I'm an NCAA athlete. Do you have tips on being pre-med while being an athlete? Is it OK to take a gap year?
This is a topic I actually know something about! I was a swimmer at Stanford, so I definitely know how difficult it can be to combine sports with being pre-med. You don't have to be a genius. I'm not! You can be a strong applicant even while being an athlete. Don't let anyone tell you otherwise. In fact, I found that the fact that I was a swimmer seemed to be one of the highlights of my application. It was often a focus of the conversation in the interview. Schools like to see that you've dedicated yourself to something wholeheartedly, like you will need to do to medicine, and athletes tend to fit that bill pretty well.
|Jenny Thompson, US Olympic Gold Medalist and former Stanford swimmer, is now an anesthesiologist|
I think a gap year is a great idea, and can be a wonderful opportunity to experience something different before you dedicate yourself to medicine.
Here's what I did... In part because of sports, I wasn't finished with my pre-med requirements in time to apply to medical school my senior year. I took my MCAT during my senior year, and then took a year "off". Of course, it wasn't a true "year off". In addition to applying to medical school, I spent the year working on a research project I had started in undergrad. I also took some creative writing courses and did a few triathlons.
A gap year can be a wonderful thing if done appropriately. Unlike the name suggests, you must do something. What are you passionate about besides medicine? Go volunteer in a foreign country, do research, write a book, teach 5th grade, work in a community clinic...there are unlimited possibilities, but make sure you're doing something you love and do it well. That passion is important, and medical schools like passionate people.
As in previous posts, I also suggest taking your physics or chemistry over the summers to knock those requirements out of the way when you only have one thing to focus on. I realize that for some athletes, your sport will not allow you to do this. In this case, a pre-med baccalaureate program can be just what you need. A lot of my fellow athletes majored in something they love that is unrelated to medicine, and then did one of these programs to fulfill the requirements.
A few more tips:
-Don't take the hardest pre-med courses (i.e. organic chemistry) during competition season unless you're a really amazing test taker.
- Talk to upperclassman on your team who have done the pre-med thing. I'm sure they have tips on which professors to avoid, etc.
- Make sure your coach knows about your dreams to become a doctor. A good coach will be OK with you missing an occasional practice so you can make it to your bio lab.
- Try to find balance in your life. If all you do is study physics and train for your sport, you will get burned out. I always tried to give myself Friday night and Saturday off from any school work, except the week before finals. That way, you can be refreshed when you hit the books again on Sunday.
Good luck to you!