By Purvi Mody
Many teenagers aspire to become doctors. Some are so convinced that medicine is their calling that they hope to enter into the very competitive accelerated medical programs that guarantee admission into a four year college and a medical school. Students in these programs can graduate from both programs in as few as six years, depending on the structure of the program. There is no doubt that they are fantastic, but the reality is that they are among the most competitive programs in the country. Unfortunately, students and parents become so focused on the accelerated medical programs that they don’t do the appropriate research to make sure that applying to and attending one of these schools makes the most sense. And in reality not all students are qualified to even apply. So before you spend your very precious time and ask others to spend their time writing letters or recommendations, think about the tips below to gauge your strength as an applicant.
Are you without a doubt 100% certain that medicine is your calling? You need to ask yourself seriously why you want to become a doctor. And the answer needs to be concrete. Your parents’ desires, by the way, should play no role in this decision. You are the one that will be spending the next several years training and studying. Your interest in medicine needs to go much deeper than just an interest in helping others. Do you love science? Can you handle research? This is the question that most applications will ask you and it can heavily influence the admissions officers’ decision. Think hard.
How strong are your academics? GPA is certainly important. Your high school rank also plays a role. Many programs will not even look at applicants that are not in the top 5% or 10% of their graduating class. And your choice of classes also crucial. Did you challenge yourself, especially in the math and science courses? Or did you take the easier classes to drive your GPA upwards. Your SAT Subject Tests should also include at LEAST one science score and the Math Level 2. Some programs will require a subject test in Chemistry. The rigor and strength of your academic record is the first thing that is reviewed. Before your passion for medicine can get evaluated, your ability to complete such a rigorous program must first be assessed. Do not think that you can sneak into one of these programs without the academics.
Have you exposed yourself to the medical field? Many programs will look for some hospital or clinic experience on your resume. This exposure indicates that you at least have a glimpse into the life of a physician. But you should certainly go beyond volunteering in a hospital if you are truly interested in this career track. Contemplate doing a research project. Consider shadowing multiple physicians to get broad exposure to different specialties. Read as much as you can about current medical research.
What will you do if you do not get into an accelerated program? If you are serious about medicine, the accelerated programs are certainly not the only path to pursue. In fact, students in these programs comprise a minute percentage of all medical school attendees. But if you envision your entire future riding on one of these programs, chances are that they are not for you.
Why specifically are you interested in the accelerated programs versus the traditional medical path? While some programs do not require students to take the MCAT, that alone should not be reason enough. You will still be expected to meet the rigorous requirements of the medical program demonstrated by your GPA in college. Many will still require some sort of application or interview before you begin the medical school portion of the program. Some programs also are not accelerated programs; they simply offer the guarantee of the medical school admission. So what appeals to you specifically about these programs? And you do need to really research each individual program.
Oftentimes it is parents that are more interested in the accelerated programs than the students. And while it is natural for parents to influence their children’s decision, it is important that students drive this process. Good Luck.
Purvi Mody & Ajit Jain are the owners and operators of Insight Education, an college consulting firm that helps students throughout the Bay Area, nationally and internationally to achieve their educational and college admissions goals. E-mail them at email@example.com.
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