I went into college knowing that I wanted to go into medicine and become a physician. I also went into college with the intention of escaping my small secluded home town, making new friends, and experiencing the “college life.” One semester in, however, reality hit me like a brick wall with an embarrassingly low GPA of a 2.0. Almost immediately I began doubting my ability to get into medical school, and I thought of some fallback career choices in medicine. I remember envying all my premed classmates who seemed to achieve high GPAs and had some amazing moment in their lives where the clouds opened up and God enlightened them with their desire to pursue the art of doctoring, while I was trying to figure out why the hell I am doing this to myself.
However, I got myself out of that rut and ended up with a 4.0 my last semester taking some of the most difficult courses of my entire education. But this isn’t something that happened overnight. I had to overcome a huge mental block of failure to bring those grades up.
So how do you become that competitive med student you were born to be? In the end, it’s motivation that gets you there. But that answer isn’t sufficient… at least it wasn’t to me. When you’re in that hole you dug for yourself, motivational speeches seem to do little. You need to put yourself into a position where motivation can grow and really drive you in the right direction.
Read this post and find out how I recovered from defeat in order to compete for medical school.
I remember pre-highGPAme would think, “Man, these people getting A’s in these difficult science courses are clearly smarter than me and I lack that gene that will make me smart enough to be competitive.” No joke I really thought this. I felt like I just simply couldn’t grasp chemistry and that I had an abnormally slow memorizing ability.
Second semester sophomore year was when I really decided to buckle down and work hard. This was after I found the right motivation. I don’t want to sound too cheesy but my motivation was my girlfriend at the time (now my wife). I started to really think about the future and realized that I wanted to do something great with my life. Being a physician was that great thing.
I started shadowing, volunteering, and joining premed groups. I discovered I loved helping others and I loved science. This chain of events led to me making a change in my study habits.
I remember getting back my first general chemistry test that semester and seeing that beautiful A. I suddenly began seeing those “super genius students” in a different light. I realized that I was as smart as those other students not because I had some disposition towards the subject but rather because I decided to work hard.
Smart people don’t get into medical school, hard workers do.
When you realize that hard work gets you into medical school and not just brains, then everything will become easier and you will find that you can accomplish more and more. Not only that, but any fear you might have of the rigors of medical school can be squashed knowing that you have developed the work ethic to excel.
“I’m not good enough to get in” is never an excuse.
This should never be an excuse for not wanting to go to medical school. If medicine is not for you then you need to find a legitimate reason.
I thought about going a different route in medicine because medical school seemed unachievable. I told myself that if I did something like physician assistant or physical therapist, I could still practice medicine but not work as hard to get there. There are plenty of good and legitimate reasons to go to the PA, nurse, or whatever route, but “I’m not good enough for medical school” is not one of them. I eventually realized that I wanted to be a doctor for specific reasons that didn’t apply to any other medical career, and therefore I would need to find a way to get in.
If you find yourself questioning medical school, think long and hard as to why you are. Your premed and medical school years are a very small part of your life. Really think about what you will do for the rest of your life.
Okay, so we know that hard work gets you into medical school, and “I’m not competitive enough” is not an excuse to not go to medical school. What about that initial push to get you out of that rut?
Find what motivates you
A lot of people think the only motivation for getting into medical school is becoming this kind of hero who only wishes to help people and end world suffering. This is not true.
Yes, this is a noble goal and it is good to feel inclined that way when you will be working a job that directly involves helping people. But the reality is people are motivated for all kinds of reasons.
Find what motivates you and milk it.
For instance, in addition to the reasons I listed above, one of the reasons why I pursue medicine is the awesome procedures doctors get to perform. No joke, during my study breaks I would find surgery videos on youtube and watch them in the library while I studied. This motivation was the driving force I needed to study all day and night for those difficult exams. I wouldn’t feel tired, and time would just fly by. As a result, my grades shot up.
This is just one of many examples.
I remember another student questioning the path to medicine based on the feeling of not being able to get in. This person went on a medical mission trip and came back motivated to get into medical school.
People get motivated by different things, and often multiple things. When I worked with physicians in the ER, I became a lot more motivated for this career. Especially when I worked with doctors who really demonstrate a love for their field.
For example, back when I was a medical scribe, I remember one night in the ER a code came in that required my ER doc’s attention. This code lasted somewhere around an hour, putting us behind. The rest of the night was spent running around trying to see all the patients and discharge them before the shift was over. Of course, I ended up working an hour extra because of that, and my ER doc was stuck there even longer. These stressful situations can really make you impatient and put you in a bad mood, but this particular ER doc worked through it with a good sense of humor, which honestly translated into the better care
Find these little things that motivate you and you will find the rigors of being a premed enjoyable.
So that is how I went from a 2.0 to a 4.0. This last year 6 different medical schools invited me to an interview. And I only applied to about 12! If a student like me can do it, then so can you! Trust me, there is nothing academically special about me. You just need to believe in yourself (yes I realize I went with the cliche “believe in yourself”, whatever). Find your motivation, work hard, and kick butt. That’s my 3 part recipe to turning yourself into a highly competitive applicant.
Comment below if you also had struggles like this as a premed. Also, let us know what motivates you!