A Doctor’s Prescription – Part 3 – My Advice to Pre-med Students

Welcome back for Part 3 of my blog series commenting on Dr. John Fisher’s recent article in Notre Dame Magazine titled, “A Doctor’s Prescription.” Dr. Fisher’s article is a letter to pre-med college students asking them to thoughtfully consider their choice to apply to medical school. You can read Dr. Fisher’s very thoughtful article HERE. While Dr. Fisher provides beautiful philosophical advice to pre-med students, I would like to provide some practical advice to students in this blog. Keep reading to find out why!

I’ve been talking to pre-med students at the University of South Carolina, and I am noticing a theme among these college students — anxiety. They are anxious about applying to medical school and what their medical school application looks like – their grades, MCAT scores, amount of extra-curricular activities, etc. Many pre-med students view the process of applying to medical school to be more competitive than ever before and it has caused many of them to delay putting in their application until after they graduate from college. The truth is that getting into medical school has always been competitive. The competition is not one where an “offense” and “defense” compete. It is one in which you don’t know your competitors and I’m sure you’d agree that this would cause anxiety in most anyone. However, the level of worry among these students seems to have intensified in recent years. It makes me sad to see this, and I’d like to provide some advice and reassurance to them.

My first piece of advice to pre-med students is to take some time to write a thoughtful personal statement. In the process, you’ll likely come up with a bunch of answers to the commonly asked medical school interview questions. I interviewed a few college students for admission during my time in medical school at Georgetown. What mattered to me was how authentic the student appeared to be when answering my questions. Of course, it’s difficult to convey authenticity in one 30-minute interview, but I believe that a student who is going into medicine for the right reasons will come across to an interviewer in a positive way. Therefore, while grades and test scores are important, they are not and should not be everything! I would recommend that pre-med students think about the things that occurred during their lifetime that led them to choose medicine as their desired career. If you take the time to write a thoughtful personal statement, then your interview answers will flow naturally from that.

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The next piece of advice is to try to find some balance in your college years. Not all of your activities need to be centered directly around medicine, and not all of your classes need to be aimed at preparing you for medical school. In other words, follow your passion! If you are passionate about photography, go ahead and take a photography class during college or have a side job as a photographer. I feel that keeping a balance of career-related and non-career-related classes and activities shows that you are a balanced person. Going through medical training is stressful, and it’s important to have a healthy, perhaps creative, outlet. I was a competitive baton twirler my whole life, and twirling during college and medical school years kept me grounded and sane!

My last piece of advice is to know that if you don’t get into medical school on the first try, all is not lost! If you still want to become a doctor, then apply again. Try to get some feedback from the schools that you did not get into. This will likely give you some ideas on how to add a job or activity to your application that shows you are still interested in becoming a doctor. Showing persistence is impressive to admission committees.

In the end, do what feels right to you. Try not to let fear or peer-pressure make your decisions for you. Forge your own path into your career!

Coming Soon – Part 4 – Why I Love Family Medicine

Have a good week! Feel free to contact me with any questions.
Melissa Boylan, MD, FAAFP
Family Physician and Owner of Noreta Family Medicine