Tips for Parents of Premed Students, Medical School Applicants

During high school, many students begin to express a desire to pursue a medical career. Parents of such students naturally will encourage them to study hard and will want to resist the temptation to do the work for them. But what else is within the power of parents to help a child realize his or her dream of becoming a doctor?

Here are six tips for encouraging your child to get on the right track and stay on it:

— Encourage conversations with science teachers and advisers.

— Help redirect your child from online and social distractions.

— Encourage a focus on activities that enhance medical school applications.

— Teach patience and persistence.

— Help your child learn how to fail and bounce back.

— Teach your child to avoid procrastination.

Encourage Conversations With Science Teachers and Advisers

As students prepare to apply for undergraduate schools, their science teachers may have insights into which colleges are best suited for their goals. Encourage your child to discuss his or her goals with teachers and advisers, keeping in mind the importance of selecting a college where your child will want to learn and not feel intimidated. The status of the school is less important than how well your child studies in that environment and enjoys his or her studies.

[READ: How to Decide If Going to Medical School and Being a Doctor Is Worth It.]

Many students who attend small liberal arts schools are well prepared to enter medical school. Premed advisers at a student’s college or university can guide in appropriate course selection and emphasize the importance of volunteer work, selection of activities and possibly research.

Help Redirect Your Child from Online and Social Distractions

I am reviewing med school applications for this season and notice a tremendous gap in how applicants have approached activities during the coronavirus pandemic. Most students thought far ahead and engaged in significant volunteering and research activities, but some did not. Those who had planned to increase their volunteer work or research right before the pandemic hit may have found themselves stranded at home, occupied with TV, video games and socializing.

Here’s where parents can have a large impact: You can guide your child to think differently about his or her activities. While the pandemic has certainly constrained many activities, some students have found innovative ways to contribute such as offering online tutoring, delivering groceries or meals to people who are shut in or elderly, and running errands for essential workers.

[Read: Volunteer Activities for Premed Students During Coronavirus Outbreak.]

Encourage a Focus on Activities That Enhance Medical School Applications

Most med school admission committees pay close attention to the ratio of hobbies to activities such as volunteering, shadowing physicians and research work. While the committees don’t want students to totally give up their hobbies, they want to see that students are able to place service and study ahead of pure enjoyment, something they will be required to do during medical school and residency.

Committees view it as a good sign and indication for selection if volunteering, shadowing and research are already part of a student’s regular activities, particularly if he or she has been engaged in those activities for several years prior to applying to med school. Remember that non-service activities or hobbies are not required by admissions committees, but service activities are. To be competitive, be sure your child is actively engaged in volunteering or somehow serving others.

Teach Your Child Patience and Persistence

Parents can definitely help their child master patience and persistence before med school. Delaying gratification is a first step. If children are rewarded too quickly, they don’t develop the necessary patience for success later. Medical students wait a long time before they can perform certain tasks or procedures. They may even have to wait until their residency or fellowship.

[Read: How to Choose a College Major If You Plan to Attend Medical School.]

Parents can help their children develop persistence and a work ethic by assigning household chores; having them care for a grandparent or tend a garden; or encouraging formal employment, to cite a few examples. No matter how brilliant or efficient a student is, he or she still needs a great deal of patience and persistence for success in life.

Help Your Child Learn How to Fail and Bounce Back

Everyone fails at some point; failure is part of life. Students who have never experienced defeat will surely be faced with it at some point during their medical career, if not in medical school.

Parents can help their children develop mental fortitude, the ability to learn from mistakes. and self-forgiveness — all of which bring recovery and resilience. Learning these skills under the protective support of parents is easier than when alone. Some of the best ways to develop skills for failing followed by recovery are to engage in group or self-competitive academic or physical activities.

Teach Your Child to Avoid Procrastination

Putting things off is a struggle for many people, and students are no exception. We all know nagging doesn’t help and often backfires. Still, learning how to avoid procrastination is an area where parents can have influence on children.

A first step is to discover why your child procrastinates. One common reason is that he or she may be waiting for inspiration that doesn’t come. If that’s the case, share the cart-before-the-horse concept and explain that starting an action will naturally lead to inspiration. They just need to take that first step.

As a parent, you have more influence than you probably know. You can be helpful in many ways — not by doing the work for your child, but by guiding him or her to skillfully and confidently jump the hurdles on the path to becoming a doctor.

More from U.S. News

4 Academic Topics Premed Students Should Know for Medical School

Why Academic Integrity Matters When Applying to Medical School

Ways Medical School Applicants Send the Wrong Signal

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