So, you want to be a doctor...
1. What should you do first?
Do not have tunnel vision. Explore other fields first. If you are young, motivated, goal-oriented, and are the type that likes to please your parents, then you might decide being pre-med is the surest path to fulfilling your dreams. And maybe it will be, but please do your due diligence and look into other career paths first. I have one friend who was a die-hard pre-med in college. She decided to start her own company instead of going to medical school and is now one of the top young entrepreneurs in the country. I have another friend who was pre-med, but she hated biology. She is now becoming a clinical pscyhologist and couldn't be happier. There are SOOOO many different fields out there. Medicine is just one of them. If you decide it's right for you, medicine is a phenomenal and extraordinarily rewarding field. But if it's not for you, I can think of few things more painful than undergoing 7+ years of strenuous training in a field you don't like.
You should also find some doctors nearby who will let you shadow them. This way, you'll get to see what being a doctor is really like.
If you think you'll like medicine, also consider:
-Getting a PhD, particularly if you think you'll like research
-Becoming a nurse or nurse practitioner: shorter, less intense training and lifestyle. NPs can do many things doctors can, and you can start practicing sooner with less tuition burden.
-Biotech: you can work in the lab developing new, exciting medical products and drugs, or you can work on the business side of things and integrate biology with business
-Psychology: Clinical psychologists have super interesting jobs and are in short supply
-Teaching: less pay, sure, but rewarding none-the-less. And you can start teaching right out of college.
2. Ok, you still want to be a doctor. What courses do you need to take?
All the fun ones: biology, general chemistry, organic chemistry, physics, and some math.
If you are confident in your ability to get at least a B+ or A- at your university in these courses, you can consider taking these courses at your school.
But, if you are a normal human being like me who is only OK at the basic sciences, then consider taking at least some of these requirements at your local college over the summers. I knocked out both my physics and organic chemistry requirements over the summers, something I would HIGHLY recommend. First of all, you can focus just on that one thing at a time. Secondly, you will preserve your GPA (it is much easier to get A's in smaller classes). Your GPA is one of the primary factors med schools look at. Thirdly, I don't know of any medical schools who truly care whether you took organic chemistry at Harvard or at your neighborhood college, as long as you do well enough. Your GPA is frankly way more important. Fourth, you free up space in your schedule to take those really awesome classes that ONLY can be taken at your school from that one professor. You'll also have time to do an honors project that way, and med schools love students who do honors projects (but ONLY do this if you find something you are absolutely passionate about!). You can make yourself more interesting: join the juggling club, the ultimate frisbee team, the East Asian club. Whether you're East Asian or not. And most importantly, you'll have time to actually enjoy college. If you're going into medicine, undergrad is the only time in your life when you can sleep in until noon and eat pizza at 3 a.m. and go to those frat parties.
3. Don't let that pre-med course you hate decide whether or not you should be a doctor
I know few doctors who loved organic chemistry. Or physics. Being a doctor has pretty much nothing to do with these traditional "weed out" courses. Don't be the weed.
4. So you want to be an English major...
Great!! You absolutely should. There is no reason why you have to major in Biology if you're pre-med. If anything, it may make you more interesting to medical schools if you are passionate about something other than biology. You may need to take an extra year (such as in a pre-med baccalaureate program) to finish your requirements, but if you love a certain field, then go for it.
5. So you want to take some time off and do (fill-in-the-blank cool activity) after college....
Go for it! The average age of matriculating medical students in the US is 24, indicating that many students take at least a few years off before going to medical school. We have people in our class who started in their 30s and have spouses and kids already. I'm all for the non-traditional applicant, and lots of medical schools like you too. You bring something new and unique to the table that the 22 year old recent grads don't.
6. So you got a C in organic chemistry...
It's OK. You can still be a doctor. Focus your energy on becoming the most interesting applicant you can be. See number 2. Would you rather be a boring applicant with a 4.0 GPA or a really cool, interesting one? Which leads me to...
|Disclaimer: I am not endorsing alcohol use. I am only endorsing being interesting.|
Sure, getting an A in physics doesn't hurt. But EVERY pre-med takes physics. It is not at all interesting. The fact that you wrote a book/played varsity sports/volunteered in Africa/speak 3 languages/play the didgeridoo is WAY MORE important to medical schools. Try to figure out what you love, and dedicate yourself to that.
Good luck to each of you!