Want to be a doctor- but worry I can't do it/not smart/feeling overwhelmed

posted 1 year ago in College
Post # 2
1271 posts
Bumble bee
  • Wedding: May 2015

blueberrycupcake28 :  You seem to be all over the place, which doesn’t bode well for a future medical career. And you can’t blame people for not being 100% supportive considering your past. However, if you’re serious about that career, then just perservere and stop comparing yourself to other people. You’ll always be overwhelmed if you keep putting yourself down. Be hungry for what you want and go for it. No excuses.

It’s fine if you want to be a doctor, but take your basic required science courses first. Also, speak to your school counselor about going the pre-med route. There should be a listing of which courses you need to take. Your biggest resources are the internet and the staff at your school. Utilize it. 

Post # 3
4498 posts
Honey bee

It is going to be very tough and overcoming your poor GPA from your prior attempt at college is going to be a huge barrier that is going to require a lot of explaining and overcompensation.  I’ve been there and it was tough for something that isn’t nearly as competitive as med school.  Not impossible, but you have more obstacles than the average med school applicant.

I would:

1.  Get in touch with career services at whatever 4 year university you are likely to transfer to and see if you can speak to a pre-med advisor to ensure you are on the right track with your courseload and what you can do to make yourself a better candidate.

2.  Take it one step at a time.  This seems counter to #1, but you are getting a bit ahead of yourself and overwhelming yourself.  There is no point worrying about advanced chem if you haven’t even taken the basic pre-reqs yet.  Maybe you’ll be horrible and realize you don’t have the aptitude (the pre-reqs are there to weed people out So that they are certain by the time a person gets to that level they can handle it).  Maybe you will hate that aspect of it and find different ways you are more interested in.  Maybe you’ll be great at those and that will boost your confidence for the other stuff.  You may end up changing direction when all is said and done and there is zero shame in that, but you’ll cross that bridge when you come to it.  Get through the basics first and stop psyching yourself out.  

I will say that unless your parents are financing this in any way, I would stop sharing until you are more definitive in your path – while I’m sure they just want stability for you in your life and are advocating for the sure thing, if it isn’t what you want then surrounding yourself with less than supportive voices while you go for what you do want will likely just bring you down.

Post # 4
199 posts
Blushing bee
  • Wedding: April 2017

blueberrycupcake28 :  please be 100% sure and committed before putting anyones lives in your hands

Post # 5
2299 posts
Buzzing bee

msmdp2017 :  that was really unnecessary and condescending, no matter how you try to flip it.


OP, I agree with a PP stating that you should first sign up for the pre requisites before committing yourself to medical school. Overcoming a poor GPA will be tough, but you’ve got time to improve that if you haven’t even started taking the lower-level bio and chem classes yet. Get your feet wet with those requirements first, as they will either motivate you more or help you decide on a different path.

Also, have you given an thought to fields outside of medicine? Business, engineering, computer science? There are sooo many degrees out there to choose from! good luck with whatever you choose! 

Post # 6
4 posts

People can struggle through university and still do very well professionally. University is a closed institution and real life experience is something completely different. My fear of not completing the course I was doing (Architecture – also a very long course) meant I was hindering myself, not performing my best and making myself even more worried. I didn’t feel as good as everyone else, which was silly as we all had been admitted to the same school and we’re learning the exact same things. Don’t fall into this pattern.

Look at it this way; you have dropped out once because of reasons which are perfectly acceptable. You just weren’t ready. At least you recognised this as it would have been a slog and a waste of money when that’s not what you really want. 

See this time as a new opportunity, a fresh start if you will and strive as high as you possibly can. Stop telling yourself you’re not good enough, and just knuckle down! You have the rest of your life to lean back into a more comfortable job…

I got stressed and had anxiety every time I set foot at my arch school. I just couldn’t take the pressure of the crits. As a result I went part time, saw a therapist (highly recommended) and did my degree at my own pace! It doesn’t make you a bad professional; it just means you aren’t thriving in the environment. 3 years post graduation, I’m a happy self-employed architect with a great income. As soon as uni was over; a dark cloud lifted and I was back. Don’t let it get you down – you can and you will succeed if this is what you really want! I believe in you!

Post # 7
285 posts
Helper bee

blueberrycupcake28 :  Okay so I have a bachelor’s that’s considered a common premed degree.  I have a BS in biochemistry with minors in microbiology and genentics.  So I say this with the weight of the subjects behind me; unless you have taken at LEAST anatomy, biology (1,2, and genetics or cell biology), chemistry (up to organic chemistry 1), and intro to biochem or general microbiology, I don’t think you have the ability to say if you have the academic background to pursue medical school.  With your history, I would say that the community college GPA for gen ed classes is great, but you really need to get into some sophomore level science classes to know if you want to pursue this.  I think maybe if you want to work with underserved populations, maybe start getting your LPN and go on to do an RN or start getting a lab tech certification and then get a degree in microbiology to get a pathology or analyst position.  Are you really prepared to get yourself into med school debt?  Can you maintain a 3.6+ GPA even through biochemistry and such?  If the answer is no, there are other, more effective ways to engage in healthcare that don’t require 10+ more years of school, crazy good GPA, experience, and money.

