You Are More Than “Just a Premed”
Written by: Varna Kodoth
While at times it may seem nearly impossible to juggle anything beyond the pre-med work load, I’m here to tell you how important it is to your personal development to prioritize your inner passions. This means, yes — you are absolutely allowed to be a pre-med student and cultivate passions that are non-science and/or non-medical-related. A question that often preoccupies the minds of pre-medical students early in their college career is what is the “correct” choice of major for medical school?
So here’s the long answer:
There is no correct answer to a wrong question. Maybe this isn’t the answer you were looking for; it’s because this is not the right approach to successfully entering medical school. Rather, it’s most important to evaluate what the right major is for YOU and the right major to feed your passions and interests whether that be related to medicine or not. More often than not, what challenges our thought processes is what will prove to make us better future healthcare professionals for our future patients. Entering undergrad with the mindset of “I need to do X, Y, and Z to get into medical school” does not create a positive educational experience, nor does it gain you an automatic acceptance. Here lies the beautiful advantage of being an undergrad: yes, you absolutely do need to complete the list of required pre-medical courses, but the remaining classes you need to take are completely up to you.
This piece is dedicated to the importance of exposure to a well-rounded undergraduate education. If you are driven to do so, there are ways to bridge your passions and fulfill the pre-medical requirements in time to graduate. The reality is, four years of undergraduate education, if taken advantage of, has the potential to mean four years of studying anything and everything that invigorates your being before committing to four years of highly specialized and focused training in medical school.
As per the “AAMC’s applicants and matriculants data,” in the 2018-2019 application cycle, accepted applicants hailed from a diverse range of undergraduate primary majors which included biological sciences, humanities, math and statistics, and many more disciplines. The following is an insight into how I decided my major as it often helps to match an example to the aforementioned statistics. I am a double major pursuing a degree in both disciplines: science and humanities. I am studying both Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology (MCDB) and English. This combination is often met with faces of confusion — “why English?” Although I enjoy studying the cellular and biochemical mechanisms of life and it also happens to coincide with my pre-medical courses, through the lens of my English courses, I’ve had my perspectives on worldly topics further challenged, diversified and reconstructed. Through literature and productive discourse, I’ve learned how to communicate with all individuals from all walks of life. By way of understanding the power of the written word, I am better equipped to comprehend the human condition and advocate for humanity. Could this be any more applicable to working with a diverse range of patient populations on a daily basis? In fact, I’d argue that in this context, my English major now looks extremely necessary to my future vocation.
This is not meant to discourage students from pursuing a science major, especially if you truly have a passion for the sciences, rather it’s meant to encourage exploration and to change our relationship between being a hopeful pre-med and applying to medical school. It is easy to fall into the cycle in which we constantly ask ourselves, “is what I’m majoring in going to help me get into medical school?” – as opposed to – “is what I’m majoring in going to help me become a better, more well-rounded future medical student?” For example, pre-meds often dread the humanities distribution requirements set forth by each institution, yet they should be looked at as a learning opportunity. This is the time to gain exposure to gender studies, economics, political science, computer science, psychology, etc.
That being said, if you (very understandably) cannot take on a second demanding major or minor — because let’s face it, there are only 24 hours in a day — then you still owe it to yourself to find as little as an hour every week to dedicate toward creative expression, whether that be a passion project, job, volunteering position, summer study abroad opportunity, etc. Maybe this is a passion you will further delve into during a gap year. On the flip side, it’s also highly likely you don’t even know what you’re passionate about, but if anything, that’s all the more reason to take time out to find what it is that makes you tick.
When I was a freshman, I acted like my job 24/7 was to be a pre-med. Turns out, my job isn’t to be a pre-med. Being a pre-med is just one factor that makes me who I am.
Tldr; And I’ll leave you with the short answer: Do what you actually care about even if it’s hard or doesn’t make complete sense in the moment. You might just stumble across opportunities you didn’t even know existed to further your personal development on the way to becoming a physician. Write your path to medical school and really claim it as your own, because that’s what makes your more than “just a pre-med.”
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