Making Your Own Path To Medical School
Students and parents: Enjoy this latest article from Mary Kate Hampton in the ongoing series “How To Prepare For College”. In this post, you’ll find valuable coaching on “Making your own path to medical school.”
Is there an aspiring doctor in your house? That’s great news! According to the American Medical Association, the US is experiencing a doctor shortage. In short, the United States needs more medical professionals in order to keep up with a demand for care now and for the future. There’s more good news for students who want to pursue a path to medical school: A different path is possible.
Think outside the box. When preparing for college, some students find that they prefer courses in the humanities to courses in science. While med-school bound undergrads often major in biology or another science, students who major in areas like English, psychology, or sociology can also forge a path to become a doctor. Recent medical school application statistics paint an interesting picture. The Association of American Medical Colleges notes that of students entering medical school in 2022, just 58% had degrees in biological sciences. Another amazing fact that emerges from the medical school applicant pool of 2022-23 is: non-biological science majors matriculated into medical school at a higher rate than biological science majors.
It’s important to understand that when students are preparing for college and a subsequent future in medical school, there isn’t only one way to reach their destination of becoming a doctor.
A real life med school journey: “When my 8th grade son told me he wanted to be a doctor, I smiled and encouraged him to follow his dream,” says Shellee Howard, founder of College Ready. “During his junior year of high school, when the workload got heavy, he had to make a lot of tough decisions on how he used his time; he started to reconsider his options. I wasn’t sure why he wanted to be a doctor, so I encouraged him to serve the community and to build his interpersonal skills.” This kind of work and volunteer experience was life-changing, and it pushed the student further onto his path toward becoming a doctor.
Shellee’s son worked hard in high school. By senior year, he was accepted into Harvard with a plan to major in biology. Med school was on the horizon for him. He enjoyed his science courses and planned to go to medical school; He also spent time prepping for and taking the medical college admissions test (MCAT) his junior year. The test presented a new challenge for this aspiring doctor: a bout of debilitating self-doubt. Medical school, he realized, would be a great sacrifice of time and money. However, he didn’t stop his forward movement; he adjusted his course.
After graduation, in order to explore different options for his future, he decided to take a job working at a top consulting firm. This work in the real world, he decided, would help him to discover whether he truly wanted to continue on a path to med school. Six months of working a consulting job showed this aspiring doctor that he still wanted to help people to heal and get healthy. This was yet another pivotal moment in his journey to medical school.
He applied and was accepted to medical programs across the country; Ultimately, he chose the University of California at San Diego and had a great experience as a med student there. In a few years, he matched for residency with his dream school: UCLA Medical. As Shellee explains, “My son’s chosen specialty eventually became orthopedic surgery, and he has both enjoyed and endured the experience working with staff and patients at UCLA.”
Though the path to medical school may have different stops, matching with and landing in a place to practice medicine is a great final result. Shellee reflects: “My son is ultimately happy with his journey, and he looks forward to making money as a doctor and having a balanced life.”
Advice for Aspiring Doctors:
Consider your Why. What is your student’s motivation to become a doctor? Is it about helping people, or is it about having a lucrative career? When you consider how to prepare for college, motivation emerges as an important part of choosing a major.
Think about a specialty. What population does your student want to serve: geriatrics, pediatrics, or family medicine? Where do you want to live; urban, suburban, rural, or international? Will your future doctor focus on the field of orthopedics, dermatology, obstetrics, or something else? Shadowing or working part-time in doctor’s offices or doing research in specialized medical fields can be a part of a student’s high school experience. Students don’t have to know exactly what they want to do right away, but getting some exposure to a field they’re interested in or weeding out a field they’re not interested in can help better shape the path to med school.
Sketch out a possible path for your goals. Although there can be bumps in the road or different turns taken, it is wise to look ahead at what steps are required for a student’s medical career of choice. There are different licensures, fellowships, and specialties that separate a neurologist from a urologist or an obstetrician. Try to envision what the next decade will look like in terms of years of studies, residency, and practice.
Know your strengths. Does your student excel in math and science? Will they be competitive with other aspiring doctors who are super STEM students? Or, does your student prefer writing and working closely with people in a subject like sociology or psychology? This could help a student to determine which kind of undergraduate program he or she will apply to.
Build a Balanced List. When it comes to applying to college, it is essential to curate a list tailored to your student. Students should consider the location, size, major, extracurriculars, culture, and overall feel of the schools they choose.
Seek help. Not only can College Ready help with building an ideal college list for a student, consultants work one-on-one with students as they move through the application process. College Ready also offers advice on things like test prep and admissions essay help. College Ready’s experts can help you with how to prepare for college and with finding a school that is just the right fit.