2 Part Question: Is being a female in STEM a boost, and what to do if you don;t know if medicine is for you?Answered
I have always dreamed of being a neurosurgeon but I don't know if I'm prepared for the commitment of medical school. I am passionate about several things but I don't know if my application will be impressive since STEM is so, so competitive. Any suggestions for strong ec's?
-High School Freshman, wants to go to Harvard, Princeton, etc.
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What @Music said is really helpful, but to clarify, never think of “identity” alone as a “boost” or an “advantage”. Rather, it is “diversity-factor” that may grant you a spot over another applicant of equal qualification, dependent upon whether the school is looking to fill-up class space by an equal magnitude of diversity.
Meanwhile, when it comes to deciding a STEM concentration, I strongly suggest taking courses such as Chemistry, Biology, and Physics that will gear you for the rigor of medical-prerequisite courses as well as any other STEM field. Furthermore, you should also consider many AP/IB/Dual-credit courses that will show these competitive school’s that you have the academic audacity to branch out onto a challenging level. Apart from your courses, also consider Research internships the summer of Sophomore and Junior year, this will look splendid on any application, including Ivy+ schools (getting your name published is like a near guarantee you’ll be a competitive applicant).
Because this is CollegeVine (for undergraduate preparation only), I strongly suggest you visit The Student Doctor Network (https://forums.studentdoctor.net/) and explore their Q&A’s/Forums. If you scroll to the bottom, you’ll see an SDN High School section that is meant for all high schoolers preparing for a medical career in the future. There is also a “Women in the Medical Field” forum section and a “Neurology” section, if you so choose to ask a question pertaining to these areas.
What I’ve learned from exploring SDN so far is that, yes, medical school is whole different beast when it comes to rigor. High school will seem like kindergarten, and your undergraduate years will look as though it were your middle school years (maybe not at Harvard or Princeton though). You will also have to consider getting all the medical school prerequisite courses along with your major, the MCAT (which makes the SAT/ACT look silly), and any recommendations. The average debt after medical school is an astounding $240,000! And many students claim they “don’t have time for much else”. While you will be forced to sacrifice many things in medical school, it is, anyhow, the most rewarding experience you’ll have. You claim you are “passionate about several things”, which is good because you’ll need that passionate drive, but now you must ask yourself “what specifically are those ‘things’?”
Don’t let any of that discourage you, but do allow it to be an insightful, very summarized description of what people deal with through medical school. While it is statistically and evidently the truth, it’s only a piece of the whole—and a very “stale” piece at that. Hope this all helps!! And good luck! Happy New Year!!
The good news is that you still have time to think about this. You never know what will change in 3 years. That being said, being a female in a STEM field is a boost, but you need more than that (good grades, volunteer work, extracurricular) to be considered by these colleges. You have three years to really boost your application. Use that time to volunteer at a shelter or food pantry. Use your skills to tutor younger children. Start a blood drive. As you get older, start looking at internships in health facilities. Do summer programs that emphasize the STEM field. Keep your grades up and take AP or IB classes. If you don’t know medicine is for you, explore your other passions. Take the time to figure out what’s right for you. When you find something that makes you happy and is something you truly love, you’ll know that is right for you! You seem like someone who is on the right track to a successful future.
In general, applying to a STEM major or program as a female will give you a slight boost. Strong high school extracurriculars to set you up for medical school include participating in HOSA, doing science competitions such as Science Bowl and Science Olympiad, working on research in a lab, and volunteering or shadowing in a clinical setting. If you're totally set on going to medical school and becoming a doctor, I'd also recommend you look into combined BS/MD programs that allow you to skip out on the medical school application process and complete both your undergraduate and medical school education in only 6-7 years. This pathway might be particularly interesting to you because neurosurgery requires the most years of training of any specialty (7-year residency plus another year of fellowship if you want to specialize further).
One important thing to remember in this whole process, though, is that you don't necessarily need to plan your high school career and college applications with the clear goal of becoming a doctor. So long as you complete your pre-med requirements and do some volunteering and research during (or even after - if you're taking gap years) college, you can pursue any major you'd like in college. If you are very passionate about history, for example, and can build a strong application as a potential history major based on your coursework and extracurricular experiences as a high school senior, I'd encourage you to write that application. Once you're in college, you could then choose to pursue whichever liberal arts and sciences major you'd like. Whether or not you ultimately majored in history, you could complete the pre-med requirements, and, with a good MCAT score and some research experience, have a great shot at getting into medical school.
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