Carol Hagan, Associate Director
One or two times a month, an advisee will share with me their dislike of their science classes and wonder if they should continue on the path towards medical school. There is not an easy or quick answer to this question and it’s a great discussion to have with your pre-health advisor or important people in your life.
First, elaborate on what it means to “not like your sciences classes.” How many classes have you taken? Is it one class or all of them? Is it only lecture classes or labs and seminars as well? Did you like science in high school? Is it that you like the material, but not the exams? Do you like the classes, but would like them a lot more if they were smaller or there was less grade pressure? Do you dislike the classes because you feel you are not doing well (and are you being too hard on yourself or are you truly struggling)?
It is quite common for students to be a great fit for medicine and not like all their science classes. Some people really do not like physics or chemistry, but are genuinely excited about physiology or neuroscience. Many people dislike the high stakes exams, but adore classes that integrate projects and readings from current journals.
Occasionally, students don’t like their science classes because they are conflicted about pursuing a medical career, or truly do not want it. Maybe they used to want it, or a parent wants it, or they have some other career interest tugging on them. If your heart isn’t in the long-term goal of working in healthcare, it can be very difficult to engage with the challenging scientific coursework.
If you are someone who confidently feels that you don’t like science at all, then you need to reconcile this with your desire to become a doctor. Medicine is a scientific career. You will undertake demanding studies in science in medical school and devote yourself to life-long learning in the sciences. Nearly all of the students we work with who go on to medical school demonstrate enthusiasm for science. It may be that there is another career that will encompass the aspects of medicine that attract you, but without the significant amount of scientific training.
As always, you can make an appointment with a pre-health advisor to talk through this question by calling 215.898.1789.
by Miriam, CAS ’11
Graduating from Penn, I was sure that postgraduate life at IBM would greatly differ than my college life. While I was not flying on planes twice a week and accumulating hotel points at Penn, many aspects of my daily life at Penn helped to prepare me for IBM.
Work Hard, Play Hard
First, the “work hard play hard” Penn motto is definitely applicable to IBM. Consultants’ lives are often dependent on client demands which can mean long hours of hard work. As Penn students, we are required to develop time management and multitasking skills. These abilities will help you manage the sometimes hectic consulting environment. While the work is demanding, the IBM culture also encourages a positive lifestyle. My team achieves this through arranging team outings ranging from dinners, to baseball games, to excursions to Cirque Du Soleil. I found Penn prepared me to be concentrated and serious when the situation called for it, and to be appropriately relaxed during social events which allows for team bonding and relationship building. This is an important aspect in building your network, and finding mentors throughout your time at IBM.
Prepared for the Unpredictable
Additionally, Penn helps to prepare you for the Consulting by Degrees (CBD) program by placing you in an atmosphere that is not always predictable. Going into a new course, you have to be willing to adapt to the teacher’s methodology, and you will similarly work to complement your project manager and team’s working style. Each professor expects you to quickly adapt to the working environment, and pick up on new skills at a rapid pace. Additionally, within every course, you are required to utilize several skills such as researching and synthesizing information and producing a work product from your analysis. These capabilities are critical in consulting. Most importantly, Penn provides you with the confidence that you have the intelligence and ability to gain skills that will allow you to develop a structured solution for a complex business problem.
How to Stand Out
While Penn provides you with an excellent background for the CBD program, there are several things you can do to stand out as a candidate. First, speak to as many IBM consultants as possible. The more you learn, the better you will know if IBM is a good fit for you. Second, practice case studies with your friends and Career Services. Excelling in the case is a great way to show that you can approach complex problems in a structured, logical manner. Third, IBM is a company that thrives on strong leadership and collaboration, so it is very important that you can demonstrate your leadership abilities. Finally, in the interview relax and be yourself, you want the interviewer to want you on their next project!