By Umara Ayub
Applying to medical school can be an overwhelming and daunting process. Trust me, I’ve been there. I was the oldest of 5 children, with no physicians in the family, it was my job to figure everything out on my own and set a path for my younger siblings to follow. No pressure, right? Throughout undergrad, I felt like I did everything “right” I double majored in Biology and Psychology, was part of the Honors Program, did research, had a good GPA, did average on my MCATs. I would spend hours on pre-med school forums, where I would constantly compare myself to those who had better scores, better GPAs, better everything than I did, they seemed like they had it all figured out, and I didn’t.
Being the very Type A personality that I am, I began to construct an excel document with a list of schools, their requirements, admissions information, etc. It was color coded, and alphabetized, and very overwhelming to look at. However, I continued to apply to the schools on my list, and waited for interviews. The stress of waiting for admission, or acceptance to a program is a feeling only those who have been in this position previously can truly understand. It. Is. Agonizing. I received a few interviews, I drove out and traveled around the north east with my family by my side. Giving it my all at every interview, and simultaneously waiting and hoping for an admissions letter from anywhere.
Then one day it came, a big beautiful envelope telling me I had been accepted. Me and my family were overjoyed, but something didn’t sit right in me. Something told me it wasn’t the place for me. It felt silly to think that, I had gotten accepted to a DO school, one that I had applied to, and liked during the interview, this is what I had waited for, isn’t it? However, I couldn’t drive out the voice in the back of my head that told me I wasn’t ready and this was not the place for me. I had declined the admissions offer. It was something that my family could not understand, and to this day I can’t fully explain what made me change my mind at that time. Maybe I was scared?
Instead I applied to a post-baccalaureate program, in a city and moved slightly away from my family, but close enough that I could go home and visit them still, this was one of the most important factors for me at that time. I completed the program, and again was at the daunting cross roads of the application process. However, this time I felt more nervous. “Did I make a mistake?” I constantly wondered that, “should I have gone to the school I was accepted to last year?” This time around I decided to take my chances and apply to a school in the Caribbean’s. I was accepted, and decided that I was going to go, a year transitioning through a post-baccalaureate program had taught me how to live independently, and manage a more heavily academic course load than I had been used to. Nothing was going to stop me now. Going to Medical school in the Caribbean’s was a different story completely, one I will save for another time, but at the end of it, I had met my future husband. Thinking back to it, I guess I did make the right choice.
The pathway to medical school can be confusing, and overwhelming, and no matter what some of the people say on different forums, everyone is facing their own battles with it. What is right for one person, may not be right for another person. The most important thing is to continue to pursue your passion, and remember that the road to Medical School is not always linear, and to continue to live your life as you travel it.