Advice for future psychiatry career

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variable

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I want to become a psychiatrist, and I need advice.

I'm ending my senior year of high school, and I'm going to DePaul University in the fall. I heard that it's not that strong in the sciences.

Question: What do you think about it for pre-med courses? Should I transfer eventually?

For med school, I plan to go either to University of Chicago or Northwestern. This is mostly because UChicago offers a joint degree (M.D. and Ph.D). I want to get a Ph.D. in philosophy as well.

Question: Which is better, especially with regard to psychiatry? Could you please explain the different features of both? What do you think about joint degrees?

During my undergrad years, I plan to double major in English and philosophy. I might minor in psychology or comparative literature.

Question: Is this okay? Would I do better on the MCAT if I majored in a science course?

Question: Are all psychiatric illnesses real? Are chemical imbalances a product of a mode of thought; that is, is it something a person can control depending on their thinking patterns? Or, is it something that is not really related to that?

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nitemagi

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V,

you're overthinking the game just a little bit. Do well in your science courses. Do well in your non-science courses. Do well on your MCAT. Do well on your USMLE steps I, II, III. Take classes that're interesting to you in undergrad, as well as the required ones. I don't see a huge benefit to doing pre-med over non-premed, as long as you get the required and a bit more of the pre-requisite courses. Your undergrad will not have much of an effect on whether you go into psychiatry or not. The whole process is more stepwise. High school effects where you go to college. Where and how you do in college effects where you go to med school. Where and how you do in med school effects your shot at residencies. Along the way you can get involved in independent projects, research, volunteer work that interests you, and if it's relevant to your applications to the next step all the better.
 

sunlioness

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Yeah, you are thinking a bit too much. :) I was a history major. I did my pre-med requirements at a local state school. It was fine. Major in what you enjoy, not what you think will look good. You have to take pre-med requirements regardless of whether you major in a science or not.

Also as far as I know MD/PhD programs are for PhD's in the sciences. I don't think they would allow you to get a PhD in philosophy. But that's still several years ahead for you and you might change your mind a dozen times by then, so I wouldn't worry about it. I didn't decide to go to med school until I was a senior in college and then did a post-bac. I didn't decide I wanted to be a psychiatrist until I was an intern in internal medicine. So you really do have so so much time.
 
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manwhoisthursdy

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Agree with the above advice. Here are my thoughts.

#1. You're finishing up high school? HAVE FUN.

#2. Have fun!

#3. Major in what you like in college, take courses you enjoy. Take the pre-reqs for med school, study hard for the MCAT, do well on the MCAT, maintain a good GPA. Get involved in research if you think you might like it. Definitely get some clinical experience (volunteering, shadowing).

#4. Keep in touch with your school's pre-med office to stay up on what you should be doing each step of the way. Focus on getting into the med school you want -- don't worry about specialties at this point.

#5. I love to hear that others are interested in psychiatry, but you may be surprised and decide on a different specialty! So I'd recommend being well rounded in the sciences, and read/study psychology or philosophy or other psychiatry-related disciplines only if you want to and enjoy them -- at this stage of the game it's not "necessary" at all. Doing well in science courses and doing well on the MCAT is much more important at your stage.
 

OldPsychDoc

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Yeah, you are thinking a bit too much. :) I was a history major. I did my pre-med requirements at a local state school. It was fine. Major in what you enjoy, not what you think will look good. You have to take pre-med requirements regardless of whether you major in a science or not.

Also as far as I know MD/PhD programs are for PhD's in the sciences. I don't think they would allow you to get a PhD in philosophy. But that's still several years ahead for you and you might change your mind a dozen times by then, so I wouldn't worry about it. I didn't decide to go to med school until I was a senior in college and then did a post-bac. I didn't decide I wanted to be a psychiatrist until I was an intern in internal medicine. So you really do have so so much time.

Actually I think that the medical scholars program at U of IL (main campus) has been one of the more "liberal" ones about what they'll allow for the PhD, so philosophy might be possible--though most md/phd's I've known who've gone a humanities route have done something more applied--medical ethics or whatnot.
 

worriedwell

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suspect this might be trolling but...

agree with this advice:

"HAVE FUN!"

