Mythbusters: Pre-Health Edition

For students interested in the health professions, there are plenty of myths out there. Here are a few of the ones that have been BUSTED by Tufts Pre-Health Advising.

  1. You should major in biology.
    Students who enjoy biology and perform well in it should seriously consider a biology major. There is significant overlap with the pre-med requirements. But medical schools will not give preference to biology majors nor expect all applicants to be biology majors.
  2. You should major in a non-science to look more interesting.
    Students who have a strong interest in another field – e.g., Economics, English, Spanish, Music, etc. – should seriously consider that field as a major. Many students fulfill the 8 pre-med requirements, perhaps even with an extra biology or two, alongside a non-science major. But medical school and other health professions schools will look just as favorably towards science as non-science majors.
  3. You should finish all your pre-med requirements in three years and go straight to med school to show you are motivated.
    Demonstrating your motivation for a health profession is important. Your activities and exposure to various health and patient care settings will be an important part of your application. But the timeline you choose to prepare for medical school or other health professions will not be a variable used to measure your motivation or your ability. Typically about 70% of Tufts applicants do NOT go straight from college to med school.
  4. You should never take a pre-med requirement in the summer.
    Ideally students take all, or at least most, of their pre-med requirements at their home institution during the academic year. But many students do take one of their sequences in the summer, sometimes here at Tufts and sometimes near home. As long as the overall record is strong and there is a clear reason why you are taking a summer course (planning to study abroad, fulfilling a double major), then this is acceptable.
  5. It’s more important to worry about your pre-med requirements than graduation requirements.
    Health professions schools want college graduates who have completed their degrees with a strong roster and in a timely manner. Many applicants might have a pre-med requirement remaining after graduation. That can be completed at any college or university while working. Tufts will continue to advise and support alumni who choose to apply to health professions schools.
  6. You will never get into medical school if you have a couple of C’s in pre-med science classes.
    There is no doubt that good grades are important in order to gain admission to medical school. But no one or two grades will totally derail your chances of getting into medical school. They will likely mean that you will need to take longer, take more courses, and earn additional good grades to build a competitive academic record but many students have done that.
  7. You have to shadow a doctor to get into medical school.
    Shadowing has taken on an aura of importance which is overblown. It is very important that you read about healthcare, talk with health professionals and develop an informed motivation for becoming a physician. It is also critical that you put yourself in one or more settings where you can interact with patients. You are not qualified to offer them medical care, but that is not the point of the experience. It is for you to begin to develop the interpersonal skills that are important for physicians, and to begin to see the complex medical, psychological, financial and other issues that come into play when people are ill.
  8. You have to do research to get into medical school.
    You will not be rejected by medical schools simply because you have not done any research. But the research experience – whether community-based public health research, bench research, clinical research – can be a valuable intellectual experience for you and help you develop skills that will be important to your future career. All Tufts students are encouraged to do some sort of research as part of their education.
  9. The best way to help people and make a difference if you like science is to be a doctor.
    Not necessarily. There are many ways to use your science talents to help society, including basic science research, teaching, and health policy development, to name a few. And a large number of those options are health careers other than the role of physician. The health care team is critical to healthcare delivery today and you should learn as much as you can about all the professionals on that team. If you are certain you want to be a clinician, be sure to explore physician assistant, occupational therapy, optometry, among many other rewarding professions in healthcare today.

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By Malakia Silcott
Malakia Silcott Associate Director