Parents: How You Can Help Your Pre-Med Students

As a parent, you want the best for your children.  In my years working with pre-med students, I’ve had countless conversation with the parents of aspiring medical school applicants, and the vast majority of the time our conversation centers around one question: what can parents do to help their children achieve their dreams of a career in medicine?  Below are several important ways in which you can help your children in their journey towards medical school:

1)     Encourage them to stay the course. Even the most committed student is going to have second thoughts about their career choice at times.  The process of becoming a doctor is long and grueling—not to mention expensive.  Whether it is towards the end of a particularly tough semester or after receiving a sub-standard test score, it is inevitable that your child will consider throwing in the towel at some point.  If this happens, don’t criticize your child and don’t yell and scream—instead, offer encouragement and help them remember why they are so attracted to the medical field in the first place.  What a student in this situation needs more than anything else is simply perspective—a reminder that, yes, this is a difficult process… but the reward is worth the effort!

2)     Encourage them to devote the necessary time to their studies. College can be particularly challenging for pre-med students.  Many of their friends and roommates will be in a different major where the stakes aren’t quite so high—and as a result, they will feel more freedom to party and generally have a good time.  Your child will be frustrated from time to time… because he or she would much rather be out with friends than studying anatomy all night.  Remind your students that the decisions they make now will literally determine the course of their life.

3)     Don’t let them over do it. While it is important that your child stay focused on his or her class work, it is also important that they maintain a balanced and healthy lifestyle.  The journey towards becoming a doctor is extremely long, and if your child isn’t able to maintain a balanced lifestyle, he or she is not going to make it.  Specifically remind your child to get plenty of sleep, exercise, and healthy food.

4)     Let them know that you are proud… no matter what. Most pre-med students hold themselves to high standards.  They expect excellence of themselves, because, after all, their dreams of a career in medicine depend on their performance.  As a parent, it’s important that you communicate your pride and happiness with your child even if they are struggling at the time.  Your child has enough to worry about without feeling like they are disappointing Mom and Dad.  Encourage them to do their best, but don’t beat them up when they are down.

Your child is in the midst of a long and challenging journey.  Do your best to keep them focused on their goal, provide encouragement when they need it, and help them maintain a healthy lifestyle.  It will be a challenging period for both of you, but when you attend their graduation from medical school, it will all be worth it!

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