As an academic advisor, I know that a majority of students who enter college with pre-med goals will not become doctors. In my experience, pre-med dropouts often have parents who are trying to make their kids into doctors. Many of those students have little interest in the biology and chemistry courses and are unable to complete even the freshman courses with grades higher than C. These students are often earning A and B grades in their social science and humanities “general education” courses. They are round pegs being forced into square holes.
Pushing a child into any profession is damaging to the child and to the parent/child relationship. Even though you can’t “make your kid a doctor,” here are things parents can do to set the stage for a child to choose medicine as a career:
Encourage interest in science, especially biology and chemistry. A student who has a very solid foundation in these fields has a better chance of success in the pre-med coursework.
Help your child get a part-time job in a physician’s office or hospital. There is no substitute for seeing physicians first-hand to help a young person decide if that career is one they want to pursue.
Make sure your child has exposure to female and male physicians of varying ethnic groups. An African American girl needs to see that she is fully capable of becoming a physician.
Be a doctor yourself. Medicine will definitely seem more “real” to a child who grew up with it.
Give your child an inspiring autobiography written by a physician as a gift. Gifted Hands, by neurosurgeon Dr. Ben Carson, is an excellent option.
Avoid making disparaging remarks about physicians , such as “I hate going to the doctor” or “He is just a quack.” If you treat physicians with respect, your child will notice.
Save money to help pay for medical school. Medical school is very expensive and students may already have undergraduate student loans. Parents often help.
Don’t expect your child to give up other passions. Many physicians are multi-talented people with interests in music, history, and other fields. Some do not enter medical school until age 25 or later.
Finally, if your child decides that medicine is not the field for him or her, just let it go! Support their individual journey to find meaningful work, wherever it leads.
Professional and personal experience