People are being polite but you are WAY out ahead of yourself by actually having identified exactly the path you are interested from the exact medical school and majors and specialties. You seem to be intellectually interested and thinking about psychiatry and mental illness which is great (and we don't know the answer to your question) but that is only one part of it. The reality is there is a less than 1% chance that it works out that way for you and if it did it would be a damn shame because then where is the fun in living and learning.

First of all it is incredibly hard to get into an MD/PHD program or even a straight MD program like Northwestern or UChicago. You don't just decide you are going to go there.

Second, going through medical school starts with a commitment and interest in medicine. It is a long and arduous journey that millions of kids who graduate high school envision for themselves (because dad said to them once "you're going to be a doctor" or because they love watching ER) and then they take Chem 1 and that dream changes. I don't mean to imply that people (or you) can't do it, I just mean to imply that the journey to get there is romanticized (and so is the job itself) but the actual process is brutal hell.

No disrespect but first things first. Focus on college, you can't predict your future.

I would argue NOT to be premed. Learn English and philosophy as you mentioned, or learn physics, or learn art history...whatever, something that you are interested in (even if it is biology or something premedish). But do something interesting and fun in college...work hard and learn but the best applicants for medical school have interesting life experience (and obviously did well in college so that they can show that they can handle med school). But really it bores the hell out of medical school committees when somebody only did everything premed related. At some point in college though, you should learn in some way what it means to live the life of a doctor (even a psychiatrist) through some clinical exposure or experience. The point I am making is that you should know what it means to get into med school but more importantly you should mature as an individual and live life and learn about the world and people in it. That will serve you well applying to med school and in deciding if medicine (and then maybe psychiatry) is the path for you. Taking all the prerequisite science courses (and maybe a couple more) is a must of course but beyond that I don't think your MCAT score will differ much depending on your major. Remember, the final and one of the most important steps to getting into med school is the interview and an interviewer is looking to meet a mature and well rounded person who they could envision being a doctor and taking care of sick people. You can't fake that very easily as a 21 year old and therefore it really benefits you to have some life experience that shows that you have some area of expertise beyond getting straight As because you never left the library.

The first thing you should do is make friends in college, take some beginner courses and try your best. Then start learning about all the different communities and organizations there are at DePaul and pick one or two that you really are attracted to and participate and work towards becoming a leader in that group. Do fun or interesting work or travel during your summers off. Its very important to remain social and interact with peers as it will provide you with emotional resilience and support during trying times in your pursuits (even beyond medicine) and generally will help you with being a doctor. Go to the movies. Ask someone out on a date...you get the point.

Focus on college first...but it really means focus on some of the most important formative years for your adult identity and individuation. Decide who you are and what you are about. Until you are away from home and on your own a bit and you explore things, you won't really know. And you should REALLY know before you make the commitment.

Best,
worriedwell
 

whopper

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I'd tell premeds not yet in college to avoid colleges that'll weed them out.

Example-
I went to Syracuse for 2 years, took Biology there & got an A, and I learned a lot. Hardly anyone there was premed. The premed office was supportive, gave good advice & I felt they were on my side.

Transferred to Rutgers--a school where the overwhelming majority of the student body are premed and the premed program there is designed to weed people out. The premed office there unless you had a very very strong GPA (like 3.75-4.0) would discourage you from applying to medschool, and often gave unrealistic, even destructive advice, while also giving a condescending attitude.

Weed out? Classes poorly taught, T.A.s that barely spoke English, tests that didn't have what was covered in lecture or even the book, only way you could do well was to get copies of old exams, which were only available to you if you had some type of angle such as old fraternity banks of tests etc.

Had I taken Biology at Rutgers, I think I would've gotten a B on it, worked much harder & learned less.

I've hardly ever seen a medical school take someone or reject someone simply based on their undergraduate college.

So anyways, I was at Rutgers, going through this weed out game, studying my tail off, not getting good teaching and lots of my friends were in the Henry Rutgers Scholar program--a program where you pretty much just showed up to class & got an A. (Don't know if its still like that but it was when I was at RU).

Things like this happen in big universities. Another example--art students pretty much got As on all their classes so long as they just showed up. So the freshman honor society was mostly artists, while the real braniacs of high school who went to college--who were premed & engineering--hardly any of them could get into the honor society. My Henry Rutgers Scholars friends were hardly doing any work and getting As, and I could've been one of those schmoes but I didn't know about that program until it was too late to get in. (They don't tell you about it on the application).

