I am interested in working as a doctor once I finish my university studies, and so I have had a look at the Auckland and Otago medical schools. It seems that people tend to go straight into these after first year pre-med, or after a 3-year BSc degree in something medical or biology related.
I’m about to enter Year 13 and taking a wide range of subjects: Maths, Sciences, English, Economics, Music and History, partly for the intellectual challenge and partly because I enjoy all of them. I have heard about the US’s liberal arts system and that it can be a good way to enter medical school in the US, particularly for someone like me who wants to have a well-rounded education and enjoys a large range of subjects.
I was wondering how a liberal arts degree program would work for pre-med, and what high-ranked universities in the US might offer this (I’m particularly interested in Economics, History, Biology and Chemistry). Also, how much exposure would I be getting to a range of subjects by doing a liberal arts degree and then a medical degree and how are the degrees structured? Is there anything that I can be doing now to increase my candidacy?
Great question! You should absolutely consider the benefits of a liberal arts education, and how it could impact your future as a physician. The core knowledge you will obtain from the liberal arts canon, as well as the reflective skills you will develop by furthering your abilities to express yourself conversationally and through your written word, could totally change the shape of the kind of care you will ultimately provide.
If you want to get a degree in something like economics or history, this is not a problem at all! You just have to make sure that many of your non-major courses follow the expectations of what you will need in order to apply to med school. For example, I had many peers in the history department at Princeton, and had many friends in the art history department, who always intended to pursue med school after undergrad. They took all their departmentals and all the general undergrad required courses just like everyone else, but rather than filling in extra slots in their schedule with courses like “Computer Music” or “Literature of the Caribbean,” they were the rare humanities kids sitting in mol bio or organic chem.
If you end up at a liberal arts college or at one of the liberal arts-focused Ivies, be sure to tell your academic advisor immediately about your intentions to pursue med school. They will help you go through the requirements and take all the courses necessary to be qualified for medical school. This is also why at these sorts of schools you won’t find anybody who’s a “Pre-Med” major like you might at a large public uni in the US. People study whatever they feel like for undergrad at the top liberal arts colleges or universities, and accumulate the necessary coursework to get into med school later.
If you’re interested, read this article about one of my best friends from Princeton who was a religion major, and went on to be the commencement speaker for Weill Cornell Medical’s class of 2015. The article touches on how his unusual academic and professional background has helped his achievements in the field of medicine so far.