Your Pathway to Medicine

Your Pathway to Medicine

Hello everyone, my name is Pranshul and I am one of the Biological and Health Sciences mentors at ReadyEdgeGo. I am currently in my third year of medical school and have recently started doing my clinical rotations, which is where I get to go to the hospital and practice medicine in a highly supervised environment. I knew I always wanted to go into medicine from a young age and stuck with that during my grade school and undergraduate years. Since medicine is a constantly evolving field, I would never stop learning, which is exactly what I wanted. I have already spoken to a few of you students and love hearing the passion you have for the health sciences field. I would like to share my background from grade school, undergraduate, and what the process for getting into medical school entails (and what to expect in your future if that is what you choose!). A huge disclaimer I want to give is that every person has their own path to medicine, which I will speak more about.

In high school, I was an average student grade-wise, focusing more on my extracurricular activities which consisted of the band, Boy Scouts, and sports (mainly rugby). The classes I enjoyed the most in school at that time were biology, psychology, and music. Going into college, I knew that I would want to take classes that explored these topics more, and so I decided to do a major in biological psychology. I graduated high school in 2014 and thought that a 4-year college is where I would thrive, and so I started at Ohio State University. However, I soon realized that classes with 1,500 students were not a great learning environment for me and so I transferred back to community colleges in California after just 1 semester. I spent 1 ½ years in community colleges, bouncing between 3 colleges to make sure I finished my pre-requisite classes in time. I transferred to UC Davis and majored in psychology with an emphasis in biology. 

During my time in college, I decided to explore different jobs before I began medical school. Some of them just for money and others to help me explore various career paths. Some of the ones for money included a landscaper for a golf course and pizza delivery driver. My favorite job was being a music instructor at my previous high school, where I taught for 5 years until I started medical school. The reason for me sharing this with you is to let you know that your life does not need to revolve around school and studies. Go and explore your interests, do what you love, have fun!

Historically, there have been 2 main routes to medical school, the traditional and non-traditional route. The traditional route consists of 4 years of undergraduate, while beginning medical school applications during the beginning of your senior year and starting medical school right after you graduate college. Recently, more students have begun taking what is known as “non-traditional.” This usually consists of students not beginning medical school right after finishing undergrad. Many students take what is called a gap year after their 4-year college and this allows them to accomplish other life goals before starting their long journey of medical school.

 The pathway I took is considered non-traditional, and of my 94 current colleagues in my medical school, only 5 of them followed the “traditional” pathway. I am not advocating that one or the other is better, however, many students began burning-out by the time they began medical school because they never took a break from school! My path consisted of graduating college in 4 years and then taking 1 gap year before starting medical school. This 1 year allowed me to study for the MCAT (think of this as the medical school equivalent of the SAT/ACT), spend time applying to schools, and also work and save money. So now, the moment you have all been waiting for, “what do I need to do in high school and undergrad to get into medical school?” There is no one right answer, but, at the minimum, I would recommend the following.

  1. Finish high school, get into whichever college you want to go to, and major in whichever major you want
    1. NO! You do not need to major in a science related field (one caveat will be mentioned later)
  2. Do well in college. If you weren’t a star student in high school, don’t worry (medical school will not even look at your high school grades). But do your best in your classes at college. There is no specific cut off, but having a GPA of >3.5 in undergrad will increase your chances of getting into a medical school.
  3. Take your medical school’s prerequisite courses (here is the caveat to majoring in whatever you want). For medical school, you must take the following classes during college:
    1. 1 year of general biology
    2. 1 year of physics
    3. 1 year of general chemistry
    4. 1 year of biochemistry
    5. 1 year of organic chemistry
    6. 1 year of math (including one semester each of calculus and statistics)
    7. 1 year of writing

**As you can see, there are a lot of science related courses. If you major in a biology or science related field, these courses will most likely be incorporated into your normal work load. If you major in anything else (such as music, or English) you will most likely need to take these courses on top of your normal classes, which means you might need to take an extra year to graduate or take a full course load every semester. 

  1. Do extracurricular activities; such as research, hobbies, shadowing, volunteering, community service, etc.!
    1. Medical school’s want to see that you are a well rounded person that is both academically inclined and also has interests outside of school. 
  2. Do well on your MCAT. This is a huge test and many schools will use this as a screening tool for applications.
  3. Don’t be discouraged!! There will be many times during your college and application process where you will feel overwhelmed. Don’t let this discourage you, think of your end goal. This is just a small hurdle to climb over before you become a doctor!

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See you soon!

Pranshul Goel
ReadyEdgeGo Mentor – Biological and Health Sciences

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