Its a numbers game. They look at your GPA & MCAT score. They only start to consider things like the school you went to when it comes down to very few candidates. Until then, its you vs thousands and you'll be lucky if they get to the point where they consider your undergraduate school.

An acquaintance of my dad's was a dean at a medschool. He told me a story of 2 applicants to medschool. One went to the College of NJ & had a 3.7 & got into medschool. The other went to Cornell & had a 3.0 & got in nowhere. He said the Cornell student was much brighter than the TCNJ student, but because Cornell too weeds out students tremendously, the Cornell student with the 3.0 GPA had little chance of getting in anywhere. Add to the irony, most high school students would want to go to Cornell over TCNJ because Cornell is an Ivy Leaguer, yet such a student could be shooting their foot when trying to get into medschool.

When you're in medschool admissions and you got thousands of applicants, you're not going to factor the school. You're just going to look at the GPA & MCAT score and throw away the rest of the applications below your standards. Its only when you got a "manageable" pile of applications will you then try to understand the applicant as a human being--and to get to that point you often have to have excellent numbers, regardless of the school.

Try to go to the school where you will get the best teaching & will have a good experience as a human being (including fun). Avoid a school that has a weed out mentality if you're serious about going to medschool.
 

Faebinder

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I'd tell premeds not yet in college to avoid colleges that'll weed them out.

Example-
I went to Syracuse for 2 years, took Biology there & got an A, and I learned a lot. Hardly anyone there was premed. The premed office was supportive, gave good advice & I felt they were on my side.


Transferred to Rutgers--a school where the overwhelming majority of the student body are premed and the premed program there is designed to weed people out. The premed office there unless you had a very very strong GPA (like 3.75-4.0) would discourage you from applying to medschool, and often gave unrealistic, even destructive advice, while also giving a condescending attitude.

Weed out? Classes poorly taught, T.A.s that barely spoke English, tests that didn't have what was covered in lecture or even the book, only way you could do well was to get copies of old exams, which were only available to you if you had some type of angle such as old fraternity banks of tests etc.

Had I taken Biology at Rutgers, I think I would've gotten a B on it, worked much harder & learned less.

I've hardly ever seen a medical school take someone or reject someone simply based on their undergraduate college.

So anyways, I was at Rutgers, going through this weed out game, studying my tail off, not getting good teaching and lots of my friends were in the Henry Rutgers Scholar program--a program where you pretty much just showed up to class & got an A. (Don't know if its still like that but it was when I was at RU).

Things like this happen in big universities. Another example--art students pretty much got As on all their classes so long as they just showed up. So the freshman honor society was mostly artists, while the real braniacs of high school who went to college--who were premed & engineering--hardly any of them could get into the honor society. My Henry Rutgers Scholars friends were hardly doing any work and getting As, and I could've been one of those schmoes but I didn't know about that program until it was too late to get in. (They don't tell you about it on the application).

Its a numbers game. They look at your GPA & MCAT score. They only start to consider things like the school you went to when it comes down to very few candidates. Until then, its you vs thousands and you'll be lucky if they get to the point where they consider your undergraduate school.

An acquaintance of my dad's was a dean at a medschool. He told me a story of 2 applicants to medschool. One went to the College of NJ & had a 3.7 & got into medschool. The other went to Cornell & had a 3.0 & got in nowhere. He said the Cornell student was much brighter than the TCNJ student, but because Cornell too weeds out students tremendously, the Cornell student with the 3.0 GPA had little chance of getting in anywhere. Add to the irony, most high school students would want to go to Cornell over TCNJ because Cornell is an Ivy Leaguer, yet such a student could be shooting their foot when trying to get into medschool.

When you're in medschool admissions and you got thousands of applicants, you're not going to factor the school. You're just going to look at the GPA & MCAT score and throw away the rest of the applications below your standards. Its only when you got a "manageable" pile of applications will you then try to understand the applicant as a human being--and to get to that point you often have to have excellent numbers, regardless of the school.

Try to go to the school where you will get the best teaching & will have a good experience as a human being (including fun). Avoid a school that has a weed out mentality if you're serious about going to medschool.

