Medical School 101: What Medical School Is Really Like

Last Updated on July 21, 2022 by Laura Turner

Premedical students are, understandably, focused on getting into medical school. They shadow physicians and have an idea of what being a physician is like.  However, many don’t have an understanding of what life at medical school is like.

Medical school is a place in which you will grow as a person and as a professional. You will be challenged to study more than you thought possible and pick yourself up when you fall down.  The massive amounts of knowledge you need to learn in a short period of time makes medical school one of the most challenging professional schools out there.

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I like to think of medical school as a roller coaster. Each medical student who enters is happy and even eager to study but as the months drag on, the studying gets old and you say to yourself, “I cannot wait until all this studying is over!“ As a new physician, I have experienced sleeplessness, the long arduous hours of studying, multiple stops at Starbucks, and more.  Here’s my overview of the realities of attending medical school.

Types of Schools

Two types of medical schools exist: Allopathic Medical Schools and Osteopathic Medical Schools.  Allopathic medical schools confer an M.D. degree and Osteopathic medical schools confer a D.O. degree.  Both schools train their students to become fully licensed to practice medicine and prescribe medications. Both doctors see patients and become investigators of the body as they try to find out why their patients are sick.

What’s the difference? Osteopathic Physicians learn osteopathic manipulative treatment, using their hands to help diagnose and treat different diseases.

Class Structure

The typical medical school focuses on a combination of lectures and problem-based learning modules. Imagine sitting in class, listening to lectures, taking notes, and then taking tests. This is the standard way in which medical school builds and tests your knowledge. In fact, medical school literally feeds your brain with first, basic sciences and then, clinical knowledge.

The problem-based learning method consists of a group of med students working together to solve a patient case. For example, you are presented with a hypothetical 45-year-old man with a history of heart disease and high cholesterol. He travels from New York to California on a business trip. Upon landing, he experiences excruciating right leg pain. Problem-based learning focuses on exploring this case and diagnosing this patient. A physician moderator typically sits in to guide and create the dynamic of the group.

Schools may have a traditional or system-based curriculum.  A systems-based curriculum means that all your classes are divided up by body system. For example, month one may be about the cardiovascular system, month two may be about the gastrointestinal system and month three may be about the reproductive system, and so on.



Your MS-1 (Medical Student 1) year will be your most difficult year of med school.  Year one of medical school consists of mostly basic sciences courses, which means LOTS of memorization. I detail the major classes below, but medical school also consists of medical ethics courses, OSCEs in which you learn the physical exam, and more. OSCEs refer to Objective Structured Clinical Exams in which you are presented with various hypothetical patient scenarios. An actor portrays a patient with a certain clinical disease and you are expected to obtain a thorough medical history and physical examination in the allotted time period.


In year one, you are presented with one of the most challenging medical school classes known to humankind: gross anatomy. For many of you, gross anatomy conjures up images of cadavers and the smell of formaldehyde. Gross anatomy has two components: lecture and lab. The lecture typically lasts for an hour while the lab is typically about four to five hours long.

Different medical schools structure their gross anatomy courses differently: Some medical schools have gross anatomy every day while other medical schools opt to hold the course three times a week. The course itself can last three months to one year.

Here, you will learn the wonders of the human body from the cranial nerves, brachial plexus, and mediastinum to the femur, humerus, and orbicularis oculi muscle in your eye. I’m not gonna lie, gross anatomy is a tough class. You have to keep up with the reading or else you will be behind. Study in groups if you like learning with a group of people.


Histology is the study of cells in the human body. This, too, consists of a lecture and lab component. Oftentimes, you will take histology and gross anatomy together, especially if your medical school is systems-based.  The lab consists of looking at slides in the microscope. I loved histology but didn’t appreciate gross anatomy until I was done with it!


Ever watch Dr. G Medical Examiner? Pathology class in medical school is similar to the pathology seen on Dr. G Medical Examiner. You look at histology slides of, for example, an infarcted heart (heart attack) and know by inspection that it is a damaged heart. This, like histology and gross anatomy, consists of lectures and labs.

Biochemistry is similar to organic chemistry but better. Don’t panic, you don’t have to distill any liquids in the lab or draw any funny structures as this class is primarily lecture-based. You may have to memorize the Krebs cycle and glycolysis cycle.


Year two of medical school is typically clinical-based. Here you will learn a handful of the diseases you will encounter in the hospital, such as:

  • Myocardial infarction (heart attack)
  • Pulmonary embolism (blood clot in the lungs)
  • DVT (deep vein thrombosis )–blood clot in the leg
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Congestive heart failure

and the list goes on (and on and on…).

This is when medical school turns to real medicine.


Year three consists of clinical rotations. Here you will become part of the medical team. A medical team typically consists of an attending (a senior doctor), residents (doctors-in-training), and interns (first-year residents). As a medical student, you are at the bottom of the totem pole. Some doctors will make that well-known while others are very nice.

You will rotate through the many clinical specialties of medicine, such as internal medicine (adult medicine), pediatrics, OB/GYN, psychiatry, etc. Here, you will get a taste of what kind of doctor you will become.

Your team will grade you on your performance during your rotation. As with any work environment, this can be a bit biased. However, national tests are administered at the end of your rotations. Some medical schools require you to pass this exam to receive a grade at the end of your clinical rotations. Sometimes, the percentage grade is even factored into your final rotation grades.


Year four of medical school is much like year three but a bit more specialized. You can delve into the specialties of medicine even more. For example, if you like internal medicine, you can elect to do a gastroenterology, cardiology, or rheumatology rotation. Grading is the same as in year three.

So this piece hopefully gave you a good overview of the nuts and bolts of medical school. Congratulations on your recent admission – or good luck with your applications – and best wishes for your future plans!

176 thoughts on “Medical School 101: What Medical School Is Really Like”

  1. As I attend medical school in another Western, English-speaking nation, I’m not entirely familiar with the medical school system in the States. So I was wondering, what about other basic medical science classes such as physiology, microbiology, pharmacology, embryology, etc.? Would these somehow be worked into MS-2?

    • I wanna become a Podiatrist,you think you can tell me a little about that or give me some hints before I come to med school.

    • Patrick, Im currently an Ms-1 student and at least where I’m studying we take all the classes you just asked about during first year except for pharmacology which is taken next year.

  2. Hi Patrick,
    The classes mentioned are typically taken as an MS1. Unfortunately, I didn’t mention all the classes in the article. Best of luck w/ med school!
    Dr. Divita

  3. As the saying goes, there are a whole lot of critics in this world, but not many writers. My wife is in her second year at a medical school and I’m preparing to apply, myself. I appreciated this article. Having lived the first two years of medical school vicariously through my wife, the article seems pretty accurate.
    But the accuracy of the article isn’t really what’s important, I think. Getting into medical school is so competitive that many pre-medical students lose sight of everything else that comes after. This article is valuable in that it serves as a reminder that there are still plenty of challenges ahead, and that this is really just the beginning.
    A well-written article. Thank you, Dr. Divita.

  4. @David: Thank you David. I appreciate your comments. Good luck with your applications. I wish you and your wife the best as future physicians!!
    Dr. Divita

  5. Many medical schools in the United States have a systems-based curriculum or an integrated curriculum. While the subjects listed in the above article + physiology, pharmacology, pathology, psychiatry and other sciences are covered, they are not covered as separate courses. Coursework is generally done in Blocks by systems or Blocks by subject matter generally started with things like Cells and Tissues before moving on to more specific subject matter.
    Since much of medicine is integrated, having an integrated curriculum has been an asset for many medical students. In addition to coursework which may be done by computer module problems there is also problem based learning (PBL) exercises that are important adjuncts to integrated coursework. Some schools are totally PBL and others have some PBL mixed with traditional lectures and small group assignments.
    Fewer and fewer medical schools in this country do things by subject matter. Students have found these types of curricula less intimidating and more practical in terms of learning for future practice.
    The other thing to realize is that nothing in medical school is difficult to understand. Anatomy is a great course that is mastered by most medical students without fear or penalty. It and other medical school coursework is interesting and quite doable by anyone who has solid study habits. Yes, you may find yourself working harder on your medical school coursework than you did in many undergraduate courses but there is nothing to fear as most folks get through just fine.

  6. Hi Dr. Divitta. I really appreciate your article; I found it most informative. I am a stockbroker who had to spend a lot of time in the hospital in the last few months due to a sick family member. I would like to go into a profession where I am able to care for people, which made me think of Nursing. However, I saw that despite the nurses’ compassion and competency, they were limited in the decisions they had to make and had to wait for an attending or other physician to just formally make the call on meds, etc (though the nurses knew what needed to be done). I know I would find this extremely frustrating. All of the people I know that are in med school are the type who have only been students, and seem drawn to the idea of “being a doctor” and having a fancy specialty. I am really interested in being able to have a relationship with my patients, but need to feel like I have the ability to act as I feel necessary. I am thinking of becoming a nurse practitioner or a family doctor, as that would enable such a relationship and a focus on preventative medicine. It is also very important to me that during my education I only rely on donated human cadavers, but no animals for research or dissection.
    Do you think (from what I’ve written), that I should further investigate the possibility of going to med school? I was very much for the idea of nursing until I saw how little autonomy the nurses had over the care of their patients. I have utmost respect for their ability to deal with the patients so compassionately and handle the doctors (who often failed to respond promptly, while the nurses were stuck facing the family). I have no problem paying my dues, but I don’t think I would have the patience to constantly have to wait on somebody else to give me an okay to do what I know I should be doing.
    Thank you very much

  7. @DrNjmd:
    Thank you for posting more information on the med school curriculum as all med schools work differently. I appreciate it!
    Thank you for your kind comments.
    Yes, since you are a stockbroker and not a college student applying directly to med school, you would be considered the “non-traditional medical student”. Oftentimes, this alone makes you stand out from the rest of the applicants.
    Yes, you should still investigate medical school as an option. There are numerous advantages and disadvantages to both professions: nurse practioner vs doctor. Nurse practioners do not have to undergo as extensive training and most can carry out orders like a physician. Although they are autonomous in that respect, they still work with a physician who checks on their work. In health care, there is an inadvertent blur occurring between nurse practitioners, physicians assistants and doctors, unfortunately. Physicians assistants can prescribe medications as well, are semi-autonomous and only go to school for 2 years.
    I say go for it and consider medical school. If autonomy and compassion is important to you, a physician is a career that can help you have the upper hand in changing the face of medicine. Yes, the hours are long, med school is not pocket change and it is very competitive. Putting that all aside, it is worth every penny, every frustration and every challenge.
    To start, there are many postbacaulaureate programs designed to provide you with the prerequisite premedical courses such as Harvard Extension School, UVA, Columbia University, etc.
    I’d be happy to help you on your journey to med school if you decide that is the route you want to go.
    Please check my company website above and feel free to ask any more q’s.
    Best of luck!
    Dr. Divita

    • Hi Dr. Divita,
      first of all, well done for your article. I am currently a final year Bachelor of Science (Hons) Nursing student and really wish to study medicine abroad. However, I’m afraid that my B.Sc not be enough to apply for med school, and will still have to do another 4 years of chemistry, chemistry (organic) biology, physics, maths and English. what can I do please?

  8. Great stuff… I am a career changer. I use to work in the corporate 9-5, soul sucking job so adequately described above. 2 years ago I quit my job and went back to school. Started shadowing doctors and taking the prereqs for medical school.
    I just got accepted to an M.D. program in Florida and will be matriculating this coming Fall! I will be 29 years old. The way I see it is, I can turn 33 years old and still be working in the same non-interesting, depressing, corporate job…. or I can be a doctor.
    Naturally, I have my reasons… But, I just wanted to say it is never too late to change your mind about what direction your life is taking!

