There's always hope.
Nah. Not really. Not always.
At a recent meeting of pre-meds at a university whose name you would recognize, the panel of actual medical students and genuine doctors gave advice to the aspiring ("slathering" has such unfortunate connotations) physicians. Phrases were bandied about like Frisbees at a windy rock concert: "minimum of one thousand hours of community service;" "if someone on the admissions committee takes you to lunch, be nice to the waiter;" "genuine research;" "third author, published paper, juried journal."
All of this advice is true. Accepted candidates to medical school likely have tons of hours of community service and research and have their names on published articles in legitimate journals and are nice to waiters. Here is more true advice: when a woman goes into labor, a rum life saver will help with the pain of childbirth.
But the cold fact is that an epidural--remember Joan Rivers who said that "natural childbirth" means "no makeup in the delivery room?"--is MORE helpful for the excruciating agony of bringing another little person into the world. A rum lifesaver, while lovely I'm told, adds very little to the efficacy of a needle in the spine.
All that advice about what to wear, how to look your interviewer in the eye, and the firm handshake makes a difference IF AND ONLY IF the doctor wannabees got an A in organic chemistry. Both semesters. If FDS (Future Doctor Susie) didn't get an A in organic chemistry then she can have three
thousand hours of community service, enough published papers to start a small library, and the firmest handshake this side of an eager politician and it won't matter to the admissions committee. She still won't be admitted to medical school. In less enlightened times, someone might mention that it wouldn't even matter just how nice FDS was to the waiter after the interview.
Of a roomful of first year college pre-meds, only 10% end up applying to medical school. Of those, about 40% are admitted to a medical school in this country. That means that only four out of a hundred pre-meds get into medical school. You've heard the saying, "Organic chemistry makes more history majors than it does doctors"? It's true. The first year pre-meds who didn't get an A in organic chemistry don't get admitted to medical school. There's always hope? Yes, there is always the hope that they will get on with their lives and be happy doing something other than practicing medicine.
If you are a five-foot, four-inch tall male, your odds of making it to the NBA are one in a bunch. There has been one NBA player under 5' 5" tall. I'm sorry to be the one to tell you this, but you are not he. You can practice for 10,000 hours; you can learn how to dribble with your left hand; you can learn the names of all the mascots of all the NBA franchises but you will never get on the court during a game unless you have a mop in your hands or are being followed closely by arena security.
We do our children a terrible disservice when we tell them that they can do anything they set their minds to. We harm our kids when we say that they can accomplish anything. The ugly truth is that not everyone can go to medical school or play in the NBA.
Which is not to say your shouldn't encourage your kids. Which is not to say they shouldn't give it their best shot. But "if at first you don't succeed, try, try again" isn't true for skydiving. And it isn't true for raising kids who have a shot at coming to understand that they are okay as they are either.
Maybe there is always hope. There is hope that we will love our kids for who they are, whether or not they are accepted to medical school.