The Difference between “Needs” and “Wants”

By Rahul Nachnani | Blogger | SQ Online (2013-14)

Some people are just obsessed with words. They will correct you if you write the wrong “their” or “your” and shove it in your face at the worst times. Many think that the emphasized distinction between these relatively similar words is unnecessary; however, there is one verbal distinction that really quite important.

The difference between “to need” and “to want.”

What does this have to do with being a doctor, you might ask? Well, there is a stigma held in the pre-med world about things that you “need” to do to get into medical school.

You need to get a 4.0.
You need to get a perfect MCAT score.

You need to join every club on campus.

You need to do research / get published.

You need to volunteer at a hospital.

You need to major in a biological science.


I hate to break it to y’all, but you don’t “need” to do any of the above actions. Sure, you should have a GPA and MCAT that properly reflects how smart you are (if you’re reading this you’re probably at UCSD already, so that shouldn’t be hard!) However, any of the other listed items are completely optional. You don’t need to be in every club on campus. You don’t need to do research. You don’t need to volunteer at a hospital. You don’t need to major in a biological science (many people don’t know this, but you can apply to medical school with any major as long as you complete the pre-reqs decided by the medical school).

So, what is the difference between “to need” and “to want”?

The reason people think that med schools want to see applicants in various clubs, doing research, and volunteering is because, yes, sometimes people who do those things have a stronger chance of applying to medical school. However, those who get in are not the ones that felt like they had to do anything. They wanted to.

There’s the difference.

To have a desire to do something means you care about the outcome; it means that you care about the process; it means that you will take it seriously. The simple action of wanting to do something and your reasons for wanting make that something special to you and only you. This is what med schools are looking for, not a checklist that people follow. You will need to show them that you have character, not just a strong resume. The only way to convey your true character is by showing and experiencing your true passions and desires. You don’t need to do anything except this. By simply following these desires, you will convey who you are and be a genuine and strong candidate for medical school.

So. Join a club sport, not because “it looks good” but because it gives you the enjoyment of teamwork and leadership. Do research in biology, not because “it looks good,” but because you find the process of science fascinating. Do hospital volunteering, not because “it looks good,” but because you love the smile on a patient’s face that tells you that you have touched their heart with your service.

Live your life here at UCSD as you want to, not as you think you need to.