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Pros and Cons of the Liberal Arts for Premeds

Session 85

The Premed Years

In today’s episode, Ryan and Allison tackle the article on KevinMD.com called “Why Premedical Students Need Liberal Arts” written by Armaan Rowther. Rowther wrote this article based on a commencement speech given by Fareed Zakaria at Sarah Lawrence College.

This article is important because, as a premed student, you actually don’t have to be a “premed” major. You can major in anything and still go to medical school as long as you take the premed requirements.

In this episode Ryan and Allison weigh out the pros and cons of majoring in the liberal arts for premeds.

Pros of Liberal Arts Majors for Premeds

  1. Writing skills 

Writing skills are critical especially in writing your personal statement during medical school application. But even as an attending, there is so much paperwork in medicine, so having this skill is essential.

  1. Better communication with patients

A ton of research shows that the communication between a physician and a patient drastically affects the patient’s outcome. Hence, being able to bond and relate with patients is beneficial both to your patient and your own satisfaction. (Nontraditional students often have this advantage because their previous experiences allow them to relate to more types of patients.)

Research shows that the communication between a physician and a patient drastically affects the patient's outcome.Click To Tweet
  1. Understanding ethics and morality

Many liberal arts classes address what it means to be human and how to engage with different cultures and kinds of people. Medicine can be full of ethical dilemmas, difficult decisions, and difficult people. Taking classes in not only medical ethics but also philosophy and the humanities as a whole can help you make sound decisions as a healthcare leader.

  1. Practice for having intellectual discussions with others

In the liberal arts, you get a lot of practice clearly conveying your own points of view as well as listening and deeply understanding the views of others.

  1. Better environment

Being a premed student can expose you to a cutthroat, competitive environment. A number of students stop being premeds because of the environment and the “negativity” of it. Being in liberal arts can save you from being exposed to so much of this.

A number of students stop being premeds altogether because of the cutthroat environment and competition associated with it.Click To Tweet
  1. The ability to tackle complex questions facing physicians

As a non-science major, you get to learn more about how the world works on a personal level, which is a great and often needed complement to the hard sciences, where you learn about life on the molecular level.

[Related Episode: How a Liberal Arts Degree As a Premed Might Be the Best One]

Cons of Liberal Arts Majors for Premeds

  1. Less exposure to the hard sciences

The MCAT is supposed to answer the question of whether you’re able to handle the hard sciences. If you’re not accustomed to the hard sciences, medical school may be a huge culture shock for you. Compared to premed, the cutthroat environment in medical school may be lessened, but the volume of detailed science to learn is even more intense.

  1. Writing skills are not really used in medical school

As a medical student, you won’t actually spend much time using these writing skills that you’ve worked so hard to obtain. Allison recalls only writing one paper in her medical school years.

  1. Lack of exposure to a collaborative environment with other premed students

Since you’ll be one of very few premeds in liberal arts, you could be missing out on that collaborative environment with other premed students who are on the same path as you.

  1. A different test-taking environment from medical school

Liberal arts exams generally involve writing, and you’re evaluated based on your thought process and how well you convey that. In medical school, it’s more about multiple choice tests. You really become a professional test taker in medical school. Majoring in the hard sciences can give you more of a head start on that.

In medical school you become a professional test taker.Click To Tweet

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