Compassion. Service. Honor. For many people interested in medicine, these are just a few of the characteristics that come to mind when thinking about the profession. The idea of being a physician conjures positive thoughts for college students yet few fully grasp the commitment required to transition from an undergraduate student to a medical student.
As a recent graduate I would advise students interested in medicine to consider the following tips I wish someone told me as an undergraduate student.
Spend time researching local physicians. Some work two days a week; others work seven days a week. Some deliver babies or work in the emergency department; others use their expertise to read imaging or pathological slides. Meet with physicians in your community; ask them if you can shadow them for a day or two. Apart from some paperwork that might be required for you to be in their facility, most physicians are excited to spend time with people genuinely interested in the profession.
Plan your remaining undergraduate years or post-baccalaureate time working toward completing the pre-requisites for medical school admission. Research schools you are interested attending. Each school sets its own requirements – a common misperception is courses like anatomy, genetics, and medical terminology are required when in fact at most schools, they are not. Plan accordingly for what you need based on the published requirements for each school.
Medical schools require an entrance exam, the MCAT, to be taken as part of the application process; there are countless preparation courses and books. This exam is the beginning of your chosen profession, so proper preparation is essential. Spend some time at a local bookstore looking through different study guides. Talk to the educators at your local test-prep center. Find a study strategy that works for you. Your time and financial commitment to succeeding on this exam is an investment in your future.
Most medical schools use the American Medical College Application Service (AMCAS) for their primary application. The primary application is very formal and is a means for you to display your college grades, work history, and volunteer work. The secondary application is individualized for each school and gives the admissions committee a chance to find out more about the applicant –hobbies, extracurricular activities, career goals, etc. In addition, each secondary application has its own additional fee. After this process, if the medical school is still interested, an interview invitation is extended. The interview is the last step in the application process. From there, the applicant waits to hear the decision of the application committee.
Applying to medical school is a long and somewhat daunting task, but worth the time and experiences that will follow.
Don’t give up!
Don’t hesitate to ask for help!
Don’t doubt that you CAN succeed! Make your goals your reality.
“Every great dream begins with a dreamer. Always remember, you have within you the strength, the patience, and the passion to reach for the stars to change the world.” – Harriet Tubman
Live H.O.P.E. Give H.O.P.E.
Dr. Laura E. Davis
About Dr. Laura E. Davis
Dr. Laura E. Davis is a 2013 graduate of the Florida State University College of Medicine. She was born and raised in rural Northwest Florida and is starting her medical residency in family medicine in Anderson, South Carolina this summer.