grades down.
4.) What do you think are the most valuable resources available here that student need to take advantage of?
Definitely the UCIHP office. If you haven’t met with an advisor there you need to hurry up and do that. They literally exist to help you get into medical school, and whether you need advice, someone to vent to, or some good old motivation, they can and will help you with whatever you need.
5.) What are the biggest mistakes pre-med students tend to make and how can they avoid them?
A lot of premeds feel they have to do everything. Get involved in every club, participate in every IM sport, work at 5 different labs. So many physicians and people involved in the medical school application process have told me that this is a mistake, you should always aim for quality over quantity. Depth over breath. Get involved in a few things, and show commitment to those activities. Work in a lab for 3 years. Rise through a student organization, instead of jumping to different ones. Don’t feel like you have to jump at every single opportunity. Select a few things, and really dedicate yourself to those things.
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