Today's question is from a student in 11th grade who asks, “I know I want to be a doctor. What can I do to start making myself look good for my medical school applications.”
You're certainly planning ahead! And most of today's advice will be good for anyone from a student in elementary school to someone in college because it will work for a variety of applications, not just medical school.
Welcome to the I want to be a doctor podcast where insider information about what it takes to become a physician is available for anyone. I'm Dr. Robin Dickinson, a board-certified family physician and I will give honest answers to your questions. Today's question is from a student in 11th grade who asks, “I know I want to be a doctor. What can I do to start making myself look good for my medical school applications.”
You're certainly planning ahead! And most of today's advice will be good for anyone from a student in elementary school to someone in college.
First off, for those of you who aren't in college yet, don't feel like you need to start working towards medical school yet. Don't worry, I'll also give you some ideas, but it's totally fine to just focus on the stage of life you're at right now. Some of this advice will help you get into college too.
If you really are determined to start the process now, I'd focus first on making sure that's actually what you want to do. This has two parts.
One is to Get experience actually working with patients if possible and shadow doctors to see what their work is actually like. Would you actually enjoy doing that kind of work? And Think about what you want your lifestyle to be like. I'm not talking about vacations and cars. I mean, is it important to you to be able to take time off without work building up for you to take care of when you get back? Is it important to you to get home on time and have regular weekends off? Are you planning on starting a family in a few years or are you okay with waiting a decade? Do you want to live in a certain place?
None of those things mean that you can or can't be a doctor. You just need to keep them as part of the equation.
The other part of deciding if you want to be a doctor is to explore lots of other options. You never want to make a choice that's the only choice you ever considered. Try out lots of different things to learn who you are and how you thrive. This is a process to do more earnestly now but even as you get closer to medical school, always be open to changing your mind. You may have an experience that makes a big impact on you several years from now and that's great!
Once you've decided that this is possibly your path, do things that you enjoy. And as you do different things, whether it's a club, a sport, a hobby, a volunteer opportunity, or a paid job, write it down. Keep a document that you'll be able to find and write down the dates of what you did and why it was important or meaningful, what you learned or how you developed as a person or maybe a couple stories that may be useful in showing more about yourself.
Also write down any awards you've received, and anything cool you've done like getting published or earning a certificate in something.
Make sure you do things that interest you enough to stick with them long term. It's better to have fewer things that you did for a longer time than more things that you did for a short time. Medical training is 7 to 14 years after college. Showing that you can stick with something is good. But if you end up disliking a particular activity, it's totally fine to change.
What you do for this part of your application doesn't have to be medical. I asked a social group I belong to that's made of physicians from many different specialities and they did everything from an engineering internship overseas to help improve the water supply to a particular remote area to competing in rhythmic gymnastics (that doctor shared a video of one of the competitions... it was amazing!) The biggest thing I noticed was that everyone did something different and no one cured cancer, invented something, or did anything else newsworthy. Instead, they all did what they loved and because they loved it, they worked really hard at it.
So my number one piece of advice is to be you. Be you and explore what you enjoy, what you are good at, what makes you forget what time it is or what other people think about you and makes you totally focused on what you're doing. Then do that more.
That's it for today. Subscribe, share with your friends and mentors; and remember to live the life that is right for you with your personality interests and values.
Please send your questions to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. That's podcast at d-o-c Robin like the bird school dot com.
Show notes are available on the podcast website linked below.
This episode was sponsored by Dr. Robin's School and recorded in beautiful, downtown Englewood, Colorado.