Applying to medical school is a long slog. From start to finish, it takes the better part of 2 years for preparation, application, interview, and hopefully, acceptance. And this is the case for model students. For those of us with less than perfect records or found the drive for medicine later in life. The big question becomes, how do you maintain the tenacity and drive to make it through applications, or even the decision to apply?
As most things in life, your perspective on your situation is a large driver to your performance (1). This can be a hard skill to master in the midst of poor grades, competitor discussion, or narrow acceptance rates, but it is certainly one of necessity. Not to say that positive thinking will get you accepted to medical school, but it will re-frame how you come across to others. This can manifest itself in the personal statement, your grades or your interviews.
For instance, if you know you are going to make it to medical school, you can both consciously and subconsciously perform better in school. Not only will you make the decision to perform better, knowing your performance affects you chances, but if it is truly a goal, all of your decisions will frame around that central focus. You may lose the desire to party hard when you can study a little extra, or finish your personal statement early enough for further review and edits. In the case of your personal statement, negative thoughts can slip in easily and set a subconscious tone in the reader’s mind.
“… lacking leadership skills, I volunteered to be the group’s accountant to better myself” versus “Volunteering as accountant not only afforded the use of my financial skills, but improved on leadership skills…”
While this seems minor and the same general point is made in both statements – improvement of self and leadership skills – the first statement sets its audience up for something the candidate is lacking. The second statement does not lie about having leadership skills, but draws the focus on the positive aspect of focal point – improvement. Don’t short yourself because of lack of confidence, whether it is believed or not. Your job is to persuade a group of people you are cut out for medicine, so give them the a convincing argument.
Finally, the interview is where you get to let your personality shine. This is seemingly the most daunting task to provide confidence and positivity. Other prospective students are eagerly and nervously talking about their grades and achievements next to you, a line up unknown questions and sometimes uninviting faces stare you down, and you have 5-20 minute windows to impress… that’s enough to make anyone sweat. But knowing who you are and why you are at the interview is the first step in the battle. You could know and have prepared an answer for everyone question you will get in an interview, but unless you can make the answer convincing through your tone and body language, odds are you will not make the cut.
One final thought to save for the times it gets tough – you are the only person who truly decides where the future path takes you. “Never be bullied into silence. Never allow yourself to be made a victim. Accept no one’s definition of your life, but define yourself” – Harvey Fierstein. And maybe don’t use that quote in your personal statement…