The medical training path in becoming a doctor is an arduous and long journey, lasting anywhere from 11 to 15 years after completing high school. That includes your 4 premed years in college, 4 years of medical school, and 3 to 7 years of residency. These are the highlights, the best parts that you’ll surely look forward to.
These are the five best parts in your path to becoming a future doctor.
1 | Last Half of 4th Year of Medical School
They say your fourth and final year of medical school is the best part of your entire medical training process. In reality, it’s only the second half of your fourth year that’s truly glorious, and that’s because you’re just coasting and enjoying life before starting residency on July 1st.
During the first half of your fourth year, you’ll be crafting your residency application. Similar to your medical school application, that will include a personal statement, work & activities section, research, letters of recommendation, and occasionally some supplemental essays. You’ll be applying in September, and doing residency interviews anywhere from October through early February.
Interviews, depending on the specialty, can be varying degrees of stressful, but I found it immensely fun to travel around the nation and meet fellow applicants from other medical schools.
Your average emergency medicine interview is going to be more relaxed than your average general surgery interview due to trends in cultures between specialties, although it will vary from program to program.
At one plastic surgery program, I was asked to fold origami while simultaneously explaining complex research. And at another, I was to carve an ear out of soap and to make it as anatomically correct as possible.
2 | Summer Before First Year of Medical School
The summer before you start medical school is one of the best opportunities you have to enjoy your freedom. Unfortunately, many premeds succumb to their neuroses and don’t fully enjoy this summer. Instead, they’re stressed about what medical school is going to be like, whether they’re prepared, whether they should be studying now so they can hit the ground running, and getting their extracurriculars or research lined up to have a head start.
The reality is that the best way to spend your summer before medical school is to enjoy it and live it up. If you’ve wanted to travel to Europe, now’s the time to do it. If you want to reach the leaderboard of Fortnite, now’s your best chance. The reason it’s important to take this time for yourself is because burnout is a serious problem in medical school, and not coming in from a relaxed and rejuvenated state will hinder your performance.
3 | Summer Between MS1 and MS2
Speaking of summers, the summer between your first and second years of medical school will likely be the last summer vacation of your life. Most medical schools provide this time off, although accelerated programs will not. You’ll have approximately 3 months off, and this is one of the best times to capitalize on research in your specialty of interest. Doing so will greatly improve your candidacy when it comes time for residency applications, but you’ll still have time for other things during that summer. It won’t be as carefree as the summer before medical school, but hopefully you’re able to do something special to enjoy the last summer break of your life.
4 | Premed
Believe it or not, you’ll look back on your premed years fondly as some of the best years in your doctor training journey. If you’re in college right now, you may be rolling your eyes saying “sure, grandpa, and I’m guessing you also walked to school in the snow, 15 miles, uphill both ways.”
While there is a tendency for people further along the training path to downplay the difficulty of earlier stages due to recency bias, the fact remains that your premed years offer the greatest flexibility and control of your time.
You will never again have so much room for experimentation with which extracurriculars you pursue, which clubs you are a part of, or what sports you want to play. In college I experimented with guitar, was on a dance team, got into powerlifting, went to countless music shows, and did many stupid things too with comparatively minor consequences. I also had the ability to take incredibly interesting classes, some of my favorites including the history of electronic dance music and the neuropharmacology of drugs of abuse. Obviously the two had substantial overlap.
I found that in medical school, I had much less time, and therefore had to be far more selective. Rather than experimenting with rock climbing and running and dance, I focused on just weights and cycling. Rather than being part of half a dozen clubs, I was part of only two.
5 | Peak Moments
There are many other peak moments that you’ll remember fondly for the rest of your life.
While college graduation is special, and it had particular meaning to me given the less-than-straightforward path my premed journey took, it wasn’t nearly as meaningful as my medical school graduation. The amount of sacrifice, perseverance, and pushing of your limits that you must confront to finish medical school makes that moment all the more sweeter.
When you receive your first medical school acceptance letter, you’ll be ecstatic, realizing that you are in fact going to become a doctor. When you get the acceptance letter from your dream school, you’ll be over the moon.
The White coat ceremony, typically done at the beginning of medical school, marks the transition from being a premed to now truly being part of the medical profession.
Similarly, Match Day is a culmination of your hard work and seals your fate for the next 3 to 7 years of residency. And of course, graduating from residency or fellowship is the final leg in the race, closing the final chapter on your marathon to becoming a fully-fledged attending physician.
I still remember the day I got my MCAT score report. I was going down the elevator as I opened my email, letting out an excited yet non-sensical sound, getting glances from the two other students in the elevator. I walked to a bench in front of Royce Hall at UCLA and sat there for 30 minutes, reading and re-reading the score report to make sure I wasn’t misinterpreting it. And then I called my mom to give her the good news.
I want you to experience that same feeling; for the day you open your MCAT score report to be one of your best academic memories. My team and I have been working tirelessly to create the best MCAT study resource available. After over 2 and a half years, the Med School Insiders MCAT course is now in early access and combined with Memm, these offer the most effective MCAT prep available. I’ll be keeping all Med School Insiders newsletter subscribers updated on the latest with regards to both, including when the full public release is live – Sign up for my free newsletter at medschoolinsiders.com/newsletter.
If you enjoyed this video, check out my article on the 4 years of medical school explained.