To this day, one of the most common questions I receive across all media are
“What is the best pre-med course?”
“Why did you choose BS Nursing as your pre-med course?”
“I am having hard time deciding for a pre-med course.”
Being the first generation doctor in the family meant having almost no guidance when it comes to planning my future. Since we didn’t have K-12 back then, at the tender age of 15, I had to make commitment of what college course I was going to take. At this point, all I knew was that I wanted to be a doctor, and I only had a vague idea of how to go about it. While my late aunt, who was a dentist, had a little more insight about it, I was still left with doing a lot of research on my own.
So I thought I would write an article from what I learned based off my experience, in hopes of giving some clarity to confused aspiring doctors of medicine.
What is a “Pre-med course”?
Let me give it to you straight. There is no such thing as a “pre-med course”. Whatever you took before you took up medicine is your pre-med course. I previously wrote about the steps to become a medical doctor.
Traditionally, health allied courses such as nursing, physical/occupational therapy, biology, and medical technology were the choices for pre-med. However, that has since changed, and the requirement to take the National Medical Admission Test has been changed to those who are graduates or graduating student of any bachelor’s degree. I have colleagues who graduated courses like accountancy, music, Spanish, library science, pre-school education, etc.
That information doesn’t help us narrow down our option at all. So back then, I did what anyone else would do, and that was to consult the all mighty Google. When you read through some of these articles, a lot of them would list down the aforementioned traditional health allied courses, and their supposed advantages in med school.
There are three things that I, and other graduates of medicine, find problematic about these lists.
It stereotypes the health allied courses
Since a lot of these lists only provide vague information about these health allied courses, a lot of them are reduced to a stereotype (e.g. BS Nursing grads are caring, and are good with obstetrics, pediatrics and public health), which may have some truths to it, but a lot of them won’t provide a clear picture of how the course truly weighs in a life of med students.
Reinforces that health-allied courses are stepping stones to med school
Without the emphasis on the multidisciplinary nature of a medical team, a lot of these articles give readers the impression that these health allied courses are mere steps to medicine. It’s about time we went past that, and gave more regards to these professinos.
Gives the impression that the only options for pre-med are health-allied courses
And this is exactly what it felt like for me. I always find it fascinating when I find out that someone’s pre-med is a non-science course and that fact has not stopped them from stellar academic performance and eventually becoming wonderful doctors afterwards.
Nonetheless, since I had no other information to turn to, I followed these advices from the articles. I enrolled for BS Nursing, a degree with a course on pediatrics, because it supposedly provided me with an advantage since I wanted to pediatrician at that time. In hindsight, although I ultimately don’t regret taking up BS Nursing, I do regret the decision making process.
But now that I have graduated medicine, I have a better insight about it. To help you make your decision, I ask you two things;
Do you really wanna become a doctor?
I know, it sounds silly. Why would you be reading this article if you weren’t, right? Well, let me just share you a story.
Back when I was in first year nursing, a lot of the professors would ask “Who among you took up nursing as a pre-med course?”. I remember so many of us were raising our hands, maybe more than half of the classroom. During our sophomore year, when the same question was asked, less that half did. And by the time we were seniors, only a handful were confident in saying they wanted to take up medicine.
This is not to discourage you, but minds change, plans evolve, you fatigue in college, and eventually, your future plans may not involve med school. And that’s completely normal. I ask you this, because it will stop you from prematurely committing to the plan of taking up medicine, and subsequently taking up a health-allied course because that is what is supposed to be “best pre-med course”. Remember, you can always choose to proceed to med school, but you cannot take back your college years.
What College Course Will I Be Passionate About For The Coming Years?
As aforementioned, I took up nursing solely with the intention of it being a pre-med course. I did not do enough research about it, especially on what it entailed, the possible future career options, etc. This initially resulted me into being very uninterested and unmotivated to study during my first two years in college. A lot of the days felt like a drab, and all I was thinking about was how I cannot wait to get into med school.
Thankfully, around halfway into BS Nursing, I really started loving the course, especially with the exposure to the clinics. To this day, this gets me thinking, what if I never fell in love with my course? I would’ve been stuck with in a college life where I didn’t feel alive and passionate about, just because someone told me it was supposedly the “best” pre-med course based of advantage in some subjects in medicine.
As DoktAURA said, you are choosing a college course, not a pre-med course. Learn from my mistake, and don’t look too far ahead into med school that you forget to enjoy your college life.
You have to keep in mind that your chosen college course may open doors potential career plans, in case you decided that you do not want to move forward with medicine.
But… There Are Advantages Each Course, Right?
Sure, as a graduate of BS Nursing, I learned pediatrics, obstetrics and some areas of public health. But the thing is, I learned these things in the context of being a nurse, not a doctor. The disciplines of nursing and medicine are different (while equally important).
As for the specific advantages in certain subjects (like the aforementioned BS Medical Technology for laboratory subjects), you will learn that in med school. It will give you a head start, but think of it. Should that supposed minor advantage in few subjects become a major deciding factor for what course you’ll be taking for the next few years? Answer is clearly no.
Instead, I advise you to do a thorough research on the college courses that you’re interested in pursuing, health-allied or not, and learn things like; what the course entails, the type of activities, expenses, subjects, and really evaluate if that seems like etc.
What If I Wanted To Choose A Non-Health Allied Course?
Are you a brave soul, and have interested in non-health allied courses? Congrats! You are the special bean in the bunch. The great thing is, despite the course being not related to health and science, you can always find your way back into medicine. Just look into the requirements of the med schools when it comes to undergraduate courses. For example in UST, they require specific science units, so you can take them in addition to your pre-med course to qualify as an applicant.
And a lot of people ask me, “didn’t they have a hard time going into medicine without having a background on the medical field?” Trust me, no matter your course was, all med students will be playing catching up from time to time eventually at one field or another. And most of the graduates of non-health allied courses have fared way better than I did academically. I’m confident that a lot of graduates of medicine would agree with me when I say that it’s pretty much an even battle field in med school.
tldr: If there was a single takeaway from this article, it is that you must choose a course you can be passionate about for the next few years. If you pursue medicine? Congrats! You had wonderful years studying the field of your interest. You chose not to pursue medicine? Congrats! You have a solid future career option and a college stay you enjoyed. No one tells you what the best pre-med course is, only you do.