There are two things for students who are thinking about healthcare to consider. To start, students often focus too much on the first half of this word: healthcare. Yes, academic knowledge and scientific expertise are paramount in the medical world, but if you are interfacing directly with patients, don’t forget the second half of the word: care!
Colleges are looking for students who demonstrate non-academic skills such as empathy on top of academic excellence, which can, ironically, be demonstrated through academics! For example, you can show competency in emotional intelligence through psychology, communication through speech and debate, comprehension and analysis through English, and application of conceptual knowledge through math and science. Thus, all classes matter! In fact, most careers that require interaction with a diversity of people (customers, patients, etc.) require flexibility in mindset and approach – a holistic background not unlike that gained through liberal arts education.
In addition, don’t overlook opportunities to differentiate yourself from other healthcare majors in areas like extracurriculars and course selection. Aim for activities that garner national, if not international, levels of recognition (USABO and HOSA are examples). Look for courses offered off-campus, whether it be at a local community college or online. Seek out pre-college and research opportunities via internships or shadowing. At the very least, get a job! The workplace, especially retail or food, is a fantastic environment in which students can practice their interpersonal skills. If we’re starting to see a trend here, the takeaway is that everything helps, especially things that help you grow as a member of society.
The other major thing to consider is the actual major or program. Yes, it makes sense to apply to undergraduate as a biology major or something related to STEM.
However, based on recent studies, the major that is most successful in medical school admissions is anything based in humanities! Furthermore, humanities students also enjoy one of the highest average MCAT scores.
So, why does studying humanities translate to such high admissions rates? There are a few hypotheses:
Humanities students are simply less common. Colleges are looking to build diversity on their campuses. Many students who apply to medical school are coming from STEM backgrounds.
Humanities students read a lot more because of their undergraduate requirements; therefore, they probably are better prepared to score higher on the verbal reasoning section.
Humanities students, because they read more, are probably better writers too. This helps immensely in the application process with the many college essays they need to write.
Humanities students, let’s face it, probably also have more free time outside of academics that they can devote to doing interesting things.
Humanities students did not come from STEM, meaning there was probably something very influential in their life stories that resulted in their choosing a future in the medical field. This leads to compelling essays as well.
So, if you’re considering a future in healthcare, it’s equally appropriate to not consider a future in healthcare, yet!