This is copied from my recent Quora answer.
I am 25 and applying to a pre med program in the Caribbean, I’ve never taken any medical college courses before, should I take a couple at a local CC?
First things first. I am a graduate from a Caribbean Medical School, so I am somewhat qualified to answer this question. That link which will take you to my blog post on the subject as a primer to the rest of this post.
However, a lot of vital information is missing from your question…
The most basic of these questions are:
- Why do you want to go to medical school now?
- What have you been doing prior to now?
- What was your major in college?
- What, if any, medical school prerequisites have you taken?
Going to medical school involves “The Track” which is traditionally, undergraduate, medical school, and then residency +/- fellowship. However, once you “Fall Off the Track” your journey changes pretty significantly. Once again, these are links to these topics which I have already blogged about previously. I could copy and paste it all or paraphrase it here, but I don’t want to clutter up the answer.
The unfortunate fact is that you must be able to demonstrate the ability to learn the sciences and apply their concepts. This is not necessarily because you need them in order to be a good doctor, but because you need to pass the USMLE Steps (1, 2, and 3) as well as your own specialty boards. In order to do this, you will have to demonstrate a certain level of proficiency which is deeply seated in the sciences.
Let’s step back for a second:
My major concern for people who decide to “switch” into the field of medicine is that they do not completely understand what it entails. The first thing you need to understand is that you are looking at about a decade more of schooling/apprenticeship, plus or minus a few years. Since you have stated you are 25, you are looking at accumulating a significant amount of debt, unless you are independently wealthy. You then begin “real life” at around the age of 35.
This is a long time… 10 years of your life is nothing to scoff at. If you assume the average life expectancy is 78.8 years, then 1/8 (12.5%) of your life will be spent in post-graduate education. This is difficult to understand for some.
Now, please understand that I’m not saying it can’t be done. There was a guy in my medical school class who was in his early 50s and he honestly coasted through medical school, USMLE, and is now a practicing physician in Family Practice. He annihilated every single class and was our #1 by a large margin. I don’t know his Step 1 score, but I imagine he annihilated that too. However, his story was that he didn’t need to go to medical school. He had already made enough money to retire but felt medicine was his calling. He told us “I have always wanted to be a doctor.”
Long story short is that I think that people should only seriously consider going to medical school if they understand the 10 year commitment ahead of them, significant debt, andthey really don’t think they can do anything else. And even then, that is just the bare minimum to move forward, it does not guarantee success.
Ok, now let’s refocus:
If you have resolved yourself to go to medical school, then the next step is getting in. I don’t think you should go to a pre-med program in the Caribbean unless you have exhausted all other options. This means going and doing a post-bacc pre-medical program. The reasons for this are that you will be doing all the prerequisites you need for medical school as well as proving to yourself that you have the proficiency to learn and apply the sciences on a level necessary for medical school. Additionally, should you decide you no longer what to go to medical school, you can potentially still apply the classes/credits you received toward a different major/degree.
Taking a pre-medical program in the Caribbean will not really help you except to get into that particular Caribbean medical school. I am not sure which program you are planning to go to, but I believe Ross University (MERP) and St. George (Pre-medical Sciences) are these types of programs.
From my understanding, these programs are generally for applicants who were not accepted into the regular Caribbean Medical School class. Whether this is because the student didn’t fulfill all the prerequisites, or had a low GPA, or a low MCAT score, or whatever the reason, the admissions committee was not comfortable having this individual start as a first year medical student.
Worst Case Scenario:
You might think the worst case scenario is that you go to the pre-medical program and you don’t make it through. Unfortunately, you’re wrong. While bad, that isn’t the worst case scenario. You’re only out a year or so of tuition, which you can probably pay back. While difficult, it’s not impossible. A minor set-back on your path to do something else instead.
The worst case scenario is that you go and make it through the pre-med program and into their medical school. Then you go on to year 1 and year 2 and barely make it through. And you barely pass Step 1 after 2 or 3 attempts, and then you barely pass Step 2. You barely make it through clinical rotations… and then… at the end of all that:
You don’t match anywhere.
And you don’t match again the following year.
Or the year after that.
You are probably $300,000+ in debt and have no way to pay it off. You are hopelessly overqualified for many jobs. And you don’t know what to do.
This is soul-crushing.
I know of some people this has happened to. Some eventually got a residency position after doing some years of research… but some never got into residency. They’ve all had to take other jobs and will probably be paying back their loans for the rest of their lives, with a degree they never got any value out of.
Really weigh your options before you decide to “switch into” medicine. It’s a huge decision.
Falling Off the Track is easy, but getting back on is difficult.
Exhaust all other possible options before considering a Caribbean Medical School (and its Pre-Med equivalent).
If you are serious about going to medical school, your first bet is to do a post-bacc pre-med program.
Please review the “Worst Case Scenario” above and evaluate your resolve.
Agree? Disagree? Questions, Comments and Suggestions are welcome.
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