Monday, July 9, 2012

Err on the Side of Caution

No single major will guarantee you admission into medical school. Regardless of your major, a strong foundation in the sciences is a must.

Most of you aspiring doctors believe that majoring in biological sciences give you an advantage over non-biological sciences students.  For those of you who are currently pursuing a biology or biomedical science degree, you may feel scared at this moment. Please, don’t be! I am not saying that you should give up on biology or biomedical science concentration.  The goal of this post is however to provide you with information that you can use to ultimately take control of your career. Even if you were in your last year as a biology or biomedical sciences major, you will find this post very beneficial.   

I believe that when choosing a degree, students should think about the “quality of life” they wish to have right after obtaining their four-year of college.  Even if you plan on going to medical school, I do think that pursuing a degree, which offer a path to licensure is an outstanding decision because in case you cannot go to graduate school right away, your license will land you in a good paying job right after those four years.  Please understand that I mention “licensure” because I am referring to good paying job right after your 4 years. If you want to follow that path and still want to go to medical school, you must complete all of your medical school pre-requisites, have good grades, score competitively in the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) and have some exposure to patient care.

Why thou shall not major in biology or biomedical sciences?

A simple answer would be because I want you to “err on the side of caution”.
Enough to say, in case you choose to postpone your graduate studies, you will not find your self struggling to find a job as a biologist or biomedical scientists.

For those of you who are thinking about majoring in biology, please pay close attention to this post.  You can also talk to other students who have majored in biology so that you can learn about their undergraduate experience. There are many reasons for which you should rethink your decision to major in the biological sciences. First, if you are pre-med, the odds are against you (click the AAMC link below). Second, if you do not get into medical school right away, you will find yourself in a tough situation once the 6 months grace period for your undergraduate loans expires. It will also be very difficult for you to work at a research or hospital laboratory just because you do not have the hands-on training.

Back in the days, a degree in biology seemed to have been common and appropriate for those wanted to pursue a degree in medicine.  Today, that’s no longer the case.  According to the AAMC, the majority of biological sciences students who apply to medical schools do not get in. Medical school admission officers are not looking for a bunch of biology students to fill up their limited spots. They are however looking for applicants who are well-rounded with strong academic background and unique personalities. I do think that is why in 2011, of the 22,863 biological sciences students who applied to medical school only 9,794 actually matriculated.  They are a few considerations to make with regards to that data since a negligible number students who actually were accepted to medical school had to, for some reasons, postpone their matriculation. As a result, I do think that the number of accepted students was slightly higher but still remained insignificant. Picture yourself as an admission officer! Now, imagine how boring it would be for you to review thousands of medical school applications where 98% of the applicants have a Bachelor’s of Science (B.S.) degree in the biological sciences! I hope you are thinking about that. 

Being different is all that matters nowadays.  You must have certain qualities that will distinguish you from the rest of the applicants.  According to the most recent statistics, a large number of non-science students are getting admission to medical school. In 2011, the AAMC revealed that the ratio of non-science students who matriculated (not the number of accepted students) to U.S. medical school was higher than that of biological sciences students.  For instance, a student who majored in the humanities, mathematics or statistics was roughly 8% more likely to get admitted to medical school than a biological science student. Of course, there are many other qualities that medical schools are looking for in a prospective applicant.  For instance, nothing can replace your academic performance and extracurricular activities. If you are a non-science major, you must show that you can perform well in both your non-science and science courses.

For those of you who do choose to major in biology, in a future post, I will share with you how you can broaden your academic background so that you can become attractive to biotech companies or research laboratories.  

I hope you have enjoyed this post.

Wedlin Sainval, M.S.M.S.

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