Pre-med students are characterized by a number of things. Most notoriously, they prominently carry type A labels. Perhaps the intricately color-coordinated notes give you away. Maybe it is your strict, military-like regimen with which you go about your daily existence. Whatever it is, you are not alone. Many pre-meds turned medical student harbor these behaviors to some degree. After all, we get to where we are because of years of attention to detail and discipline.
Inevitably, we seem to drift to online forums for advice. I certainly did. Unlike a few supportive and educational forums, most are cesspools that distort reality. While they do have buried nuggets, they are not worth sifting for. First, they make you believe that there is a precise recipe for getting into medical school. If you simply do X, Y, and Z, you will be a shoe-in. This is just not the case, and quite honestly, I would not want it to be. If it were, we would just be robots turned doctors. Second, most of these forums make you feel inadequate, like you do not deserve to get in. Screw that! If you want it bad enough and work hard enough, then you certainly deserve anything this world has to offer.
So, what is the mistake that every pre-med makes? They do not follow their passion. Instead, they do what they think they are supposed to: X, Y, and Z. This begins with selection of an undergraduate institution. The first takeaway from this article is that there is no perfect undergraduate institution to act as a stepping stone to medical school (within reason).
If you have the burning desire to become a physician, then you will be successful no matter where you go. Once there, do not major in a science because you feel like “you should” or “it will make you more competitive.” Follow your passion. If you love reading and writing, then major in English. If you love having another language roll off your tongue, then major in that language. But how will I be prepared for the MCAT? Yes, those will a stronger science background may have a better baseline when studying, but this is nothing a non-science major cannot overcome with a little fortitude. You will be taking the prerequisites anyway! I can guarantee that pushing through a major you despise will not be worth the slight initial, which I stress, edge in MCAT studying.
As for my second nugget, do not listen to those gunners online. If you believe in yourself, then you have what it takes to get here. Yes, it is intimidating. I mean, the medical school application has 15 spaces for extracurriculars. I assure you, though, if you get involved early and let your passion guide you, you will have no shortage of extracurriculars.
For instance, I was passionate about tennis growing up. This heavily influenced by decision to attend a particular college. Once there, I played tennis, taught tennis and worked the tournaments on campus, and ultimately worked at a tennis and life camp as a post-graduate.
Moreover, the lessons instilled on the tennis court gave me a framework for my personal statement. I discussed how my character was shaped there and how I carried that into the rest of my endeavors. From one childhood passion came 3 of my 15 extracurriculars and an outline to my personal statement.
In short, my message is simple. Follow your passion and it will lead you to medical school. If you follow your heart into medicine, rather than stifle it to get into medicine, not only will you be more likely get in, you will be one hell of a better physician. After all, that is what it is all about.
Enjoy the ride.
Bryan Miles is a medical student. This article originally appeared in Motivate MD.
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