10 Things Every Struggling Pre-Med Student Should Know


1. You’re probably in it for the money, or lazy, but that doesn’t mean you should give up. Stay the course.

It’s a tough and delicate predicament. Some of us are horribly torn between pure grief and renunciation. Others are completely aloof. Others still, are moved by some form of a drive, but it’s rooted in the desire to become a kind of Dr. Rapper or Dr. Actor/Actress. You want the fame and fortune of the medical field and/or the prowess and swagger of a rapper as you use your money to live out your dreams, but regardless of which category you may fall in, realize that any and all of these instances can/will stifle the plan. Now, I’m not going to address why you should be motivated to be a doctor. I won’t even tell you what your motivation should be. You just better find your motivation and more importantly, DO. NOT. GIVE. UP. You see, that grief and renunciation aforementioned usually stems from the belief that your grades are so terrible, you have to lie about them at family reunions. And if your own Grammy can’t take the letter “C” into her system, how can an admissions board? Or, they may be so bad, that you’re probably unaware of just now bad, hence the aforementioned aloofness. But hear me: This is still not enough of a reason to completely give up. If you want this thing, fight for it. I’d argue that most doctors became doctors simply because they wanted to and never gave up, regardless of the circumstances. It’s doable, okay?

2. There’s plenty of school to go, your opinions on medicine will probably change, okay?

I am in my fourth year of my undergraduate biology degree. My opinions on the medical field in general have changed significantly and yours probably will too. Don’t be discouraged if medicine isn’t exactly what you thought it would be. I mean first of all, how many things are ever exactly what you thought they would be? Secondly, you’ve got to understand that the medical field is a vast one. If you do indeed still have an interest in health, you’ve got policy (Law), administration (a more business approach), and not to mention the many, many different specialities and jobs. You’ve got options. Do your homework, get on google and see what your options are. If you’ve got a retail job (like I do), ask your doctor customers what they do. Getting the perspective of someone in their role is a valuable asset. Also consider the type of lifestyle that you want to have. I have shadowed an anesthesiologist as well as a gastroenterologist. Two different lifestyles, two different fathers, two different schedules. Discover the life you want, and find an area of medicine that will work for you.

3. You don’t have to know what you’re going to do right now.

You are a junior in college. If you don’t know what type of doctor you want to be, you’re wasting your time. I’m kidding, that’s completely absurd. If you scroll up just a pinch, you’ll see I’ve given just a tiny idea of what you can do in the medical field. There is literally a bunch of things you can do. I’m talking medical school, osteopathic medical school, graduate school, dental school, pharmacy school, veterinary school, PA school, I mean I can go on. Who cares if you can’t decide between marine biology and cardiology? Just start consuming info. It’ll come to you. Remember, you want to find what works for you. This is your life. Do what YOU want to do.

4. Have a back up plan.

This honestly speaks for itself.

5. Have a back up plan.

Okay, I had to put it again because it is so crucial. You absolutely MUST formulate a back up plan. You absolutely MUST formulate a back up plan. You absolutely MUST formulate a back up plan. Got it? Pull out a piece of paper and do it just like this, when I move, you move:

Plan A: My first choice omg i would love this it would be perf id be happy :)))

Plan B: man okay i really wanted to be a vet but i’m allergic to antelope so let me do pharmacy

Plan C: oh shoot man i hate pharmacy

Plan D: ok this time i got it i want to do research

Plan E: man what is this? i actually want to do osteopathic medicine

Now your list may not exactly look like mine. And when you write notes, you may in fact use more grammar that I did there, but you get the point. Write that thing out. Talk to doctors, youtube it, google it, whatever you have to do. Get information and start making decisions.

