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Other Chemistry, material science, and med school

  1. Aug 1, 2016 #1

    I am currently a materials science major going into my junior year. I recently gained interest in medical school (specifically anesthesiology and radiology) However, I do not know if this is going to be the plan yet for me. I am thinking about changing my major to chemistry, so that I can take the proper courses to apply to med school. I also want to be able to either go into a chemistry or materials science graduate program if I choose not to continue on with med school. I really do like materials science as well, and I would stay in the major if I was given a little more freedom in the classes I take. I wouldn't be able to graduate in the 4 years if I took those additional chem and bio labs as a mse student. Does this seem like a reasonable plan? Is there anything you guys think I haven't considered yet?

    Thank you.
  2. jcsd
  3. Aug 1, 2016 #2


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    If you do not take the prerequisite courses for medical school you are crossing that option off the list for sure. So if you want it to be an option at all you have to figure out how to get those courses in. In addition to changing your major or extending your current program, another option may be to take summer school courses. I know this isn't ideal, because that's often when students work to earn the money to attend school, but it might be something worth considering.

    The other thing to keep in mind is to be realistic about your chances for medical school. Look up the statistics on GPA and MCAT scores for acceptances at the schools you're interested in attending. I think in most cases unless you're north of a 3.5 GPA your odds are pretty dicey. If you're rocking a 4.0 and fairly confident you'll do very well on the MCAT and have your ducks lined up for the other factors that medical schools factor in (interview skills, volunteer experience, etc.) then what's an extra year of undergrad?
  4. Aug 1, 2016 #3


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    I work with students applying to MD and MD/PHD programs. It is an incredibly competitive process, especially for the top schools.

    Most med schools are looking for applicants who are unequivocal about going to med school, not considering it as an one of many attractive possibilities, nor a back up plan. Med schools love traditional students - you want to avoid any action that lowers your chance of an interview. Any old major will serve you when applying to med school, as long as you meet the course requirements, so your rationale for switching won't hold water with the admissions committee. If the switch of majors adds more time to your schooling, all the worse - successful applicants graduate in 3 or 4 years, no more. Anything that extends it beyond 4 years becomes part of a complicated story that the committee just doesn't have to deal with - the next application on the pile won't have these complications. Good med schools are looking for a 3.8 GPA, for starters.

    So, if by this point you cannot complete all the premed requirements in 4 years you're already at a disadvantage. Med school applications also require that you list 15 activities, and ask that you explain how these activities have shaped you to excel in the medical profession. Many applicants have started accumulating these activities starting in high school. Then you'll be asked to pick 2-3 of these essays and elaborate on how they prepare you to be an educator, researcher and clinician. These activities are almost always in the form of medical research or clinical shadowing. To show commitment toward the medical profession, often applicants will have put in 500+ hours shadowing, and in some cases much more. On top of that add plenty of experience as a volunteer feeding the needy, working on HIV clinics, delivering meals to the elderly and so forth.

    Then there's the MCAT, which you should be taking sometime during your junior (this) year. To quote "If you take the MCAT during your senior year, then you have decided to take a year off before going to med school. You need to take the MCAT during your junior year or early in the summer after your junior year in order to be competitive for applying for direct entry after college." (http://forums.studentdoctor.net/threads/mcat-in-junior-year-or-senior-year.661352/). Again, you don't want to be a non-traditional applicant by taking a gap year, unless it's extremely well motivated. You have to not only already have had the material that will be covered on the MCAT, but you need to study for, it too. A score of 513 or so put you in the 70% percentile, which is a minimum score for top programs.

    Your personal essay must make the case that you want to be a doctor more than anything in the world, in fact, it's all you ever wanted to do. You have the proper motivating factors (e.g., I watched as my Dad recovered from triple bypass surgery when I was 7), requisite volunteer, shadowing and research experience and you'll bring something unique to the medical profession (you live in a small town in North Dakota and want to stay there after your MD). You know what kind of doctor you want to become, and also understand that anesthesiology requires another 4 years of residency, and perhaps even more. You are aware that med school will cost you upwards of $300K and that you'll be paid poorly during your residency.

    I'm going to say that it's probably too late to apply as a traditional med student for the reasons I described above. There are certainly other paths to getting into med school, say as a non-traditional student, but that's for another day.
  5. Aug 1, 2016 #4


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    Amazing discussion. A person who hopes to be admitted to medical school must start the development process early and needs to have a natural motivation to go through so many activities. Trying to plan and prepackage it that way will not work.
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