Hey everyone and welcome back! It was only a year ago that I was finishing up my last semester as a pre-med in college. Boy how time flies! So much has happened in the past year that it almost seems as if it happened years ago. I’ve been at my job for one year, took my MCAT, applied for medical school and was accepted. It’s really crazy how so much can happen in what seems like a short period of time. That being said I want to discuss on the blog today the top 3 things I wish I knew earlier on as a premed. So without further ado let’s jump right into it!
Grades matter, but they’re NOT everything.
I couldn’t be any clearer with this one. We all know that grades are extremely important when applying to medical school. After all the average GPA for someone applying to an MD program is around a 3.6-3.7; it is only slightly lower for a DO school at 3.5-3.6. This means that a lot of emphasis is put on pre meds to maintain stellar grades thought undergrad, particularly in prerequisite courses such as biology, general chemistry, organic chemistry and physics. I personally remember stressing out in several courses because I knew how important it was to have a competitive GPA when I decided to apply. And when I received a B- in one of my courses as a freshman I was devastated. I thought at the time that I wouldn’t have a chance at getting into med school with a grade like that and began to start doubting myself and my capabilities.That being said if I could go back in time and tell freshman me one thing, is that grades only make up one component of how an admissions committee evaluates you. So one or two “bad” grades may not be the end of the world. My tip to you is to do your best in every course and put in as much effort as you can. Much of the time if you put in your maximal effort then you will succeed. And I know it sucks when you get a grade you’re not happy with even after putting in a lot of time for studying (BEEN THERE…I’m looking at you physics!) But just remember you are not defined by that one bad grade. Try to continue improving and do better on future courses!
The MCAT is a necessary evil.
First off, the MCAT is no fun! Everyone I know and have spoken to despise studying for the MCAT. It’s tiresome, time consuming, and at times, frustrating. Many people get discouraged when they put in hours and hours of studying to only see their practice score jump up one or two points. Furthermore, with the new 2015 MCAT the test itself is 7 hours long, making it a test of endurance and stamina more than anything else. However despite the criticism, the MCAT is the only method that admissions committees have to directly compare students from different universities across the country since everyone takes it and receives a score. Admissions committees can then use that score to compare applicants across the board because in reality a 510 is a 510 despite which college they attended. As a result the MCAT is not going anywhere anytime soon; therefore premeds have to accept this reality and find a way to incorporate MCAT studying. It might not be the most enjoyable thing to do but it’s best to just suck it up because doing well on the exam will just get you one step closer to your dream. I’ll be sharing my story and how I studied for the MCAT in another blog post!
Don’t do something because someone says you have to!
This is perhaps the biggest thing I wish I had known as a premed so this section will be a little longer than the others.
Throughout your premed life you will be having people tell you that you need to be doing certain things to get into med school. This includes professors, premed advisors, and even fellow peers. Many of you may not know but I did not initially start out at the university that I ended up graduating from. I transferred from a school in Boston to a college in New York City after just one semester. However when I wanted to transfer I was discouraged by premed advisors at the university from doing so because they claimed transferring would diminish my chances of getting into med school. And while I considered what they said, I knew in my heart that I wouldn’t be happy at my current school for the next 4 years and so I transferred mid year as a freshman. And you know what? It was the best decision I ever made and don’t think for a second that impacted my medical school chances.
There was another instance as a premed where the head of the Biology department was pressuring me to repeat introductory biology by claiming that medical schools would not accept my AP Biology credits from high school. He basically tried to scare me into taking the course by telling me that I will not get into a medical school if I didn’t re-take it. After doing my own research, I discovered that A LOT of medical schools, including my university’s own medical school, accepted AP credits for biology as long as students supplement the credits with upper level biology courses. As a Biology major this wouldn’t be an issue. To me this was a no brainer; if I was going to get the information in more detail and depth from upper level courses then why would I re-take Intro Bio if doing so would set me back a year (the first part of the course was offered only in the fall). Despite the pressure, I decided to not repeat intro bio and just took upper level bio courses. I truly believe this was the right decision for me.
Finally the biggest thing I was told as a premed, especially by my own peers, is that I needed to do research and publish papers to be accepted to medical school. People would tell me all the time I needed to do research to get in and that I cannot get in without it. Let me just say something…THIS IS THE BIGGEST MYTH! You can definitely get into medical school without research. I did contemplate doing research and applied for several positions as an undergrad. But I was never truly passionate about it or inspired by the projects available to me at the time and I think that showed during my interviews. I always envisioned myself as a physician who provided care directly to patients, not someone working in a lab. And although I applaud those who have a passion for their research, and think research is important for medicine as a whole, it just wasn’t the right path for me. So instead I decided to gain a lot of clinical experience ranging from volunteering and shadowing, to working as a medical assistant and scribe because that was the environment I saw myself in and WANTED to be in. I believe everything worked out in the end.
So my suggestion to premeds is take the advice you get from different people with a grain of salt. Consider it carefully but don’t be afraid not to take it or to deviate from the traditional premed mold. After all the right med school will see how great you are and want you there in the first place so don’t sacrifice your wishes or what you enjoy doing in order to be a cookie cutter premed version of yourself 🙂
I hope you enjoyed this post and stay tuned for more!