By Jay Pandit
Applying to medical school is an emotional roller coaster, but while it may seem overwhelming, it also has some very reasonable patterns. As an undergraduate, all I knew were the national average MCAT scores and I wanted to be a doctor. I didn’t quite know how I compared to all the other premeds out there. I soon realized that it was not about who hit all the check marks better, but about who had the most interesting acceptable check marks and who could convey those to the admissions committee. I absolutely do not mean to misrepresent yourself, but I do mean talk about things you are truly interested in and not those you felt you had to be. Yes it takes the right numbers to be considered for certain schools, but once your beyond that barrier, an interesting story will go a long way. I never thought I would make it into Stanford while in high school, but it happened. I never thought I was good enough for University of California San Francisco for medical school, but I did. Along the way I also held hard to the fact that it wasn’t about the name, but about the fit. The medical school application is really just the beginning, of many other applications, but once you understand what you want, you will not go wrong.
One thing that no one can get away from is the MCAT. There are tips and tricks to learn how to conquer this test. Whatever you feel about standardized tests, it is still something you have to face and it is better to accept than fear it. When you are in residency you will look back and say, I cannot even count how many standardized tests I have taken and that’s when you realize how we can turn that one test into the only test you can think about. Regardless, it does take work and I would say is probably the steepest adjustment curve, unless you did the same thing with the SATs. The best piece advice someone gave me when I was panicking about the test was that you are alive on the day of the test and you will still be alive on the day after. All you can do is give it your best shot. Seems pretty straight forward, but when in the moment of Type A premed exam studying, it just needed to be said.
The only reason a spent a paragraph on the MCAT is because it “unfortunately” is a stratifying filter, the other things all have a spectrum and variability to them. Once you are done with the MCAT, then it is the fun part. Really ask yourself why you want to be a doctor? As a practicing physician, medicine has changed every significantly in every decade since I was born and now the changes seem to happen in shorter and shorter periods. I will never forget the self-reflection and honesty required. With each personal statement iteration, I learned something new about myself. I challenge you to do the same. Save them along the way because they will be amazing glimpses of your life’s pivots. Finally the medical school interviews, those are just fun. Once you get one under the belt, you will realize the process you will become a pro because the best person to talk about yourself is really just you. Even with these you will learn what things matter to you. What kind of people you will be working with in the future. Whether you like the anatomy lab being in the basement or on a floor with a view? My journey through the profession of medicine has been interesting and fun. Don’t get me wrong there are grueling parts, but you learn so much about yourself, what you can handle, what parts of that patient interaction you enjoy, what keeps the creativity and inspiration going… Congratulations on choosing a noble profession and I look forward to helping along the way.