If you’re a college freshman and medicine is your goal, it’s not too soon to begin your preparation. Check out the website of your school’s health professions advising office and make note of adviser names, office hours, and contact information. If the advising office has any sort of e-mail list or newsletter, sign up. See if any group information sessions will be offered during new student orientation or the first weeks of the term. Above all, review any material about the required premedical courses available at your school and have a list of these courses handy when you meet with your faculty adviser to plan your course schedule.
Now that we’ve covered the “do’s,” what about the “do not’s?” There’s only one, but it’s huge: Do not allow medical school admission to dominate your college experience. Planning is essential, but planning and obsessing are two very different things. Anyone who goes through college with tunnel vision, focused only on medical school (or any postgraduate goal), is cheating him/herself academically, socially and developmentally. Although the medical school applicant pool is more diverse than ever in terms of age and academic background, as well as race, gender and ethnicity, there still are students who believe they “must” major in science, “must” do lab research or “can’t” study abroad or complete a double-major or double-degree program because they want to be in medical school immediately after college. Medicine is a long-range goal; whether you enter med school four, five or six years from now isn’t important in the big picture. What matters now is making the four years ahead of you the richest, most stimulating and most enjoyable four years of your life.
By Joan Davis, who had 18 years of experience as a pre-medical adviser at the University of Rochester before joining Accepted in 2006.