Post # 8
1030 posts
Bumble bee

blueberrycupcake28 :   ER physician, here.

Given your past, I too feel like your aspirations sound both unrealistic and non-committal. It makes me uneasy to even comment here.

I suggest two things before you consider wanting to become a physician of any type: 1) Completing core competency courses at MINIMUM at the 200 level (your Biochem/Physiology/Organic Chem) with high test scores and strong performances. You should be doing this at a 4 year university, preferably one with a reputable pre-med program. Your core competency courses will not transfer from a community college to a 4-year university in the US as completed courses toward your degree, they will count as “credit hours” only.  You will be taking them a second time if you take them at a community college.

And 2) Immediately switching your employment to working in a field that collects true patient hours.  This means physical therapy technician, medical assistant, hospice aid, CNA (with certification), etc.  Try to find something that isn’t front desk work, but is truly patient interaction.  If you aren’t able to pass your core courses and cannot handle the dirtier work and long hours of patient care while working as an undergrad, you will not be able to survive medical school. Period. 1600-1800 patient hours are a normal requirement for application to a medical program, but candidates typically have far more and those hours are in diverse environments.  They are often able to complete challenging academic coursework while attending demanding patient-related work schedules. 

Until you do at LEAST both of these things, this is the equivalent of a child wanting to some day be a fireman. You simply do not have experience yet to judge whether you would be skilled academically or mentally fit to succeed in this career.  I do not say that disrespectfully, I say that so that you can ground yourself and recognize that you are late to the game and don’t show the drive or have the experience yet to be able to determine if practicing medicine on that level would even be the right path for you.

Work on: following through on commitment, successfully juggling demanding academic coursework and physically stressful patient hours, finding your inner drive and sticking to deadlines to meet accomplishments.


Post # 10
12 posts

blueberrycupcake28 :  I’m also a non-trad premed but several years out from you. I’m starting to prepare to take the MCAT, and if everything goes well will hopefully be matriculating to medical school in 2 years in my early 30s.

Honestly, it’s a hard road. I finished college mostly “on time” but have spent years finding myself. Since my college GPA wasn’t great, I have had to do one of those “special master’s programs” where you take 1st year medical school courses to prove that you can do medical school. It’s a sink or swim thing that I wouldn’t recommend to anyone if it’s not their last resort, and luckily I was able to sit my ass down, study like a maniac, and succeed in the courses. If I am able to score a stellar MCAT score, this should help me get a spot at a MD or DO school.

For you, I think that the best way of figuring out whether you actually want to be a doctor would be to get a clinical job. Whether that is becoming a medical assistant, CNA, scribe, EMT, etc. Personally, I would recommend becoming a medical assistant because you will get better clinical experience with patients and better pay than the other positions (in my opinion). I believe that you need a medical assistant certificate to work as a medical assistant in California (which is where it seems  you are), so I suspect that this might add a year to your timeline of getting into medical school, but in all honesty you NEED to have clinical experience to stand any chance at being accepted to medical school, so figuring out how to get clinically related employment will do several things for you: 1) help you figure out whether you actually want to work in healthcare/become a doctor; 2) give you evidence and reasons to verbalize “why medicine” during medical school interviews; 3) give schools a reason to look at your application when you apply (like I said, having clinical experience is NOT negotiable); 4) allow you to keep working and making $ at a job that will help you get into medical school.

Next, I know that this can be overwhelming. I was supposed to apply to medical school 1-2 years ago, but have squandered time because I allowed myself to feel bad and “not good enough.” Trust me, this will only set you back. If you need counseling to help with this, get a health plan that will allow you to get it.

I agree with past posters that you will only know if you can succeed in the coursework if you take it. I would personally recommend to take no more than ONE “hard” science class per semester (for ex. intro, pre-med courses). If medical school is really the one dream you have, make your major something that will be easy to get A’s in, and take one premed science class per semester while you are in school (preferably at the 4 year university, because some medical schools are unfortunately biased against community college coursework). This will allow you to keep your GPA as high as possible, which will be what you need.

If you have a semester of 0’s and get a 4.0 in your current and future coursework, your overall GPA will end up being around 3.5-3.6, which should be fine for getting into medical school with the extreme upward trend. You don’t have room to mess around and get much less than that, which is why I am telling you to choose an easy major and limit the number of pre-med science classes you take each semester. Protecting that GPA and keeping it as cloase to 4.0 as possible is your most powerful tool at this point and will allow you to get into medical school if that is what you wish.

Volunteering is important too, but MAKE SURE NOT TO LOSE SIGHT OF YOUR GRADES. If you volunteer 2-3 hours a week for the next 4 years, you should have plenty of volunteering experience when you apply. Remember, consistency is important. And if you get a clinical job, then your volunteering doesn’t even have to be clinical in nature. You can pick anything you want.

