Campus Life

Woes of a Premed

This past December, on a lonely afternoon in the building 12 Athena Cluster, I finally decided what I wanted to do with my life. I filled out my Prehealth Advisor Request Form, available as a PDF on the Careers Office Web page. “The MIT Careers Office (MITCO) is now accepting prehealth advisor requests for individuals wishing to enter medical or other health profession schools in Fall 2009,” the Web site stated. Perfect, I thought, this is when I’m planning on entering! I spent two days writing eight essays for the application — not an invigorating experience, considering it was winter break. I filled out the GPA and course requirements form, and indicated I was interested in applying to MD/PhD programs. Then I addressed the envelope, sealed it with love, and placed it in the mailbox. (There’s no way to apply online).

As of last week, I realized I hadn’t heard anything about being assigned an advisor. Maybe they never received my application, I worried. Within ten seconds, the premed sweat was upon me — I felt the sudden, overwhelming blood rush that we medical school hopefuls feel at stressful times, like when the professor announces the average on a 5.12 exam was a C. I calmed myself down. They can’t deny you a premed advisor, I told myself reassuringly — you pay $46,000 a year to come here. Plus, they want you to succeed.

I walked over to the Careers Office and inquired about the status of my application. “I’m sorry, but you’ll have to wait for this slow software to load before I can check that,” the man behind the desk said. Four minutes later I was still standing there when he added, “I was not kidding; it’s really slow.” Finally, the woman in charge of pre-health advising returned from her lunch break. He passed the task to her.

“Are you a second semester sophomore?” she asked. “No, I’m a second semester junior.” I noticed the look on her face; it wasn’t reassuring. The corners of her mouth had dropped and she made one of those what-I’m-about-to-tell-you-isn’t-good clicking sounds. “You’ve been placed on a waiting list,” she said. A waiting list? I developed a hot flash. A WAITING LIST? “May I ask what my chances are of receiving a prehealth advisor?” I said calmly, “Would you put them below 50%?” I wanted, I needed her to quantify my chances. This was my future, and I wanted numbers.

“Well, I can’t really put a number on that.”

“I’m sorry,” I replied, “But I just made up my mind this fall that I want to go to medical school. Are you saying that because I didn’t decide this during sophomore year that I can’t get an advisor?”

I’ll admit, this was a little pointed. It wasn’t this woman’s fault.

Let us pause here while I pose a question: How many nineteen-year-olds know what they want to do with their lives? Most students at other schools don’t even declare their majors until spring of their second year. I’m impressed that I’ve decided this soon. Clearly, though, the Careers Office is not.

One would think that in circumstances like this, they might bump juniors to the top of the list and make the sophomores wait a couple of months. Sounds pretty democratic to me. But, then again, when was the last time my $46,000 a year bought me anything other than a lot of homework and a whole lot of misery?

Oh, the woes of a premed.