I am a miracle made up of particles and in this existence I'll stay persistent and I'll make a difference and I will have lived it - Medicine for the People

The MCAT is a Sea and I'm Drowning In It

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

I'm not sure if it's better or worse that I have so many other things in my life that I have to think about on a daily basis that aren't the MCAT. I'm still taking Physics and I have the final to study for, my job is giving me more and more projects and responsibility, my life in general needs maintenance because let's be honest, we all run out of underwear and have to do laundry at some point and who has time for that?
I can't tell if it helps me to keep my mind off the exam in a good way (can't fixate and stress on one thing) or if having all these other worries is just making it worse. I've typically done quite well on standardized tests, but never before have I had to take one that could determine my future. I take some offense to the idea that one test could decide my entry into medical school only because I know so many others who should have done well because they are intelligent and would make wonderful, kind, caring doctors but were disappointed by scores low enough to preclude them from applying.
Luckily, in the midst of feeling overwhelmed, something will inevitably happen to convince me to soldier on. Last week one of my coworkers sent me this article that was in the New England Journal of Medicine and it helped assuage so many fears. Basically it outlined how the trend of many med school admissions committees is towards a more holistic approach to evaluating candidates for the entering class. They consider much more than just MCAT scores and GPAs. They look at work successes and life experience among other things and treat them as equally important. I think this is huge and can only hope that the schools I'm applying to will implement this method of review when going through my application because my research looks much shinier on paper than my academic record.
I've always worked hard but when I was a communications major at BU, GPA just didn't matter. I was selected for a prestigious internship at the Boston Globe my junior year because my professor was impressed with my writing and effort, not because I got an A in her class (because I didn't). Much more stress was placed on your work speaking for itself rather than your grades, especially in a field where you often wrote up to 5 drafts of the same paper. Your first piece was a completely different animal from your final product and depending on the grading system, your professor could consider you to have done very well in his class and end up with a lowly B. When our engineering or pre-med classmates complained about BU's horrendous grade deflation the comm students were unconcerned. We knew that when we applied to work at magazines or journals or newspapers no one would even inquire about our GPA, it was unheard of.
Now I have to face the fact that having a less than ideal GPA is a huge detriment to my medical school application. Although I've had a lot of interesting and varied work and life experiences, the numbers just aren't pretty and that definitely scares me. It's one of the things that I stress out about when I can't immediately drop off to sleep, starting with the MCAT and ending with my low GPA, like a continuous loop in my head.
I was talking about this with my friend the other night and agonizing over whether or not I was even smart enough to be doing this when she said something really important: "you are smart enough to be doing this, otherwise you would never have gotten this far." That really stuck with me. I've gotten this far and there's no way I'm just giving up now. It's hard work, but I think this is the important part because if you can't handle this kind of stress then maybe you can't handle the stress of being in medical school, residency, being a doctor and holding someone's life in your hands (all of which I imagine is much more anxiety-inducing).
When I do feel like the stress is too much, I know I have people there to help me, to send me articles they know will bolster my resolve and encourage me to study harder, to tell me I can do it when I'm not sure I can anymore.
All I can say is that the MCAT might be a sea and I feel like I'm floundering, but I'm so, so thankful for my friends who are there to throw me a life jacket when I need a rest.


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