    • So how exactly did you go about it…I’m interested to know because it’s great to know that you were able to do it, and truly was never too late for you… Amazing!

  9. Thanks Dr. Divita, I’m a first year IMG Medical Student (yes you read that correctly) and you summed it up nicely as far as all the subjects go. I had some important comments that I feel the need to make, please do comment back on them.
    1. You said Human Anatomy is difficult, but I not only find it the most difficult subject I’ve taken in Med School but in general it is probably the most difficult thing I’ve ever done. I find myself BARELY passing tests and even failing a few. I have tried nearly every study technique, study groups, drawing pics, audio visual learning, you name it. I still have an extremely difficult time with the course work in this class and with Head and Neck about to start up, I’m not feeling any better.
    2. Since I’m an IMG, I realize I will have a tough time matching into the more competitive specialties upon my return, but I really had no other choice because despite having a 3.5 gpa and a 27 MCAT, I was not accepted to a US school *sigh* is there anything I will be able to do about this besides scoring 270 on step 1?
    Thanks Dr and please let me know! Anyone else can comment on this also.

  10. @Michael
    I’m sorry to hear you’re barely passing gross anatomy. It is a very tough subject and unlike any class out there. Some of my former classmates have even bailed medical school because of it. But please, don’t do that b/c of just one class. I know its difficult but continue to persevere despite a few setbacks. Sometimes, these setbacks may you stronger in return and make you realize, this is the path you set out to choose.
    As I said in my article, medical school is an emotional roller-coaster. One day, you’ll love it and the next, you begin to doubt whether this is really for you. But that is completely normal. There are highs and lows in all aspects of medical training and I don’t even think that stops when we practice as physicians.
    Have you sought the help of other medical students that already completed the class? Maybe they can test you one on one. Sometimes, mock exams help as well—especially in the lab. There are videos online that show gross anatomy dissections. I used those when I was going through the class. Have you talked to your professor about your concerns? Sometimes, that helps and they may offer opportunities for you to salvage your grade.
    As a foreign medical graduate, it is almost imperative you do well on the boards, in classes/rotations as competition for residency is fierce, depending on the specialty with family practice being the least competitive from what I was told. ANother means to set you apart is involve yourself in a club or hold a vital position. Its difficult because med school is all studying but it doesn’t have to be…I volunteered in med clinics, joined a few clubs and held a position. Although it was only 2 to3 hrs out of the entire week, it still counted.
    Remember, you’re just starting, so take a deep breath. Things will be okay and work out!
    Dr. Divita

  11. My concern as a 51 y/o male with BS/BA credits over 10 years old is paying for Med. school and having to retake science courses therefore extending the number of years to become a Dr. My experience includes working in an ED for 11 years. First as an ER Attendant for 3 yrs until I obtained my EMT/ST Lic’n. While working in the ED I also worked for a Vol. Rescue Squad. The following 10 years I worked in the Respiratory Therapy Dept. as a Technician. For the last 9 years I have been working as a Pharmaceutical Sales Rep. which includes lots of studying for different disease states. I am prepared to stop work and my wife is excited about the potential of me doing something I want to do. Is there any financial aid available who should I talk to to map out a plan?

  12. @Neil
    Good for you! wanting to enter med school later in life. Financial aid is available through Chase and various other lenders. Once admitted to med school, the financial aid office is a HUGE help. If you’d like, you can also email a financial aid officer at any medical school as I’m sure they’d be happy to offer advice, although you’re still a prospective candidate.
    Best of luck!
    Dr. Divita

  13. Quick Question Dr. Divita,
    This may be a very basic question, but if med school is only 4 years, why do I hear so many people saying it is 7 years or more. What happens after the 4?
    NOTE: I am a pre pharmacy student that was recently admitted into pharmacy school. Though it differs from med school, I found your article very helpful to me as well. Thanks for the advice. I asked the question above just to know what my fellow health care professionals have to go through. Thanks Dr. Divita!

  14. @dreezy10
    Congratulations on your pharmacy school acceptance!! Yes, medical school is four years. Sometimes, people opt to enter a 7 year college/medical school program that links their education in college with medical school. In other words, this is a short cut for applying to med school, as med school admission can be offered while in college.
    I know Brown University offers this 7yr track from what I remember. Those interested in this track, must be stellar high school students and maintain a certain grade point avg and have a certain MCAT score to keep this. So, when applying to colleges, they apply to med school too.
    Normally, after the 4 years, residency occurs. This is basically paid training to specialize in a certain field, such as surgery, dermatology, medicine or pediatrics. Residency can last anywhere between three to over five years.

  15. Med school debt disappears a lot faster than most realize. The lowest paid specialties average around $160,000, which is over $90,000 take home. That’s slightly under $8,000 a month.
    As for lawsuits, not all specialties are litigation prone.

  16. @ Baby MD:
    The examples you are illustrating are not the norm for corporate America. Yes, there will be those you work up the ranks and make it to an executive level. Do most make it these far? Absolutely not.
    As a former accountant, I typically worked 50-60 hours per week for a salary in the mid-40s. If I would have stayed, I would have experienced yearly gains of about 3-5 percent.
    Not everybody works in i-banking. In fact, very few people do when you consider total employment numbers.

  17. @ Rain
    Both allopathic and osteopathic med schools are welcoming the non-traditional applicant nowadays. Why? It adds variety to the classes—seeing someone who lived life and didn’t just step out of a college classroom.
    Most osteopathic med schools do have a track record for selecting these non-traditional candidates. However, there are fresh college grads in osteo as well as allo med schools. It really depends on the school and the admissions committee. One of my friends who graduated from an allopathic med school was 27 when he entered doing a couple of volunteering stints prior to med school. Another went to an osteopathic med school and did research bench work prior to attending. Hope this helps!
    Dr. Divita

  18. What can you tell me about the hours worked during your last two years of med school, residency, and as a physician? Is it still manageable to spend time with spouse/family and have free time?

  19. @mike
    Third year of medical school can be very time-intensive esp when you are on-call or have to stay up to read about a disease since the attending (senior doctor) may ask all kinds of questions (fair or unfair) during rounds. It really depends on the rotation. If you’re in the hospital as a med student, hours can be 7a-5p for a regular day or 7a to 1;30p the next day if on-call.
    Residency works the same way with the hours. Oftentimes, internship has only a certain allotted time for vacation…some offer 4weeks, some 2…depends on the program.
    It is manageable to have free time and spend time with family, though it can be quite challenging. 4th year of med school=tons of free time. Residency–not so much. What’s difficult about residency is that free time is mostly spent sleeping, esp if you’re really tired after working 24+hours.
    It all depends on you. If you want free time, you have to make it and schedule it in. If you want to go to a concert on a saturday night (when you have an exam on monday), you can sacrifice your friday and spend it studying. Sometimes, you can switch on-call schedules if you want with other interns to have a free evening. It’s tough, but doable. hope that helps!
    Dr. Divita

  20. @AS: Most cadavers dissected in anatomy lab are either people that donate their bodies to science or indigents that died in the street and nobody claimed the body who would have ended up being buried in an unmarked mass grave otherwise. All of the cadavers I dissected were of the latter kind.
    You are expected to do lab courses with animals. I worked with rats, rabbits and street dogs (gorgeous looking pure breed street dogs to boot). Some med schools also do lab classes with chicken embryos. You will inject drugs into animals, sacrifice animals and in a few cases even have to torture animals by injecting painful drugs into them or dissecting a live animal and connecting an apparatus to their heart of nerves and see how nerves react when you give the animal painful stimulation. I’m personally not a fan of these courses and didn’t learn much about treating patients while seeing a bunny screech in pain, but it’s something you’ll have to do. Or, you can religiously deny doing any of these things you hate and flunk the course.
    In my curricula we used the dogs to start practicing surgical operations on them. You are part of a team of 5 people and in every day that you have OR lab, you do a different job. In one operation you’re the anesthesiologist, another surgeon, another 1st or 2nd assistant or circulating nurse. The dogs are always sacrificed at the end of the operation even if the surgery isn’t life threatening. I was told you had to do it because the animals remember what it feels like to get injected anesthetics the first time and become aggressive the second time you try to dope them.
    If this is something you’re severely against, you probably won’t enjoy the first or second years of med school. Also remember a lot of doctors do research and you usually use lab animals for it.
    I personally didn’t find gross anatomy to be the hardest subject in med school. You memorize the content like a parrot, do the test and forget the intricate nerve and muscle connections later on realizing it isn’t obligatory to know absolutely everything in refined detail if you specialize. An OB/GYN doesn’t need to know the names of each muscle in someone’s foot for instance. I struggled usually with the easy “filler” subjects because of how lame and mostly uselessness of them, but each person is different. I personally find first year to be the easiest of med school because all you have to do is memorize everything, you don’t need to rationalize everything and I also didn’t have to commute that much in my first year either.

  21. @Andy
    Yes, med students help deliver babies with the resident or attending during the ob/gyn rotation. Also, med students hold retractors and suture during cesarean sections.

  22. Thanks Dr. Divita.
    So although students are expected to help deliver babies, are they ever required to fly solo, so to speak?
    And also, it was to my understanding the a surgical residency starts as soon as one finishes Med school. Is this correct?
    And lastly, I had heard that neurosurgery was it’s own residency, aside from regular surgery, is this true?
    Thanks for the answers Doc :].

  23. @Andy
    No medical students are never allowed to fly solo with a delivery. Unfortunately, it somehow happens in some medical school. That puts the mother at risk since med students are inexperienced.
    Yes, surgical residency does start soon after med school. One applies to residencies during 4th yr of medical school to compete for highly coveted spots.
    Typically from my understanding, if interested in surgery—apply to general surgery. Complete this training and then the resident can opt to train further in neurosurgery, plastic surgery, vascular surgery, etc.
    hope that helps!
    Dr. D

  24. How is Year 1 when you eat three meals a day and go to the gym REGULARLY the hardest year? By FAR year 3 with overnight call, presentations, board testing is the WORST!

  25. @Shyla
    I personally thought year 1 was the toughest. Each person is entitled to their own opinion. I enjoyed year 3, even w/ the o/n calls and presentations since this is real medicine and how residency is.

  26. Dr.Divita
    Thanks for the article. It helped me understand medical schools a lot better. I once was interested in going to medical schools while in college and finished some of pre-med prerequisite classes. To make a long story short, I ended up giving up going to medical schools due to the fear of rats. I was supposed to take biochemistry lab but couldn’t complete it. I seriously hate rats that I can’t even look at them. Even photos of rats scare me to death. I didn’t know what to do except to realize how stupid I am. Is working with rats a crucial part of finishing up medical school? Do professors allow replacement of animals if someone like me has a problem with a particular lab animal?
    I know how dumb this question is but I had to ask you.

  27. @ serious.
    I’m sorry, but I was laughing throughout your post in a good-natured way. lol I did notice that post on lab animals at one point. Lab animals were never part of my medical school training so I’m not exactly sure what med schools use animals.I have friends scattered across the US who attended med schools and never once encountered any animals. I’m only aware of vet schools using animals.
    If you still plan on applying to med school, I suggest you ask prior to submitting applications whether lab animals are used in gross anatomy…etc. b/c there are tons of med schools who train doctors without….
    hope that helps.
    Dr. D

  28. Dr. Divita
    Thank you for such a prompt answer. It is a huge relief to hear from you that not all med schools use lab animals, esp rats.
    One more quick question. Which department of med school should I contact? Should I talk to professors teaching gross anatomy?

