Feb 21, 2007

Life After College: Thinking About Med School

Yes, it starts as early as high school! If you know, as a student in high school, that you want to become a medical doctor, you can get a head start on your preparation for medical school. Take advanced-placement courses. They may enable you to take advanced science courses once you get to college. And of course, get work experience in the medical field, such as a summer job with your family physician or volunteering at a local hospital. Not only will it help you decide if medicine is for you, it could help you get into medical school.

Begin Researching Medical Schools
While in high school, you also can begin researching medical schools and checking admission requirements - get your first copy of Medical School Admission Requirements (MSAR) now! You can order this volume online from the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) at their Web site, www.aamc.org. You might consider meeting with a premed or admissions counselor at a local university to discuss what kind of preparation you will need to succeed in a premed program. It's also good experience; formal interviews are uncommon for admission to undergraduate programs, but you can treat this meeting as a practice interview for medical school. Try to look your best, speak well, and come prepared with questions. Ask what the ideal academic program would be, and then plan to follow that program.

Choose an Undergraduate School
If medical school is in your plans, you will want to choose an undergraduate college or university with a good premed program and a good premed adviser. However, you should not only be thinking about medical school when selecting your undergraduate school; there is, after all, the definite possibility that you will change your mind over the next four years. You want an undergraduate school that will suit your learning needs, and you should consider the school's class sizes, location, overall course offerings (in case you decide Greek, not medicine, is your true passion) and cost. Do not limit yourself to the school you think will give you the best chance of attending medical school. There are many variables that go into your medical school applications, and your undergraduate institution is just one of them.

If you are considering attending a two-year college first, you may want to reconsider: Many medical schools do not include community college grades when calculating GPAs. This then requires that your prerequisites be taken at a four-year institution (otherwise you could officially have no science GPA!). Even if the medical schools to which you apply do accept your two-year-college science courses, they will likely weigh the two-year courses less than those at most four-year colleges, and this will hurt your chances of acceptance. This does not mean you cannot get into medical school if you start your college career at a community college - only that there may be additional factors for you to consider.

Consider a Combined Program
Some schools offer combined programs that allow you to obtain your bachelor's degree with the assumption that if you do well in your undergraduate studies, you will be admitted to a medical school program upon graduating. Not all of these programs combine the bachelor's degree and M.D. at the same school; some medical schools have joint programs that begin at another university, and others begin in the undergraduate division of the medical school. A few programs are limited to state residents (City University of New York, University of Illinois at Chicago, State University of New York Health Science Center at Syracuse and Texas A&M, for example), and though the majority require a full eight years for the completion of the two degrees, a number of schools reduce the full time to six or seven years. The MSAR includes a section on such programs.

If you think medical school is in your future, here are some tips to follow while you're still in high school.

* Take advanced-placement courses.

* Get work experience in the medical field; e.g., get a summer job with your family physician or volunteer at a local hospital or nursing home.

* Apply to selective colleges and universities if your grades and SAT or ACT scores are good.

* Find out which undergraduate schools have combined programs.

* Speak with the premed advisers at the undergraduate schools you are considering to find out:
o how many premed students the school has;
o their rate of acceptance into medical school; and
o how extensive the advisers' knowledge of medical school admission is and how helpful they will be.

* When choosing a college, remember that you may change your mind about medical school, so make sure the college you select can meet all your requirements for a good education in any major you may choose.

Information provided by Petersons.com

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