College, similar to high school, is a time where you are discovering who you are and building yourself into what you think you want to be. Pre-med is a busy time, but you can definitely enjoy it if you put in the effort. Here are some mistakes I made in college, that hopefully you can avoid.
1) Spreading Myself Too Thin
Pre-med is a very hyper competitive environment where it is a rat race to get into medical school. Statistically, more people will get rejected from med school than will ever make it in, which explains the competitive nature of the process. A byproduct of things being so cutthroat, is you comparing yourself to other people. Oh wow, that person is part of this club or this team, that person is working here, that person is so smart, that person knows this professor. All of this leads to unnecessary stress and anxiety. I would sign up for clubs and activities I had no interest in only to find myself juggling too many balls and having my GPA suffer in first year. I got it together and recovered in time but avoid this mistake entirely if you can. Focus on a few, high quality things rather than a grocery list of things you did just to put on your application. Do things you are genuinely interested in and that you enjoy. Focus on the process and ignore everyone else.
2) Working Hard, Not Smart
Yes, getting into medical school is difficult. But no one is going to reward you for making it 10x harder on yourself. I used to purposely do way more than was necessary for absolutely no reason other than to tell myself “I worked hard”. Once you start studying efficiently and sticking to a schedule, you will find that you have a lot of free time. I would needlessly take on extra research, an extra shift at work or studying more than was required. I would go to class and cram study just because everyone else was doing it and I could complain alongside them about how stressed we all are about school. Follow our study strategies and work efficiently so you can actually enjoy yourself. All things equal, med schools won’t be more impressed by someone that made their pre-med journey more miserable than the next person.
3) Not Being Authentic To Myself
Like I said, college is a lot like high school in the sense that you are discovering who you are and sometimes, you can do things to fit in that aren’t authentic to you. In my case, I definitely did this more times than I’d like to admit early in college. I am a relatively introverted person and I like playing sports, hanging out by a bonfire, going for a bike ride, and just doing things with a few people or a small group at most. Yet, I found myself going to pub crawls, EDM concerts, frat parties; only because “the cool kids are doing it”. I had severe FOMO and thought I wouldn’t have any memories or “enjoy my 20s” like all the movies say if I didn’t do this stuff. Once I settled into my own around second year and stopped doing this stuff, I was much happier. Be you, do you and you will find the right group of people that are meant to be in your life. This high school mentality never ends until you nip it in the bud, so get ahead of it.
4) Not Exploring More
You are definitely busy during pre-med but like I said, if you study efficiently and stick to a schedule, you will have plenty of time. Now, being in medical school, it’s interesting to see all the different backgrounds everyone has come from. The various hobbies they’ve had, experiences, where they had travelled, the things they have tried etc. I had the mentality of “everything I do should be related to getting into med school”. This was good cause it gave me the focus and tunnel vision necessary to get here but I definitely had some hobbies and ideas I was interested in but no longer have time for. Use your free time to taste everything. Get a taste of anything and everything you are interested in so you can check that box and never look back thinking “what if?”.
5) Not Enjoying The Process
As mentioned in the last point, everything I did was through a filter of “is this going to get me into medical school”? Unfortunately, one thing this mentality did was prevent me from being happy. I purposely (even subconciously) told myself I wasn’t allowed to be happy until I got that admission. I would literally be in the middle of laughing/smiling and stop myself because “not there yet”. This is ridiculous and not necessary. As long as you are putting in the work and sticking to the process, you should enjoy the free time you create for yourself. Enjoy the process because you will never get youth back and you will want to look back at this time as overall positive. When I finally got into medical school, I wasn’t even that happy because I purposely sacrificed so much more than I had to in order to get here. Now being in med school and realizing that this is a very long process, I realize the importance of enjoying the process and allowing yourself to be happy before you’ve achieved your big goals, without getting lazy or distracted.
Avoid my mistakes and enjoy you’re premed journey.