ProspectiveDoctor recently held an essay-writing contest for medical students. The following is one of our honorary mention essay submissions:

What few important things would you say to people who are interested in a career in medicine?

The process of applying to medical school and becoming a doctor can be daunting. As you proceed, you may find yourself waxing in self-doubt and waning in self-confidence. Hopefully after reading these three tips, you will have a strategy to overcome that hurdle.

1. “It’s not a matter of if, but when”

Along the way to medical school, I was told that “maybe I should pursue an easier career” and that I was “not smart enough to get into a school like UCLA” (joke’s on you, pal). Where would we be if we let comments like that derail us from what we really want? Well, luckily I didn’t. Rather, I subscribed to the motto: if it is your dream, it is not a matter of if you achieve, it is a matter of when you achieve. The benefit of adopting this mentality is that you will regain control of getting what you want out of life. You will stop wasting time questioning if you are _______(insert adjective here) enough for medicine, and focus your energy on building yourself up to become a doctor as the best version of yourself. There are enough people in this world that will tell you that “You can’t”, why join their ranks?

||Read The 1st Place Essay: Considerations Before Applying to Medical School Part 1||

2. “Life is a journey, not a destination”

As you find yourself travelling deeper and deeper into the trenches of the library stacks in pursuit of becoming a doctor, take the opportunity to learn a few things about yourself along the way. Learn how you work best. For instance, how much sleep do you need to get the most out of your day? What kind of exercise keeps you healthy and enthusiastic? Are you a visual, auditory, tactical, etc. learner? Having a handle on ‘you’ is the first step towards success. Knowing how to keep your mind, body, and soul healthy before coming to medical school makes the transition into medical school, as well as the many years of schooling and work ahead, a much more manageable task.

Part of this self-discovery involves honestly discovering your weaknesses. And by honest, I mean really honest. Not an interview answer such as, “I think my biggest weakness is my dedication to others”. I’m talking about the skeletons in the closet, for example how you deal with stress – do you take your stress out on others? Is alcohol or another substance your escape from stress? Does your physical health degrade as a result of stress? Consider yourself a constant work in progress and do yourself a favor, work to be better.

||Read The 2nd Place Essay: A Sample Personal Statement||

3. “Let’s get down to Business, to defeat…”

A few practical tips to help you keep moving in the forward direction:

Separate work and play – Would you rather sit in the library for 8 hours, with 4 hours of real studying and 4 hours of surfing the internet, or go to the library for 4 hours of productivity and spend the next 4 hours enjoying the beach? Enough said.
Set realistic goals – Accomplish small goals every day instead of filling your to-do-list with an unreasonable girth of tasks that is not achievable in any universe. Better to know yourself and pride yourself in what you can accomplish, than constantly batter yourself for never meeting your own unrealistic expectations.
Surround yourself with positive people – Negativity is toxic. If you find yourself in a rut, make sure to get some quality time with people that build you up and have a positive influence in your life.

It’s always nice to be encouraged, and I’m hoping that this reminds you that it’s not only your mom that’s proud of you, it’s your future peers as well. It is about time that the negativity on the internet gets a run for its money with some encouragement from the other side. Indeed, there is a light at the end of the tunnel, so stay confident and self-aware, and just keep swimming…swimming…swimming! 

Kirsten Anderson is a medical student at a U.S. allopathic medical school.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ProspectiveDoctor.

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