Should I Go to Medical School? 50 Questions to Ask Yourself

Padya Paramita

Should I Go to Medical School? 50 Questions to Ask Yourself

It’s easy to say that you want to become a doctor when you’re a kid. But when it comes to planning the logistics and approaching the matter practically, “should I go to medical school?” is a valid question, considering the tremendous time and dedication the profession demands. Long story short: attend medical school only if you’re serious about medicine. 

From the extremely competitive application process to the intensive near-decade long training, committing to medical school should not be taken lightly. It’s natural for you to ask “should I go to medical school.” If you’re yet to have an epiphany about your calling in the world of medicine and you’re feeling on the fence about it, I have outlined 50 questions to ask yourself, elaborated on the amount of time you have to put in for your education and career, and suggested how you can convey your passion to admissions committees if you’ve decided you do want to attend medical school.

Questions to Ask Yourself: Making an Informed Decision

The question of “should I go to medical school” can be quite loaded. Naturally so, because you’re deciding not only the entire next decade, but also the rest of your life. Are you qualified enough to throw yourself into this cutthroat application process? Are you willing to commit to a profession that is extremely challenging and will take up most of your time and energy? You might be interested but you may also have some doubts. Below are some questions to help you make this life-altering decision.

Your Academic Preparation

  1. Is your GPA above a 3.0?
  2. Have you taken the MCAT?
  3. Is your MCAT score within the median range of the schools on your list? 
  4. Did you have to retake the MCAT multiple times?
  5. Did you take the required pre-med courses?
  6. Did you have good biology and chemistry grades in college?
  7. Does your pre-med advisor believe you’re suitable for medical school?
  8. Do your recommenders know you well enough to provide substantial letters?

Your Resumé

  1. Do you have significant clinical experience in terms of jobs and internships?
  2. Do you have volunteering or community service experience?
  3. Have you shadowed a physician? Did you enjoy it?
  4. Have you conducted research in a medical or STEM field?

Your Essays

  1. Do you have a compelling reason behind pursuing an MD?
  2. Do you have a unique story that can differentiate you from other applicants?
  3. Would you be able to juggle 70 secondary essays?

Your Career and Income

  1. Do you have a significant amount of money saved for tuition?
  2. If not, would medical school be worth it for thousands of dollars of debt?
  3. Are you willing to wait 8-10 years to start your career?
  4. Do you prefer to begin earning a steady income sooner rather than later?

Alternative Careers

  1. Would you feel burned out from being in school for so long?
  2. Do you need a medical degree for your career goals?
  3. Could you see yourself as a PA, nurse, dentist, pharmacist or vet?
  4. Can you see yourself dedicated to a field of medicine for the rest of your life?
  5. Is medicine your number one passion?
  6. Are there any other areas you’re as excited about as medicine?
  7. Are your other interests less expensive and time consuming?
  8. Are you willing to sacrifice your free time with family and friends for a medical career?
  9. Would you prefer a job that’s more passive?

Issues That Might Cause Roadblocks

  1. Are you intimidated by the idea of being surrounded with an academically gifted group of people?
  2. Do you only want to become a doctor for the prestige and money?
  3. Are you interested because you’re obsessed with medical dramas?
  4. Is medicine your dream or your parents’ dream?
  5. Are you considering medical school only to follow in your doctor parent’s footsteps?
  6. Do you feel weak at the sight of blood?
  7. Are you willing to touch and dissect organs?
  8. Are you willing to commit to a profession that could have you on-call 24/7?
  9. Are you willing to reapply if you are rejected from medical school the first time?

Positive Signs

  1. Are you passionate about helping people?
  2. Are you frustrated by your family members’ illnesses?
  3. Do you have a specialty area in mind?
  4. Would you be willing to take on pro bono patient cases?
  5. Are you willing to put a lot of time into a high volume of memorization?
  6. Have you spoken to a physician about their experiences?
  7. Are you excited by ongoing current events and discoveries in the world of medicine?
  8. Have you taken a gap year to weigh your options?
  9. If so, do you still want to go to medical school after taking time off?
  10. Will you enjoy patient interaction?

Commitment to the Medical Career

  1. Are you willing to relocate for school or career?
  2. Would you live with regret if you didn’t apply?
  3. Are you ready for medicine to take over your entire life?

While a lot of these questions ask about your application preparation, many of the questions encourage you to consider whether you’re willing to put in the time, effort, and money into your medical education. When wondering, “should I go to medical school,” remember that pursuing a career in medicine is a long road. After four intense years of college comes another four years of medical school, followed by 3-7 years dedicated to your residency or fellowship, depending on the specialty you choose. You need to think hard about how much you’re willing to commit and sacrifice. If medicine is your greatest passion, fantastic. If not, would it be worth spending thousands of dollars when you won’t be making a steady income for the next few years? Make sure you don’t decide on a whim, but put serious thought and time debating the pros and cons.  

Demonstrating Commitment to a Medical Career

Having said that, when considering “should I go to medical school,” remember that if you truly are passionate about medicine and want to dedicate your career to the medical field, you should absolutely work to become a doctor. You will pick up valuable skills, have the chance to learn about and practice what you love every day, and hopefully end up in a gratifying career, helping people and earning a very impressive salary. But since many pre-meds have doubts about “should I go to medical school,” the schools themselves are wary of applicants who do not demonstrate enough commitment.

Medical schools worry about their retention rate and want to keep it as high as possible. Many students drop out of medical school every year, whether due to lack of preparation, extreme stress, or the realization that they’re in the wrong field. The average four year graduation rate at medical schools in the country is 84.3%. Medical schools obviously want this rate to go up and work to accept applicants who are more likely to fully commit to the profession.

How to Frame Your Experiences in the AMCAS

In order to fill out the AMCAS application so that admissions committees do not doubt your passion and conviction, you must plan ahead. Along with succeeding in the necessary pre-med courses, take advantage of your early college years to apply to relevant internships, conduct research, and volunteer in your community. In your personal statement, make sure the commitment shows. Let adcoms know that there’s nothing else you’d rather be doing than pursuing medicine. Talk about how you decided to become a physician, reflect on what you love about medicine, provide more context on how your background and story makes you unique. Your resumé and essays should speak for themselves: frame your application in such a way that the readers automatically know that you’ll be there to stay.

Adcoms can get a great sense of your commitment through how you’ve framed your experiences in the AMCAS. Remember to show not tell. Each of your entries in the “experiences” section should concretely exemplify your efforts to pursue extracurriculars in the field. Rather than just describing what it was and what you did daily, bring to focus your reflections on what you learned and how the activity motivated you to pursue a career in medicine.

If you’re weighing your options and asking yourself “should I go to medical school,” remember that if accepted, you will live and breathe medicine. There are many alternative ways to be engaged in the medical field and serve society if you decide that this is not the path for you!

But, if you’ve realized that medicine is all you want, then congrats on making the decision! Start working on your application as early as you can. It’s a tough process, but if you follow your dream, hopefully you can achieve success as a physician down the road.

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