1. DO I HAVE WHAT IT TAKES TO GET INTO MEDICAL SCHOOL?
There is a greater demand for medical school than there are available seats in a classroom. Many people want to be doctors, but institutions can only accept a limited number of students. According to the American Association of Medical Colleges, only 41% of medical school applicants matriculated in the 2019–2020 school year (AAMC).
If you are serious about attending medical school, you should have the following qualifications:
• Excellent grades, particularly in science courses. Students accepted into medical school have an average GPA of 3.7.
• An MCAT score that is higher than the national average. Although the average MCAT score for test-takers is 506, the average MCAT score for accepted medical students is 511.
• Reliable references from professors and other people in your life.
• Some valuable volunteer experience
• A memorable personal statement and essays.
2. AM I ABLE TO AFFORD IT?
Medical school is a serious consideration, particularly in terms of finances. Perhaps you already have student loan debt from your undergraduate studies. Are you willing to take on more responsibilities in order to pursue a career in medicine? It’s no secret that medical school is a significant financial investment, resulting in significant debt for students.
That being said, once you’re out in the workforce, you’ll be earning a good living, with salaries ranging from more than $200,000 to just shy of $500,000 per year, depending on your specialty. You should spend some time learning about your loans and how long it will take to pay them off.
When it comes to medical school, there is another significant investment you should be aware of: your time. While the majority of your peers will be graduating and earning a living in non-medical fields, you will remain a full-time student with no income. Furthermore, the toll medical school can take on your personal life is a completely different “cost” to consider.
“There is certainly a cost to pay, and the actual price tag is not always the most expensive part,” says diagnostic radiologist Dr. Ryan Polselli. “Medical school can be emotionally draining on your spirit and relationships.” He recalls some of his peers divorcing or becoming depressed. One of his classmates struggled with the guilt of not being able to spend as much time as she would have liked with her sick mother. These kinds of sacrifices must be considered ahead of time.
3. AM I READY TO WAIT TO BEGIN MY CAREER?
When you’re 15, 18, or even 24, it can be difficult to comprehend how long the process of becoming a doctor takes. It takes a long time to become a doctor, with some specialties requiring up to 11 years of training, not including your undergraduate degree. You’ll spend four years in medical school after completing your undergraduate degree in four years. Then you’ll have three to seven years of residency, possibly more if you want to specialize with a fellowship.
All of this adds up to a significant undertaking. If you immediately enter medical school after finishing your undergraduate degree, you’ll be well into your thirties before you’re officially out of college and into the workforce as a medical school graduate. With that in mind, you should consider whether you have the patience and stamina to make it through the entire process, and whether you’re willing to wait until then to begin your career.
If you are concerned about the timeline outlined above, you may want to consider other health care careers, according to Dr. Remakus, an internist and author. If the only reason you want to be a doctor is to help people, could you get the same satisfaction from working as a physician’s assistant, nurse practitioner, or other health care professional?
“Will you feel incomplete if your name does not include the title of doctor?”
“Will you feel incomplete if your name does not include the title of doctor?” Dr. Remakus inquires. “And, if so, does it really matter if you become an MD, PhD, or other type of doctor?”
4. IS A CAREER IN MEDICINE SUITABLE FOR YOUR LIFESTYLE?
Given how long it takes to become a doctor, will you be able to handle the rigors of medical school throughout your twenties — and beyond? According to Dr. Richard Beddingfield, an anesthesiologist and author, this is a critical question to consider. He adds that most pre-meds must expend a lot of energy in their early twenties to complete the medical school application process, leaving little time for physician aspirants to enjoy their adolescent years.
One must consider life outside of medical school. Will your spouse or significant other accompany you? Will you uproot your family for medical school and residency placement? Another thing to think about is whether or not you want children and how they will fit into your career goals.
“You must ask yourself, ‘How important is having a family to me, and will I be able to devote the time required to both my family and my profession?’”
“You must ask yourself, ‘How important is having a family to me, and will I be able to devote the time required to both my family and my profession?’” Dr. Remakus explains. Before deciding to pursue a career in medicine, all of these personal considerations must be considered.
5. CAN I GET OVER BEING A LITTLE FISH IN A BIG POND?
The medical field attracts the best and brightest minds from all over the world. Many medical school applicants are high-achieving students with the grades to prove it. Many people have never struggled academically before.
However, medical school is a completely different story. Even the most successful students may find the level of academic rigor challenging. Many people are experiencing academic difficulties for the first time in their lives.
Furthermore, it is the first time in many medical students’ lives that they are not the smartest in their class. The reality is that no matter how hard you study, you may never achieve above-average grades in a class full of bright, motivated students.
Some people may experience a rude awakening as a result of this. Can you stand being a small fish in a large pond full of brilliant academic minds? Can you live with the fact that you are not at the top of your class? Your class rank may not mean much in the grand scheme of becoming a doctor, but it is something to be aware of.