  29. Dear Dr. Divita, i like your article. It has really boost my morale to be a doctor. I am now a college freshman. I have a question for you, which is better? Going straight to the medical after under-graduate studies or doing a nursing first and then take classes towards medical school??
    your answer will be very i

    • If it was me all over again. I would go straight back to going to Medical School right after. Once you get the taste of earning some money and having a relationship it will be harder to go back

  30. This is one great post you have. Very useful facts you have for all the people i medical scrubs. This also provide as a cue that there are various of challenges and trials ahead, and that this is just one beginning.

  31. @frank
    thank you. that’s my intention, to boost morale!
    Yes, what is going through your mind is exactly what many freshman in college try to figure out. Should I enter the school of nursing while taking premed prequisites?.
    Although tempting, unfortunately med school admissions committees may have qualms with taking that route.. since they may think you want to become a nurse instead of a doctor. Some will understand the “just in case” scenario but some doctors in the committee may question your drive to become a physician if nursing was a fall-back. This may harm an applicant, unfortunately.
    However, if you decide to pursue nursing and then practice for a few years —then decide to apply to med school, that is completely fine especially if you can prove why being a physician fits you more than being a nurse. I’ve known of nurses, paramedics and physical therapists going into med school after having a couple of years of experience.
    In the case the gpa wasn’t as high as you would like, there are numerous opportunities to strengthen your application…like taking higher level science courses, getting a masters or joining the peace corp or americorp for example, becoming an emt etc and doing that prior to med school. Med schools want the preqs combined with a major you enjoy (it doesn’t have to be bio).
    Unfortunately, nursing is not seen as a major but another profession altogether so it would be very difficult to show them you want to become a doctor if you decide to apply directly to medical school.. w/out experience as a nurse in the med field..and discover that profession is not for you.
    Sometimes, nurses practice for 2-5 years, figure out that they want XYZ and decide to apply to med school.
    If you intend to directly go to med school after college, you should major in biology or any other major while doing well in the prereqs.
    Safety vs. risk is the issue I think. Yes, admissions into med school is a risk and a huge gamble since it is super competitive.
    I hope this helps and I hope I didn’t stress you out! It is a lot to think about but remember, if you want to go to med school, you have to risk it all and not show admissions committees you have a fall-back plan.
    Dr. D.
    @ Diane
    thank you for your kind words.

  32. Dr. Divita,
    Thank you for your informative article. It really gave me some perspective into how Medical Schools play out. I did have one question though. I know what the difference between D.O and M.D programs are but within M.D programs for example.. Why would one choose a research school over a primary care school? is there a difference in whats taught?

  33. Hi Dr. Divita,
    It is my dream to be in medical school. I am 43 and currently attending a community college. I have completed about 50 credits thus far. I was going to go for nurse, but I really want to be a doctor. What do you think? All the prerequisite classes for nursing will be completed at my school when this semester is finished. I feel it’s better for me to try to get into med school now, and forgo trying to become a nurse because that’s what I really want to do. I don’t want to waste any more time.

  34. PS Do you think that 43 is too old for one to try and become an M.D.?
    Do I need a Bachelor to apply? Should I major in Bio and get an Associates degree in that?
    …and then also pick up advanced Chem classes as well as Physics? I’m matriculated for an A.S. degree right now.

  35. @Mike
    Its to my understanding that medical schools require a bachelors degree of any sort. You don’t need to major in bio and an associates is not required as 2/3 of applicants to medical school are biology related majors and the remaining 1/3 are liberal arts/ other majors not bio related. Medical schools look at this diversity but mainly your E.C’s, GPA, MCAT etc. I dont think 43 is too old, you will be considered a non-traditional student which attracts some sort of a special attention in my opinion. You will need to know advanced Organic/Inorganic Chem’s and Physics as well as General biology in order to take the MCAT and be successful. Hope this helps.

  36. Hi Med School,
    Indeed it does help. I’m halfway there already in terms of the application process/ Bachelor requirement. Now all I have to do is start hitting up those classes. Ha ha.
    How long is Med School itself? How long before one can actually start working?
    Physics is a tough one, I hear; and rightly so. Would I need to get an A in Physics? Or would a B suffice. I’m used to getting A’s though… I am considering taking a pre-physics class (to help understand the concepts). Then there are the pre-req classes to Physics which (correct me if I’m wrong) are Trig and pre-calc.
    Do I need Calc 1 & 2 also? It never ends. Ha ha

  37. Sorry, I guess the more specific question would be: what classes are required ( as Pre-req’s ) for Physics? I’m going to look into it now…

  38. I may just get a BSN. I’ve been getting classes “on the cheap” at the community college. The state of NJ now has transfer (articulation) agreements with certain 4-year universities whereby the 4-year will take ALL the credits, thus leaving only 2 years of study for a Baccceularette. I know, I know, I spelled it wrong – don’t feel like looking it up right now. I need to weigh my options, because I don’t have time to burn anymore. I don’t want to be like 48 or 50 years old in med school. Will I still have the cerebral ability ? Going by “the younger one is, the easier academia is” it might be easier going to school even a few years earlier. I don’t know. But doctors still maintain their cerebral ability throughout their career. Would they fare well if faced with the prospect of having to go back to school at 45 or 50? Just a thought. I would think, yes.
    I guess it doesn’t really matter. I’m attacking it from a more practical perspective. I hate my job, and wish the misery to end ASAP. If I could end it a few years sooner, than so be it. I need a more objective view of this, and more info.
    What’s your opinion? We’d like to know…

  39. @ Med school
    People typically choose a research vs primary care school based on their goals in life…for instance, if an individual wants to go into family practice, then it is best to go to a primary care-geared medical school because the primary focus will be on creating primary care physicians. If you’re into research, then its best to go to a research med school b/c of the opportunities available w/ PhDs. Sometimes, primary care oriented med schools don’t offer research opportunities at all(depends on the med school). I hope that helps!
    Dr. D

  40. @ med school
    no, there is typically no difference. There may be a class that focuses on primary care but the curriculum is usually more similar than different

  41. @ mike
    yes, it’s still possible to go to med school while in the 40s. It is true that it may be more difficult to adapt to the classroom setting esp if you’ve been in the working force for a long period of time. It’s not impossible to do this though. I’ve had classmates in their 50s go to med school and are now in residency.
    It’s a matter of your personal will and perseverance. It does take a lot of stamina though, much like a marathon. So if you’re up for a marathon, then you can handle med school!
    hope that helps!
    Dr. D

  42. Thank you DR Divita . for you sincere and encouraging post(at least to me), in fact there are many pros an cons in the medical career. im a college freshman and im considering becoming a doctor. i know that all that awaits is not a bed of roses and will require hardwork. i find it to be an interesting journey and worth it however iam having second thoughtss when deciding if i should take this journey, because you see im a foreign student in the US and im already having a hardtime paying for my college and paying medecine school would be almost if not impossible, the scary thouhght of earning a pre-med certificate and not being able to enter a medical school even with the best Gpa i can get(because i know i will get) haunts me everyday…. 🙁 what can i do… do you have an advice for me..? and anyone who does i would apreciate it very much .. thank you best to you all…

  43. Dr.D,
    Yes, that helps! Thank you. I’m graduating soon, so I’m going to most likely transfer to a 4-year, earn a BSN, take it from there.
    This site really helped and is very informative.
    Good luck to everyone!

  44. Hi Dr. Divita,
    I am debating switching from my current pre-veterinary path, to pre-medical. I have just a couple of questions I was hoping you could answer pertaining to acceptance into med school; something I’m certainly uneducated about.
    While all my other sciences, chem(inorganic and organic) bio, biochem have been or will be taken at the university, does it look bad to take physics at a community college? For veterinary school I know it doesn’t matter much, but what about med school?
    Also, how much do medical schools look into experience, such as volunteering at hospitals, undergrad internships, etc…? It is a large portion of acceptance?
    Thanks a bunch

  45. Hi! I went to med school overseas and find it incredibly stressful for US med students to study soo much material in only four years! My med school teaching lasted 5 years with one pre-medical year and one internship year ( after the 5 years). I can’t imagine having so many subjects crammed into MS1. At my med school, all we studied in MS1 and MS2 was anatomy, histology, physiology and biochemistry.

  46. @Nate
    Unfortunately, physics at a community college will typically not be favored in med school admissions. Admissions committees want to know that courses are taken at a university level. Of course, there may be exceptions to the rule so it’s best to ask the med schools in which you are interested.
    ALL of what you listed is a huge portion of med school admissions. They want to know you are well-rounded and not just a student who excels in the classroom.
    Hope that helps!
    Dr. D.

    • Really that suck’s! I’m 24 and I graduate with all my lower division classes from a community collage. The thing holding me back is that while my GPA from collage was very good 3.7. My GPA from my university was 3.010 so combined it might be in the 3.3 range. The good thing for me though should be that I graduate with a bachelors in bio medical engineering. I very tough and rigorous degree. Most of my classes include things like molecular engineering, biochemistry. So tough science classes I do have in my curriculum. I was thinking of studying super hard for the MCAT to make up for the GPA , volunteer and shadow doctors. But I don’t know if this might get me to the 2013 class. Specially since I want to get to UM in Florida. What should I do?

  47. @ john
    Your Welcome! I’m glad you find this article helpful.
    Yes, acceptance into med school is a huge risk/gamble and everythin else under the sun. Not only is it costly to do a premed postbac and apply to med school…but med school itself is no pocket change. That’s the honest truth.
    There are venues that can help though. There are external programs that may offer educational scholarships or simply, taking out a private loan can help as well. I know the money stuff is scary but if you do matriculate into med school, you can also join the navy or army and they will pay the ENTIRE cost of your education, books plus give you a large stipend. One of my friends did this and he doesn’t regret his decision to join the army. For example, residency can be done with the different bases like walter reed in DC..etc. Then there’s the National Health Service Corp. This is a service organization that serves rural and urban areas. This program also pays back med school debt. You just commit to doing primary care.
    Money may be an obstacle but there are always some ways to work around it. I hope this helps!
    If you pursue a premed postbac, and not get into med school, it’s not the end of the world. There are various avenues to take from there.

  48. Thank you Dr. D for taking the time to answer questions.
    I was one of your previous responses where you said physics at a community college may be detrimental to a med school applicant. I’m transferring to a university from a community college and want to get my med school prereqs all done, except for organic chem, before I transfer. I’m unsure if I’d be able to do all my prereqs after I transfer and still be able take the MCAT by my junior year. Plus I’ll be taking upper division classes for my major and don’t know if I could take all the science prereqs at the same time.
    So my question is this: for someone who is doing his freshman and sophomore years at a community college, do you recommend waiting to do the science prereqs until after I have transferred?

  49. That is exactly my concern too. I feel like I need to take my prereqs before I transfer or I will have to apply after I graduate and I don’t want to do that.

  50. @ Jason
    Your welcome!
    I do recommend that. However, I’m a little concerned over when you’re planning to apply to med school. Most premed students have their prereq’s done by soph-jr yr…ready to apply to med school senior yr…If you’re thinking of delaying your application until after graduation, then it is best to take the prereq’s at a university level.
    Again, there are always exceptions to the rule though.
    I hope this helps!
    Dr. D

  51. @ Jason.
    There is really no rush to enter med school. 🙂 Don’t worry about always following the prescribed “time line”. I, myself, didn’t enter directly after graduating. I wanted to get another degree…and live life a little prior to settling into a very rigorous training.
    One of my friends worked with Washington mutual prior to med school, another directly graduated from NYU, another did Americorp..etc….prior to med school. Some went to grad school–got a masters or PHd…While some just went directly to med school after college. Remember, don’t stress so much about the timing. It will all fall into place if your drive and perseverance is there! =)
    Take your time and don’t rush into things. Make sure your prereqs do count b/c it wouldn’t be so cool to repeat them at a university setting. Do your research too…ask lots of questions to the med schools and don’t be hesitant to do so. They will help!
    Hope this helps!
    Dr. D

  52. That is helpful Dr. D, thank you. You are right, I shouldnt rush, however I must admit I do feel quite behind already because I spent three years doing other things before going to school.

