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Considering a Career in Medicine? What Potential Pre-Med Students Need to Know

By December 5, 2023 No Comments

Careers in healthcare come with lots of interesting and serious responsibilities, and are great fits for young people who thrive in the sciences and enjoy working with people. If you’re considering a future career in medicine, it may make sense to consider what the medical school admission process entails as you approach your college search process.  Here are three things that matter for college selection if you want to become a doctor, and two things that don’t…and you might be surprised by what you learn!

What DOES Matters:

  • Selecting a college or university and a major where you can be academically successful: One of the most important considerations for medical school admission committees is a student’s undergraduate GPA. Therefore, positioning yourself to be at a college where you feel happy, comfortable, secure, and are able to earn excellent grades is one of the best decisions you can make. This is surprising to some students, who assume that getting admitted to the most “prestigious” or selective university will best position them for admission to medical school.  Unfortunately, attending a university where you struggle to keep up with your peers or are overwhelmed academically can actually backfire later on when you begin applying to medical school. And remember: You can apply to medical school and become a doctor having majored in any subject, so pursue what you love and what you are good at!
  • Opportunities to engage in bench and clinical research and to shadow physicians: Medical schools evaluate not only applicants’ academic records, but also their experiences outside the classroom that expose them to the type of work that practicing medicine entails. In particular, medical schools enroll students who have engaged in research both in labs and in clinical settings, have service or other experiences where they have interacted with patients, and where they have observed the work of physicians. As you evaluate colleges and whether they are good fits for your goals, investigate the research and other clinical opportunities available on and around their campuses, and how they support students in connecting them with these opportunities.
  • Exposure to Diversity: The practice of medicine entails interactions with people from all different backgrounds, so it is important to medical schools that their students have had opportunities to interact with diverse groups of people. As you research colleges, consider whether you would be part of a student body composed of people from different locations, political affiliations, cultural backgrounds, socio-economic statuses, and more, and/or whether there are other ways that you would be able to interact with different groups of people as a student at that institution.

What DOESN’T Matter:

  • Whether you major in something in the natural sciences: As long as you complete the prerequisite pre-med courses in college, your undergraduate major is not an important factor in your application to medical school. While many students considering careers in medicine have strong interests in the sciences and gravitate toward programs like biology or chemistry, you can go to medical school with a degree in philosophy, music, or even Russian literature. Follow your interests, and explore different courses and programs at the colleges you are considering!
  • The size or type of undergraduate college (liberal arts school v. research university): Many students assume that larger research universities provide better preparation for medical school than small liberal arts colleges. While there are some significant advantages to larger universities – such as more on-campus research and typically university-affiliated hospitals –  smaller liberal arts schools offer benefits as well. These include more flexible curricula and also more individual attention from professors, which tends to lead to stronger letters of recommendation in the medical school application process.

Want to learn more?

Please join us at an upcoming webinar with Jane Shepard, former director of admissions at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health, on “What to Expect When Your Child is Applying to Medical School.” The webinar is at 7pm CST on Jan. 18, 2024. Register here!

We will also be featuring a recorded conversation with Jane on our website in early 2024, about choosing colleges with a career in medicine in mind. Make sure you’re subscribed to our newsletter for a link to the audio!