10 things every future premed should know

We often see students at Collegewise who tell us that they want to be doctors someday.  If you're thinking about medicine as a career, here are few things to keep in mind as you pick your colleges (from our guide, Is there a Future Doctor in the House? The Collegewise Guide to Choosing a College and Preparing for Life as a Premed).

1. You probably won't be a "premed" major.

Not many colleges offer a major called "premed."  Premed just means that you intend on applying to medical school at the conclusion of your college career.  You can be an art major and still be "premed." 

2. You don't have to be a science major to go to medical school.

You have to take the sciences classes that are tested on the MCAT (Medical College Admissions Test), but you can major in anything.  A music major can go to medical school if she takes the required science classes.  So you should major in something you enjoy.

3. You don't have to go to a famous college to go to medical school.

Just because you go to a famous college doesn't mean your chances of getting in to medical school improve.  You'll simply need to be successful wherever you attend college.   

4. It's important to evaluate the premed advising on campus.

Some colleges' premed advising "departments" are just one biology professor who holds advising hours once a week. Other colleges have robust programs, with dedicated advisors, peer mentors, workshops, and even application assistance when you eventually apply.  Tiny Juniata College has one of the highest acceptance rates to medical school of any four-year college because their advising is so good.  Look at what they offer as an example how good premed advising can be.

5.  You need to interact with people.

You won't get into medical school if you spend four years dividing your time between the library and the laboratory.  Medicine is a profession built on communicating and interacting with other people.  Get involved in activities that involve working in teams, teaching, mentoring or leading other students.  Start now.  Don't wait until you get to college.   

6. Readers and writers tend to make good premeds.

The more you read and write, the better communicator you'll be.  That's why successful medical school applicants take courses that involve substantial reading and writing.  They don't hide out in science courses all the time. 

7.  Have other interests besides the sciences.

It's great if you love science (most future doctors should).  But medical schools like students who have other non-science related interests, like playing the drums in the marching band, being on the swim team, or writing for the campus paper.  Be a real person with hobbies and interests that don't necessarily tie to the sciences, and continue developing those interests once you get to college. 

8. Practice the art of initiative.

Do you regularly participate in classroom discussions?  Do you visit your teacher after class to ask questions?  If you want to get involved in something, are you comfortable sending an email, or picking up the phone, or knocking on a door to pursue that interest?  You'll need to do these things to be a successful premed.  Practice the art of initiative while you're in high school so you can use it to be more successful once you get to college.

9.  Don't become a premed just because your parents want you to.

"He is interested in medicine," or, "She really wants to be a doctor" are phrases we sometimes hear from parents.  It's never a good thing to be a passive observer in your own education, especially for a path as demanding as medicine.  If you want to be a doctor, think about your reasons why, proudly declare what they are, and start taking steps to pursue that goal.  But if your parents are more interested in you being a doctor than you are, it's better to be honest with them then to reluctantly immerse yourself in the life as a premed.    

10.  Don't just say that you "…really want to help people."  Do it. 

When asked why they want to be doctors, a lot of premeds answer, "I want to help people."  If you really have a passion for helping people, you won't wait until you're a doctor to do it.  In fact, you'll go out of your way to help those most in need.  You won't just volunteer at a hospital. You'll volunteer at a mobile health clinic that goes to the poorest part of your city to give free medical care, or find another way to serve others out of a sense of mission.  If you really want to help people, start now and show medical schools later how important that mission is to you.

And if you'd like more advice about how to choose a college and prepare for life as a premed, we wrote a guide called "Is there a Future Doctor in the House?" where we discuss:

  • What can you do in high school right now to prepare for life as a premed? (It’s not just volunteering at a hospital—lots of people do that.)
  • What are the right colleges for you to have a successful premed career? (Just because a college is prestigious doesn’t mean it’s the right school for a premed.)
  • Once you get to college, how can you make sure you’re not one of the 60% of premeds who are rejected every year from medical school?

It's 44 pages, sold as a downloadable PDF.  You can get your copy here.