Starting as an Undergrad
Choosing a career is a developmental process. The pre-med years are the time to think about goals, evaluate your strengths, and examine options. Research is important, as are one-on-one conversations with people in the field and first-hand experience in medical environments.
One former director of medical education (also known as the "DME" or "clerkship director") urges that students considering medical school give serious thought to their motivation. "When I interviewed college students, the ones I worried about were those who had chosen medicine because they thought it was a good profession to 'make money,' she says. "I think if you choose a career in medicine, you have to have a passion for the care of people. There has to be a passion there to drive you, because medical school is not all that fun. It's a lot of hours and you're working hard. Sometimes people get all the way to medical school and then find out that they don't really want to be there."
Researching Medical Schools: Where to Start
The Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) represents allopathic medical schools in the United States and Canada. The American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine (AACOM) represents colleges of osteopathic medicine in the United States. Both the AAMC and the AACOM offer links and information of interest to those considering a career in medicine.
The Foundation for Advancement of International Medical Education and Research and the Educational Commission for Foreign Medical Graduates are excellent resources about the more than 2,000 medical schools across the globe that are outside the United States and Canada. These organizations also offer information about requirements to transition from an international medical school to a US residency program.
Advice to Pre-meds: Focus Does Matter, But All Things in Moderation!
The best medical school applicants are excellent students who are also well rounded. It is important to think about more than the curricular requirements when building a solid transcript for medical school applications. "We look for good grades in organic chemistry and other science courses," one educator says, "but varied experience in volunteerism and validating their interest in medicine by medical shadowing or participating in biomedical research can also be very helpful."
Because pediatricians strive to provide culturally sensitive care for a diverse patient population, future medical school applicants are well advised to seek out experiences that expand their understanding of other cultures. Volunteer work in underserved communities can provide valuable insights, as can a semester's study abroad. It is extremely useful to be fluent in a second language.
Combined Degree Programs
Many medical schools offer formal combined degree programs, such as MD/PhD, MD/MPH, MD/JD, and MD/MBA. Visit the AAMC for a list of medical schools that provide combined degree programs. Typically, combined degree programs add a few additional years to medical school training.
Getting into Medical School
Data from the AAMC indicates that less than half of medical school applicants matriculated. This is an average; some programs are substantially more competitive than others. Specific data on acceptance rates over time are provided on the site, along with a matrix that presents acceptance rates in terms of grade point average and Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) scores.
Most applicants take the MCAT about 18 months before they plan to enter medical school. The MCAT is administered by the AAMC, which develops test content in cooperation with US medical schools.
Applications for most medical schools are coordinated by the American Medical College Application Service (AMCAS). Most schools accept applications in the summer or early fall, but admission deadlines vary by school. It is important to check the websites of each medical school that interests you long before application season begins.
Medical schools interview promising candidates between October and February of the students' senior year. For those interested in a specific school, the Early Decision Program (EDP) may be worth exploring. Many medical schools offer this program, which requires an earlier application deadline and limits application to that single school until a decision has been made. If not accepted in EDP, there is still time to apply to the same school as a regular candidate, as well as to any other school.
American Academy of Pediatrics