This degree won’t “get you into medical school”

So last post I mentioned the “pre-med” myth. I wasn’t really trying to say anything negative about it; pre-med is still a useful term, especially when you actually get to applying and you want that support system that the “pre-med” community provides. What I meant by the “pre-med” myth is that as an undergraduate, no one is really in a “pre-med” program. In Canada, you hedge your bets and take the english, biochem, ochem and physics that will let you do a wide application, but you’re still an “X” major. I was a psych major, who happened to be trying to get into medical school. Anyone will tell you, there’s no “pre-med” undergrad degree that will get you into medical school.

“Dalhousie University announces Bachelor of Science (Medical Science) Undergraduate Degree.”

Dammit Dal.

Ok, so full disclosure. I went to Dal for my undergrad, and I really liked it. Dal has really great research opportunities (how I ended up with a second author publication still in undergrad) and great profs (also a lot of bars. Being teetotal, this was never that exciting for me). But a couple of years ago, I started hearing rumblings of an undergraduate medical science degree. I liked doing program fairs and volunteering at the psych booth with profs, and so I ended up being in a unique position of having a lot of face time with one of the profs that was in the know for this new program.

They weren’t that thrilled about it.

Mostly, because they were already receiving calls by the dozens from parents asking “is this the degree that will get my child into medical school?”

That the prof, a brilliant woman with a great sense of humor, said this with a roll of her eyes so strong I was surprised she didn’t strain anything, was a bit telling.

Now, I’ve looked at the medical science degree page for Dal, and although it’s cagey, the implication on the site is sort-of feeding into that vibe. That this is the degree that’s “core biomedical courses provide you with a solid foundation for success in medically related professional degree programs that could lead to one of a variety of careers. Plus, you’ll be prepared for the new MCAT format”

I can read between the lines there.

The profs that I spoke to mentioned that the degree was originally designed not as a “pre-med” degree, but rather as a degree to help students who are unable to get into medical school filter into graduate programs in the medical sciences field, which is an admirable goal (of course they also mentioned that the early iteration of the degree cut the labs out, screwing anyone for grad school, so hopefully that was fixed in the final product).

The problem is – people view this degree and degrees like this as “pre-med degrees” that will “get them into medical school.”

It’s not.

There’s no indication that Dal has made any arrangement with the medical school to allow these students admission or any kind of preference, and my gut says they won’t do that ever. This degree might meet all of the possible pre-recs for Canadian schools, but any degree in Canada has enough electives that you can do that and still have a few fun electives left (except perhaps double majoring). Furthermore, medical schools like diversity. More and more medical schools are placing more emphasis on your extra-curriculars and life experience, and less on your GPA. If this degree helps to open the door to some cool volunteer programs, or a lab that you can work into an essay, that’s great, but it comes at a loss of a lot of diversity to your app. Med schools like to see that you have more interests than just medicine (fun fact: music is one of the most common undergraduate degrees that people have before getting into medical school). A fun hobby. A club not related to medical school. A sport, and activity, anything that indicates that you aren’t just med 24/7, and might burn out in medical school. And this degree certainly isn’t going to help you there.

Additionally, undergrad should be a time where you discover things about yourself. I’ve known I wanted to be a doctor since I was ten, and always wavered between psychiatrist and OB/GYN. So I took psychology, and focused on the clinical aspects, and I realized I would hate being a psychiatrist. I loved psych, but that career was just not for me. So I focused back on OB/GYN. I learned something about myself and what I want – something that would not have happened in a medical sciences degree. That said, there are lots of good reasons to take this degree, and degrees like it (I’m looking at you “Health Sciences” degrees of Ontario). You have an interest in being a medical researcher. A pharmacist. You’re trying to figure out if medicine is what you’re interested in.

But don’t take it because “it’s going to get you into medical school.”

5 thoughts on “This degree won’t “get you into medical school”

  1. love this post and definitely agree. Find something you love, not bc everyone is doing it or hence because it’ll get you into med school.

    • Thanks 🙂 And I totally agree with you: given how much work it is to get in, and how demanding a profession it is, you really have to a sincere love of medicine, or it won’t end well.

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