The medical school application process can be all-encompassing, and not just for pre-meds. Working through applications also affects a student’s friends and family. If your partner is aiming to gain acceptance to a program, you’re already well-aware of this.
While it’s obviously up to your partner to ensure they put forth a strong application, there are a number of things you can do to support them throughout the process. Even something as small as taking on an additional household chore can make a difference.
Hearing from individuals who’ve already been in your shoes is one of the best ways to gain insight into what you can do to pursue your MD degree. Lucky for you, many of them are happy to share what they learned. Take a look at what some physicians’ significant others suggest you do as your partner works toward gaining an acceptance letter.
Firsthand insight on how to support your pre-med significant other
You might be surprised at how much you can do to help ensure the application process is as smooth as possible. Here’s a taste of some simple ways to help support your partner.
1. Follow their lead
Perhaps the most important thing you can do as the partner of a pre-med student is to respect their decision to pursue medical school. Many physicians chose their careers because they felt it was a calling. Myra Mills Tschirhart, former president of the St. George’s University (SGU) Significant Others Organization (SOO), knew this was true of her husband early on in their relationship.
“I think he knew he wanted to go to medical school before he knew me,” Tschirhart says. She moved to Grenada with her husband so he could attend medical school.
"I think he knew he wanted to go to medical school before he knew me."
Your partner has to be the one leading the way as you navigate applying medical schools together. Even if you tend to be the outgoing one in the relationship, make sure you’re empowering them.
“It’s OK to take the backseat,” offers Stephanie Greenlee, who was also president of SGU’s SOO while living in Grenada with her daughter and medical school husband.
2. Allow them the time they need
Pre-med students have to make some sacrifices as they’re preparing for the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT), completing course prerequisites, and shadowing physicians. If you’re in a relationship with someone who’s starting to work through any of those components, know that it will also affect you.
“Vacations don’t always happen,” Greenlee explains. “Date nights won’t be as frequent.”
In a sense, this can actually help you prepare for life in medical school and beyond. Tschirhart says time together becomes an even scarcer commodity during medical school and residency. The sooner you can accept that and embrace that, the better off you’ll be.
3. Lend your expertise if you can
Even the strongest student has some room for improvement. If you’re able to help them work through an application component, without going so far as completing it yourself, the help is likely welcome. Tschirhart says her husband asked for some assistance adding a bit more life to his personal statement. Greenlee had a similar experience.
“We went over the personal statement together,” she says. “We bounced ideas back and forth.”
4. Keep an open mind
You and your partner will likely discuss everything from which professors would write the best letters of recommendation to narrowing down the final list of medical schools. And while you might have some preconceived notions about which programs are the best choices, try to remain open to all options. Tschirhart says she didn’t initially realize medical school meant leaving Texas, but she was soon able to see that going to Grenada wasn’t going to be all that much of a leap.
“We were pretty sure we were going to be gone for four years, but that’s comparable to any other out-of-state school,” she notes. “So it was apples to apples in that sense.”
"We were pretty sure we were going to be gone for four years, but that’s comparable to any other out-of-state school
It’s also wise to recognize that not every physician has a set schedule. Tschirhart says she actually had a bit of an advantage in that she knew how much an emergency physician’s schedule could vary from her husband’s time working as a medical scribe.
“He had the crazy schedule that was all over the place in terms of predictability,” Tschirhart reflects. “So I kind of knew what we were getting ourselves into.”
5. Assume more responsibilities where you can
Because there’s only so much you can do to support your significant other in regards to completing the application, you might see whether there are other ways you can lend a hand. Greenlee says it was a huge help making sure there was always something available to eat.
“Meal prepping is important—that way you always have food prepared for them,” she offers.
Even small things like packing snacks or taking care of paying the bills can make a difference.
6. Let them know you have their back
Being a reliable source of support goes a lot further than you might expect. Sometimes, simply knowing you’re there to listen is all your partner needs.
“Just being a support and a sounding board for your significant other is really going to be the key thing for anybody that’s going through any step of the process,” Greenlee shares.
"Just being a support and a sounding board for your significant other is really going to be the key thing."
Tschirhart feels similarly. From the very beginning, she was there to help her husband work toward his ultimate goal.
“For me it was never about him getting to be a doctor,” she clarifies. “It was about him getting to achieve his dream.”
But don’t forget to take care of yourself
Being there for your significant other is obviously important, but make sure you’re also prioritizing yourself. It’s easy to feel bogged down by the application process and medical school itself.
“You have to find other outlets to fill the time,” Greenlee recommends. “You need to have your own hobbies, your own job, or something.”
And don’t forget that there are so many people who’ve been in your shoes before. Take advantage of organizations and social media communities for spouses and partners of physicians, medical students, and pre-med applicants.
“There are a lot of Facebook groups, and they have great resources,” Tschirhart says. She really appreciated that she was able to ask questions about anything medical without fear of being judged by a like-minded community.
Play your part
By now, you can see there are tons of things you can do to help your partner think about medical school prerequisites. These might feel like insignificant contributions, but trust that your love and support can truly make a difference.
If your partner ultimately succeeds in securing a medical seat, the road ahead will be packed with all sorts of memorable events. You may want to familiarize yourself with some of the major milestones. Make sure you know what’s on the horizon by checking out our graphic “How Long Is Medical School? Mapping Your MD Education Journey.”
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