By Sara Bittman MD
Many students enter college with a clear plan—they know they want to go to medical school and know the courses and exams they’ll need to get there. Other students enter college with no real idea of what they want to do after college.
They move away from home for the first time and hope they’ll find a major they like, that they can do well in, while also having fun and enjoying their college experience. If you decide you want to go to medical school after your sophomore of college, you’ll have to take some time off before medical school and finish up your premed courses and exams, but that’s just fine! Here is some advice on this nontraditional path.
Students who are sophomores or juniors who decide they want to go to medical school, should go ahead and start taking premed courses, but shouldn’t overload themselves with these classes, because they may be a bit challenging. Squeezing all of the premed requirements into 3 semesters sounds do-able, but its nearly impossible to get good enough grades to get into medical school this way.
Look at the normal course schedule of a freshman premed student and follow that plan, even if it means extending past your graduation date. It may be expensive to continue at your existing college, but premed courses can be taken elsewhere, perhaps at a more affordable community college. The most important thing is maintaining a good GPA in the premed courses, not how fast you complete them.
Squeezing all of the premed requirements into 3 semesters sounds do-able, but its nearly impossible to get good enough grades to get into medical school this way.
If you finish your courses and are “off cycle” for medical school admissions, look for a gap year opportunity that is medically related but also interesting. Medical school admissions committees love to talk about interesting experiences that set students apart from the rest of the applicants. Find work in an up and coming or proliferative research lab, spend a year abroad volunteering, work in an addiction treatment center, the opportunities are vast.
The average medical student takes at least one year off before starting medical school, and these experiences are what makes your application memorable. If you decide in your senior year that you want to apply to medical school, you’ll need to complete a post-baccalaureate premedical program. Many schools offer these with 1-2 years of coursework. Some hold classes just for post-baccalaureate students, other universities mix post-baccalaureate students into the undergraduate premed courses. Here you’ll find career changers of all ages, along with other students who simply didn’t realize they wanted to become a doctor until late in college, but the one thing they have in common is that they are fully committed to becoming a doctor, especially if they’ve left a stable job and salary to make this leap into medicine.
As mentioned before, its very important to earn a good GPA and get a little bit of research or volunteer experience in a medically related field, but your previous life or job experience will make your application interesting. Some of the postbac premed programs have linkage agreements with certain medical schools or their own medical school.
This will allow you to select one medical school, and if accepted, you can enter immediately after finishing your post-baccalaureate courses and MCAT, without having to wait another application cycle year. In today’s tough application pool, this type of agreement is often a safer way to ensure you get into medical school especially if you hope to study in a specific geographic area. In summary, dont worry if you didn’t enter college knowing you wanted to be a doctor.
Don’t worry if you were an art history major and never took a science course, or if you’ve been working in finance for 3 years, it’s never too late to take your premed courses. Find a mentor or premed advisor and create a plan of action that allows you take take, and more importantly succeed in your premed courses. We at Medschoolcoach.com are happy to help with this journey. Good luck!!