The ABC’s of Getting into Medical School
My journey to medicine isn’t your typical route. I did my 4 years of undergrad (I was a double major!), a master’s program at the same undergraduate institute, and I worked in a laboratory for a year before matriculating into medical school. In total, from starting undergrad to starting med school, it took me 6 years. I feel like looking back, there were definitely some highs (graduating after finishing insane programs/majors!) and lows (feeling doubtful if I’d ever get into medical school). I also felt worried because I know friends who got in right after finishing undergrad, and I felt like I was “too late”. Obviously that’s not true, you can enter medical school and become a doctor at any age! And here, I think the older you are, and the more life experiences you have, the better. You are not late. You are not early. You are very much on time – on your own time!
Some of the people I looked up to the most were people not in the medical field. My bosses at my various jobs, for example, were my role models. These women were intelligent and ready to handle whatever life threw at them. I learned how to react on a moment’s notice, and quickly evaluate problems in front of me thanks to my bosses, two skills I know I will need as a doctor.
The road to where I am now wasn’t easy. I struggled with college work and independence. I also struggled with coming out to myself and my friends. I am bisexual. Figuring that out while in college was not easy, and my grades definitely suffered. I think being bisexual made me realize that there’s still a lot of work to do in medicine, and a lot more we as physicians have to do to understand our patients. I learned from this whole experience that truly being your full authentic self is so important to being happy, whether that means you “come out” or not. I never felt comfortable coming out, and to an extent, some could say I’m still closeted by the fact that I’m anonymous. I think being open with yourself is the hardest thing one can do. I want to continue working to be the best doctor I can be, and be a friend and amazing doctor to my LGBTQ+ patients, especially.
C Average Student
We are so careful with our words to others and when we speak about ourselves, we are the harshest critics. I think that mentality needs to change. Throughout the whole process of undergrad, grad school, applying to medical school, I was riddled with self doubt and worries that I wouldn’t “make it”. There were so many times when I’d drive home crying, wondering at the flux of my future, and if I’d ever settle down in a job, or be happy if I was not in medicine. I knew from a young age that medicine was all I wanted to do, but the crushing anxiety and self guilt and doubt really can weigh you down at some points. Whenever I’d encounter a setback, I automatically blamed myself and vowed to do better, regardless of what better meant. This was absolutely not healthy in the short term or long term. My mentality needed to change, from hyperfocusing on the pitfalls to celebrating accomplishments. I find that now in medical school, I know I am meant to be here (take that, imposter syndrome!) and I will thrive and find my accomplishments worth celebrating. Finding out how to be kind to yourself is a different path for everyone. Sometimes it’s saying positive affirmations to yourself everyday, sometimes it’s therapy to see why you think the way you do. Sometimes, it’s accepting that you are not “the norm” and that’s completely okay! Any way you can break free of the negative thoughts is a great way to move forward. And obviously, it’s way easier said than done, and it’s also not a linear path.
Never doubt yourself. You want something, you have to work hard at it and make it happen. I wish someone had told me that the path would be long and hard, and to really think if this is what I want to do. I also wish someone told me while in medical school that it’s okay to relax and have fun. We’re in such an intense environment with constant exams and studying with a mindset that I have to learn it ALL. It’s going to be hard, it is hard, and that’s okay. You can and you will make it through. Also, I wish someone had told me that sometimes you will have setbacks, and that’s ok. That’s a part of life. You have to learn to move past your setbacks, or learn from them. A quote from one of my favorite underrated movies, Meet the Robinsons mentioned that “from failure, you learn. From success, not so much”. And it’s honestly so true! You learn so much from failures that you wouldn’t get from success. From failure, you learn what didn’t work, what might’ve worked, and what you can change for the future. From success, all you learn is that you need to replicate the exact scenario to get the same result (which obviously doesn’t happen!). What I’m trying to say is that it’s ok to fail. You will get back up and try again. And maybe it takes a couple tries, but eventually you’ll get back on top.
I wish I could be kinder to myself when I was coming out, or learned to accept rejection when it happened. We are so harsh to ourselves because we hold ourselves to a greater standard than we hold others sometimes. I think I would definitely tell my younger self to “take it sleazy” (I’ve been watching a lot of The Good Place!) Know that your hard work will get you to where you need to be.
One thing I would tell my younger self:
Things happen for a reason. If you weren’t meant to get into school the first try, then just keep trying again. Don’t be so hard on yourself. You will do what you are meant to do.