Is Medical School Right for Me?

Do you think the human body is cool and want to know more about how it works? Are you a good listener who likes helping people? Do you like to be challenged? Are you always seeking new opportunities to learn outside of the classroom? If the answer is yes, then medical school might be for you! Sure, you’ve seen Grey’s Anatomy and think all the excitement would be fun, but how can you be sure you want to spend all that time and money? Well, there are plenty of ways to get more information on the nitty-gritty details of medical school.

Know the career path

Before going to medical school, you need to complete all of the prerequisite courses and take your MCAT. Once you’re there, medical school is like having a full-time job. Your first lecture will be at 8 am. You may have meetings during your lunch hour. Labs will end around 6 pm and students typically spend the rest of their day in the library studying. After medical school comes residency which can last anywhere from three to eight years depending on what specialty you choose. If you want to have even more training in a subspecialty, additional years in a fellowship may be required.

Learn the day-to-day

Learn about what being a doctor is like by getting up close to the job. Shadowing your local doctor is a great way to see what their everyday routine is like. Go for a day and try it out! If you like it, consider shadowing long-term. It’s a great way to deepen your knowledge of the day-to-day work in the profession, and helps you start building relationships in the field. In the future, the doctor you shadowed could be a great resource for advice on getting through undergrad and applying to medical school.

Get hands-on experience

Volunteer at your local hospital! This is something you can easily do without previous experience or certifications and you will have one-on-one interactions with patients. If you are interested in being more responsible for patient care you can become an EMT, a medical scribe, or a patient care tech. These are all great ways to get hands on experience to help you see if working in medicine is for you.

Read and reflect

While shows like Grey Anatomy make for great entertainment and might spark an interest, they’re far from the real deal. To accurately understand what the life of a doctor or med student is like, you must talk to actual doctors and med students. Memoirs written by doctors about their medical school years tend to give a better picture about what the life is like, while allowing you to gain insight into their thoughts and feelings while going through the process. Some good books to consider are:

  • “Complications and Better” by Atul Gawande
  • “The Intern Blues” by Robert Marion
  • “The House of God” by Samuel Shem
  • “The Body: A Guide for Occupants” by Bill Bryson
  • “Intern” by Sandeep Jauhar
  • “Med School Confidential” by Robert H. Miller and Daniel M. Bissell

Reflecting on what you’ve learned can also help you solidify your decision. Journaling your thoughts, especially right after you shadowed or volunteered, can help you reflect on why you’re going to medical school. It might also be a good resource to have when writing your application essays.

While deciding whether to go to medical school can be daunting, what matters in the end is that you’re happy with the choice you’ve made. If you want to talk to someone or would like additional resources, feel free to make an appointment with one of the Healthcare Community Advisors at the Career Center.

By Hannah Knifley
Hannah Knifley