It is a surreal feeling when you call a mentee for the first time. You hear a gentle, “Hello?” after the phone stops ringing, and begin to introduce yourself as their PreMed mentor. You are not concerned with setting up a meeting time, discussing book problems, or grabbing lunch. This time you simply ask how their first day has been. There is a small silence, “Overwhelming,” they say.
In the short time I could have spent explaining my role, setting up a meeting time, then moving on to the next call, I remembered how it felt on my first day. In the midst of all the commotion, there are some myths circulating in the minds of freshman that they have been told before coming to school. In my own experience, I was terrified of being a PreMed student long before I actually became one. It is all too easy to buy into the plague of rumors that create irrational fears about being PreMed. Little did I know, every first-time student seems to have similar questions. Unfortunately, those are usually the questions they are afraid to ask their professors or bring up in a college environment. For that reason, it is important that freshman have help understanding some of these questions so that they can separate their irrational fears from the truth.
Will I actually have fun in the next four years?
It’s amazing what scared me as a freshman. Was I scared of bad grades or hard work? No. I was much more scared of being the nerdy kid, hunched over some beaker, glasses taped, without the people skills to carry a single conversation. Not only would I find out that I was surrounded by unlimited sand volleyball, campus golf, and Mario Kart, but I discovered that my classes were fun in their own ways too. Needless to say, PreMed students keep balanced social lives and have more fun – not less.
Will a “B” kill my chances of getting into medical school?
Medical schools are looking for future doctors, not just great students. In other words, high GPA can certainly land you an interview, but it still says very little about your character. What you should be more concerned about is how you’ve used your opportunities to succeed. You should always aim for getting A’s, but if you have given your absolute best and fall short, there is nothing to be ashamed of. Remember that across the nation, every medical school is a little different. Some stress high MCAT scores and GPA, while others are more concerned in other areas.
Should I take those medical school entrance statistics seriously?
I do not know who conducts those studies, when they were done, or on what population of students, nor do I care. If you decide medicine is what you want to do, you will make it through. Most of the upperclassmen I speak to are more concerned about where they are getting in – not if they are getting in. It is not to say that those numbers lack some truth, but I find them to be more of a parasite to confidence than an encouraging fact.
Will I like all my courses?
The beauty of being PreMed is that we all work a little differently. It is natural for you to gravitate toward specific areas of science for the same reason that surgeons practice surgery: there will be courses that you love dearly, and others that you will not. The important thing is to try to appreciate everything you come in contact with. From day one to senior year, there is always room to step back, appreciate, and be happy.
Austin Greer is a 4th year student at Indiana Wesleyan University and a current Student Advisory Board Member for PreMedLife.