If you're involved in extracurricular activities at the University of Utah, there's a good chance you've run into Ben Berger, who participates in nearly 10 clubs and organizations. Berger, now in his final year at the university, has maintained a 4.0 GPA throughout college and scored in the 99th percentile on the MCAT. Even with a schedule that would overwhelm a typical student, Berger stays educated on current events and encourages all students to get involved in school-sanctioned activities, and urges them to stay informed through news outlets.
What was your reaction when you found out your score of the MCAT?
Well, I was alone in my office, so I was basically free to scoot around in my wheely chair like a maniac, furiously punch the air all around me, and give the Leo DiCaprio Wolf of Wall Street victory underbite for about five straight minutes. Suffice it to say, I was ecstatic about the result and relieved to have it over with.
What clubs do you participate in? How do you stay organized and maintain your GPA with all of your extracurriculars?
I've been involved in the molecular biology research in the U of Utah chemistry department, the Sigma Chi Fraternity, the Honors College Global Health Scholars, the American Chemical Society Student Chapter, the Mortar Board Senior Honors Society, survey research at the U of U hospital emergency department, the Order of Omega Greek Honors Society, and The Sponge student magazine for creative scientific expression. To stay organized, I set calendar appointments in my phone with as many reminders as it will allow me and I check my email compulsively. I have to work pretty hard to keep up with classes while doing these extracurricular activities and volunteering at a free clinic and in hospice, but I am able to stay motivated by keeping the goal of medical school at the forefront of my day-to-day life. I do my best to use my time efficiently, carry my laptop everywhere so that I can work during dull moments, and I drink a small Costa Rican village's worth of coffee daily.
How do you keep informed and why is that important to you?
I read news on my phone every day, from sources like The New York Times and BBC. I also read the paper on weekends, including City Weekly. Staying abreast of current events in the community, nation and world is vital to being a good citizen, as we must be informed in order to exercise important civic duties like voting and contributing to public discourse. I also feel that consistently reading news encourages us to looking beyond ourselves, to the world around us. By turning an eye to our surroundings, we can be sensitized to the needs that exist and what we might be able to do to help, in whatever capacity we are able.
Why is it important for college students to get involved in clubs and stay informed with current events?
I firmly believe that every college student should join at least one dedicated student group. Through such organizations, students can complement their classroom learning by gaining skills, perspectives, experiences, ideas and relationships that not only enrich and enliven their college experience, but make them more attractive to potential employers or admissions committees, and help to prepare them for life after school.
I think that it's important that students stay informed with current events because young people have such potential to influence the world around them, and reading the news familiarizes us with issues that may influence our lives, or issues whose courses of events we might influence ourselves.
What advice would you give to students just starting school? Anything you wish you did differently?
In addition to advising students to join a club (and preferably more than one!) in order to have experiences and development that they can't get in the classroom, I strongly encourage all students to give their all to their classes even if they don't love them, or even if they don't know what they want to do. The single most common mistake that I've seen among my college peers is not trying in classes because they are not entirely sure of what they want to do, so they don't see the purpose in their studying. All too often, students cripple themselves by receiving poor GPAs in their first year or two in school because they lack direction and thus lack motivation. I advise students to apply themselves fully to obtaining the highest GPA they possibly can, regardless of whether they like the class. Having a high GPA in your early college years positions you to receive scholarship money, be accepted to internships or programs, earn leadership positions and much, much more. A bad GPA in your early years can seriously limit you, and conversely, a strong GPA will give you a solid foundation from which to succeed in college, any further schooling your pursue, and in your professional lives.