Have you aspired to attend medical school and become a doctor for as long as you can remember? Perhaps you were introduced to a career in medicine by Grey’s Anatomy, maybe you had an experience close to your heart that inspired you, or you’re just intrinsically motivated to pursue medicine. You probably have a lot of excited/nervous feelings about the long journey that lies ahead. Check out our advice on how to succeed inside and outside the classroom to make your medical school dreams a reality!
Inside the Classroom
High school medical academies
Some high schools offer a medical academy. This is an elective program that allows students to earn their high school diploma and receive specialized coursework and training in the medical field. If your high school offers this, definitely take advantage of it. Teachers in programs like these often come from medical backgrounds themselves. They can share their experiences and probably lots of great stories too! Your program may have an experiential component where you are required to earn specific medical certifications and volunteer/work part-time in the field. This is a great way to get early exposure to a medical career to ensure it’s right for you and provide you valuable hands-on experience.
What do I major in?
For admission into med school, you are required to have earned a bachelor’s degree and complete certain prerequisite courses (math, science, social science, and even some English classes etc.) to lay the foundation for success in med school courses. Your major choice is up to you as long as you’ve taken the required prerequisites. Traditionally, students choose majors like Biology, Health Sciences, Biochemistry etc. These have the majority of prerequisite courses already built into the curriculum and provide a strong foundation in the sciences, but by choosing something more unique, like history or bioethics or economics, your application to med school will likely stand out among your peers. Here are some additional tips for choosing your major!
Go to tutoring!
You want to be sure to earn high grades in your Pre-Med classes (and really in all of your classes) to be a competitive applicant for med school. It’s also important to not just memorize the material for the sake of passing your tests. Instead, you want to master it because it will come up again on the MCAT, which is the admissions exam for med school (kind of like the SAT and ACT all over again) and within your med school classes. Pre-med classes are no joke, so tutoring will definitely become your best friend. Make it a priority when you get to college to find the tutoring center, learn about their offerings, and schedule it into your normal routine.
Outside the Classroom
Gain hands-on experience
No matter where you are in your educational journey when you start to consider a career in medicine, gaining hands-on experience is a great first step! It will allow you to get “a day in the life” view of what your future could look like. Also, you’ll get valuable facetime with someone who is living your dream. During downtime, seek the mentorship and guidance of your supervising doctors. One of the best questions to ask any mentor is, “If you could go back and give yourself one piece of advice when you were in my shoes what would it be?” These opportunities may be difficult to come across, but don’t let a few no’s discourage you; it only takes one to say yes and provide you the opportunity of a lifetime.
Be sure to check out student organizations at your high school/college that pertain to the health field. This is a great opportunity to surround yourself with other students who have similar goals. Chances are these students will also be in classes with you and will be able to relate to the pre-med grind which will make you instant study buddies. There will also be students who may be ahead of you to provide valuable tips like which professors to take (and avoid.) Many student organizations also participate in medically related community service activities in the local community or even abroad. This is a great way to get out and serve while getting hands-on experience in your field. Also this looks great on your medical school application, so it’s a win-win. Med schools want to see students who are entering the field of medicine from a genuine place of caring and there’s no better way to demonstrate that than serving others.
Take advantage of specialized advising/testing resources for medical school bound students
Many colleges will have specialized advisors specifically for Pre-Med students. This advisor will serve as your accountability buddy to ensure you are working diligently toward your goal. It’s recommended that you meet with them ASAP because they can make sure you are taking the proper prerequisite courses, connect you with shadowing opportunities, and be sure you’re taking full advantage of all available on-campus resources. You will also have to take the MCAT (Medical College Admission Test) so be sure to ask your advisor about any resources they may provide to help you prep for this test.
Explore other medical professions
There are many different members that serve on the patient care team. You may find through some of your hands-on experiences that there’s a medical profession that you’d rather pursue. Be open to this exploration to find your passion and the role that suits you best.
Your journey to becoming a doctor may seem like it consumes your entire life. Yes, it definitely does occupy a big part of it, but it’s not your whole life. Take time to practice self-care, spend time with loved ones, and enjoy the here and now. Always remember that you can only be your best self for your patients when your metaphorical “glass is full.” Although the journey may be long, remember it will be so worth it. For some med school motivation and humor, check out this insta.