I am making this post in order to help the pre-meds that are ambivalent about applying to medical school. I do not want to discourage anyone. Medical school may be a wonderful decision for you but make sure that the decision is made for the right reasons. If you go into medicine for the wrong reason you will be bitter in the long run.
The external pressure to go to medical school from family and friends can be enormous. This is especially true if you come from an Asian, African or Middle Eastern family. Do not give into the pressure without knowing what you are doing. Hopefully I can help you navigate the decision making process. The overriding theme i want to send out with this blog is to think about how you want to live your life. Do not let the waves of societal expectations toss you around.
I am attaching 4 links that are AMAZING. These links represent the reality of medical school much better than i ever could. This should be required viewing for all prospective medical students. I can not add much more than what is said here but I will add my list of things to consider below the links.
4.) Ben Carson in this link–>>> http://video.foxbusiness.com/v/1870785089001/is-heading-to-med-school-worth-it/
THINGS TO CONSIDER:
1.) What is your life philosophy: This is important. Do you value youth over old age? If you value your youth then you might want to spend it doing youthful activities. Delayed gratification may seem stupid to you. You want to enjoy life when you are young. Medical school is at least 7 (residency included in that number) years of delayed gratification. You are going to have to delay making money, having real hobbies, and moving to another city.
2.)Do you value making a moderate amount of money when you are young, or a large amount of money when you are older: When you graduate college you can start making a medium amount of money ( 50K) at an early age. You may hit a salary ceiling when you are in your mid 30s. If you go to medical school you will not be making money for at least 7 yrs (in residency you make around 40k but you work 80+ hours a week and you have loans). After you pay your loans you will be around 33. So you wont be making a net income until 33 yrs old. This is if you get into medical school right away at 22 yrs old. The average age of admission is 25 yrs old. The advantage to this is that you will be making significantly above the national average income at 33 yrs old. So it is a give and take scenario. It depends on your individual preference.
3.) Do you like to immerse yourself in different hobbies and subcultures: If you are anything short of a super genius with a photographic memory you will be studying a lot. Medical school is pre- med times 10. Even the smartest people in medical school do not have the time to have real and diverse hobbies. I am not talking about video games, or comic books. I am talking about hobbies that you participate in multiple times a week. Hobbies that are time consuming. Hobbies that are really interesting are not possible. If you are ok with that then medical school will not be so bad.
4.) Are you ok with getting into a lot of debt for 4 yrs: The average medical school debt load can be around 150K to 200K. Debt makes many people uncomfortable. Even if it is school debt.
5.) Are you ok with being broke: This is one of the toughest aspects of medical school. It would be ok if we were getting paid. But we are not. Its difficult when all of your friends are buying houses, motorcycles and cars. You will not be able to afford to spend freely unless your parents bankroll you. Remember that you are in debt. So it will be college all over again.
6.) Are you doing this for your parents: This is the most common mistake. Parents have a way of making you feel like a failure if you do not follow their will. One thing you will realize as you get older is that parents are often misguided. They mean well but they are clueless. They come from their own biased cultural perspective. Living for you parents is a sure path to hate them when you get older. I understand that the pressure that immigrant parents apply on their kids to go into medicine is great. I am willing to bet that most of the 1st generation immigrant medical student population was strongly pressured by their families. I am one of them. This is dangerous because if you end up not liking medicine it will greatly strain the admiration you once had for your parents.
7.) Are you doing this for social prestige: This is a bad idea. The people that will treat you differently because of your profession are not the people you want to hang out with. Cool people really don’t care that you are physician. Your friends just want you to have a nice pad and a little bit of expendable income. Prestige is overrated. Read the book Status Anxiety. It will change the way you view status.
8.) Are you smart enough to make it through medical school relatively easily: Some students really struggle with the course load during these 4 yrs. Others find it challenging but not extremely difficult. For the latter group of students, medical school is not too much of a pain. They have great memories and can breeze through the material at a fast pace. They are not too stressed out. For these really smart students, medical school will be a totally different experience than it would be for a more average student. If you find yourself having to constantly study and study and study then you will not enjoy medical school too much.
9.) Do you love studying about diseases: If you love studying about diseases then medical school is for you. But ask yourself do you truly truly love it. Is it what you would be doing for a hobby? Would you study diseases if you were not getting paid? Be honest.
10.) Are you a great at memorizing: You are going to have to be great at memorizing. Most of basic science is memorization. You will have to memorize mnemonics and mnemonics for mnemonics. It will be the ultimate test of your memory.
11.) Do you value having a strong financial life for your family: This is an advantage of becoming a doctor. As a doctor your family will be financially secure if you choose to have one. As long as you don’t develop a gambling or cocaine addiction you should be ok in supporting your family. The median salary for doctors is conducive to having a small nuclear family and supporting them well.
12.) Do you value staying at home with you family: This is where you may be out of luck. As the son of a physician, i can tell you that my father was not home much. You will not see your family much as a physician. Physicians have a notoriously high rate of divorce. The divorce rate is highly dependent on your particular medical specialty.
13.) Are you very interested in learning about a diverse array of topics: You can forget this idea. You will just learn medicine. If you think you will have time to read Shakespeare and learn German from Rosetta stone then you are out of luck. You may have time to keep up with current events. This is going to depend on how quickly you can absorb and memorize the lesson.
14.) Do you just want to get laid: If you just want to get laid there are much easier ways to do it. All you need is a small apt, a few books and a 24 hr gym membership. I can show you how to get laid without 4 years of exams.
15.) Do you really just love to treat disease: This is the only reason to go to medical school. This will be your paradise if you really have a fascination for diseases and illness. Don’t lie to yourself either. Make sure that you get excited just from hearing the word pancreatitis.
16.) Are you smart enough to breeze through the material easily even if you are not passionate about diseases: This is the category that most medical students fall into. Most are not truly passionate about treating illness. They are just smart enough that it doesn’t matter. They can put up with slightly uninteresting work as long as they can receive the perks at the end. This is ok with me. Im not faulting them for it either. Most professions operate like this. Most people in law school are not super passionate about law either.
17.) Are you a nontraditional medical student that worked in the healthcare field for a substantial amount of time: These guys should go for it. They know what they are getting into. They will probably actually enjoy medical school because they have seen the alternatives to medical school. They also have real clinical experience.
18.) Are you a nontraditional that is becoming a doctor for the money: If you are 26+ think about the financial consequences that going to medical school will have. You will not be making real money until you are 36. Make sure you are ok with that.
19.) Are you doing this because you are afraid of the job market?: The economy sucks. This is a valid point. Job security is at an all time low. But are you really willing to sacrifice your true calling for job security? Maybe, or maybe not. There is no right or wrong answer.
BOTTOM LINE: Make sure you love to study diseases. If you love diseases, then you should go for medical school full throttle. If you don’t really have a burning passion for patients or for disease pathophysiology and treatment, make sure that you are smart enough that you can get through the process relatively pain free.