Last week I had the opportunity to meet with a peer who just completed her third year of medical school. She was very kind and allowed me to ask all sorts of foolish questions about her experiences, the school she attends (and to which I hope to apply), etc. Here is what I garnered from our conversation, which took place during a fantastic lunch at a local deli.
1. Don’t worry about the debt.
At her medical school, she said, they tell you to not stress about the massive student loans you incur while in school. Everyone has to acquire it (unless you go to USUHS, and there you have a different kind of debt, that isn’t monetary.)
2. Make a Connection with your Favorite School(s)
If you are fortunate enough to live close to your favorite medical school, try to develop a network there. My peer told me how after she performed research at her current medical school, she felt that she had a better chance of acceptance (and she didn’t have a 4.0/45!) Not only did the research help her get her foot in the door during application season, but now that she is applying to residency, she has a better idea of her interests.
3. Network, network, network!
In your personal statement and essay writing and in your medical school interviews, you need to not only sound incredibly enthused about studying medicine, but also knowledgeable about the career prospects. Find a doctor, and not only just one in a specialty that interests you, but any doctor willing to meet with you! You can learn more about their practice after a casual lunch meet-up or through shadowing. Look for volunteer opportunities at a doctor’s office, also, another means to delve into the field.
4. The MCAT: You just have to sit down and do it.
Studying for the MCAT is no fun, but it is inevitable and required. You know it is coming, so when you finish your pre-requisites for medical school (those that coincide with the MCAT subjects, that is) start your 3-month preparation plan! No one can avoid it–unless they are in a 6 or 7 year program.
5. Medical School is about a lot of independent work
Unless your school has a heavy PBL curriculum, my friend explained that throughout medical school you’ll do a lot of solo studying. She commutes, but did spend many years living 5 minutes from campus. The most difficult challenge a commuter faces is trying to encourage oneself to drive the 30+ minutes to campus on a Friday (and later in the year this begins to occur after a Monday, sometimes Sunday.) So future-commuters, never fear! Despite the solitude of studying in your cave at home, you’ll have great friends at school on whom you can rely for support and camaraderie.
What would you ask a medical student, if you could? I’ll try to pass your questions on to her!