Wow, never seen better advise to a premed. That's exactly what I would do. Make sure you go to a college or community-college+university combo that will not weed you out. Generally, the bigger the college/university (number of students attending) the worse the teaching/grades are and the more you are likely to become a number that they want to weed out. Gigantic universities are almost like degree farms.

I still remember my last class in my undergrad Chemical Engineering... it was called "Plant Design". I walked in the first day and after the class was done the TA came in saying "I don't know what you all are worried about, Dr. XXX already has in his mind three groups will get Ds, 3 will get Cs, 3 Bs and 3 As and the rest will be dropped out". Do you think that mentality helps get into med school? The med school admission software would count a B in that class as lower than the A in Underwater Basketweaving.

Anyway, this is the Psychiatry forum, you should probably talk about this in the premed forum.
 

OldPsychDoc

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I'd tell premeds not yet in college to avoid colleges that'll weed them out....
Try to go to the school where you will get the best teaching & will have a good experience as a human being (including fun). Avoid a school that has a weed out mentality if you're serious about going to medschool.

Agree with Faebinder--whopper's post was excellent.
The only thing I'd add from my end is given the choice between a "name" university and $100,000 + in undergrad debt vs. a state U and much lower debt, by all means MINIMIZE the undergrad debt! Your education and opportunities will not suffer.
 

whopper

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At Rutgers, with several thousands of students in the incoming student body being premed and only a few hundred of them going to medschool, RU messes up all those thousands as best as they can, to prevent many of them from even applying.

They tell them to take Calculus, Biology, Chemistry all in the same semester (all weed out classes). Then on top of that the Freshman writing class which surprisingly is also a weed out class. My younger brother had over a 1400 on his SATs and was a smart guy & got a C on that class. Another buddy of mine was the valedictorian of his high school & fought hard to get a B in that class.

It was normal for the class average on the exam to be less than 50% on several exams in the sciences. As many of you know, when an exam has an average like that, and a large standard deviation, there's hardly any statistical validity to the exam. In short, the exam was not really testing our knowledge of the subject.

And those monsters pretty much just made the average a C which could kill off your chances of getting into a medschool with too many of them. Like I said, most of those with an A only got those A's because they knew the trick to the class--> old exams which they were only able to get because they had some angle.

During our classes, some of our science professors even said they didn't want to teach but were only doing so because they had to as part of their research deals with the school.

I've seen straight A students in high school fail out of premed. Had that same student gone to Syracuse, they would've done well because the classes there didn't have a weed out mentality. Hardly anyone there was premed. The school actually wanted to help all their students who were premed get in, and only discouraged people who were doing badly. When they discouraged them, they did so in a realistic manner that was not condescending.

Compare that to RU: "so I see your GPA is only a 3.6. I don't know, maybe you should give up right now".

I took Organic Chem over the summer with a guy from Princeton University who scored over a 1500 on his SATs when he was only 16. He got into Princeton at age 16. I thought the guy was going to kick my butt in Orgo.

We got our first exams back, and I got a high C, and he failed it. His attitude was like "what the heck is this? This isn't teaching. So much of what was on the exam was never covered in class. At Princeton they actually teach us for real and they test on on our knowlege of what they taught us."
 

Anasazi23

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Agree with the above.

Great post Whopper.

Minimize debt, maximize good influence. Drop "weed-out" BS and attitude like a hot potato.
 

worriedwell

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I would argue that the weed out mentality is not a good thing but too much handholding from a university is not either because medical school classes will devastate you if you can't handle assimilating information rapidly and efficiently. You just need a place that is supportive and learning the material is emphasized without the atmosphere being malignant. And then you need to be proactive about the rest of your life because I've also seen applicants from Top 50 university programs with 3.8 GPAs and 33 Mcat scores not get in to any MD school because she was a library junky with bland personality (but very pleasant) and no idea why she wanted to do medicine and no other interesting experiences.

The grades get you in the door for interview but they don't guarantee you anything. Especially if you are aiming for Northwestern or UChicago type schools.
 

whopper

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but too much handholding from a university is not either because medical school classes will devastate you if you can't handle assimilating information rapidly and efficiently.

Very much agree.

If you don't got the talent, you could end up failing out of medschool. Better to be blown out of the water before you get to that level. That way, less debt & less wasted time.

I'm trying to focus on saving the people that had the talent but were shot down because the school they paid money to learn from weren't teaching them.

