I assumed you read this because you already have an interest in biology and the life sciences, and this is an interest that is validated by great test scores and grades, and you’re willing to dedicate a greater part of the next decade to becoming a doctor – because that’s really how long it will take.
Remember that medicine is not for the faint hearted – and rightly so. You will one day be entrusted with the lives of your patients, your resilience and faith in yourself will be challenged in ways that you cannot presently comprehend. If you can brace yourself for that, know that medicine is one of the most fulfilling and simultaneously exhausting vocations in the world. We use the word vocation – the only other universally accepted vocation is that of teaching. You will have the power to save lives – something most people only ever dream of achieving.
With all of this in mind, the study of medicine in the United States is designed to be the most difficult, challenging and testing studies in the world. In order to become a doctor in the United States, you will have to, obviously, go to Med School. In order to so this, you will have to have completed an undergraduate four year Bachelor’s degree. You are not necessarily limited in your choice of undergraduate major, but most Medical Schools require that you have taken classes in Biology, Chemistry and Organic Chemistry. The precise requirements vary from one medical college to another, and all students are advised to review the requirements of their Dream Schools early on in their undergraduate career- so that they can ensure that they fulfill aforementioned requirements.
Thereon, the student is advised to take the MCAT – the Medical College Admission Test. This is the equivalent of the SATs at the undergraduate level. The MCAT should ideally be taken while the student is still completing his/her Bachelor’s degree. The MCAT tests each student on his/her reasoning, writing and basic scientific knowledge. Junior year, or the third year of undergraduate study is a great time to take the MCAT and for two reasons:
1) The student has acquired sufficient knowledge and reasoning skills over the first two years of undergraduate study
2) Like with the SATs, if a student performs below expectations during his/her first attempt at the MCAT, he/she has ample time to prepare again and retake the examination.
Armed with your MCAT and undergraduate GPA, you may now apply to Med schools. Remember that most medicine schools carefully review your college GPA – taking classes that boost your GPA may be advantageous in this context. Frequently, students with ambitions of becoming a doctor take up Biology or Chemistry majors rather than Biomedical Engineering, because of the likelihood of a higher GPA in the former majors with the same amount of effort. The AMCAS and the AACOMAS are application website designed to ease out the application process, much like the Common Application accounts.
Completing Med School is a four year long process, typically, at the end of which they will receive the Doctors of Medicine degree. This may be followed by a subsequent 3-7 years of residency, being heavily supervised while working shifts at hospitals. Should a student choose, he may follow it up with subsequent 1-4 years dedicated to earning a fellowship for further training and/or specialization.
It is a rather long and challenging process, and most noteworthy is this – it is expensive! Most Medical Schools in the United States reserve scholarships and funding for students who are U.S citizens. Scholarships for international students are exceedingly rare. An international student is most likely expected to show proof of being able to afford Medical school at the time of admission. Additionally, Medical School admission is very competitive for international students at State Schools because State Schools reserve seats for In-State students and U.S citizens first. Private Schools, on the other hand, are more expensive. International students are therefore advised to think several times before applying to a Medical School in the United States – it is both a monetarily and intellectually draining process, but a highly fulfilling one!
Here are some of the best Medical schools in the country, for your consideration, should you think you possess both the drive and the finances to support your ambitions.
Additionally, there are some schools in the US that allow for direct admission in the year immediately after high school. Admission into these programs is also very challenging, and your high school GPAs, SAT scores and extracurricular activities better be among the very best. The duration of these programs vary from school to school (6-8 years) and students are advised to invest significant time into carefully understanding each of these programs. Here’s a list of some of the schools that allow for direct application after school.
Choose carefully, take a moment to honestly gauge your own abilities, and choose well.
Note for Parents, Students, Counsellors: The information above was to the best of our knowledge at the time that this article was published. With every application cycle, or sometimes even during it, Colleges and Universities may change dates, policies, available majors and other relevant information. These updates will be reflected on the College and University websites themselves.
Please refer to the official college websites in addition to reading these articles. These articles are written only to provide general guidelines to students, not as a substitute for individual college websites.