On-track for a nontrad application/conflicted reasons for choosing medicine?


2+ Year Member
Oct 10, 2017
I'm an undergraduate computer science student interested in switching over to medicine.

cGPA: 3.72 (bit of an upward trend - I had a 3.28 first semester freshman year but haven't had below a 3.5 since)
sGPA: 3.32 (although I've only taken one semester of gen. chem and two semesters of physics, so I think it's only negligibly bad right now)
Clinical volunteering/experience: Around 25 or so hours volunteering at a hospital, but I haven't completed my two-semester commitment to them so I'll likely start from scratch.
Non-clinical volunteering/experience: 3.5 years of working with/leading an investment student organization at my university. No real volunteering yet, but I REALLY want to start volunteer ice hockey coaching (which begs another question - should I look for a different volunteering option if the ice hockey coaching position ends up being paid?). I have some hours volunteering with my university's red cross student group, but I was never that interested in the volunteering work.
Research: A lot. I can't really count the hours, but most of it has been from computer science/astrophysics research I do at university. My most recent summer internship was spent doing some clinical research work for a biotech company, culminating in a public health-y meta-analysis research project that I first author'd the abstract and poster for. One other n-th author publication and one upcoming 2nd author publication for astrophysics and computer science research.
Shadowing: 7 hours of shadowing an allergist.

My current plan is to spend about 2 years working on a postbacc while working in the biotech space or at a medical school in bioinformatics/medical research (e.g.: working at HMS as a data analyst while also doing the Harvard Extension postbacc), then half a year studying for the MCAT while still working. I'd likely apply after another half-year, and, if all goes well, matriculate after another year.

That sounds like a pretty reasonable plan in my mind, so I'm really only part of my application that I'm worried about is demonstrating my interested in medicine. I'm conflicted because I'm not not interested in computer science. I'd love to somehow merge my coding (mostly experience with machine learning) with being a doctor, but being a doctor is the more important priority to me. Between the pay, job security, interest, ability to work mostly wherever I want, and ability to stay in school for longer (which I'd like), I think I'm more drawn to the doctor path than the CS path. But at that point, it's more of a matter of pragmatism than a "I just want to help the sick people of the world"-mindset that draws me to medicine. That isn't to say I don't like helping others, but I am afraid that it means it's more out of selfish interest than not. Thus, how do I communicate that medical schools?


2+ Year Member
Mar 16, 2016
Medical Student (Accepted)
I guess I'm kind of confused on your reasoning as well. If you don't truly love helping sick people, you'll hate medicine. I'm a nurse but work alongside multiple doctors. We work long hours, weekends, holidays, I haven't had a christmas off in several years and neither have they. Many times at the end of the shift the doctors are wanting to go home to have dinner with their families, but they can't because a new patient needs to be seen in the ED triage. You can be interested in the theory of medicine, but not the reality. The reality can be sad, heart wrenching and stressful. I have been slapped in the face by confused patients, cursed, spit on, but I still love patient care and felt the pull to become a physician even after all of that. Computer science can give you the same job security and potential income as medicine with less time commitment and more freedom. Only shadowing/clinical work can really show you if you think you would be interested. You should shadow multiple specialties, GP, ED, Onc. I'm not trying to stray you away, but I think many pre-meds have an idealized view of medicine that is far from the reality, that is why the schools want all of these things from you so that you have shown your commitment.


2+ Year Member
Jun 6, 2017
Medical Student
The answer is that you should not communicate that to medical schools and you should definitely reconsider your path to medicine. I'm not criticizing your thought process; I get it and it definitely seems practical from the outside. The issue is that 1) patient focused care is a huge, HUGE deal in medicine right now. Trying to get into medical school without that drive is going to raise some red flags during interviews or your application essays.

Additionally, you have to realize how long the path to medicine is: you have 2 years for your postbacc, 4 years of medical school, and at minimum 3-4 years of residency. And that's assuming you get in on your first application cycle. That's 10 years until you're practicing medicine.
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MD Class of 2020
Gold Donor
2+ Year Member
Oct 15, 2015
Medical Student
“Between the pay, job security, interest, ability to work mostly wherever I want, and ability to stay in school for longer (which I'd like), I think I'm more drawn to the doctor path than the CS path.”

Sounds to me like you need a PhD in CS, with a focus on health systems / medicine somehow. Med school doesn’t sound like it’ll be rewarding.

At the tail end of it myself I’m telling you it’s full of desperate underserved patients that have all sorts of unpleasant smells leaking from all sorts of holes who desperately need people who care about their health and social needs - not those looking for pay and job security.

There are smarter, easier, and “more pleasant” ways to have job security, high end education, and great pay. Save the doctoring for those who have love for the patients.
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