Pre-Med Students- These Five Tips are for you!
Things You May or May Not Know About Getting Into Medical School
Many pre-med students are aware medical school applicants must have specific criteria: a strong G.P.A, high MCAT score, extracurricular activities, clinical experience, and research experience to be considered for acceptance in medical school.
Yet how many pre-med students realize…
A college student does not to be a science major to be accepted for medical school.
G.P.A and MCAT are strong determinants for acceptance but focusing on an area that is a strength( research assistant, volunteer experience, or officer of a pre-med organization)will create a holistic approach.
I didn’t know this information when I started college, so I thought I needed to have all of the requirements to prepare.
These five tips helped me understand other strategies to prepare for medical school and become a well-rounded student.
1. Take an undergraduate class that discusses America’s healthcare system.
In addition to understanding science concepts, it is also important to understand America’s healthcare system. Most people know that health insurance is essential to help cover some of the costs of medical bills.
Unfortunately, most people do not know the reason why medical bills are more expensive for uninsured than insured people.
According to the Census Bureau, 27.5 million Americans did not have health insurance. Also, those without health insurance have medical bills that are twice as high as people who are insured.
This information is important because doctors are responsible for providing treatments to acute illnesses and chronic diseases, Still, most doctors cannot explain if their patients ask how they are going to pay for medication prescribed without health insurance.
We also have a bigger problem.
Data from The Commonwealth Fund shows that the United States spends about 17% of its gross domestic product on healthcare, but have the highest suicide rates, obesity, diabetes, and hypertension. The country also has one of the lowest life expectancies out of the developed countries.
By January 2019, they were approximately 3,217 homeless people in downtown Atlanta, and 719 of them were found outside or sleeping in their cars.
Partners for Home organization addresses additional problems homeless people face including chronic substance abuse, severe mental illness, HIV/AIDS, and were victims of domestic abuse.
Elizabeth Bradley and Lauren Taylor from The American Healthcare Paradox highlights this problem as “America spends more but receives less”
One of the solutions that they emphasized was universal healthcare coverage that would make healthcare affordable for all, but politicians in the past have shut down the idea.
Before Harry S. Truman was president in 1945, he ran for the campaign of universal healthcare. He believed in a single-payer healthcare system that benefited everyone regardless of socio-economic status. Unfortunately, the American Medical Association did not agree with this idea. They believed it would limit a doctor’s authority and make them slaves from decreased pay. Republican Senator Taft disapproved of the plan because “ I consider it socialism. It is my mind to the most socialistic measure this Congress has ever had before it”
The Cold War-era caused many people to panic from fear the Soviet Union had weapons to attack the United States. Also, socialism, a government system where the community handles resources was believed to be linked to Communism. Therefore, any idea linked to socialism was considered a threat to American democracy.
When Harry S. Truman was declared president in 1948, the American Medical Association spent 15 MILLON DOLLARS on lobbying efforts to stimulate fear of a socialist government from universal healthcare to the public. Their efforts were successful, and the proposition of universal healthcare was denied.
After Harry S. Truman, few candidates ran for universal healthcare.
Bernie Sanders was the only democratic candidate that campaigned for universal healthcare coverage in 2016 and again for 2020. Unfortunately, he dropped out of the 2020 presidential election last month and endorsed Joe Biden.
2. Get an entry-level healthcare job
I mentioned before I would spend my time after classes to look for volunteer opportunities. A meeting with my pre-med advisor revealed the truth about obtaining volunteer experience. She informed me,
“When it comes to volunteer experience, admission officers look for consistency. It’s better to have a student who volunteered at a clinic or hospital for a few years as opposed to a student who volunteered at multiple clinics and hospitals for a few months. A person who spends a long time in an area shows commitment ”
It’s similar to a blogger who consistently works on growing ONE blog, they’ve created for two years, compared to a blogger who jumps around and tries to grow five different blogs in that same two-year span. The blogger who honed their craft and focused on one blog will probably have more success in growing their following and improving their writing ability compared to the latter.
When I realized I was the student who volunteered at many clinics for a short time, my heart sunk.
I also learned from the meeting the average medical school applicant participates in 200 hours of volunteer experience.
Hearing this news overwhelmed me because I thought I was doing the right things to get volunteer experience. I also had three science classes to study and an on-campus job after class. I couldn’t use my free time to volunteer.
I wasn’t aware of another strategy to gain clinical exposure in the healthcare field.
It wasn’t until my junior year where I made friends who had gotten healthcare jobs such as Emergency Medical Technician, Medical Scribe, Phlebotomist, and Medical Assistant to gain clinical experience.
3.Focus on collaboration instead of competition
My doubts about being a strong applicant for medical school came from comparing myself to other people.
While I struggled to understand Organic Chemistry topics in my sophomore year, I knew a classmate who didn’t struggle with understanding the concepts in class.
When tests were passed out, I would panic at the thought of choosing an answer while she was one of the first people done with an exam.
In addition to excelling in Organic Chemistry, she had many A’s in science classes, was a pre-med organization leader, and had prior shadowing experiences with physicians and healthcare professionals before her freshman year!
I was intimated that she had accomplished many things by the end of the freshman year while I was volunteering at a non-health organization.
I was disappointed to know someone could be better in Chemistry than me. Instead of making her a reliable contact to help me succeed in Organic Chemistry, I envied and viewed her as competition.
My decision to handle difficulties by myself affected my grade in the class and self-confidence about a medical school career.
After realizing I couldn’t handle Organic Chemistry by myself, I spoke to a close friend for help and advice.
The talk with my friend made me realize, “All pre-med students struggle and strive to be the best candidate for medical school, but how a person shows their a strong candidate will be different”
She also assured me that she will always be here to help with Chemistry problems if I needed help.
4. Consider a backup plan
Although many pre-med students plan to apply to medical school during their final year of college, only forty percent of first-year applicants get accepted.
This statistic is why it’s important to apply to medical school when you are ready.
When a person believes they are a strong candidate is up to them. Most students believe they are ready to apply to medical school during their senior year. Others decide to take a gap year before applying to study for the MCAT, be involved in volunteer work, or apply for a job.
Few students go to graduate school to get a Masters in a Science topic before applying to medical school.
Another option when planning for medical school is to consider a second career that brings you joy and is easier to obtain.
This is not to diminish your dreams of going to medical school, but it’s important to consider career choices if medical school does not work out.
During my freshman year, one of my friends had told me a story about a former pre-med student from her church. Although she had a strong G.P.A and a lot of clinical experience, she was rejected from her medical school of choice due to a low-MCAT score. She retook the test a year later but had gotten a low-score again. After three years of retaking the MCAT and reapplying, she was denied acceptance again. Taking her struggle as a career change, she decided to apply to nurse school instead. Because she had not completed the pre-requisites for nursing school such as Microbiology I &II, she had to reapply to undergraduate school as a post-baccalaureate student.
5. You’re a college student!
Yes, this statement is obvious, but its there as a reminder to not divert all of your attention towards satisfying medical school requirements.
If you do, your college memories will be full of stress, worry, and anxiety which are bad for your mental health.
According to a study by the Primary Care Companion to the Journal of Clinical Psychology, pre-meds were significantly more likely than their non-pre-med peers to have a major depressive disorder.
A healthy work-life balance is important as a well-rounded student and towards your time as a college student.
Make sure to attend campus events, make friends, get involved in clubs, and try a new skill or activity. Maintain a healthy lifestyle of diet exercise to promote your well-being as well.
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