  53. Dr. D,
    I wanted to get your advice on a possible path to med school. I finish with my MPH in Epidemiology just over a year ago and have been working as an epidemiologist at a district health department since that time. I am finding that the most enjoyable part of my job is working in all of the counties with the local nurses and physicians, and the worst aspect is the inability to perform the medical procedures that I preach must be done. This is something that I’ve always wanted to do, but early on let myself stray off in different fields because early on I didn’t have my act together. However, I don’t have the org/inorg chem or physics under my belt, and I am now reading that I should expect to volunteer for a year or more before even applying. I assume I need to return to school in order to take the prereqs, but I’d like to know what you think would be the most efficient way of going about this. I know I can’t afford to be in a rush with this because I have to take some of the prereqs, but I also don’t want to let too much time slip away. I am currently 27 by the way, which may be what is pushing the time issue in my head. Thank you for any advice you can provide!

  54. @David L
    27 is so young!!! 🙂 No, I’ve had friends enter as young as 22 and as old as 45! I entered when I was 25.
    That is a definite plus since you are already working in some aspect of the medical field as an epidemiologist. If you decide to apply to med school, you would be considered a non-traditional applicant.
    There are numerous postbac programs that offer the prereq premed courses in a structured way :harvard extension, Columbia, UVA, etc. I have compiled a huge comprehensive list if you’re interested. Please take a look at link attached to my name.
    If I was in your shoes, I’d enroll in a full time postbac program or if you’d like you could enroll part-time and still work as an epidemiologist. The courses are intensive though, so that’s something to think about. These programs are geared toward med school admissions, offer advice on the volunteer opportunities available in the respective geographical areas, and off detailed info on the MCAT. Also, your role as epidemiologist with an MPH already sets you apart from the rest of the applicants. That, too, can be a wonderful topic for discussion in your med school personal statement!!
    Please let me know if you have any other q’s as I’d be happy to help!
    Dr. D

  55. hey Dr. D,
    hi i m a freshmen high school student in IB in 9th grade. This article was really a great help. i understand medicle school a lot better now. As my seneior years are aproching i started thinking about careers or majors i would be intrested in. one of my major carrers i decided was gynecologist. I am a pretty good student. but when i hear about the stress in medical school and the sacrificing of social life it scares me. my friends as far as i know will get there jobs and be settles till there mid 20’s.if i do all this years of studying i will be in my 30’s by the time i am done which is quite old. also the amount of work and sleppless night scraes me. To think that i wont have a social life all those years [if compared to the way i party now] but i really want to be a gynecologist and have the same fun i do now. i am ready to sacrifice some of it but the way i see it other people describing is scary. please help me! is medical a right option for me? should i give more thought for this? is there a alternate way? is this how you were scared when you thought about going to med school? how was your or your fellow mates social life really like?
    [you must be also wondering that it is too early for me to think about this but i have to now because of soem family problems]

  56. 11:24pm
    Medical school is not easy. There are a lot of sacrifices in terms of social life, relationships, etc. but it is all about balance. I was never ever scared to enter med school. I knew it was what I was meant to do in life and regardless of the sacrifices, it was worth it.
    Many people do think social life has gone buh-bye forever but that is simply, not the truth. Formals, parties, get-togethers with friends exist especially AFTER exams. Med students know how to study but they also know how to have fun. I made great and lasting life-long friends in med school and had fun studying/going out with them. Sure, we became delirious and joked about being in the gross anatomy lab on a sat night but studying with friends are social events too…trouble is..talking about stuff other than med school can get distracting but we always return full circle..we all graduated, right?! lol
    yes, you are young. As a 9th grader, you still have some life experiences to go thru…and you’ll definitely gain some wisdom and learn along the way. As you get older (well at least for me).career starts to outweigh partying…til there’s actually a balance between the two if that makes sense.
    Hope that helps!
    Dr. D

  57. Dr. D.
    thanks for your help, i realy appricate it and i also feel better about this.
    not that confused [lol]

  58. I have a question not about pre-med in general but do you think getting into pharmacy right now when there are so many students in pharmacy and not being able to get jobs out of pharmacy school a bad choice?

  59. @Baby MD
    Your posts made me chuckle at the same time that they made me wiggle in my seat screaming, “It’s Not About The Money!!” I could hear the sly smirk behind the posts, trying to talk people out of achieving what you yourself [may] have already accomplished.
    After all of work of undergrad, preparing for the dreaded MCAT, trying to stand out as an applicant by volunteering, and shadowing-trying in some way to show the admissions committee that you want to go medical school because you care about and truly want to help people; after fighting through 2 information dense years and countless sleepless nights on call dealing with attendings who know you’re the bottom of the totem pole and treat you as such, after the USMLE (or COMLEX-USA)… after all of that, the reward is that for the rest of your life, you get to come home knowing you made a difference in some ones life in the best way that you knew how. Sure, being a doctor isn’t the only way to help people, but its the route in life that lets us use the talents we have to the best use.
    People choose to be doctors not because it is easy (we know it isn’t), or because they will get a lot of money or for some sense of prestige- they do it because they feel it is their place in life, it is their way to reach out and touch people.
    Or at least, that is why I chose this path.
    @Dr. Divita
    Thanks so much for the outline. It added to my determination to press on.

  60. @julie
    I think pharmacy is yet another great profession! Of course, certain challenges lie ahead in terms of the job market but you are a new graduate…there will always be a place for you somewhere. 🙂 All that work does pay off. Lots of pharmacists are even setting up their own businesses as well. So that’s something to think about—probably making connections with more established pharmacists, just a food for thought! Plus, hospitals employ pharmacists regularly from my understanding.
    I have two friends who are graduating from podiatry school this yr…they were concerned over the fact that more students exist than residency spots but both got placements! so, it may seem like a matter of chance but you’ll be ok! you have a professional degree…you’ll never be out of a job. If so, when one door closes…one will easily open. Hope this helps! and good luck!! 🙂
    Dr. D
    @ Lena
    thank you for your kind words. Keep on keepin on! you can do it!! =)

  61. is woman a factor for becoming a doctor. A lot of people will say ” it is not a job for women because of long hours, time-spending oncall, no time for family” but i see female doctor everywhere too.

  62. @me as rose
    Well, that’s the “old school” sexist way of thinking. Unfortunately, a few older doctors and some people still think that way. 🙁
    Women are capable of having it all—at least the strong determined ones who realize that life is more than work. But unlike other professions, being a physician is unlike no other. You are dealing with lives and not clients or customers etc that you can easily leave behind. You absolutely cannot leave your patients behind. Being a physician, you become part of their lives. They tell you personal details about their health and history. Being a physician is a privilege to get to know people as people and to help them live their lives right.
    Your medical knowledge and skills are utilized to help save a life…you have a huge responsibility and it has to be an impt priority but that doesn’t mean family suffers either.
    Remember, that the long hours/on-call etc only really exists during residency training. When you’re a full-fledged physician working in a group practice for instance (unfortunately, this does not count for women who go into gen surgery/ortho surgery, neonatology,and other work intensive environments etc), there is much more flexibility (like in pediatrics, internal med and specialities etc). 9-5 p and sharing call w/ other docs. You can also dictate (from what some docs told me) how many patients you see each day. If makin money is your priority, some docs become workaholics while others see like 15 to 20 patients/day and end by 5p.
    Unfortunatley, there are doctors that work work work and never ever see their children grow up, never see their spouse or significant other etc. But that was their choice. A physician’s life doesn’t have to be that way if don’t want it to be….
    Personally, family will always overrule job. If a child has a recital or something…plan ahead, switch calls, have someone cover for you. just an example. I’ve worked with women docs who have small kids and work part-time for a bit and go full-fledged when the child is in school. sooo, it all depends how you prioritize your medical career vs. your family life. It can be done!!
    Hope that helps!
    Dr. D

  63. Thank you for a wonderful email letter. I have this question in my mind for such a long time since my daughter is pursuing med school.
    I am pretty sure that i will show her your letter. From now on , i know how to stand up for the old school sexiest belief.

  64. This was an informative post and appreciated every word. I have a bit of a dilemma and would like your advice. I graduated from nursing school about two years ago, and since then I have been working as a nurse in general medicine so I get to see a little bit of everything. I absolutely love the time I get to spend with my patients, but I realized early on in the hospital that I’m quite limited in amount of independence/autonomy that I have, which I really do not like. And even though I feel like I have the skill and the knowledge to take care of my patients exceptionally well, there is definitely a big medical knowledge gap, between what I know and what an intern would know. These are just two of many reasons I’ve been considering a change. I’ve done a lot of thinking, soul searching, and research about this and I’m pretty sure I would like to pursue medicine. I actually have all the pre-requisites completed, but there’s a lot of room for improvement, which is why I’m applying to a post-bacc program for the Fall 2010 school year.
    But my dilemma is this: although there are limitations and some not-so-great aspects about the job (and I know there’s unpleasant aspects in any job), I still think I could be perfectly content working as a nurse for many more years, and that I would be perfectly okay if I did a nurse practitioner program later on in life. Right now I have a good job, with good pay, and good opportunities for advancement. And yet despite this, I still want to pursue a career in medicine. Post-bacc programs are not cheap and neither is med school, I know it’s a tonne of time, money and effort, and at the earliest, I would be starting med school at the age of 28 (not that i’m all that hung up about age, but it is something I think about at times in terms of marriage and starting a family) plus working as a nurse in the hospital I see the ridiculous hours some of the residents work, so a part of me thinks i’ve absolutely lost my mind for wanting to give up the good thing I’ve got going for myself right now, but the other part of me thinks I would really really really regret not pursuing a career in medicine. I know that ultimately the decision is mine to make, but I’m interested in hearing your thoughts and taking in any advice you may have. Thx!

  65. Hi Dr. D.,
    Like others have said, great article! I’d like to ask your opinion on something. I’m almost 29 and am finishing my master’s degree in medical science. I did ok during my undergrad (GPA was 3.8) and ok on the mcat (31), tho i have been unsuccessful at getting into medical school after 4 years of applying up here to Canadian schools. As a back up, I decided to apply to a few Caribbean schools, and I was invited to interview at St. George’s, but the problem lies in the fact that I would be an IMG.
    I’m not sure how much you know about foreign medical training and difficulties in returning to work in other countries (Canada, in this case), but despite being close to finally getting into med school, I am somewhat reluctant now to pursue the Caribbean route. An alternative that I’m kind of considering is waiting an extra year and applying to a bunch of US schools – I think I’d have a good chance, a better chance than getting into a Canadian school – because it’s easier to obtain the residency you want if you are a US grad.
    It’s a tough decision for me, but I think I’d prefer to just start school and go to the Caribbean, not waste any more time, and tackle the hurdles as an IMG when they come. Any thoughts, comments, or advice from you or any other readers would be greatly appreciated!

