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Bad chemistry? Why pre-meds quit

Updated: Jan 12


This morning, I awoke with the question, "Why do pre-meds quit being pre-med?" When I was a high school senior, my parents took me to an open house at a very well-respected school (that shall remain nameless) in New York City. Three African-American female students presented their experiences at the university. All three had started out pre-med. All three eventually quit being pre-med.

Seeing this, my father said, "You won't being applying to this school!" He was baffled that from the many students the university had to choose, they had chosen three that had quit their dreams of becoming doctors. What struck him most was that they were African-American women, like his daughter. He was not having it!

I've been in medicine long enough to know that African-American females are not the only ones who stop pursuing being a doctor. It's a trend we see all across the board! But, WHY? Then, I came across a research article that attempted to answer the question, "Why do pre-meds stop being pre-med?"

In a nutshell, this particular article found that CHEMISTRY courses were a very popular common denominator when it came to pre-meds deciding to chuck their pursuit of medicine. Many of the pre-meds (now former pre-meds) expressed that chemistry was too hard and that they felt discouraged because they did not get good grades in the course.

Interestingly enough, some of the pre-meds who persevered recognized that as difficult as it may be, chemistry does not have to derail their entire life plan. It's just a bump in the road that other people overcome; so could they!

It is true that chemistry is no walk in the park. It requires lots of focus and disciplined study. As a pre-med, I had to take two of my chemistry classes over. Had I let chemistry beat me, I wouldn't be a doctor today!

Strategies that you might want to consider to destroy (or at least pass) your chemistry courses:

  • Don't be a chemistry major! (You don't need that many chemistry courses for med school.)

  • Don't take other science or math courses when you take chemistry courses.

  • Take your chemistry courses in the summer (This helped me a lot with OrgoChem 2.)

  • Review your chemistry notes/book EVERY SINGLE DAY of the course. All you need is about 1hr a day.

  • Go to your professor's office hours at least once a week. Your prof might give you some insight that you didn't get in class. (And... it might give you a few brownie points!)

  • Remember that a do-over is not necessarily a bad thing! If you need a second shot at chemistry, take it!

Certainly, chemistry is not the only reason that pre-meds quit. Bottom line, don't let one hurdle derail your entire future. You will hit many obstacles in life. If you quit every time you encounter one, you'll never complete any journey.

If you'd like to read the research article, click the link:

Donald A. Barr, et al. Adv Health Sci Educ Theory Pract. 2010 Mar; 15(1): 45–54. PMCID: PMC2814029

Thinking about quitting because of a course that you took? You're not alone. Leave a question or comment. I'll be glad to answer!

#premed #quit #chemistry #medicine

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