Sunday, June 07, 2009

"I give myself very good advice..."

"...but I very seldom follow it." I've been getting a few requests in comments and emails about advice for people in various stages of pre-medical and medical life. I think I have spilled a few kernels of (snicker) wisdom here and there within the blog, but I'm feeling froggy enough to try to organize my thoughts for your collective benefit. Since there are a million ways from point A to point B, what I will do is to describe what worked for me, and, if you are in a hurry, will bullet point the highlights at the end of the paragraph.

Elementary School

Joking! Joking! Ok? You people are way too serious.

High School

I wish that I could say that I was consciously preparing for a medical career even in high school, but in truth, I really wasn't. I liked science, hated math, and loved to read and write. For a brief time, I thought I wanted to be a lawyer...that lasted until I took a class in Law. I did make good grades, participated in a lot of activities, and took as many Advance Placement courses as my high school offered, so the better not to have to take them in college. Let me clarify that my parents had already prepaid for a state school, so I had no lofty aspirations of Ivy League schools. My fascination with my Anatomy and Physiology class led me to choose to be a Biology major in college.

~Make good grades
~Take as many AP courses as you can handle
~Have FUN (it may be the last time you are able...Hahahaha. Just Kidding)
~Get involved (volunteer, sports, music, student council, doesn't matter what, just do something else besides study!)


So, once I went to college, and chose to be a Biology major. I had to seriously consider my options for a career. I could be a research scientist, go for the PhD track, maybe teaching, or I could pursue the medical field. Once I had an inkling that I wanted to declare myself for "pre-med," I began to actively seek opportunities to volunteer. I worked at a hospital rehab center a few evenings a week, shadowed an (family friend) anesthesiologist during the summer months during surgeries. I also sought out other "extracurricular" activities, many of which involved leadership positions in my junior and senior years. When I was applying for medical school (back in the dark ages, though I imagine it is much the same now), the main goal for many schools was to find the "well-rounded" student. (read, *not* the person buried up to their eyeballs in books day and night).

Don't get me wrong, I did *plenty* of studying. I studied harder than I ever had before, and was fortunate enough to make Phi Beta Kappa, Golden Key, and Mortar Board. These things look good on a CV. Bio majors' classes were always Monday, Wednesday, and Fridays (so no four-day weekends) and usually started at 8 am. Oh, how my college self suffered, only being able to go out 3 nights a week instead of 5. I still managed to make great memories and go to football games, even if I didn't get to go out on as many Thursday nights as I would have liked.

I also did not take a class for the MCAT prep, and I totally wished that I had. I did my own prep, and did just fine (obviously), but I hate to think of how much better I could have been. I didn't even automatically release my scores until I saw them, I thought they were that bad. Luckily, it all worked out.

One thing that I always loved was being able to take some "non-major" coursework in the subjects which interested me, like Astronomy and Philosophy. My Biology major afforded me the flexibility to take a few classes "just for fun." I know that you can still go to medical school without a science undergraduate major, but it is more difficult to do. I couldn't imagine trying to get in all the pre-requisites for a completely different college *and* fulfill medical school requirements. I know people who did it, but I was far too lazy for that!

~Choose a science major (unless you are not lazy).
~Volunteer and expose yourself (not like *that*) to the medical profession in any capacity possible.
~Again, get involved! Leadership positions are a plus, as well, and you are going to need good people skills. (Trust me on this one.)
~Don't be a martyr. Yes, you are working hard, and no, your final exam isn't going to be as easy as making a giant cardboard Apple poster (no shit), but you ain't seen nothing yet.
~Study harder than you did in high school.
~Take non-major classes that interest you. This is your last opportunity to learn about something "for fun."
~Take an MCAT prep course.
~Again....HAVE FUN! I had a great time in college, and it was because my studies and social life were fairly well balanced.

Ok, I think I will stop here for tonight. Up in the next installment....ass-vice, I mean, advice for Medical School, Residency, and beyond!


sara said...

LOL, my "planning" and organization looked nothing like yours, to say the least.

Solid advice though. I guess. I didn't do much of it.

Joy@WDDCH said...

I appreciated this! I'm a young, stay-at-home mom but hope to go back to school once my little ones are in school. I have a difficult time figuring out WHAT I want to do but science is definitely my favorite subject. I think sonography is something I'd love to do! Thanks for your advice. If I go back to school I promise to be well-rounded!

Princess _______________ said...

This advice is much appreciated for someone who is going to be embarking on my journey starting in august. I'm going to college as a psych major so I understand what you mean about your pre-reqs in. Thank you!

ABC said...

Great advice.
I feel like I kind of stumbled through high school and college a bit. I always got good grades, I just feel like I never had much direction and just did whatever I was most interested. Luckily that came out to some semblance of a major at the end and resulted in a strangely well-rounded person (I'm pretty sure not many other people in my science PhD program have a sculpture class, an ancient literature class, a Victorian poetry class or a linguistics class on dead/dying languages on their college transcripts...).

I couldn't agree more though. Work hard (but not too hard) and do something that interests you just for the sake of doing it. Oh, and one addition - if your college has a study-abroad program and you can somehow manage to work that into your schedule, GO SOMEWHERE!!!

Saraellie said...

Thanks for acknowledging how difficult it is to be a non-science major/Premedder. I'm currently majoring in English and talking Premed coursework and I get crap from a lot of my science major peers, even though I take most of the same classes as them and can also read Middle English. People can and should have varied interests and I already feel that my communication skills have helped me. And English is not an easy major.