  66. @slightchange
    I’m glad you found this article informative!
    Honestly, there are many nurses/NP’s out there in your shoes! You’re not alone. I have a friend you was a NP and was going exactly thru the same thing.
    Nursing is a great profession (I have friends and family members in the profession). I agree, a lack of autonomy can cause a little frustration sometimes esp if you have the personality of a doctor (organized, want to get things done, combo of type A and B personality). I have friends and family members who are nurses and they all complain and like certain things about the profession:
    In fact, there are advantages and disadvantages to both professions:
    Advantages: Shift work, close patient-centered care, camaraderie among the nurses, good salary
    Disadvantages: lack of autonomy, sometimes lack of respect from certain departments (per nurse-friends and fam)….sometimes the fault lies upon the nurse. (again, this is from my friend’s vent session…not my experience)
    Advantage: Autonomy, respect, well-compensated (depending on field), have the opportunity to be a part of a patient’s life—have the education/knowledge to change the face of medicine….
    Disadvantages: Long hours during med school/residency, 160-250K debt, lots of sacrifices
    My advice: live a life without regrets. Do what your heart says rather than what your mind tells you. If you want to go to med school, I think you should go thru a postbac and just apply to med school—see what happens. If you get in, you still have the option of declining or going—but having that option waiting in the wings can be beneficial in making your ultimate decision. In either case, it’s a win-win situation. If you want to pursue NP or physician–both are great professions. I understand your concern about being 28 and still thinking about marriage and kids down the how is this gonna fit with the crazy hours? I’ve had friends who were married and pregnant while in med school and some who are now pregnant and married in residency!!—it’s craziness but it can be done!! 🙂 It does take a lot of work but if you’re up for a bit of a challenge, being a physician is rewarding and a profession like no other.
    Wow, I think I wrote another article!! I hope this helps! 🙂
    Good luck on your future endeavors and feel free to ask any more q’s!
    Dr. D

  67. @Ted_K
    Thank you for your kind words. I’m glad you found this article helpful! that’s my main aim 🙂
    Your situation is another common situation med students face. Should I keep applying until I get into a US/Canadian med school or go to a Carribean School?
    Your stats are excellent and you have a masters in med science too. that’s awesome! How are your extracurriculars?
    If I were in your shoes, I would go to the med school that accepts me and not wait any longer. It really doesn’t matter what med school you go to…whether you graduate from Harvard Medical School, Chicago College of Osteopathic Medicine, Ross University or St. George’s SOM—if you have the drive to become a physician, you will become one—jump all the hurdles/obstacles you need in order to reach your ultimate goal. You will get there with tons of perseverence and coffee!!
    In hindsight, patients do not care what med school you graduated long as a physician is competent, compassionate and empathetic. When you enter a patient’s room, they don’t ask you “hey, what med school did you go to?” What they notice is your bedside manner…how you greet them, how you treat them,communicate w/ them.. how you examine them etc.
    Of course, a US med school will allow for an easier transition to residency but getting into a residency as an IMG is not impossible. I have a friend who is a 4th yr at Ross and he is getting residency interviews left and right. I’ve even met students from St. George’s when I was interviewing for residency all over the US. It’s a good mix of US med students and IMG students.
    Your med school of choice just provides a basic medical foundation but it is ultimately you who holds the reigns on becoming the type of doctor you want to become! 🙂
    I hope this helps!
    Good luck and feel free to ask any more q’s!
    Dr. D
    If being a physician is what you want, go to the school that gives you the education and degree.

  68. Dr. D,
    Thank you for your sincere, knowledgeable and helpful advice, I will go to whichever school accepts me and do what I need to do to get where I want to be. it’s intimidating to think of what i might have to face in the future, but anything worth having won’t come easy.
    Btw, I think my extracurriculars are pretty good – I have over 500 hours of volunteering in a clinical setting, as well as too many hours to count now in a research setting; I’m a fairly accomplished athlete in numerous sports, including success in international competition; and I have been teaching karate and serving part-time throughout university. Looking forward to (hopefully) finally being on the other side of the doctor-patient relationship!
    Sincerely, thank you very much for your input! cheers! and good luck to all my fellow med school applicants – be persistent!

  69. @ TedK
    I’m glad I can offer some words of inspiration 🙂
    Remember, as Tommy Thompson (former Secretary of the US Health and Dept of Human Services said in a commencement address—-
    “So be bold and be humble. Go out, grab hold of the world and make a difference. And in doing so, take care to touch gently the face of your fellow man. For that will make the greatest difference of all”
    So go out, grab hold of the world, meet the challenges and make a difference in this world…no matter what path you have to take!
    Best of luck to you!!

  70. Thank you Dr. D!
    You made some valuable points that I will for sure consider. An outside perspective can be quite refreshing, considering I’ve been mulling over this for quite some time, so i really appreciate your advice. And thank you for that reminder that I’m not the only nurse that’s dealt with this dilemma! That actually helped me feel a lot better:)
    This is what I do know, since I’m already in the process of applying to a post-bacc, at the very least, I’ll see the application through (hopefully I actually get into the post-bacc!) and then take I can take it from there. Thanks again! 🙂

  71. Dr. D,
    How are you?
    I have been reading your MD and RN comparisons and I want to be an MD.
    I did all the prereq courses for RN e.g, A&P 1&2; Chem; Micro; all the humanities and gen-ed classes, etc.
    I now have to move on to the Bachelors and volunteer work. Any suggestions? Will Med school accept credits from a community college for Organic Chem and Physics? Or do I need to do these “pre-med” courses at a 4-yr.? What classes do you recommend?
    I can get a bachelor in about 2 yrs I suppose if I hustle.
    Thanks, =)

  72. @Mike
    In order to become a physician (MD or DO), you must do all your prereq premed courses at a 4 yr university. Of course, there are always exceptions to the rule but most med school committees compare applicants against tons of other applicants who go to such schools as NYU, U of Arizona to Yale. So it is critical you do your premed prereq’s at an accredited university where the standard of grading is somewhat rigorous.
    There is no need to rush to get a bachelors—if you do, I suggest transferring to a 4 yr university and getting the majority if not all of your premed courses there.
    The Premed Classes required for med school admissions include the following:
    1) 1 yr General BIology
    2)1 yr of Calculus I and II
    3)1 yr of General Chemistry w/ Lab
    4) 1 yr of Organic Chemistry w/ Lab
    5) 1 yr of Physics w/ Lab
    6) Writing composition course
    Sometimes, some med schools recommend you take genetics, psychology, etc.
    Also, it is impt to seek a university with an excellent premedical program. You want to be guided and not left alone in the dark to fend for yourself. That’s crucial to gaining successful admissions sometimes—the reliability of your premedical committee. When you’re in college, you’re still figuring out the ropes…figuring out your career and need as much help and support as necessary.
    For volunteering opportunities, the following is a brief list:
    1) Hospital volunteer
    2) EMT
    3) Americorp or Peacecorp volunteer
    4) volunteer @ a free clinic
    5) shadow physicians
    6) work w/ your state’s Dpt of Health
    7) Clinical or Lab research
    I hope this helps! Good luck! 🙂
    Dr. D

  73. Dr. D.,
    I’m really feeling inspired by your responses!
    I graduated a couple of years ago with a BA in International Studies. After having experienced four years of chronic pain, I began to be drawn to the healthcare field. I took a year of premed courses for school at a local community college and fell in love with them! I have about a year and a half to two years more of prerequisite requirements left. I have two questions:
    1. In my case, having already received a bachelor’s degree, would you still strongly suggest that I take my remaining premed classes at a four-year university rather than at a community college?
    2. My chronic pain is caused by bilateral carpal tunnel syndrome. I had surgery to correct it about a year ago, but it came back. I’m planning to get surgery again, however, I can’t be 100% sure that I won’t relapse again. I have no problem using dictation programs on the computer, but it is way too painful to have a job that requires typing. I know doctors often use voice recognition programs and medical transcription services to avoid extensive data entry. My question then is, as a student in medical school will I be able to get through the program in my condition? I know that I can get through classroom part of learning, but would I be required during clinical rotations/residency to use computers without dictation programs? Would I be writing up charts? Would I be required to lift patients, or anything else that might exacerbate a repetitive strain injury? I guess my second question turned into several…
    I just feel that there has to be a way for me to fulfill my dream of helping people in this way. As someone who has experienced disability and who has compassion for others in similar situations, I think that I would be a good candidate for medical school.
    Thank you so much for any help and advice to give! There just has to be a way!

  74. @Catherine.
    Thank you! I’m glad you feel inspired! 🙂 That is why I started my business in the first place…to inspire premed students to go for their dreams despite ANY obstacles!
    1. I’m not exactly sure how classes at a community college would be weighted in med school admissions. I just know that the courses must be taken at the university level with somewhat rigorous grading. I suggest emailin a couple of med schools to see what they say. Things may have changed since the time I applied. Hope that helps!
    2. Medical schools do not and SHOULD not discriminate based on health conditions. I’ve had classmates w/ cancer and one who was partially deaf…med schools will work with you especially if they see your drive, determination and potentially to become a caring, compassionate and excellent physician. Since med school rotations don’t really occur until year 3, med schools have time to find a specific program for you so that you will not have to type and use repetive hand movements.
    as a med student/ resident, you will be required to learn procedures though like lumbar puncture, suturing..etc and write in charts and type info into the computer and that requires fine hand movement…perhaps, you might consider hands-off types of medicine like psychiatry if you’re worried about hand-use w/ your carpal tunnel. Are you interested in this field? If you tell doctors you work w/ ahead of time, they will work w/ you esp if they know you’re going into another field that’s hands-off like psychiatry.
    I hope this helps! 🙂
    Dr. D

  75. Thanks so much for the advice! I’ve considered Family, Pediatrics, Ob/GYN, a dual MD/Masters of Public Health and Pain Management/Physical Medicine/Rehabilitation. Would any of these residencies be involved with less hand use if my carpal tunnel syndrome continues?
    You’re awesome! You have really provided a valuable service by having a website like this!

  76. Dr. Divita,
    I’m hoping my background with make me standout as an applicant. Although I don’t dare compare PA school to med school, your article reminded me of that time since we took alot of the same classes you mentioned plus many of my clinical rotations were side by side with medical students (OB-GYN, PSYCH, Emerg Med, etc). I’m a 38yr old PA with 5 years of experience having worked in Primary care, orthopedics, interventional pain management and spine and neurosurgery (one of the beauties of being a PA has been the flexibility of being able to switch specialities to figure out what you really like with completing a residency). I really enjoy my job now as a Spine PA (I love the O.R. and seeing successful pt outcomes during followups)but am constantly reminded and frustrated by the limitations and second guessing by nurses, patients, residents (I’m at a teaching hospital) from other services just because I’m a PA. To further add to my “non-traditionalness”, I’m a Navy Reserve Intelligence Officer (Lieutenant Commander)(former active duty for 8 yrs prior to getting out and going to PA school) currently deployed in Iraq for a year. I stayed intel because I have so much seniority it would have been rank reduction and economically shooting myself in the foot by going into the Navy PA community. Also, I’m married with two kids (5 and 8). Am I crazy for even considering med school at this time of my life? In your experience, for non-traditional applicants do med schools weigh the MCAT (I haven’t taken yet) as heavily as traditional applicants and do they really take into account life experiences and maturity as a measure of potential success? I am not disillusioned about what physicians endure in training and practice. I’ve seen it first hand. But I still have this smoldering dream of becoming a physician that has persisted through the years. What are your thoughts doctor?

  77. Dr Divita,
    Correction to the above “(one of the beauties of being a PA has been the flexibility of being able to switch specialities to figure out what you really like with completing a residency).” It is WITHOUT completing residency, as I’m sure you knew.

