Whether you're a senior high school student applying to college or just at the start of your undergraduate degree, you have a lot of upcoming decisions to make. One of which; applying to medical school, you've already decided on. As you already know, you must do really well during your undergraduate years in college to have a realistic chance of acceptance to medical school and one of the biggest keys to academic success is using self-reflection to decide what you want to study and where you want to study.
Keep in mind that medical schools do not have a preference between traditional, non-traditional, and mature applicants when it comes to acceptance. This means that you have the option of studying whatever program you want and can still be successful while applying to medicine. So, with hundreds of colleges to decide between, how can you choose the best one for you?
How to Choose Your Undergraduate Program for Medical School
First, you'll want to choose your undergraduate program, as that is the first step in determining which college you should attend. There is a common misconception that admission committee members are most interested in students who major in the sciences, but if you analyze medical school acceptance rates by major, you'll see that this couldn't be further from the truth. Admission committee members don't care which major you choose to study, they care about how you performed in that major.
The bottom line is that students perform best at the things they are passionate about and achieving a competitive GPA is essential for admission into medical school. What are you most interested in? What fascinates you? What do you value? What you do well in? What program do you think you can receive the highest marks in? It's great if you love the arts, but if you're not very good at this subject and would likely receive subpar grades, this isn't the best direction to take. Answering these questions will give you an idea of what undergraduate program is the best fit for you.
It's a good idea to start thinking about whether you're most interested in becoming a DO vs MD. DOs or doctors of osteopathic medicine, are those who approach medicine holistically and focus largely on overall health and prevention. MDs or allopathic medical doctors, are more traditional doctors and use medication and surgery to treat and manage disease and illness. If you're interested in becoming a DO, you might choose coursework more geared to this philosophy of medicine such as human kinetics and kinesiology. Use the same self-reflection to decide what course of study you’re passionate about.
Whether that’s the sciences, humanities, math, or art, the most important thing is to pick a pre-med major that will make the most sense for you. When you’re excited about what you’re learning, you’ll study harder and perform better and that goes a long way to achieving good grades.
You’ll also build stronger connections with your peers and professors and have a strong support network and more opportunities and resources moving forward. This is particularly important in securing strong medical school recommendation letters, which hold a lot of value in your application. Overall, life will be a lot more enjoyable if you’re doing what you like instead of what you think you “have” to do.
Once you've decided on a program, ensure that you complete the necessary medical school prerequisites. These courses are essential for applying to medical school, and failing to complete them can result in your application being rejected. Not only are these courses important for admission to medical school but they are also important for preparing you to take the long, hard MCAT. While there are some medical schools that don't require the MCAT, most schools do, so this is something you need to be thinking about while you're completing your undergraduate degree.
How Do You Pick the Right Undergraduate School for Medical School?
As challenging as it is to decide what to study, it can be equally difficult to decide where to study. To put it simply, the best school to attend is the university that you feel is the best fit in the city where you want to live.
This could be a small or a large school that is close to home or far away. Just as there are many considerations when choosing your course of study, there are also many things to think about before deciding on a specific school. Many applicants mistakenly think that having a degree from Ivy League schools will help their application stand out.
However, don’t overlook smaller, lesser-known schools in favor of bigger names. The truth is, it doesn't matter whether or not you go to a prestigious university. Where you went to school says much less about you than how you performed at a particular school.
Smaller schools may offer more opportunities to develop connections with peers and professors but fewer academic or extracurricular opportunities; larger schools, on the other hand, may be more competitive and professors may be more distant, but you will have more opportunities to be involved at school and in the community.
All this is to say that deciding on a college is a personal choice and medical schools do not choose applicants based on where they did their undergraduate degree. Remember, your goal is to develop a strong application so you can ace your medical school interviews, and get accepted at your dream school.
You will need to talk to students and alumni, inquire about research and extracurricular opportunities, and look where you can continue your hobbies and activities of interest. Don’t choose a university based on name recognition or reputation. Choose instead where you feel you have the best opportunity to succeed and the most resources to have meaningful experiences.
So there you have it, hopefully these tips will help you pick the right college so you can reach your goal of becoming a practicing physician. Good luck!