6. If you can’t seem to motivate yourself, you need to learn how to do so and employ it quickly.

Please see #1. I touched a bit on motivation there. I’ll tell you right now: If you are not motivated, medicine will be torture. This isn’t exactly unicorns and pixie dust. It’s chromatography and PCR. You’ve got to get through it. Look, I’m only 22, but I’ve learned that a large part of being an adult is doing what you don’t want to do. It’s a fact of life. Of course to alleviate this, it’d be best to find some motivation. I’ll list a few, I know you guys like lists:

  • I want to be rich.
  • I honestly would like to help people.
  • I don’t want to be poor.
  • I honestly don’t want people to be hurt.

Those of just samples of course, and they are two of the exact same concepts, sure, but again, you get the point. The point of a motivation is that it make you move. Meaning someone else’s motivation probably won’t work for you. Your motivation may not be the same as your Dr. Father. You need to make it your own, whatever it is, and it needs to be a good one.

7. You should know how to balance your life’s other passions around medicine. I mean, obviously.

Let me start out first by saying that you absolutely cannot get by without studying. Let me start out secondly by saying that you absolutely cannot get by without studying. So as you develop your schedule (yes, you need to make a schedule) make sure studying is the first block you put in your iCal or whatever. Thirdly, put EVERYTHING in your schedule. Now, when I say everything, I mean every activity. Mine looks a little like this:

7am: Prayer/Devotion/Stretching/Yoga

9am-5pm: Work*

6pm-10: Studying*

*Sprinkle in some fun throughout.

The key to true balance is to first get accurate documentation of what you have to do. Scheduling keeps you aware. A checklist keeps you on task. Use these tools. The second key is to make sure you stick to it. Obviously. How good is a schedule that you don’t adhere to? How much value does a checklist have if you don’t complete the tasks on the list? Thirdly, it can save you from burning out. Life is about moderation and too much of just about anything can be a bad thing. Balanced, moderate amounts of activities, foods, and endeavors make for a happy life.

8. The MCAT is your salvation or your damnation. You choose.

Ahh the MCAT. It’s a beast. It’s a problem. It’s your best friend. Hear me, the MCAT is a necessary evil. Why not spin it to your favor? I have sparingly covered what a bad GPA can do to your grandma, let alone your morale. But all is not lost. “The MCAN…”, as my friend calls it, “…is the great equalizer!” He’s absolutely right. If school has been an ongoing struggle, first understand that you’re not the first Biology student to get a C. Or even a D. You’re not the first doctor to completely bomb on the MCAT. I don’t want to get too philosophical, but a lot of who YOU are, and I’m talking about character now, is developed and defined by how you respond to challenges, especially failure. The MCAT is The Great Hope. Let it be your Saving Grace. Man that was a lot of references. Look, use the MCAT, it’s the calvary.

9. Perseverance is your best and closest friend.

If anyone asked me what was the point of all these words, (And I guarantee at least one of my friends will) I would tell you, “It’s #8.” Perseverance is the greatest asset that honestly any person can have, not just a pre-med student. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, DO. NOT. GIVE. UP. Just don’t. This thing is tough, but it is doable. The journey to the medical field is a marathon. Find a good pace and stick with it. You’ll get to the finish line.

10. This field will pay off.

Many will say that money is not the key to happiness, that happiness is something that can’t exactly be bought. And though I believe that true happiness can be attained whether you are rich or poor, I’d assert that money can surely aid in the process of finding happiness. I mean we all strive for monetary success for a reason. Medicine can provide the happiness that can come from the lack of stress due to every bill being paid for. Medicine can put a smile on your face when you son wants a stupid $40 Transformer Lego Set and you can actually purchase with little to no worry. Listen, I am a college student. If I have 56 problems, 49 of them are because I need more money. I don’t want to live this life if I can help it. Medicine can help it. Part of my personal fulfillment is being able to provide for myself, my family, and anyone else that I may come in contact with. Money will greatly assist me in that personal goal. Another simple concept to consider is that money provides options. Money can fuel other passions that you may have. Money is great. That’s what I’m trying to say. So don’t even defend yourself on why you want to be rich, I just did that on your behalf. Show them this. You’re welcome.