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Student Life

Academics alone won't get you into medical school but your passion to make a difference will

Every year, tens of thousands of prospective students apply to medical school yet those with a passion that is reflected by their application, represent the mere fraction that are accepted.

Shirag Shemmassian

"Good afternoon Mr. Morin, why medicine and why you?" At Florida International University (FIU), this will likely be the first question asked during an interview for admission into their medical school and is commonly asked at many other schools as well. Although it may seem like a relatively simple question to answer, it is deceivingly complex and will serve to separate those with passion from those without. So what types of answers are these medical schools looking for? More shadowing, more volunteering, a higher GPA, undergraduate research, etc. A checklist approach such as this is common to all of us but, by doing so, you've already set yourself up for failure because you're asking the wrong question.

Shortly after deciding to become a physician, every pre-med realizes the encumbering amount of preparation involved in simply being eligible for medical school; nevertheless competitive. This [inevitably] leads to the tendency of systematically "checking-off" each of the pre-requisites with little to no thought as to why they are even there in the first place. We spend countless hours researching which schools to apply to, the average acceptance GPA and MCAT score, what type of doctor we want to be…this and more is done ad nauseam; all on top of attempting to beat the competition with our own GPA/MCAT, clinical experience, and leadership roles along the way. I would contend that each of these things, if independent and unrelated to one another, are cumulatively worthless and unbeneficial in propelling the prospective doctor towards their goal. Without some form of homogeneity, something that reveals what is driving you, then there is little which will make you stand out amongst the 51,000 applicants (2017) across the country; resigning yourself to gambling with the average 3.0%/3.1% (male/female) chance of getting accepted to each medical school you've applied for.

I've heard it said before that the desire to be a doctor is a "calling" as opposed to a career path that is merely chosen in lieu of other alternatives. To have and pursue a calling is to match our intrinsic desires with goals and be given a glimpse of the summit of the mountain that towers before us; responding to that seemingly impossible traverse with "I've got to get to the top." Without that fervor, a burning desire that is overflowing from the essence of who you are, then compromise will likely ensue. Therefore, every pre-requisite that we complete should support and tell the story of that calling, such that our application represents who we are as opposed to what we've done.

According to the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC), the average pre-med submitted 16 applications in 2017. For each of the medical schools that those applications represent, the applicants themselves are the one constant. Why, then, are we trying to match ourselves to the requirements of the schools we're applying to instead of matching the schools with our calling? Every single interview that we attend should, simultaneously, be us interviewing the school as it is them interviewing us. We are, after all, the ones who are building our lives around the education we receive from the institution that we attend and so I find it rather asinine to randomly apply just to "get in." Thus, when completing our pre-med requirements and choosing where to apply, the question we should be asking ourselves is "how does this tell the story of who I am and what I'm doing and how does this school help to make it a reality?"

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