Guest Post: A premed student writes about learning by Osmosis

Osmosis Team
Jan 6, 2014

Olivia is an incredible premedical student (not only does she do research, she also competes in triathlons!) who approached us via Twitter after she heard about what we were doing for medical students. She is now working with a team of fellow premedical students, including Nebiyu Osman and Biruk Bekele at UPenn, to explore whether Osmosis can be useful even before medical school. We think they're onto something! The following is a guest post by Olivia on why she's excited about learning by Osmosis. 

By Olivia Kalmanson, M.S.

If you are like me, then on paper you look like almost fifty thousand other applicants to medical school. Each of us is trying our absolute hardest to stand out as individuals. The problem lies in the fact that we are all doing it in the exact same way. We all try to go to Haiti or Honduras thinking we will be giving shots and saving lives but we end up pulling a few rotten teeth and irritating all our neighbors by fundraising so much. We all study in a sleep-deprived, coffee-driven stupor thinking, “I must be the only one this stupid. No one else would possibly put themselves through this. It will be worth it, though, when I am the only student to ace this test/write a research thesis/volunteer enough hours to be confused as an employee at a clinic. And then you get through that day and talk to your classmates who remind you that you are in no way unique. It is not so much a conversation as it is a competition of who is more stressed out, who slept the fewest hours last night, and who has accrued the strongest tolerance for caffeine. Ironically, we plan to preach mental and physical health to the rest of the world. Woe are we: the masochistic, treadmilling premeds.

I, too, did that. I got the B.A. in Chemistry and Biochemistry, the minor in Mathematics, the Master’s in Physiology, and even the windowless-basement lab job. Despite everything, there is no amount of common sense that could guide me through the medical school application process. It is nothing like applying to a job, other graduate programs, or undergraduate universities. Institutions are quick to offer well-rehearsed advice on what to do and when to do it—but the how is the mystery. How to produce a good essay, how to achieve good grades and a mind-blowing MCAT score, and how to avoid daily panic attacks (or at least push them to weekly).

I prepared for the MCAT through the Princeton Review course, like half of your friends (the other half? Kaplan, I’m sure). But relearning classroom material from a book is not ideal. A book is a flat surface. You can’t interact with it. We all know that the definition of insanity is repeating the same thing over and over while expecting different results. You already learned the MCAT material in classrooms and textbooks. Then, you naturally forgot a lot of the material, hence your need to study for the MCAT. So, we should not be too surprised when we repeat our strategy with a new textbook and receive unexceptional marks. MCAT material should be reviewed in a dynamic environment, where 3D diagrams illustrate anatomical structures and have more clickable links than any one student could ever need. Computers all over the country practice adaptive learning—why haven’t premed students (of all people, really) applied this technology to our own studying habits years ago?

Enter Osmosis. It is here to bring tried-and-true adaptive learning methods to your smartphone for

smarter, more efficient studying – or “Osmosing.” Osmosis is developing a web platform that has the potential to host full-length practice MCATs, individual passages, and free-standing questions. It analyzes all your results automatically and offers explanations for each answer as well as tutorials for broader topics. And thankfully, both a desktop site and mobile app are part of the deal: the web platform tells you which types of questions you most often answered incorrectly (e.g. kinematics, cell biology, periodic trends) and then pushes new questions of that type to the mobile app. Instead of spending so much time plotting your death-to-the-MCAT strategy, Osmosis lets you focus on learning the actual material you struggle with most.

Osmosis gives students the power of efficiency and constant productivity. Imagine sitting in line at the DMV for an impossibly long time, and all the while studying for the MCAT on your phone through freestanding questions. It is like being able to play math-and-science Jeopardy anytime, anywhere. Isn’t that the dream: Arresting boredom and simultaneously studying smarter, not harder? Yep, that is the dream. That, and medical school.

Check out for info on what they have for medical students so far!