Accessibility links

Breaking News

Why I'm Studying Pre-Med, Despite the Odds

A few weeks ago we discussed how difficult it is to get into an American medical school as an international student. Many of them don't consider international applicants at all, and there's very little scholarship money available.

[Read about applying to medical school as an international student]

But a small number of international students DO get into U.S. medical schools each year, and Promise is determined to be one of them. Here's his story of how he hopes to defy the odds.

(Photos by University of Nottingham and Jason Trommetter)

I’d previously thought that getting into medical school in the U.S. was as easy as eating pizza, until my glance fell on an excerpt from Yale University’s webpage, which warns international students studying pre-med and dreaming of medical school to, perhaps, consider waking up.

I was shocked (not exaggerating, I felt my brain scamper around for blood vessels in order to keep me alive), and I booked an appointment immediately with my academic advisor to change my major.

Here’s the truth of the situation: Only a “spoonful” of American medical schools accept international students – I can’t even say a “handful,” because to be realistic, a handful is too much. For the few that admit international students, an even smaller amount give limited scholarships. And a lot of that altruism is through loans, most of which need a co-signer. Now, tell me, who is the “Mother Teresa” who will cosign your $200,000 loan? I don’t mean to scare anyone, but only a miracle can guarantee you a form of aid, and you have to know your relationship to whichever God backs you up.

But I did not change my major that day.

The road to a medical degree is hard. My nights have gradually been getting shorter; my laptop has seemingly become my best friend. My poor eyesight is wondering when I will be visiting an eye clinic. I devour any website that has any useful information on medical school application.

I no longer tell people my major because it always results in a discouraging lecture about how hard it is or how impossible it will be….It sucks!!! I can remember a person asking me about my future career, and after I had shared an inspiring story of how I love medicine, he looked at me and said, “Hope you have a 4.0” (I think that was the nicest thing he could think of to say).

Thinking about the hurdles ahead makes me feel like an overfed rat - the types that are always confused and scared of taking a step further. But one thing I have learned in this medical school race is never to expect kind words from anyone because you will never hear anything uplifting.

Just last week my friend was excitedly telling me how she felt like a real doctor after attending a future doctors program. I will not say I was not jealous, but my jealousy was futile – I knew the program was “strictly for U.S. citizens and permanent residents.” If you’ve ever had one of those “oh wow” moments, then we may be on the same page now. That was exactly the drabness my face was wearing.

It seems every door is slammed against international students. Federal loans don’t apply to us either. My friend says, “If others work a thousand times to get into medical school, you as an international student must work a million times.” I was amazed hearing that. Not only is it good advice but it’s actually the first sensible thing she has told me.

It is clear that if I adamantly keep burning the midnight oil and pursuing my medical school dreams, my life will be rough and my risks will be very high, but my reward, if positive, will be overwhelming. It is not always as bad as the media paints it.

I have heard a few stories about international students who got into a U.S. medical school. In fact, I am friends with a Nigerian student who just graduated from John Hopkins medical school on a scholarship. In virtue of this, my head is up. Currently I am doing lots of volunteer work, especially for Organization for America. I am also sending in my applications for a summer research program at Harvard. I am doing pretty cool as the president of the First Year Residential Council. I am a journalist for my college’s newspaper. I am thinking of volunteering at a hospital next summer.

Seriously, you have to do what you have to do to get what you want.