My tips in order of importance:

  1. Keep your GPA as high as possible. Don’t take too many hard classes in one semester so that you can keep the GPA as high as humanly possible. Trust me on this. GPA repair is the hardest thing to do, and in my situation it’s basically impossible.
  2. Get a clinical job ASAP. This is extremely important as it’s going to be hitting several birds with one stone.
  3. Volunteer, but not at the cost of your GPA.

Other various tips:

-Don’t spend too much time on SDN, and learn to filter things from that site. If you go on there, it seems like most people have a 99th percentile MCAT, 4.0 GPA, and a million clinical and volunteering hours. This is not the case in reality. There is self-selection on what people will share. People lie. People also like to make other people feel bad. Yes, getting in is very competitive but you do not have to be perfect by any means. I pay more attention to the following users on SDN: LizzyM, Goro, gyngyn, and gonnif. And still, I don’t agree with/listen to all of their advice.

-Get in touch with your school’s pre-med adviser, but also realize that some schools have bad (or really great) advisers. It’s your job to also do your own research and filter the things your adviser tells you.

-Like other posters have said, medical school requires a SIGNIFICANT time and money investment. Routes like physician assistant and LPN–>RN–>nurse practitioner or certified nurse anesthetist are very rewarding as well. This is where having a clinical job will help you reflect and figure out whether you actually want to do this and why you want to do this. Trust me, please go get yourself a clinical job. The ones I have listed (MA, CNA, scribe, EMT) tend to be the easiest to get and I have put them in order of my preference. The reason I am repeating this advice about the clinical job is because it would simplify things for you and clinical experience is that important. Medical schools will not seriously consider you without clinical experience.

-LPN could also be great clinical experience (and allow you a solid back up plan, LPN–>RN–>nurse practitioner or certified nurse anesthetist), but it requires more time commitment to get an LPN than to get a medical assisting, certified nurse assistant, or EMT certificate. If you are considering doing the LPN route, then getting a CNA certificate and working as a CNA would be my recommendation for a job/clinical experience.

-If you want to get in touch with me, PM me. I’m not a regular user on this site, I’m an occasional lurker who decided to make a random account to respond.

Post # 11
12 posts

notmeeither :  Are you in the US? While I agree with most of your post, most medical schools in the US don’t have any “1600-1800 patient hours” clinical hour requirement. 

If your point was to emphasize the importance of clinical experience, I agree that 1) clinical experience is required, 2) having more clinical hours is extremely helpful in the application process, and 3) there are schools that put more weight on clinical/volunteering hours, but there is no set requirement for all or most medical schools.

Anyway, I do agree with you that OP should start exploring the medical field with clinical employment, but I just wanted to point out that this isn’t actually a requirement at any MD or DO schools that I have seen at schools when researching wher I’m applying.

Physician assistant schools have a clinical hour requirement that is close to the “1600-1800 patient hours” you describe. 

Post # 12
12 posts

blueberrycupcake28 :  If you get clinical employment, you do not need clinical volunteering. Both clinical employment and clinical volunteering are both clinical experience which is what the adcoms want. They don’t care whether you get your clinical experience through volunteering or working.

You are currently in a food service job? I will be frank: this is a waste of your time when you can have clinical employment instead. The clinical jobs the other poster and I have listed will take care of the clinical experience requirement, and you will not have to do any clinical volunteering.

The clinical volunteering advice you have received on the premed forum does not seem tailored to a non-traditional student such as yourself. You are not on a cookie-cutter straight out of high school to a 4-year college track. If you could get some sort of certification and get a clinical job, that would be my best tip (other than keeping your GPA up) for you. You are working anyway… so why in the world would you not get clinical experience while you work?

Plus, clinical employment involves more responsibility than clinical volunteering, will integrate you into a healthcare team, and will give you better experience. Believe me, I have done both clinical volunteering and clinical employment, and it is hard to find great clinical volunteering with actual responsibility. Working as a CNA involves ACTUAL responsibility versus playing with kids at the hospital or handing out juice or cleaning rooms or whatever. One of my premed friends in college was literally cleaning rooms for “clinical volunteering” at a hospital. I don’t see any situation in which working at a job such as a CNA wouldn’t look better than the typical clinical volunteering.


Post # 14
285 posts
Helper bee

blueberrycupcake28 :  I meant that you need to take up to 200 level courses at LEAST in biology, chemistry, and such *at a 4 year university*, preferably with a big, good premed program.  Community college is a great tool to save money and prepare, you need to be focused on university, not medical school.

plus, I work with MD-PhDs in my lab (I’m a PhD student in microbiology) and they talk a lot about the problems with student debt, work-related stress, etc.  your best bet would to choose a current trajectory that is flexible and sought after In this career world.  Then cross the medical school bridge when you come to it.

Post # 15
762 posts
Busy bee

Don’t consider medicine until you’ve taken gen bio, gen chem, and then orgo 1 and 2. I’m really sorry to sound like a debbie downer but I’m being realistic. In addition, medicine will take up a lot of time and debt. Have you considered how long your residency might take? I’m not saying this to be mean or ruin your dreams but my FH is a surgeon and I also was pre-med at a crazy competitive university before I took the research route. 

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