  78. IntelPA-C – It’s great to read a response like yours on this website. I’m frankly quite surprised at the number of posts by money-driven aspiring doctors. I wonder if they’d be willing to sign their full names to posts like that and chance having a med school admissions officer read their comments.
    I’m starting a postbac-premed program in the fall, and don’t have a family yet myself, so I can’t answer your question about whether med school is crazy for someone with two kids or not from a position of personal experience.
    But I do want to share with you the story of a family from my church. The father worked in the oil business for much of his career. Then his daughter was born with a congenital eye defect. An Opthamologist was able to correct it with surgery.
    He was so moved by the experience that he decided he wanted to become an Opthamologist as well. Long story short, he did it. With one child already, and had another during medical school.
    So from what I’ve seen of life, if you burn to do something, you will find a way to do it, and you had BETTER do it, because your heart won’t let you rest until you do.

  79. I did not do well my first year of medical school (failed a few classes). Is this going to hurt my chances for the future with residency? or residency placement?
    Do I give up now or keep going?

  80. Hello everyone, am new to this site. am joining medschool next year and wondering if am too old to study medicine. am 33 yrs. i like to specialise in endocrinology or surgery adn ive heard from a birdie that its hard to get in to specialities likle surgery when a person is my age. iam hoping to get some feed back from you all wonderful people.

  81. Medical school seems non-stop with so mang rotations and classes! I’m looking forward to it and this article gave me a great visualization of what to expect in the comong years. On a side note, the bottom of the totem pole (the painter/creator of it) is regarded with he highest respect contrary to popular belief; the top has the least respect since it comes last in production. Thanks again for a great article!

  82. med skool kinda sucks.. A LOT.. the best part is the learning part. thats the part when we found out about how our body works but the suck part is the exam.. and trust me, the best doctors weren’t the best medical students..

  83. hi i read anesthesialogy i love medical sience my mark is a best for example anatomy 20,phisiology 20,pharmaco 17,plz help me i want go there ,

  84. Thank you for this article, it was really useful. I really want to do medicine as I love science, and I really hope to go into Emergency Medicine or Neuroscience. But I want to live as well! When you’re studying for Med, do you get any time for yourself?
    I love writing, so I want to publish a novel in the future – would that be possible? Thanks in advance.

  85. Hi im currently a freshman in college, undecided major. I have been thinking about med school etc. It seems interesting and I’m great with people. Also the pay would be great as well. My main flaw is math. I have always been terrible at math. Do you have to do alot of that in the science classes needed? and then in med school as well? Im not quite sure what i would enjoy most but thinking along the lines of radiologist, or radiology in general. What would be the best career choice in your opinions in the medical field? Just not sure at all what to pick. Or if i would make it through med school..
    thanks, ben

  86. You forgot to mention the 30+ credit hours/semester. Its not that the courses are that difficult its the amount of them you take at once. Its bootcamp for the brain. And to the poster who mentioned people becoming docs for the money its really a sad concept because ultimately you dont make much if you factor in the 10-12 years of paying to be a doctor in the first place. And if you do make much your probably working 90+ hours a week which I can only imagine is not worth the dough. I mean no disrespect to these people especially the ones who know what they are getting into but you really need to have your heart in the right place.

  87. Hello,
    I am a sophomore in college and I am a premed student. Right now I am taking organic chemistry with lab, biology and physics with lab for premed and I am finding the work load extremely challenging. I have been questioning my goals alot recently, especially because most of the time I don’t enjoy the premed classes I’m taking and although I’m working harder than I ever have, my grades are not reflecting my efforts (to me). I’ve been wondering: if premed is this difficult for me, how will I handle medical school? The only problem is that I LOVE biology, especially biology lab, I think the human body is fascinating and when I picture becoming a doctor, I like what I see. If there is anyone out there who has already gone through this process I wouldn’t mind hearing tips to succeed at premed classes. Also, I know that I need to get some professional medical experience in order to really qualify for medical school. Does anyone have any suggestions about what I might enjoy the most?

  88. Mark, its definitely not twice as much work as college. I would put the workload at…22-25 credit hours a semester. Of course, your undergrad experience may have been easier or harder than normal.
    Med school is hard but you can do 8 hours of actual studying/class a day and do relatively well. Its not that bad.

  89. @ Ashley: Don’t want to discourage you, but if you are truely struggling in premed, there are both practical and personal things you should take into account for med school. Practically, you say your grades don’t reflect the effort you are putting in. If this means that your science GPA is low (<3.5) I think you are going to have a difficult time getting into school at all, unless you blow the MCAT out of the water. Also, I feel like its not that helpful to think of med school in credit hours because at least for me, it doesn't feel that way. You may be busy with class/clinic/pbl/whatever from 8-4pm more or less every day, but usually you are only taking 2 classes at a time which makes it easier to focus I think. That said, I don't care what anyone says, you definitely cover a full semester of undergrad material in one month. So this gets into the personal component. Maybe developing a more efficient study method will help (talk to your peers) but do realize that med school is SIGNIFICANTLY more difficult than undergrad and you are going to be in there with many very talented people.
    @ Ben: You don't need math at all. I hate/suck at math and am attending a well ranked med school and doing well. You will need to pass calculus and do stunningly well in everything else but in my experience, if the rest of your transcript is excellent, a B in math is a non issue.

  90. I am a junior in a private school and looking into a healthcare field. I like working with my hands as in surgical specialties but do not care for the years of training. Dental school with the option for Oral Surgery looks interesting but someone suggested podiatry. I have questions about podiatry that seem not to get answered. Is podiatry accepted as a viable healthcare field or is it sort of a chiropractic field on the fringe of acceptance. I want a career with a future not some fly-by-night doctorate and lots of student loans to repay.
    I was looking at the “Why I chose podiatry,” thread and is podiatry a legitimate profession or the confusing mess that is populated by stoners? My GPA 3.6 and I am considering dental school or DO school, the offshore MD schools are a possibility. I have been looking at podiatry but it really looks frightening. Have any of you MD students any experience with Podiatry?

  91. Hi there, I’m Ethan and I am just simply a high school student. I have been reading all of these posts, and they were very helpful to me. Recently, I have really been looking into medicine and what it takes to get there. I have already looked into the college I plan to attend’s pre-med program and discussed (vaguely) with their admission representative about it. For starters, I would like to consider myself as a bright kid, but not absolutely brilliant. I truly enjoy helping people, which I must be honest, is what draws me to medicine the most. I have learned to enjoy school and particularly science in general, but I don’t have an absolute burning passion for it. From the information I have gathered I have come to conclude that this is a big part of the process. 😉 I truly feel like I can do anything I set my mind to, even if that means learning to enjoy studying and LOVE learning. I feel like I can get through college as a pre-med major and be successful with great grades, and a good amount of medical experience. Although, I KNOW that it would not be easy. I am the kind of person who has to work to get it down pat. But, it makes me wonder if I could make it through med school if I had a rough time being successful in college. I have had the opportunity to talk to a veterinarian, who is obviously not an M.D., but regardless a D.V.M, who did go through vet school, which I hear has its similarities to med school. He told me that through his experience it all comes down to how hard you work and that being determined with good study habits can be the deciding factor of a bright person succeeding in med school and a brilliant person (who lacks study habits) being unsuccessful. Anyways, thank you for taking time to read this and if you don’t mind, would someone mind giving me some advice on whether I am on the right track as far as the preperation process goes? Good luck to all of you med students or soon to be med students. You truly are special people for pursuing such a valuable career. 🙂

  92. am tyring to evaluate my chances of getting into a medical school in the United States. I am currently working as a certified Nuclear Medicine Technologist in two different hospitals for 7 years now. I graduated with an Associate in Nuclear Medicine Technology with a 3.94 GPA. I went back to school for a BS. During this time I add a few ‘W’s one ‘WF’ and one ‘D’ all in sciences due to family emergencies. So I was on academic probation but now I have a 3.75 GPA and earning a BS in Radiologic Science in May 2011. i still have to take organic chemistry. I am a volunteer for the GA state defense force on weekends for a year now(duties include search and rescue. I have traveled to Haiti for two medical misssion trips. My credentials include certified nuclear medicine technologist, Advanced cardiac life support and Basic life support.My job duties include medical diagnosis and therapies.(PET/CT, Nuclear Cardiology). Given this background although not the best background what are my chances of securing a post in a medical school in the United States if my MCAT score is 25? Thanks.

  93. hi everyone, im Zohaniya and im a highschool student(im 16)i was just wondering which high school years do american university look at grades 10 ,11 or 12 ? which grade is the most important besides grde 12?

  94. Hey I just wanted to say that I am also a Pre-Med with the same worries and conflicts as those listed above. I am not a math whiz, nor am I an absolute genius in the other fields either. But I can Say, without a doubt, is that I will work hard. I will put in the time to complete my goals, and so far this mindset has helped me maintain a 4.0 gpa. I have not taken my o-chem, but I know that I will do my best, and I am confident it will be enough. It seems the question everyone is asking is ” am I good enough for med-school?” but the real question should be “can I really say I am giving my all?” It seems the road s long and full of doubts, but as long as you put your whole heart and soul into it, you can expect the best outcome. Oh and get good letters of rec lol

  95. I’m 6 months into my first year of med school, and it’s strange reading all these comments from pre-meds, it’s like listening to my past self. Anyway, med school is more work and studying than I’ve ever done, but it’s still easy to have a life outside of it. I’m able to go out on weekends, and sometimes weekdays too. I also have time to waste by going on sites like this. Almost all schools are pass/fail, so if your priority is socializing, family, etc, aim for the pass line. Do you know what they call the top ranked and the lowest ranked medical student at graduation?…Doctor.

  96. I hate med school. I hate the fact that they test you on so little but required you to know so much. I hate the fact that I am doing worse than my classmates, because they are all so smart. I hate how I am so sleepy all the time and everyone sleep during lectures anyway, that’s basically our future doctors. I hate how I am sitting hear with my book and letting the world pass me by.
    Med school really isn’t for everyone. You would THINK its possible but when you get there, you start to think, is this even possible ? There is NO WAY I can learn genetics in a week. Guess what ?
    I agree with the writer above, med school will push you to your definite capabilities. Just when you think you can’t possibility go on, they push you to go even further.
    But as much as I hate it, I wouldn’t change it for the world. I like challenges and I love failures, and that is why I am in med school.

  97. i’m a medical student studying in nigeria and would like to get a license in the states when i’m through end i know i have to go through e bit of your medical school. pls anyone with info. will be well appreciated

  98. As a veterinary student, I read through this article just to see how the two types of schooling compared as far as the material goes. It seems to be about the same, although our third year has more classwork than clinical elements. As far as my experience in vet school goes, it is definitely a lot of studying. More than twice what I did as an undergrad, but I was one of those students who did well without having to do a lot of studying.
    My main comment is in response to someone else’s:
    “Do you know what they call the top ranked and the lowest ranked medical student at graduation?…Doctor.”
    Sure, you can get by doing the bare minimum, but what kind of doctor will that make you when you graduate? Would you be willing to admit to a patient that you got through medical school with that kind of attitude? Would you trust the care of your loved ones with someone who graduated at the bottom of their class? And is that what you really went to medical school for, just to be called doctor? Or did you go to medical school to help people?
    That being said, the best piece of advice I can give is to not be caught up as much in grades as you were as an undergraduate (which you had to in order to actually get into med/vet school). Instead of worrying about grades, worry about truly learning the material. That is what will make you an outstanding doctor.

