The Importance of Genuine Interest

Posted: July 12, 2009 in School


Let me preface this post by saying that I am probably one of the least qualified persons to write this post. I have only just finished my first year as a student on a Pre-Med course. Hence many people who have been on that course for longer may be offended by this post, I assure you that my intention in writing this post is not to offend anyone, it is just to speak on a phenomena that I have been witnessing all to often, in my peers and also amongst incoming students. This phenomenon is the lack of genuine interest in their major.

Most students don’t seem to realize that Pre-Med is not a major, or that it is not necessary to major in biology, chemistry, biochemistry, molecular biology, or if your crazy like me in a combination of biochemistry and molecular biology. Many of my peers and many newer students choose to major in these difficult and in their eyes mundane subjects, assuming that it will make their applications more appealing to medical schools, it may, or it may not.

The fact of the matter is that regardless of your major, the only requirements for medical school are your 1 year of general chemistry, organic chemistry, physics, general biology, English, and calculus. Those subjects combined with a strong resume, MCAT score, and GPA, should from what I’ve heard increase the chances of you getting into medical school, more than your choice of major.

I think more than your major, medical schools are looking for your passion, if you are not passionate about your major, it will be hard to show medical schools that you care. So if you’re majoring in a hard science do it because you truly love the subject, not because you’re trying to get into medical school. Find a field that you are passionate about and study that, your major should be about something you enjoy, not about getting into medical school.

As students, of subjects that most people consider boring, we as science majors like to think that our levels of self-control and sheer willpower are greater than most others. If we do not have a genuine interest in the subject, how long do we think that we can keep motivating ourselves along that path? Most of the science majors, that I encounter are extrinsically motivated, which in my opinion is wrong, you can’t motivate someone to do something for which they have no passion; at least not forever. They will slowly start losing their motivation, and eventually burnout completely.

The most important question I think one should ask before selecting a major is “why?” If you cannot answer that question, I think you need to do some more thinking. I would say pick something you could see yourself doing if you were not doing medicine, for me I can easily see myself pursuing a career in biochemistry or molecular biology related fields, if for any reason I decide that medicine is not for me. If you’re major is biology and you decide that you are no longer interested in medicine, can you see yourself following a career path related to biology, if you cannot answer yes to that question, my suggestion would be to seriously reconsider your choice of major.

When you are extrinsically motivated, you find that it is harder to exercise self-control; when you’re are intrinsically motivated, exercising self-control becomes much easier, and you will find that the amount of stress that you find yourself under will dramatically decrease.

My opinion is that students on the Pre-Med track should select one subject that they are truly passionate about, stick to it and excel in it. I honestly think if you do that you will be able to show medical schools that you are truly passionate, not to mention everyone is looking for those “diverse” and “well-rounded” individuals now.


What would this post be without any scientific backing?

In researching for this post, I came across a study called “Revitalization through Self-Regulation: The Effects of Autonomous and Controlled Motivation on Happiness and Vitality” published in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology. They did 2 experiments; the first testing vitality between autonomously motivated subjects, and those with induced motivation; the second to test the effects of internal control. Overall this was a really interesting study and I could write, a long summary of what they did, the results, significance, and what not; but I’ll just cut to the chase. Try to make as many things as possible in your life intrinsically motivated, not only will you be happier, you will also do better.

For those who want to read more about this study I came across a really good explanation and commentary on Cal Newport’s Study Hacks Blog [link] while I was researching for this post. Also you can read the study in .pdf format [link].

By the way the Study Hacks Blog is a great website, after I came across that post I started reading some of the other posts, I would advise every pre-med student I know to add him to their RSS readers, or to regularly read his blog, I was so impressed with it that I added it to my blog roll on the sidebar.

Photo Credits: JustABoy via [Flickr]

  1. interesting take on the subject, count me as a new subscriber!

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