The path which will bring you from a high school student to a doctor is not always the most obvious path. It is generally pretty similar for everyone, but there are some deviations that you can make, and being prepared for them can help take your education along the best possible path.
The path to becoming a doctor really begins in High School. Its essential to get good grades, and to get good grades consistently. You need to demonstrate, beginning in high school, that you’re intelligent, creative, and hard-working. There aren’t many better ways to show this to educational institutions than by getting good grades and test scores.
After high school you’ll attend university. During your time as an undergrad, you’ll have to take pre-med requirements, which are basically science classes that prepare you for the MCAT and Medical school. Just as in high school, it is essential to get good grades as an undergrad, as medicine tends to be very hierarchical, and where you go to medical school will be very influential in your residency and fellowship placement, and ultimately where you will be able to work.
On to Medical School
Toward the end of your time as an undergrad, you’ll take the MCAT. The score that you receive on this test is a very important part of your Medical school application. Then you go on to Medical school, where your medical education truly begins. The beginning of medical school isn’t actually quantitatively very different from undergraduate. The main difference is just that instead of studying languages, history, and economics, you’ll only study medicine.
In the third year of medical school, you begin your clinical rotations, which are actually very different from anything you will have experienced up to that point.
The Transition to Clinicals
Clinicals are very different from the first two years of medical school, but they are somewhat similar to what you’ll experience as a resident. You basically do one rotation in each specialty, where you spend four weeks learning all about one specialty while trying to survive and impress your clinical director. Then after four weeks you go on to the next specialty and start over, and repeat the process 24 times.
Straight through or time off?
One of the other options is to consider taking some time off and doing something different during part of your education. One possibility which some people do is taking a year off the path after high school to work or travel. Personally, I took a bit of a different path, by taking time after my third year of medical school to do a clinical research year.
Understanding the Match
After medical school, there is a process called the match through which students are paired with Residency programs. Basically all medical students go and interview with a number of medical schools. Then the schools and the applicants rank their preferences, and a computer algorithm sorts out who will go to which residency.
Once you’re matched to your residency, you can celebrate and relax – until the residency begins.