Any individual who wishes to become a doctor is likely sick of hearing about how difficult medical school is and how challenging it is to gain admission. If you’re the sort of person who sets lofty goals for yourself, you’re undoubtedly more interested in exploring what you need to do to get to where you want to be than you are in hearing that it’s not simple. Here are four key items to know before applying to medical school. Medical school is an arduous process that requires serious commitment, and if you aren’t sure it’s worth it, you may burn out.
What a doctor’s lifestyle is like
If your conception of what it’s like to be a doctor originates from Grey’s Anatomy or that medical outreach trip you took to Mexico, you may have a misinformed notion of the medical field. It’s important to know what you’re working toward, so locate doctors you can speak to about their careers. What do they like and dislike about their job? What is their home life like? What do they find rewarding about being a doctor, and what is challenging for them? If they had to do it over again, would they? Don’t be afraid to think honestly about the implications of their answers.
Why you want to be a doctor
There are a number of solid careers in the world, and medicine isn’t the right choice for everyone. Once you’ve developed an understanding of what you’re undertaking by pursuing an MD, spend some time trying to articulate why you wish to do so. What are the positive things drawing you to this field? What negatives exist? Why do the positives make it worthwhile, and how are you going to deal with the negatives? Why have you specifically decided you wish to be a doctor? If you intend to be involved in health care reform, what made you decide not to pursue a law degree? If you’re fascinated by anatomy and physiology, what made you decide not to pursue a PhD where you could possibly learn even more? If you’re drawn to the opportunity to develop relationships with people and aid them, why don’t you want to be a counselor or a therapist where you could potentially see them more often? Don’t be afraid to decide that you don’t have an ideal answer to these questions. There are plenty of strong career paths and not all of them involve medical school.
How you’ve proven you can handle the rigors of medical school
So, you hope to become a doctor? Making an informed, articulate decision about this involves a great deal of time. Once you’ve reached your conclusion, the next step is convincing a medical school to admit you. Institutions expect to fill their classes with students who will work extremely hard toward a long-term goal and who can handle the stress involved with such pressure. The obvious way to prove you can do this is by earning high grades and MCAT scores, but there are also other ways to demonstrate you’re a hard worker.
What about you personally would make you an exemplary doctor?
You need to prove to yourself and to the medical schools you’re interested in attending that not only can you survive medical school, you’ll make a great doctor, too. How will your personality mesh with the realities of a career as a physician? How will you strike a balance between home and work? How have you prepared yourself for this? Will you be able to empathize with patients? These are difficult questions, and you may not possess answers to all of them, but developing some sense of why you’ll do well will help you seem like a competent, well-informed applicant and will also garner you confidence as you work toward your goals.
Eric Secrist is a professional MCAT tutor and contributing writer for Varsity Tutors. He holds a Bachelor’s degree in Biology from the University of Washington and is a current medical student at Jefferson Medical College of Thomas Jefferson University.