Common misconceptions about medical school and becoming a doctor

October 3, 2014

Article by Global Pre-Meds
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Gap Medics students get the chance to observe a surgical procedure inside the operating room. There are lots of reasons why people choose to become doctors. Some may have had an experience in the past, which makes them want to care for patients and treat diseases. Other people may have a strong interest in biology and are fascinated by how the human body functions. Still, other individuals have a desire to help people. Medicine may seem like a natural career choice for many people.

Whatever your reasons for wanting to become a physician, it is important to separate misconceptions from reality. Having misconceptions about attending medical school and becoming a doctor may cause a person to give up his or her dream before giving it a try. It can also leave a med student with unrealistic expectations about what life will be like once he or she is a physician. Below are some common misconceptions about becoming a doctor.

Misconception: you need straight A’s to get into medical school.

Reality: It is helpful to have a high grade point average when applying to medical school, but straight A’s are not always needed. Medical schools consider a lot of different factors when selecting students. Your overall grade point average is only part of the equation. Medical schools also review your grades in science classes, extracurricular activities, volunteer work and medical experience. Your personal statement as well as your interview will factor into whether you are accepted. Take your grades seriously and do what you can to excel, but don’t give up if you do not have a 4.0 grade point average.  

Misconception: Only science majors get accepted to medical school.

Reality: Medical schools do not require a specific college major. While some students choose to major in biology, it is not mandatory. As long as you incorporate the required science classes needed for medical school, you can major in anything you like.  

Misconception: You have to be rich to afford medical school.

Reality: There is no doubt medical school is expensive. Being wealthy is certainly helpful when it comes to paying for medical school, but you don’t have to be rich to attend. In fact, most medical students take out student loans to pay for school. When repayment time rolls around, you will have a few options. There are different ways to set up your repayment schedule based on your income. In addition, loan forgiveness programs may also be something to consider. In exchange for part of your loan being forgiven, you can agree to work in an underserved community for a specific period of time.

Misconception: Every pre-med requirement has to be completed before applying to medical school.

Reality: It is not necessary to take all the science classes required for medical school before you apply for admission. Medical schools allow students to have classes in progress or complete classes before enrolling. There is no need to cram every class you need into you first few years. It may be easier to spread difficult science classes out over the course of your undergrad years.

Misconception: You will get rich if you become a doctor.

Reality: If you are going into medicine primarily to become rich, you may want to think again. While it is true some doctors earn good salaries, not all medical specialties pay the same. Certain specialties, such as cosmetic surgery, dermatology and gastroenterology, are considered high paying specialties.  But other specialties, such as psychiatry, pediatrics and obstetrics are considered lower paying specialties. In addition, salary is not only based on your specialty. The type of healthcare facility you work in and geographical area also determine salary. The bottom line is that you should choose an area of medicine in which you are interested, not one you think will make you rich.

Misconception: Medical school will teach you everything you need to know to be a physician.

Reality: Medical school will teach you a great deal about the human body, diseases and medical treatments. You will learn a lot of what you need to know, but there is no way med school can teach you everything involved in medicine or being a doctor. You will never know all there is to know. Additionally, time and experience are your best teachers. Pay attention in school and get the most out of your four years, but realize you still have a lot to learn on the job.

Misconception: Doctors work 80-hour work weeks.

Reality: Being a physician is time-consuming, but not all doctors work 80 hours a week. The number of hours you will work will depend on several different factors. Certain specialties often require more hours than others. For example, surgeons may work more hours than primary care physicians. If you are still in training, such as in a residency or fellowship, you may also work more than when you are an attending physician. Personal preference also plays a role in how many hours you work. 

Misconception: Taking time off between college and applying to med school looks weak to admissions committees.

Reality: Taking a year off between college and medical school may be a great option for some people, and medical schools do not necessarily look down upon it. How you spend your gap year may play a part in whether a medical school views the time off as a positive. For instance, if you spent a year between college and med school doing volunteer work, it may be a positive factor on your medical school application.Medical schools want to have well-rounded students. Showing your diversity by spending a year doing something productive can be a good thing.

Misconception: Becoming a doctor takes forever.

Reality: Becoming a doctor takes several years, but not forever. After four years of college comes four years of medical school. Residency training varies from about three years to six or seven years depending on your specialty. It is true becoming a doctor is not a quick career choice. Keep in mind that time goes by, whatever you are doing. So, if you really want to be a doctor, don’t let the years of training get you down.