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Advice for Pre-Med Students

By on July 13, 2013

Don’t Overload on units: 

Part of doing well in college is being able to manage your time, and taking loads of units will make this harder. I know some people can take 25+ units and still maintain a 3.7+, and if this is you then give yourself a pat on the back, but most people cannot. It is often suggested that freshman start off taking 13 units, so I would urge many of you to consider this. Personally, I took 17 my first semester, and I pulled a 4.0, but everyone is different, so better to play it safe than sorry if you’re unsure of your capabilities.

Don’t focus solely on GPA:

GPA and MCAT are very important factors for getting into Medical school, and they will pivotal at getting you the interviews, but after that they become less important than other factors: Volunteer Work, Clinical Experience, Research, and any other meaningful extracurricular to your personal life. This could a sport, an artistic endeavor, anything really. There are people with 4.0’s who don’t get into a single medical school while there are people with 3.4 who do get into medical school, so don’t neglect your extracurricular.


There are many paths to being a doctor:

A lot of pre-med students are very worried about getting into Medical School and about their GPA and the rest of their application, and there is reason: only 46% of applicants get into at least one medical school. This means that over half of applicants do not get in. While this statistic certainly highlights the difficulty of getting into Medical School, it neglects the alternatives should a student be rejected. If you find yourself rejected from Medical School during your first application cycle, do not panic and fear this is the end of the world. There are several things you can do to still become a doctor.


First, you can always reapply in another cycle. Granted, they will scrutinize more closely your application because they will see you are a re-applicant, but if you show significant improvement then you have a good shot at getting into a school. Ways of improving your application include raising your GPA by taking more courses, doing more extracurricular work, and doing an SMP (hard to get into now, but more info on the internet). There are lots of successful doctors who get into med school on their 2nd or even 3rd attempt, so don’t fret immediately. In addition to reapplying medical school, there are two other options: Osteopathic Medical School and Caribbean Medical School.


When I referred to Medical School in the past paragraph, I was referring to Allopathic Medical Schools, which grant an MD degree. Osteopathic Medical Schools grant a DO degree, but both are COMPLETELY VALID FOR PRACTICING MEDICINE [Despite the EQUAL VALIDITY, I should caution you all: if you really want to be a surgeon or go into an extremely competitive medical field, a DO or Caribbean Med school probably isn’t right for you, because residencies tend to want American MD’s for those fields] The difference is that DO’s take a few extra courses and take a more “holistic” approach to medicine, but both take the same anatomy, physiology, immunology, pathology, and all the other medical school courses. The reason I suggest Osteopathic Medical Schools as a potential alternative is because they have a significantly lower GPA average of accepted students: the average GPA of MD schools is usually in the 3.6 range, whereas the average is around 3.3-3.4 for Osteopathic Medical Schools. This does not mean you should treat Osteopathic Med School as merely a backup, but you should consider it. In addition, the average MCAT scores are also lower (31 vs 28 I think).


The final alternative is Caribbean Medical School. Although I specifically mention Caribbean ,there are a lot of foreign medical programs, so this also applies to Foreign programs in general. There are A LOT of different Caribbean Medical Schools, but that doesn’t mean all of them are equal. While you are free to make your own choices, I would only consider the “Big 4” Caribbean Med Schools: Ross, AUC, SABA, and SGU. These are the Big 4 because they are accredited by the US and because they have much higher graduation and residency-match rates than the other ones. Granted, they still aren’t as high as US MD or DO, but they are reasonable.



About Josh Perline

Josh is currently an undergraduate "Computer Science" and "Environmental Economics and Policy" double major at UC Berkeley, working as a Lab Assistant in the EECS department.

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