A friend recently brought up an interesting point of view. He is just about to finish his undergraduate degree in life sciences, he’s done well so far and his GPA shows it. He wrote his MCAT and applied to multiple medical schools this year and received and attended several interviews. And the strange thing is that after completing all these individual steps, he’s still not sure if Medicine is what he wants to do.
He may very well end up with an acceptance in hand and decline it. And that’s perfectly reasonable.
It must be strange to think that with so many applicants out there wanting to pursue a career of medicine so bad that there are a few applicants each year that receive an acceptance and have no clue with what to do. I spoke to a graduating medical student the other day who retold his story of how he was accidentally accepted into medical school. His original intentions were to go into public health and he only applied to medical school as a backup, so he wouldn’t regret it in the future. Strange how things work out.
There are other applicants who defer their acceptance for a year to complete their master’s or even work abroad. The fact is getting into medical school is not the only thing that matters in life. There are many goals and pursuits that are just as worthwhile and meaningful to pursue.
Furthermore, medical school and the process of becoming a doctor is a large commitment. Apart from the debt of tens of thousands, by the time you practice you would have sacrificed your youth in school, studying, memorizing, learning.
This isn’t a decision that should be taken lightly. Ultimately, it should be you who should make the decision. Not your parents, your peers, expectations of others. If you think there’s something you love doing way more, I would urge you to consider that.
For instance, if you’re a varsity athlete who has a chance of making the Olympics but also has medicine in the back of your mind, pursue what you would LOVE doing more. This goes beyond just athletics. If you want to do research, work abroad, teach, or whatever more than go to medical school, you should seriously consider it.
The worst case scenario is you realize you don’t like what you’re doing and you apply to medical school. It’s much much harder to do it the other way. By the time you graduate from medical school, your accumulated debt and sacrificed time will compel you to go into practice right away. It will be hard to start another career at that time.
Medicine is a flexible field. – For most people, it’s big enough in scope and depth that everyone finds something they like doing. Whether that’s working with their hands in surgery or satisfying their curiosity with research, medicine has something for everyone. Even the math and physics types may be surprised at how many sub-specialties have a use for their knowledge.
So if you are one of those people who are indecisive about whether medical school or medicine is for you, give it some long and serious thinking. Medicine has a lot of rewards and unique opportunities but it’s not for everyone. But it would be reckless to enter this profession without knowing what being a doctor is really like, what kind of a person you are and what you would like to do.