Don’t…Don’t…Don’t Believe the Pre-health Hype

I’m sitting in my office listening to a student and, after a brief pause,  am asked, “Um…I heard…are you applying to medical school this year?”  My response, as I recall, was something along the lines of, “[sputter, sputter, pick eyeballs up off floor] Who ME?  NO!  Good heavens, NO!”  The student, looking relieved and reassured, mentioned, “Well, I heard that…it didn’t seem right.”

Later in the afternoon, it occurred to me why someone may have thought I was making a major career change.  We had used my name as a “Jane Doe”-type place marker in a sample AMCAS application during a workshop.  I think a joke was even made at the time about my “application.”  But at least one person didn’t see the humor, which is perhaps understandable at the end of a busy semester.  It called to mind, though, the many times I’ve clarified other pre-health “rumors” in my office (as well as memories of hype man Flavor Flav, c. 1988).  For example:

“I heard you can go to medical school without taking science courses.”

“I heard that Penn Med doesn’t like to accept Penn students.”

“I heard you have to take the MCAT right after your sophomore year.”

“I heard that admissions is really only about your MCAT and grades.”

Admission to graduate school in the health professions is so competitive and the process so fraught with uncertainty, detailed information, and waiting, that it’s natural for people to talk.  To commiserate.  To worry.  To, er, suspend disbelief.

Gathering information is a vital part of pursuing a career in the health professions and going through the application process with confidence.  Be mindful, however, of the source of your information and consider whether it can be checked against another or more reliable source.   An internet forum for applicants can be a source of support and insight, but it can also be a breeding ground for false statements.  A family friend’s thoughts about admissions can be invaluable or, possibly, a little out of date.  A story about someone who surprisingly had ten interviews, or none at all, might say little about admissions in general or your particular application.  In fact, it may not be true.

Whether you’re starting out on your pre-health path or waiting for those secondary applications to arrive this summer, keep in mind that if something doesn’t sound right, it may not be correct.  Check your information.  Of course, your pre-health advisers are happy to point you to resources or share their perspective on those questions that don’t always have a right or wrong answer.  That is, if we aren’t busy filling out our own secondaries (don’t you believe it!).