Being a senior high school student is EXCITING!

You’re wrapping up your “childhood” and will soon be catapulted into adulthood where going to class is your choice, you can eat cereal at 2:00 AM, and for once, you make your own rules.

Oh snap…

This is definitely an exciting time, and I congratulate those who are about to (or just did) graduate from high school.

College is a unique opportunity to explore! You can take courses ranging from the core sciences to philosophy and art. There is a wide range of opportunities.

Step outside of your comfort zone! You never know until you try.

Before you dive into those college applications…

1. Keep your mind open.

Yes, it helps to know what you want to do from day one but don’t close yourself off to other possibilities. It helps to try and consider other fields; if you still find yourself coming back to medicine then you will know that this is for you. You will need that passion when you are sinking in lectures, anatomy lab, and exams while others are making money, traveling, and enjoying their weekends off when you’re in medical school, and especially residency.

Did somebody hear my pager go off?

 

2. Read this post!

Deciding on where to go to college can be a daunting task as there are many variables and differences. Generally speaking, regardless of what you want to become when you “grow up” here are some things to consider when choosing a college:

  • TUITION

    • Are you in-state or out-of-state? It can make a big difference.

    • Will you need to take a loan?

    • Can you apply for scholarships? If so, I strongly recommend it even if they are small. Every little bit helps.

  • LOCATION

    • Do you want to stay local or change things up and go somewhere new?

    • Do you want to be in a big or small city?

  • SIZE

    • Do you want to go to a big university with 30,000+ students or a small college with 1,000 students?

Now, if you are really leaning towards a career in medicine, particularly becoming a doctor…

…it is a good idea to start preparing early (while keeping your mind open as you go through your journey). It’s also helpful to choose a university/college that has a good and supportive pre-medicine program.

I spoke with a recent medical school graduate about her journey to medical school and wanted share some of her “words of wisdom” with you.

Heather knew in high school that she wanted to become a doctor and was determined to make her dream a reality, but she unfortunately did not know what that all entailed.

Sound familiar?

When I asked her what she would have changed if she could start over, she said one of the first things she would do is to chose a college that had a strong pre-medicine program to help guide her in her journey. Rather than getting a step-by-step guide, she got:

“Do well on the MCAT”

Okay…

She based her college decision on a sport rather than academics. Now, I am not saying an athlete should not decide on a school based on a sport because I know what it’s like to be an athlete yearning to play in college. The athletic program is important!

The point of this article is to stress that it is also important to look at the academic program, particularly the pre-medicine program. Keep your long-term goal in mind…

Getting into medical school is competitive and you want to maximize your chances of getting in and one of the best ways to know how to maximize your chances, when to take certain courses, who to network with, etc.

 

Here are some questions to consider when you are choosing a college:

  • Is there a pre-medicine interest group?

  • Are pre-med advisors available to students regardless of your year in college?

  • How successful is the pre-med program (do a lot of students get into medical school from this college)?

I asked Heather to share some advice as I know many pre-med students feel lost and overwhelmed.

Here are her responses:

 

1. If a high school student is very passionate about becoming a doctor, what kind of things should he or she look for in a college/university to “better” their chances of ultimately getting into medical school (and why)?

  • I would say to do your research on the school. ASK questions either during your interview, on your tour, or email an admissions counselor. This is YOUR future that you are considering!

    • Do they have a med school they are affiliated with?

    • Do they have a program that “fast-tracks” you to med school, meaning you get an automatic admission (considering your grades) without having to take the MCAT?

    • Do they have a true pre-med major (many do not) or just a pre-med path?

    • Of those that take the pre-med path, what medical schools do they get into?

  • Also, your major really does not matter. I went to medical school with engineering majors, education majors, business majors, and of course biology/chemistry majors. You just need to take the required courses, regardless of your major, and get a good score on the MCAT!

 

 2. Any general tips for high school students who are strongly considering becoming a doctor (i.e. is there anything you wish you did while you were in high school)?

  • Learn to study.

    I never learned how to study, even when “studying” for the MCAT. It wasn’t until my first semester of medical school, when I was faced with TONS of information and actually had to know it, that I finally found what my method of studying was. Don’t just rely on the fact that you get good grades with little effort.

  • Do extracurriculars!

    No one wants a study robot–programs are looking for well-rounded students! So yes, you may LOVE medicine, but you can still join the school play, a sports team, etc.

  • Find someone to shadow either in high school, college, or both!

    Make some good connections in the field that you are thinking of going into–these people can write you some great letters of recommendation for medical school! Show an interest in the field, learn as much as possible, and see what a life in medicine is actually like! This is GREAT if you are from a non-medical family, like I am.

 

3. In your opinion, do you have to go to a top academic program (like an ivy league program) to get into medical school?

  • No way! Sure, it’s great to have on a resume that you went to Harvard or Johns Hopkins, but it is not required to get into medical school! What is required is that you take the pre-med courses, get good grades, and do well on the MCAT. The name of your school might help you somewhat, just because of its reputation, but if you have subpar grades and a subpar MCAT score, it will not help you too much.

 

4. What is the first thing a new freshman (who is strongly considering medical school) should do when they start college?      

  • Get involved!

    There are interest groups in college for EVERYTHING. Find one for science or whatever area you are interested in. Work your way up to a leadership position throughout your years in college

  • Find a doctor in the area around your school to shadow.

    Tell them about how you want to be a physician. They can help you A LOT–most physicians love to teach, and you will get to experience a lot. They can also write you letters of recommendation for medical school. They can introduce you to other physicians whose networks will help when applying for residency.

  • Start doing questions early!

    That MCAT sneaks up on you!

  • Learn to study!!!

  • Don’t just stay in your room and study–make some non-science friends.

    Join some groups. Just like with applying for college, medical schools ALSO like well-rounded students!

Thanks Heather!

Want more? Be sure to join the DoctorGoals Pre-Med Newsletter. Completely free. Completely awesome.

 

Stay fresh!

~ Dr. Trot