Your Premed Major
One of the first decisions that a premed student must make is to decide what their undergraduate major is going to be prior to medical school. For some, this was an easy decision. For me, this took several attempts. I know I am in the minority here when I say that I am a type-A perfectionistic altruist, right? I didn’t think so. While our ambition and determination are great attributes to possess in the world of medicine, it is also easy to fall into the trap of constantly comparing ourselves to other overachievers. We want to see how other people are being successful so that we can do what they’re doing, except better.
I could have saved myself a lot of time if I would have just followed my heart, instead of constantly reading medical forums and making pro’s and con’s lists in my head.
It wasn’t until I posted my own question about what my major should be in a public premed forum that it finally clicked in my head. I was torn between wanting to choose what admissions committees saw as being the “best” pre-med major, and what I actually wanted to study because it stirred up my passion. I will never forget the moment when a medical school advisor made this statement in reference to my question:
“We don’t care what your major is- but YOU should.”
What would I say if an interviewer asked me why I majored in Biology or Chemistry? I could think of some answers, but would it come across with the same zeal as if I were questioned about the other non-science major I was considering? The truth is, as future physicians it is extremely important that we cultivate our individuality so that we have a deeper understanding of who we are, as well as who our future patients will be.
That includes picking an undergraduate major that genuinely reflects our passions and interests, not just selecting a major based on what everyone else is doing.
Three major changes and hundreds of dollars later, I finally decided to major in the subject that I was most drawn to, which was social work. I knew I would get all the science I could wish for by taking my pre-requisites as well as all the information I was required to learn in medical school. But it was extremely important to me that I learn how to serve the underserved and oppressed communities in my area. I wanted to learn how socio-economic and environmental factors influenced people, and I wanted to harness good interviewing skills that I could apply later on as a doctor. While there is absolutely no harm in being a science major, you shouldn’t just do it because it is what everyone else is doing. You shouldn’t do it because it will impress your interviewer during your medical school interview. I’m not intending to hate on all the science majors out there. If it is what you were most interested in studying, then you chose right![Also check out Common Medical School Interview Mistakes]
You should only major in whatever you choose to major in because it is what YOU are interested in.
It may seem elementary to some folks, but I would encourage you to spend time thinking about what you’re most interested and most passionate about and let that guide your decision. Though we are trained to be analytical thinkers and overachievers, don’t let that overshadow your own uniqueness and personality. Those individual passions are not only what will set you apart from all the other applicants, but it will also help you grow in understanding yourself and the community around you. Ultimately, that is what will make you the “best” physician you can be.
Amanda Mitchell (if you would like to contribute go here)
Dr. Gray’s Take
You’d be surprised how many times students ask this question – “what should I major in?” or “what is the best major?” or “what major will increase my chances at getting into medical school?” I don’t think students actually believe me when I tell them to major in ANYTHING they want. You have to major in something that excites you, not something you think will look good to the adcoms. They don’t care. They truly don’t care what you major in. Every medical school has a list of required classes that you need to take. Beyond that, when you study is for YOU – not for them.