I’ve been dreaming of being a medical doctor for a long time—all the way since I was a junior in high school. At that time, the road to medicine looked both exciting and terrifying all at once. Looking back now, from the vantage point of around the middle of my medical school years, I’ve realized that there are several things I wish I could have told my high school self—things that would save her time, worries, and frustrations if she had just known them then.
High school grades don’t matter as much as you think they do
Now, this isn’t to say that working hard in high school isn’t a good plan. Good grades in high school can help you get into a good undergraduate school and help you get good scholarships to help reduce the cost of your education. However, I wish I could have told myself that not having perfect grades in high school wouldn’t affect me in the long run as much as I thought it would. College grades, particularly those in premed courses, and a good MCAT score are what are important for getting into medical school—not high school grades.
Surround yourself with friends who will push you
The friends you surround yourself with will often be the strongest voices in your life, either encouraging or discouraging you. Choose your friends wisely, even if this means cutting out the people who are discouraging about your medical school dreams.
The first few years of college are really, really important for grades
Getting good grades is obviously important, but getting good grades during your premed required classes is particularly important. Since most of these courses are taken during the first few years of undergrad, do yourself a favor and dedicate more of your time to studying, even if it feels like you might not be getting to enjoy that “college experience” that you thought you would.
A professional wardrobe is worth investing in
Yoga pants and fun lounge clothes may be perfectly acceptable for the college classroom, but slowly investing in a more professional wardrobe over time is a wiser choice in the long run. You don’t want to reach your clinical years of medical school and suddenly have to purchase an entirely new wardrobe. Do yourself a favor and get used to wearing “nicer” clothes earlier on.
Procrastination never pays off in the long run
Sure, the “thrill” of putting a paper off until the last minute might be a fun challenge during high school, but getting into a habit of procrastinating will only hurt you during college. Even though you might be able to procrastinate during college, you definitely won’t be able to procrastinate during medical school and still do well; stop putting things off today!
Studying for the SAT or ACT is just a warm up
Studying for and taking your college entrance exam might seem like the most stressful thing of your life so far, but this exam is actually pretty minor in comparison to the MCAT you’ll be taking someday. Give the SAT your best, but know that it isn’t the biggest or most important test you’ll ever take.
College classes aren’t necessarily harder than high school ones
The idea of college can seem pretty scary, but there’s a good chance that many of the courses won’t actually be all that much harder than courses you’ve already taken in high school. Sure, there will be challenges, but you’re smarter than you think you are.
Having good relationships with professors is important for having good references
If you’re an introvert like me, then having close relationships with professors isn’t really something that comes naturally. However, when it is time to ask for medical school application recommendation letters, having these relationships is important.
It’s possible to have a job during undergrad
College is a busy time, filled with both academic and social activities. Still, it is entirely possible to hold down a part time job (while maintaining good grades) during undergrad; doing so will help you be more financially prepared for the “real world” after graduation.
Stay balanced to help yourself later
Finally, having a balanced lifestyle—one with a healthy mix of studying, socializing, and staying healthy—will really help you out in the long run. Your mind will think clearer in school, you’ll have more energy to get things done, and you’ll feel much happier in general.