As I mentioned in my Introductions post, I am an engineer by training. Quite often, I see posts on the Pre-Medical SDN Forums discussing this particular path to medical school with mixed reactions. While a large number of users adamantly recommend staying far, far away from engineering and technical courses, I have also seen some posts from people who have successfully made the transition and would do it all over again in a heartbeat. While I cannot say I identify with one particular group, I do have some opinions on the matter.
My situation is slightly unique — I transferred into engineering, so I had a completely different experience for my first half of college [and also some GPA padding]. Also, I went into Biomedical Engineering, which is slightly more forgiving in terms of completing medical school prerequisites [and pretty helpful for preparing for the MCATs]. These things aside, I completed the curriculum and am now accepted at a medical school I’m very excited about.
Would you do it all over again the same way?
Eh, not quite.
I do agree with the users that caution pre-meds to watch their GPA because it tends to be quite difficult to secure a 3.5+ after trudging through the Calculus sequence, Linear Algebra, programming, fluid mechanics, solid mechanics, physical chemistry… etc, etc. In fact, I have heard many times on the CoE (College of Engineering) Campus (i.e. North Campus) that the average Freshman GPA is something below 3.0. And honestly, starting with a GPA in the low 3.0s makes it really hard to bring it up come your application cycle. Not to say that a low GPA will completely prevent you from matriculating, but you better have a good reason, an upward trend in grades, and a stellar MCAT score.
The reality of the medical school admissions process is that numbers matter. I am not saying that they are the only thing that matters because life experience plays a big role as well… but if you always knew you wanted to be a physician, go into a major that you’re either 1) good at or 2) really love and thus should be good at. If medical school is starting to feel less like a fit, then honestly, you might fall in love with something like engineering [plus, if you go into the “core” fields such as mechanical, electrical, chemical and now I’d say computer science, you’re a lot more likely to find a job].
That last point also raises another one — at least from my institution, it is not that easy to secure a full-time engineering position after graduating with a Bachelor’s in Biomedical Engineering [a number of my pre-med peers did find full-time positions, but it takes a bit more searching and sometimes more sacrifice to land the job]. The market is definitely looking up for BME grads though, so that is promising. Either way, keep this all in mind if you’re looking for a “back-up” plan [e.g. if I don’t get in this application cycle, I’ll work full-time for a little while to save up for the next cycle!] to medical school.
In the end, I believe that my technical background will serve me well in medical school [plus, my current experience working for Terumo Cardiovascular Systems has been great]. I would have considered a more humanities-based degree had I known how all the chips would fall in the end… but that’s just me. I’m happy with where I am and pleased with what it took to get here.
More on my educational background to come in future posts!