Dear Pre-Med Me,
Hi there! This is my way of going back in time to let you know that things do truly work out in the end. You’ll be beyond ecstatic to know that the 2018 you is starting med school in a month. I also want you to know that you got into multiple schools all over the country, including one of your dream schools.
While I address this letter to you, this is really to help any pre-med student needing some advice and reassurance.
Now that I’m transitioning from pre-med to med student, here are the five things I learned during this time:
1) You are enough.
Remember how you questioned your self-worth after every quiz and test score that didn’t meet your expectations? I wish you learned earlier that grades do not determine your worth as a human being. While grades are an important part of your med school application, it is completely separate from your self-worth. You are enough and you will always be enough.
2) So many people support your goals.
Even when you doubted your ability to gain acceptance into med school, a competitive summer research program, a post-graduate service program, and everything in-between, so many people had (and still have) an unwavering belief in your potential. Without realizing it, in the last seven years, you created your village; a group of amazing professors, former supervisors, and close friends who invested (and continue to invest) their time and energy in you. They have written your strong letters of rec, given you feedback on your personal statement and secondary essays, calmed your interview anxiety, listened to you vent and cry, and celebrated every success you had throughout the cycle. While it’s important to believe in yourself (more on this next), know that on days you are filled with self-doubt, your village is there to help you regain your confidence.
3) Trust in your ability to thrive and succeed.
Imposter syndrome is real. You may feel like people around you are more accomplished, more deserving of success than you, but listen to the quiet voice that says that you are also accomplished and possess the ability to achieve any goal you work towards. Know that your persistence and resilience will get you far and these qualities were reflected in your med school essays and interviews. You have lived outside of your comfort zone before and thrived. Trust that you have the ability to do so again.
4) Get your sleep.
I don’t know why you thought staying up until 5:30AM to study for an 9AM o-chem exam was a smart move. I wish you figured out earlier that you were a morning person; going to sleep at 9PM and waking up at 5AM to study before your 8AM class was a significantly better use of time (and yes, 8 hours of sleep is a must for you). Your physical and mental health are dependent on how much and how well you sleep. It’s okay to admire your peers who seem to run perfectly fine on 5 hours of sleep, but continue to do what works for you.
5) Create and find joy every day.
I wish you knew that delayed gratification does not mean an absence of joy. There is joy to be created and found during the long study days and periods of increased stress. Have something to look forward to every day; a yoga class, new library books, or a bed-time phone call with a friend. Go on a run, befriend a dog or cat, bake brownies, eat avocado toast, and have mini dance parties in your room. Have long journaling and painting sessions while drinking tea out of your favorite mug. Feeling joy during challenging times will nourish and sustain you.
6) It’ll all be okay.
You will get a B- in Physics II. A C+ in Gen Chem II. You’ll spend countless hours studying for the MCAT physics section, doing hundreds of practice questions. You’ll constantly wonder if physics will keep you from becoming a doctor. You’ll consider pursuing other fields within or outside of healthcare. The funny thing is, every time you considered this option, something–a shadowing experience, a patient encounter, a conversation with a mentor or a stranger at the airport–will bring you back to medicine. As much as you feel like you are choosing medicine, medicine is also choosing you.
An incoming first year med student, aka Introvert in Medicine 🙂