  99. @Sarah B.
    Hi, I’m Jim, currently finishing up my 2nd year of MD/PhD training. That means I’m finishing the 2nd year of medical school, and will be moving on to my PhD for the next 3-5 years.
    I understand your comments about “aiming for the pass line,” but allow me to assure you that if you have reached the pass line in a pass/fail medical school, you are well qualified to become a doctor. Pass/fail systems are intentionally designed to ensure that every student is well prepared for becoming a physician, regardless of how they compare to their classmates. The entire idea behind the switch is exactly so that students do not compare themselves to one another, thereby reducing the immense about of stress already placed upon medical students.
    I will also say that the difference between the student who reaches a pass at 70% and a student who achieves 90%+ in the basic science coursework is not likely to make a large difference in clinical aptitude. There is a significant amount of “specialist” knowledge that will make no difference to a particular physician unless they enter that specialty. For instance, in order to get 90%+ in pathology, you will be required to know every specific genetic mutation/chromosomal translocation for a wide array of cancers, know how to identify an immense array of diseases and cancers by histology, etc. Unless you become a pathologist, you are unlikely to ever have any utility for this information in your career, because you will be relying on a specialized pathologist for the information. What is more important is to understand disease processes, how to rationalize and critically think through a diagnosis, and why you suspect a diagnosis. For instance, it is far more important that I can identify that a young male Pt coming in with fatigue and an onset over the course of several weeks needs to be evaluated for hematologic malignancy etc.
    I could go on and on, but the core of the issue is that our medical knowledge is expanding beyond what is reasonable for any individual to master. We are going to be forced to rely more and more on specialized medicine, whether we like it or not.

  100. @sarah from Nigeria- I have two cousins who have done this. One of them took the USMLE, performed VERY well and then entered the match. She matched into IM and is now about to start her fellowship.
    Another opted to study for her MPH and then I believe she took her boards afterwards (not 100% certain), and then she matched into peds.
    There are alot of Nigerians who have done this, but I don’t know how this compares to Nigerians who weren’t able to. My guess also is that they have to perform much better on the boards to get a good match than US-trained physicians. Sorry that I can’t be much help regarding how you would do this, but at least you now know its possible.

  101. Hi everyone, i’m a 3rd year premed student and I really want to become a doctor. In fact it has been my greatest dream since i was a kid. Everytime i see doctors, during our clinical exposure, doing their rounds, getting the patient’s chart for medical orders, etc., I always ask myself, can i really become a doctor? or can i really do well in med school? sometimes my negative side drives me to become pessimistic.I have this lack of confidence in myself that i can do things like what others can.
    Can anyone help me how to think positive? coz, right now i am still in doubt if i can pursue my dream in life..

  102. Hi I’m currently a 2nd year student and I also feel like I am trying really hard and not getting the grades that equate to my efforts. I know going to med school, completing your education, and establishing your degree is a long and arduous process. What does anyone have to say about stopping your education for a year before committing to 6-7 years of studies, clinical rotations?

  103. hi, i’m currently a freshman in college and I have so many questions. I was wondering did anyone find the mcats challenging? Are there times where doing your absolute best is not good enough? How heavily do the people that review med school applications look at or rely on college transcripts/ GPA’s/volunteer work and jobs? Any feedback is appreciated!

    • I had a chemistry classmate who recently took the MCAT and according to her, our teacher’s tests were more difficult than the chemistry portion of the MCAT! I’m currently studying for it and if the practice MCATs and old versions are indicative of the newer MCATs, then I don’t anticipate it to be too challenging! I hope I’m right!!! 🙂

  104. Hey guys. 🙂 I am pursuing my LPN (nursing) degree right now. after that I want to bridge over to get my RN(nursing) bachelors degree. Once i’m finished with that, I want to start taking my prereqs for medical school. Am I able to use any of the science/math classes that I am taking/will take throughout the nursing program as prereqs for med school?
    Also-is medical school the same curriculum for all types of aspiring doctors? let’s say for example that i want to be a plastic surgeon. when would i begin to specialize as a surgeon and in that particular area? would they introduce me to it during the 4th year or would i specialize once i am doing my residency/fellowship or somethin like that?
    i’d appreciate any information! thanks. 🙂

  105. Dear Dr. Divita,
    I’m a high school student that is thinking about undergrad majors. I have known that I wanted to be a doctor since I was 10 but I am unsure as to what undergrad major would be best. I want to go into surgery and I have a very high GPA. Please help me.

  106. Hi Dr. Divita,
    I’m thinking of doing Premed at Emory College of Arts & Sciences, but I wanted to make sure that I understand what I’m getting into – that is, am I really going to enjoy becoming a doctor? And you’re insight in what you do in medical school, one of the roads in becoming a physician- the arduous work, countless rotations, and sometimes fun sometimes rote memorization learning- helped me get a real sense of what I might face if I do choose to go the medical route.
    Honestly, I’m not so sure if I want to become a doctor, but I am deciding to do premed because it’s better to be safe than too late.
    I was wondering, at what point of your life, were you sure that you wanted to become a doctor and why?
    – jason

  107. Hi,
    I am interested in going into Pediatric Neurology. I’m not a huge fan of needles, though I have had them and survived. I was just wondering how often I would have to give/receive needles during the 4 years of med school?
    I am only going into grade 12, but I was also wondering if there were any good books or something out there to look at either for interest sake or maybe good references that would help me in the future for med school or for the MCAT test?

  108. Hello Dr. Divita,
    I’m going to be a Junior In high school when summers over and want be a pathologist, but last year I wasn’t the best student and didn’t have the greatest grades. Will this kill me in the long road? If I start getting 4.0’s and graduate with an accosiates and half way through a batchelors degree and shadow a pathologist assistant would I still have a chance making it into medical school?
    Thanks a ton for reading

  109. The article left me wondering how Medical School 301 will be like! Anyway, don’t forget there are viva examinations too. In my school, apart from the viva voce in the general exams, distinction students are also specially interviewed. Frankly, they can be dropped to a credit depending on their performance.
    But seriously, the training should be this rigorous…It’s a Human’s Life.

  110. Reading about this really helped me a lot since I am not incredibly familiar with what med school really is like. I’m currently a senior in high school during really well and still thinking about what to do when I graduate.
    One question I have is that will Med schools look down on me if I go to a community college first and transfer to a university (probably going to be a UC) for my junior and senior year?

  111. I do not want to disuade anyone from going into medicine who is really interested in it but would like to provide a little perspective from someone who has been doing this for a pretty long time now.
    First, to all the high school students I would not recommend being a premed major as I was. major in whatever you like but take a lot of science courses and if you decide you really don’t like medicine you will have a better fall back plan and if you do want to do medicine you will still get in to medical school if you do well.
    Second, do not even think about certain specialties (to the high school student taking about pediatric neurology specifically) there are so many steps to get to that point that somewhere along the way you will decide you do not like that particular specialty, do not even like medicine or you find something else you like more. I am nowhere close to doing what I thought I would be doing in high school, college or even through most of medical school.
    Third, the most frustrating thing to me now is looking back on how much of a collosal waste of time most of med school was. So much of it is rote memorization of things I have never used in >10 years of practice nor will I ever need. I am not sure how much things have changed since then but unlikely too much. The main purpose I think of medical school is to make it so hard that only those intelligent enough and dedicated enough to be good doctors will do it and get through and then they will actually learn to be physicians during residency. I personally think the whole system needs to be scrapped and start all over from scratch though this will not happen.

  112. Hello,
    I am going to be a freshman in college and was looking for good majors to potentially lead me to medical school. I am currently looking at biomedical engineering but i’m not to commited to it at this point. I have a high GPA and good with large/difficult work loads so any feedback would be great!
    Thank you

  113. This article has further broaden my knowledge about med sch. It clearly states that one has to be fully focused on ones studies in other to get to the point of achievement. Studying medicine has always been my dream, I mean I can’t think of any career in life apart from this, cos am pretty convinced that this is what am doing. Again,thanks for this as it will surely address the issues I had with myself concerning my study habits. I need a complete overhaul of my study schedules.

  114. Medical school is really hard and stressful. Good humor websites like gigglemed and can be entertaining.

  115. I will get there! No matter what happens. School life is very hard, the grades are Career threatening but I WILL GET THERE!!

  116. I’ve read most of the posts on this thread and as a physician who graduated from medical school in the early ’80s, with a son who is an MS-1 this year, I thought I’d add a few of my thoughts…
    @spanky, ditto, with a few little additions. Being “PreMed” simply puts you on a track that focuses you so much on a career that you may end up hating once you get there. Instead, major in something you love, even if it’s not “science” making sure you take the prerequisite classes to qualify for premed and join the “premed club” at your college or university. Keep your mind open to the many possibilities in medicine. What you think you love today, you may find out you hate when you actually get there and vice versa. As for medical school itself, it HAS changed. My husband and I have watched our son as he has experienced his first few months and already we see the vast improvements in curriculum and system from when we were in school. Hopefully we will continue to see those improvements.
    @Omg, I couldn’t agree with you more. As a physician, your doctor to patient communication skills are very important if you are going to succeed in any field. Equal to if not more important will be your ability to properly document everything you do and say. In today’s litigious society, a physician’s ability to communicate and document are his/her best friends.
    Finally, for those of you thinking about, preparing for, trying to get into medical school – I think medical schools are still looking for the same kinds of students that they did back when we were applying. They just go about it differently. Nowadays you start off with a gigantic national application that puts together all your classes, grades, extracurricular activities, volunteer work, awards and accolades, and a personal essay. Grades are important but the rest of it is equally important. Schools are looking for people who can “grow” into good doctors, not just learn cardiology or surgery. Each school can then add its own separate application, interview and campus visit to the process before making a decision. It is definitely an arduous process but I believe most universities and colleges have at least premedical advisors, if not clubs, that help students through it.
    Good luck!

  117. what about veterinary school and about the manners and disciplinary stature it required in you view ,? i think we have to equally rate both the lines ,as both lines need reforms for the betterment of students ,so that the health standards should be greatly cared .

  118. Hi,
    Thanks! That was a very helpful overview. I’m a Registered Nurse here in the Philippines and I’m thinking of going to med school.

  119. If anyone is interested on answering some interview questions for me about being in med school, I’m working on a paper and i need some help!!

  120. I am an undergrad and ive just decided I really wanna become a pediatrician. I am majoring in biomedical engineering with a premed concentration (someething my school offers) and was curious if this would help or hurt when i apply to medical school? Also I worry that for residencies I would not know what im doing, but I would imagine that as a student you would learn what you need to know. Any thoughts or comments would be appreciated.

  121. Hi Dr. Divita, I am 32 have been an RN for 8 years and have less than a year to graduate as an FNP. While I like nursing, and think FNP’s are a great asset in the primary care setting I thirst for more knowledge and independence. I was thinking of working as an FNP for a couple of years while I took physics, studied for the MCAT, and paid off student loans….. but we also want to start a family. My first question is, is it really hard for NP’s to get into medical school? I have heard many schools frown upon this. Second, is it totally impossible to start a family during medical school?

  122. Hi. I’m 17 and a Junior in high school. I really want to be a pediatrician, but med school sounds very hard to get into. Are there any tips you can give me about what to major in or just anything helpful before I jump into this?

  123. Great information! I must say the thought of medical school excites me and scares me at the same time. I’m going to medical school this fall, and I already can’t wait to get the fours years over with. I’m just afraid it might be overwhelming for me. I’ve worked EXTREMELY hard to get in and it scares me that if it’s too tough I might drop out ( I more than likely will not ) but it’s the thought that scares me. How many hours a week of medical school are put in? One of my professors said 40-45 hours a week, another said 30, but 30 hours seems to easy so to say.

