How can I be sure that I want to be a doctor?
A doctor’s life belongs to his/her patients. It is important to realize the commitment that is expected of you in this profession. You can get a feel for the profession by shadowing a doctor for a period of time. Try to do this the summer before your sophomore or junior year.
What are the most important criteria for admission to medical school?
You must have an excellent GPA and a competitive score on the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) in order to be considered. Your outside activities, volunteer work, research, and leadership activities are also very important, but they will not take the place of a high GPA and a competitive MCAT.
What is the best undergraduate major to prepare me for medical school?
It’s true that you can choose any major that you like. Most medical schools require that you take many specific science courses, including Biology/Zoology, Biochemistry, Microbiology, General and Organic Chemistry, and Physics. All of these sciences are tested on the MCAT, and all of them are required for a Biology degree. For this reason, the majority of pre-med students choose a Biology degree. The second most common major is a Chemistry degree. Other students select a degree in Clinical Laboratory Sciences or another health degree, work in the field for a year or two, and then apply to medical school.
What is the MCAT, PCAT, and the GRE?
The Medical College Admissions Test is a required achievement test that measures your ability to read scientific and nonscientific articles, and then answer questions about the topic. The three categories of the MCAT are physical sciences (chemistry and physics), biological sciences (cell biology, genetics, microbiology, physiology, anatomy), and verbal reasoning. There is a writing component as well. The PCAT is an achievement test similar to the MCAT, but specific for pharmacy school. The Graduate Record Examination (GRE) is very different from the MCAT, and tests on Verbal Reasoning, Math, and Analytic Skills. Some schools require a Biology GRE as well as the general GRE. There are practice books available at bookstores, libraries, and in the AED student organization library to show you what the tests are like, and how to prepare for them.
How important is the MCAT score?
Very important. Do not underestimate the importance of this test. Without the minimum score for consideration, your application will not even be looked at. Work with your health advisor to determine when you will be ready to take the exam, and for strategies to prepare.
When should I take the MCAT?
You should take the exam the summer before you apply to medical school. For example, if you plan to start medical school in the Fall of 2011, take the exam in Summer of 2010, and apply in the Fall of 2010. It is important to plan the date of this well in advance. The test is not offered in Pensacola; the nearest test centers are Mobile, Tallahassee and Dothan. Do NOT take the exam until you have finished Organic Chemistry II, Physics II, Biochemistry, Cell Biology and Genetics. Give yourself a considerable amount of time to study as well.
Should I do undergraduate research?
If possible, yes. The majority of medical school matriculants (the students who get accepted) have done some undergraduate research. The Biology and Chemistry faculty are great mentors for UWF student research during the summer, spring and fall semesters. Summer research grants are frequently available, and competitive. You can also apply to do summer research at other universities.
What type of volunteer work should I do?
Medical schools expect that prospective doctors want to help the community. Volunteering at a local hospital, hospice, food bank, mission, or homeless shelter are all good activities. Make a long term commitment to wherever you choose.
Are there any special programs for minorities?
Special paid summer programs exist for minority pre-medical students in the summer before sophomore and junior years. You can find out more about these at AMCAS.
What is a “bridge program”?
Several medical schools offer a one year post-baccalaureate program for students who were not successful in getting into their schools. These programs allow students to take medical courses, and reapply the next year. FSU has a program like this.
What if I don’t get in?
Keep your Pre-Health advisor informed of your situation. He or she can suggest some alternate careers that suit you, or give you advice on how to improve your chances for the next year’s application.