July 30, 2014

Coping with Admissions Anxiety - Strategy #3

Not getting into med school is scary; it's not quite as much of a "first-world problem" as the cartoon above, but it's not life-or-death either.

When you have engineered most of your life around one goal - getting into medical school - it is hard to keep that goal in perspective.  But let's try, shall we?

Strategy #3 - Keep perspective

What's the worst that can happen...

a) if you fail a class?  (you'll have to re-take the class)

b) if you don't get that internship (you will find something else interesting to do with your summer).

c) if you don't do well on the MCAT the first time around? (you'll have to re-take the MCAT and maybe push off your application by a year)

These are regular pre-med stresses that seem important, but even if they don't go well, they won't have a huge impact on your med school aspirations.

But let's get to the big one.  What happens if you don't get into med school?  You apply, and you don't get in.

a) There are osteopathic medical schools that are a little easier to get into and that place graduates in every specialty imaginable.  

b) There are reputable Caribbean and international schools with an excellent track record of getting students back to the US to practice medicine.

Let's get bigger.  What if you discover that you just can't cut it as a physician, that this life of stress and hard work just isn't right for you?  Your parents will still love you.  Your friends will still love you.  Life is good, and the world is a big place.  There are so many opportunities out there to do good work; being a doctor is one of a litany of options.

There's a long list of other health professions, all of which pay well, have good work hours, and allow you to help people.

Not getting in is not the end of your desires to become a health care professional.

Ways to help you keep perspective:

1) Volunteer.  Nothing helps you put your problems in perspective like volunteering with a population of people who have it much worse than you.  Homeless shelters, hospitals, low-income schools - wherever you choose to volunteer, just do it on a regular basis.

2) Keep a gratitude journal. The idea is to focus your brain on what you already have, something that you're grateful for.  You don't have to write in it every day, but just a quick post about something you have (your health, a roof over your head, a person you love in your life) will help keep you centered and grateful, which can go a long way toward keeping perspective on your anxiety.

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