  124. Thank you so much. This article was extremely informative. I can’t wait until Med school; even though it’s incredibly difficult, I’m looking forward to it. I’m a Human Physiology major at Boston University right now, and it’s interesting to see that most of classes you’ve mentioned are classes I’ve taken or will be taking (on a smaller scale, of course). It’s a little bit of a relief. Now, I have one question: You take Pharmacology courses, right? Thanks Again!

  125. This post was very insightful thank you. I am uncertain as to whether I want to study osteopathic medicine and become a D.O. or allopathic medicine so I can eventually specialize as an orthopedic surgeon. My anatomy/physiology professor who also teaches at Midwestern University told me that with my GPA I shouldn’t have any trouble getting accepted but, like I said, I am unsure that osteopathic medicine is the way I want to go and Midwestern has no M.D. program. It is interesting your comparison of organic chemistry and biochemistry. I have not yet taken biochemistry and I hear many differing opinions regarding which class is tougher. I believe there is no such thing as a hard class, just classes that require more studying than others. I would like to know more about your opinion of biochemistry.

  126. Hi my name is Shaun. I’m currently in the navy and have been for about 7 years now. I’m working on finishing up my bachelors soon with my major in biology. I’m going to try and get into a med school in Florida because that’s where my family is. I have about a 1 1/2 left on my navy contact and I’ll be 30 years old once i get out of the navy. I’ll be completeley debt free and I plan on using the GI bill to pay for med school. Just looking for any advise on my plans for my future. ThaHnks

  127. This article was really helpful:) I’m entering undergraduate school in the fall as a premed/psychology major, because I love psychiatry and that’s what I want to do! I’m just really scared about not being able to get into medical school an make it through. I always think that I’ll be so focused on my goal that I will work hard enough to achieve it but everybody keeps saying its really challenging and they aren’t very supportive. I just hope that medical school is possible for me to get into and go through.

  128. hi,
    My name is Anbarin Safi. I migrated to the United States in the year 2004. I was 17 years old at the time and coming here was like entering a new world. Ever since I was a child, I always wanted to study medicine, but the language barrier, cultural clash, oppressive family dynamics continuously deprived me from using my full potential and reaching my final destination.
    This summer I am graduating with a degree in Molecular and Cellular Biology this ; however, I can’t apply to medical school yet becauseI am not a competitive applicant and am really trying to explore any resources where I can still fulfill my lifelong dream of becoming a doctor. If anyone can please guide me, you will ease my pain. Please help.
    Thank You

  129. You are right about that. Take it from me, a twenty-something waitress with two BA degrees- medical school may take away your youth, but i’d rather spend it there than struggling every single day to make ends meet (AND I DONT EVEN HAVE KIDS). I’m knocking on the doors of medical schools, and I suggest you do the same if it is your passion.

  130. Dr. Divita,
    What do you think about a student’s chances of being accepted to an allopathic/osteopathic medical school with a low GPA (ie, below 3.0)? I earned two Bachelor’s degrees in undergrad (a Bachelor of Arts and a Bachelor of Science). I also graduated with a language minor (Spanish). Needless to say, I took more than the normal amount of credit hours per semester, and also wrote a thesis, contributing to my low GPA. I struggled with some health issues during college which I have since resolved. I am planning on retaking some of my science prerequisite classes which I earned C minuses in – ie, general chem, organic chemistry. (However for example in general chemistry part 1, I earned a C- in lecture but an A- in lab – would admissions committees average them together to make a total grade of “B”?).
    Attending medical school and becoming a physician has been my dream for many years. Given the above factors, if I were to retake the critical premed science classes at community college and earn A’s in them, what would my chances for being accepted look like?

  131. I’m curious about something, I will most likely be going to college to study bio and chem, and after will be attending pharmacy school. If thats the case can i still get into medical school with that education? Because from what I understand bio and chem is the same thing you need to know for med school.

  132. I 100% agree!!! I was in the same situation. Growing up and going through school in business was great(Although my dream growing up was really always helping people and I loved science so becoming a doctor was my ultimate goal). Life happened and I landed a great job at Anheuser Busch. I only went for this because I needed the money at the time. I was making GOOD money too. Well the company decided to restructure and lay a lot of people off to save a buck. It was the best thing for me. I went back did a post-bacc, shadowed doctors, did an internship at a crisis nursery, got a high science GPA and did well on the MCAT. I start my first semester of Med School at Saint Louis University this fall. As you can see, companies can cut you and you will struggle to find a new job for months. Become a Doctor or a Nurse and you will never have that problem. Plus, you will have the rewarding experience of knowing you are actually helping others not just feeding the stockholders and CEO’s pocketbooks.

  133. i was just wondering about whether medical school was harder than residency or the other way around? Can you also give reasons why one is harder? I’m really doubting wanting to be a doctor because i heard about 24 hour shifts that residents have to go through

  134. My husband, my 19 year old daughter, and I have been accepted to the Sint Eustatius School of Medicine. I am concerned about how much time this will take away from my 16 year old, 12 year old, and 10 year old at home. Do you think we are crazy for both my husband and I attempting this at the same time? I have been at home with my kids for years, so I am out of the loop for school. I did pretty well when I got my degree in psychology, but that was a long time ago. I have been home schooling my kids, so that helps, but I am feeling great trepidation in pursuing such an arduous task. Not only that but I don’t know how easy it will be to get accepted for residency when doing my schooling at a Caribbean school. Do you have any suggestions?

  135. Hi all,
    I started PA school where we went over all of the basic sciences Anatomy, Physiology, Clinical Lab medicine in 3 months. During that time I had a rough beginning and failed a few exams. During the fall semester I started of much better academically, and then failed a course. I had to retake an exam and found myself slightly behind and struggling with worry and trying to stay caught up and ended up failing a couple of exams back to back right around the time I was preparing for a retake. My instructors and I fully believe in my capability to be a great provider, however they think the pace of PA school is too fast for me as it is for most students. They all suggest that medical school may be a better option. That has always sounded odd to me, I had to withdraw and I am considering reapplying to PA school or going to medical school. I always wanted to be a PA because I have a family and I wanted to minimize the time my family had to support me through training and I really like the PA-MD working relationship. But one appealing difference that Dr. Divita pointed out is that it sounds like there may be more problem-based learning and group learning in Med School. Does anyone honestly believe that if one could handle the academics of PA school, but was not overall successful with balancing the pace across the board, that medical school might be a reasonable option?
    Like one commenter said, the work is copious, but it is doable and I believe if I correct things that I have corrected some study methods and time management and if I have a fresh start that I will be successful now that I know what to expect.

  136. Dr. Divita,
    Thank you very much for your post! This was really interesting and helpful. But I do wonder.. Yes med school will be learning + more learning (and that is what I love about medicine!) but will grades and GPA be as important as it was for the undergrads? just how intense is the pressure on getting straight A’s? I hate obsessing over grades and I really hope med school will emphasize the learning EXPERIENCE rather than test scores. :/ Do you know of people who flunk out of med school (not leave because of their choice)? Did they flunk because they didn’t try at all, or is med school as competitive as pre-meds trying to get in? haha..

  137. Thanks for the great post! As an undergrad, I definitely hear more about the prerequisite courses instead of med school curriculum. Now I know why we are expected to be able to handle huge course loads as undergrads. Medical school is not for the easily stressed!

  138. I love reading about people’s experiences in med school. I know I want to pursue something in medicine but don’t know if a full-out doctor is what I want. Learning about the human body and everything inside of it has always fascinated me. I would love being taught these things and having interaction/treating patients daily for a living, but it worries me how discouraging med school is to so many people. I definitaly don’t mind an academic work load, especially in something I enjoy learning about, but it seems almost impossible to exceed. Any thoughts on if what I’m thinking is actually true?

  139. Hi Dr. D, I was wondering from what you said about certain classes you need to pass in order to become a physician (MD or DO). I want to become a surgeon, what classes must i have passed to be a surgeon?

  140. Med school is quite an experience. I’m a non-traditional applicant, 31 yo in my first year of med school and I was a police officer and medic on a fire dept prior to making this change in my life. All I can say is if you want to be a doctor, you’ll love med school (even though you don’t sleep well, your stressed with the next exam thats coming, etc). I often find myself saying, not sleeping sucks, studying all the time sucks, but I’m here and I’m doing it! I agree with Dr. Divita about the first year mostly (although most students in my class thought medical biochemistry was the hardest class).
    I wanted to give some tips for getting through med school that I’ve gradually found to be helpful: find a study partner and quiz each other, use electronic flashcards (ipad is great for these) and divy up the work to get them done for your classes (med school is all about saving time), get review books early (they often explain things more simply than teachers), and be organized (time management is huge). Note that the material isn’t extremely difficult, but their is massive amounts of it (be willing to study till 1 to 2 am many nights). Lastly a strong work ethic is the most important part of doing well in medical school, and the people that often have them are the ones that truly want to be doctors, and aren’t here for other reasons (pleasing parents, not sure what else to do, etc). Anyways, I hope that helps, and good luck to everyone pursuing medical school and don’t be afraid to follow your dreams.

  141. Dr. Divita,
    I have been struggling to find answers for some of my questions about prerequisities for medical school. According to numerous med school websites, requirements are such as: 1 year general biology, 1 year general chemistry, 1 year general physics, etc. However, these courses, being classified as “general” are likely going to be at a 100 level. To me, it seems that 100 level classes are not going to adequately prepare for med school, nor are they going to grant me acceptance. So my question is this: disregarding the requirement of “general” science classes, which is the only information I could find about requirements, what is an appropriate level of classes for acceptance and success in med school?
    100 level Principles of Animal Biology vs. 300 level Cellular Biology vs. 400 Gross & Developmental Human Anatomy

  142. Hello, Dr. Divita. Your post helped me a lot! It inspired and motivated me to pursue my dream of becoming a doctor. But I am still upcoming first yr college student and I am thinking of taking up Medical Technology as my pre med. What can you say? I heard its one of the best pre med course. 🙂 Anyway, is medical school really hard? I mean, you know. Im not a consistent honor, I dont get 90 grades on science subjects but I really want to become a doctor. So any wise words there or inspirational messge there? Hihi Thank you again!

  143. Hi! I really enjoy your outlines concerning Medicine am very happy!!! But how can i get admission???? Because i really want to join your school pleaz tell me how and what am suppose to do because i want to be among new students of this year!!!! Hope i will get positive answer. Thank you very much!!!

  144. This is very interesting. I am very interested and i hope to become a neurologist one day. Please pray for me guys. Wish me luck.

  145. hi Dr. Divita. I am a Nineteen-year-old junior in college, and i always knew that i wanted to be a doctor. After moving states at the age of thirteen, my GPA has never been the same. I went from a 3.9 to a 2.7. When i graduated high school, i was not sure if i wanted to a doctor anymore, but being a physician was all i wanted to be. I came to college and i was doing fine until last year. I got ill, very ill to the point where i did not plan to go back to school. I came back anyway because of my passion for medicine. My GPA fell due to my illness, and i want to transfer but can’t. What am trying to get to is, Is it all worth it? Does medicine reward you every aspect of your life the way you want it to? Are you completely satisfied with your decisions regarding medicine? I wanted to know because i am at a point of giving up, and i don’t know what to do.

  146. Hi Dr. D, great article! Though I am only in high school, I have a few questions you may be able to answer. Pertaining to possibly going for premed in college, how are the courses? I am an A student but worry about retaining my knowledge in both premed and most likely medical school. I also know medical schools like to see broad interests, so is it at all possible for me to take a music major and a few biology courses in college and even be considered for med schools? Thanks!

  147. Thank you this was very helpful being that i am a sophmore in college planing to go into med school soon

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