A good way to gauge if you're being "handheld" too much is take a practice MCAT to see where you stand. It for better or worse is the national standard "equalizer". If you don't do well, work on bringing the score up. All things being equal you want at least a 30 if you want to get into a US medschool for an M.D.
 

whopper

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Agree with Faebinder.

Maybe this belongs in another section in SDN.

But I'll conclude my comments with this.

Rutgers-Piscataway & New Brunswick were weed out schools (been there, done that).

From what I hear the following too are weed out schools.
UCLA & most of the UC schools (California).
NYU
Cornell

The following aren't weed out schools (either been there or basing this on what I heard from friends)
Syracuse U. (been there)
Princeton U. (surprisingly, several of my friends who went there say its very difficult to get in, but once you're in, its very easy and you do learn a lot. The professors there actually seem to really want to teach.)
Several of the midwestern state U. schools

Sorry, that's the list as far as I know.

California, NJ & NY are easy to understand why they're weed out because in those 2 states, there's lots of immigrants. Culturally, several ethnic cultures strongly emphasize a medical education. It creates a system where the majority of the entering student body in college are all pre-med. The school knows it can only get a small portion of those students into medschool because the local state medical school usually only accepts about 100-200 students per year, and out of state schools rarely take in out of state medical students, so they try to blow them out of the water instead of giving supportive teaching.

And I've heard absolute horror stories of the meanness & condescension of the pre-med office from some of the weed out schools from some of my friends. Several of them claiming the same exact story happened to them. Stories like, the pre-med advisor would open his wallet and put all his cash on the table and say "I'd bet all the money I got that you won't make into medschool. I don't want the name of our school connected with you", and that friend of mine had a very good GPA.

At RU, one of the only advisors that wasn't mean was Dean Trexler. She wasn't nice either, just not mean, and that was the best I got there. Most of them were just plain, outright mean, and my money & state taxes were paying for their salaries. They would tell students to take the classes that weeded people out, and wouldn't steer us to the classes that were well taught.

Everytime RU asks me for a donation, I'm hesitant because I'm not exactly fond of my experiences there. I have a lot of good memories with my college buddies, but the school itself for pre-med types makes an already difficult task even more difficult.
 

toby jones

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I love philosophy :)

In case you don't know about it already there is this handy little thing called the 'gourmet report' which is a ranking of philosophy departments in the English speaking world (US, UK, Canada, Australasia).

http://www.philosophicalgourmet.com/2006/overall.asp

There is a page on reccomendations to undergrads:

http://www.philosophicalgourmet.com/undergrad.asp

You might be interested in this:

http://www.inpponline.org/

(Philosophy of Psychiatry is a very new field - there hasn't been all that much work done within it. And most of the work that has been done was focused in on ethics or phenomenology. Fairly recent move to considering it from the perspective of philosophy of science).
 

BlueSkies01

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Agree with Faebinder--whopper's post was excellent.
The only thing I'd add from my end is given the choice between a "name" university and $100,000 + in undergrad debt vs. a state U and much lower debt, by all means MINIMIZE the undergrad debt! Your education and opportunities will not suffer.

This is sometimes true, but keep in mind that many private universities offer excellent financial aid packages for people who qualify. Many state schools do not give any significant financial aid, even to those from underprivileged families. You never know what it's going to cost you until you apply, get in, and apply for financial aid. It is not always the case where state school = cheaper.


Here's what I'd say about the original post:

- Yes, the reputation of your college DOES matter and will factor into medical school admissions, but the MOST important thing is to do well at whatever school you go to and maintain a high GPA. Med schools will not look at you if you don't get a decent GPA, no matter where you went to school.

- Don't plan on going to U Chicago or Northwestern for med school just yet. You never know what you might want in a few years, in addition to the fact that those are both very competitive medical schools to get into.

- You can get an MD/PhD at lots of other places. I don't think you can do a PhD in philosophy as part of an MD/PhD program, because I'm pretty sure those have to be science-oriented. You can always get a PhD first, before applying to med school.

- Major in whatever you want. Just make sure you take all the med school pre-req's by staying in contact with a pre-med advisor at your school.

The bottom line: focus on studying what you enjoy, maintaining a good GPA, and doing well on the MCAT. Good luck!
 
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