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The Truth about Pre-Med

At Magoosh, we want to help students pursue all of their educational dreams, both those that are planned from a young age and those that change unexpectedly. Here’s an honest look at pre-med from our friend Frances at Admitsee, who now helps students find the educational path that’s right for them.
Being a doctor is a timeless profession. Doctors are seen as caring, kind, powerful individuals, who also make a lot of money. While there are many benefits of being a doctor, the journey of earning that M.D. is not so kind.

Unlike many other countries, students have to earn an undergraduate degree and complete pre-medical requisites before even applying to medical school. On average, it takes an American physician 14 years of training. That’s why the attrition rate of pre-med students are so high. If there were 52,536 medical school applicants in 2015-2016, there were probably about 200,000 pre-medical students. And I was one of them.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve always wanted to be a doctor. It sounds cliche, but it’s true. There was no medical emergency that triggered that desire. There was no TV show (at the time) that made me aspire to wear a white coat. I just wanted to be a doctor because I wanted to help people. That was the innocent dream of my 5 year old self.

Fast forward 10 years. I excelled in the maths and sciences, fell in love with Grey’s Anatomy and Private Practice and wanted to be an OB/GYN. I took higher level IB Math, Chemistry and Physics, and found myself at Georgetown as a pre-med student in the fall of 2010.

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I still vividly remember the first time I put my freshman fall schedule together. I felt like I was finally making progress in my life long dream of becoming a doctor. Many of my first friends in college were all on the pre-med track and we bonded over nerdy medical stories we’ve all experienced. I had never been more excited.

By sophomore year, I had a solid group of friends, was already 75% done with my pre-med requirements and even took on an EMT-B Training class for a full semester. I joined the Georgetown Emergency Response Medical Service (GERMS) and was full of excitement of seeing patients, taking blood pressure and problem solving for the most efficient and accurate diagnosis.

I can’t remember when it was, but one day, all this excitement disappeared and it quickly became a burden. GERMS became my family, and I enjoyed being an EMT-B because it was something I could while hanging out with friends. The stress of taking Physics and Chemistry took a toll on me and I completely cracked under the pressure when I studying Organic Chemistry over the summer before my junior year.

With little to no sleep, I remember sitting on the steps of Healy Hall at Georgetown University, crying and asking my friend on the phone, “Why am I doing this?” I had no answer. Was I genuinely interested in the science? Does treating patients and being in an ER even excite me? I sat there recalling the innocent dream of my 5 year old self. That dream no longer belonged to me, it was simply a promise I made to my young self that I was unwilling to break.

And so, I carried on because that’s the only thing I knew. I finished my pre-med requirements, took the MCAT and considered the possibility of applying to medical school. I was scared of being one of the “weaklings” that couldn’t even handle pre-med. I didn’t want to give up on something I had worked so hard for. I most certainly didn’t want to have uncertainties about my future. But none of these were reasons for me to pursue a medical profession.

The truth is my dream changed. I no longer wanted to be a doctor. I was just too scared and too adjusted into being a pre-med student to free myself. I quickly hustled way into 3 internships at the end of senior year and got myself a full time job at AdmitSee. While I may not be saving someone’s life, I find value in what I’m doing because I’m still helping others. I’m helping students much like myself 6 years ago find the right school for them. And while I’m on that note, here’s what I advise to all those aspiring pre-medical students out there: Explore your other interests.

Medicine will always be the best option if it’s the only option. If your heart is set on becoming a doctor, nothing will stop you from going to medical school, but that doesn’t mean you should limit your own experiences and opportunities to only the research and medical field. Like everyone else, pre-med students should not only be focused on health care related extracurricular activities, or health care providing internships.

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Even lawyers, bankers and consultants have gotten internships in marketing, PR and journalism. If you don’t try out other things, you’ll never truly know what you’re passionate about. More importantly, it’ll also serve as a good resume booster if you don’t end up going to med school.

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