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What it REALLY means to be a pre-med!

Hi everyone! Happy New Year and welcome to 2021! I hope you had a great holiday season and I hope your year is already off to a better start than 2020!

How many of you got asked by family members “Are you a doctor yet?” Quickly followed up by more questions about their various health concerns? I definitely got these questions years ago when I was a pre-med and I remember how annoying they can be. While many of these interactions may have been avoided this year by the virtual nature of many family get-togethers, you may have still received a few of these types of questions. With these inevitably awkward moments behind you, I wanted to take a few moments and discuss a few things about what it means to be a pre-med so you can send this video to your family members at the next family get together when they start asking you about being a pre-med.

Number 1: Pre-med is not a major

You cannot graduate from a college or university with a degree in pre-med. I have to admit that I didn’t even know this fact when I graduated from high school and was about to start as a undergraduate. Instead of pre-med being a major, rather, it is a set of courses that you must take in order to be admitted to medical school. These courses include biology, chemistry, physics, organic chemistry, and psychology or sociology. Another way to think about this is that the pre-med track includes the courses to prepare you for the Medical College Admissions Test, or MCAT exam. These courses are also those set forth to prove that you can handle the rigors of medical school, sometimes referred to as “weed out” courses. For those of you that are thinking of being a pre-med, stay tuned for a future video regarding when you should take the pre-med courses and how to incorporate them into your other coursework.

Number 2: There’s a chance that you may not make it to medical school

I hate to bring up this point but the fact of the matter is; every pre-med doesn’t go on to make it to medical school. For those of us who have been through the process, it was very clear that the pre-med courses got smaller and smaller the further we progressed through the process. Most of the time, the first course in the series was an introductory chemistry course. Depending on the size of your school, these courses could have well up to one thousand or more students. Compare this to a course later on in the pre-med sequence, such as organic chemistry or physics, when the numbers often dropped to just a hundred or two students.

Even if you make it through these difficult courses and to the point of applying to medical school, there is still a chance that you will not get accepted to medical school. With an approximately 40% chance of getting admitted for any given year (more on this in a future video), there will unfortunately be some students who get through the difficult pre-med curriculum but not get admitted to medical school (at least not on their first try).

Number 3: The “pre-med” information is not as important as you may think

A majority of the information you learn as a pre-med will not be needed in medical school and beyond as a physician. As much as we would all like to believe that the information we learned in the pre-med courses would be useful in medical school and beyond, this is simply not the case. Sure, some of the basic anatomy and physiology you learned as an undergrad is useful later on, but even in anesthesia where the drugs we use have different functional groups leading to their effects and side effects, we very rarely use the organic chemistry knowledge we gained as a pre-med. We definitely aren’t drawing electron pushing diagrams like we used to while in organic chemistry!

Number 4: Being a pre-med is hard!

Lastly, being a pre-med is hard! (And getting harder every year!). You will meet countless physicians in your pre-med and medical school days that will make comments how they wouldn’t be able to get accepted to medical school “these days”. From the difficult coursework to the endless extracurricular activities, the bar for admission to medical school continues to get higher. Stay tuned for a future video on why medical school admissions are so competitive but in short, more and more students are applying to medical schools every year making the already competitive process even more competitive.

With all the activities that are available to you as a pre-med, often choosing which ones you will engage in is the hardest part! From an endless supply of different volunteering opportunities to research, leadership and mentorship activities, the list can go on and on for you to choose from. While there is no “checklist” in which you should complete certain activities to be accepted to medical school, the activities that I mentioned before are some of the most popular. With the pandemic to consider, there are a whole load of virtual activities that you can engage in as well, which I will cover in a future video.

Well with that, I think that pretty much sums up what it is like to be a pre-med these days. Stay tuned for next week’s post to find out more about how to plan out your four years of being a pre-med!


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