Full disclosure- applying to medical school sucks. Let me rephrase that, the application itself isn’t all that bad, it’s the waiting to hear from schools (depending on your GPA, MCAT, extracurriculars, etc..) that WILL challenge your patience, relationships, and perhaps even your desire to become a physician. However, take it from someone who’s MCAT wasn't all that great (me), you CAN get in. While anyone who says, stats aren't important is lying to your face, it is possible to get in with lower stats (in my opinion) if you:
Fill your application with MEANINGFUL extracurricular activities
Ace your interviews (if you get any)
*Please note that you should 100% strive for the best GPA, highest MCAT score, and most well-rounded application as possible. This gives you the best chance, period. No ifs, ands, or buts.
Now, this next piece of advice applies to anyone applying to medical or professional school. I’m not going to sit here and tell you how to get into your dream school or how to study for the MCAT, that’s the job of people far more involved in the process than I am. I can, however, give you some practical tips that worked for me to help limit your stress, maintain your sanity, and keep you excited about what your future holds. Most of this advice applies to students in a gap year looking to fill their time, but this can also be applied to the lives of students. As always, these are strictly my experiences and should not be considered gospel. If some (or all) work for you, great! If not, there’s lots of other strategies out there.
1) The Power of Yoga- Luckily for me, Teslie is an amazing yoga teacher and has helped me find my flexibility after a long hockey career. However, I’ve noticed that the benefits of yoga reach far beyond the physical effects. I practiced yoga 1-3 times per week while waiting to hear from schools and felt it provided mental clarity of the situation. Many of the visualization and meditation techniques exerted a powerful calming effect that really helped ease any nervousness or anxiety. If you need suggestions on a certain type of yoga or studio near you, let me know and Teslie and I can send you our thoughts.
2) Get Involved in The Community- This should be obvious as most of you reading this want to save lives, give back, and increase the health of communities and individuals alike, but the reality is we don’t give back enough of our time. Further, I found it extremely gratifying to volunteer during my gap year. Time flies by, and you gain perspective into what really matters. I spent time with an adaptive sports team, read to children at a local school, and got involved with the American Cancer Society.
3) Shadow a Doctor Who Enjoys Teaching-This is a big one. I think shadowing is very necessary. However, I don’t think it matters which specialty you’re in. What really matters is that the physician you’re shadowing enjoys teaching students. Let’s be honest, as pre-meds, we know very little (if anything at all). Therefore, finding a doctor willing to take the time to simplify things seen in practice can be an awesome preparatory tool for us. I spent my time with orthopedic surgeons, family doctors, and general practitioners as I’m interested in family medicine/sports med. I was lucky to know the docs I shadowed and they were great teachers, so I encourage you to find similar role models.
4) Start to read on Medical Student Finance- I’ve become a regular on The White Coat Investor Site and have been trying to be a sponge for financial information. We are entering a lucrative field, but don’t forget that medical school is expensive. Spend some time now researching ways to minimize your student loan debt and save yourself some stress down the line. Additionally, this can be an interesting activity. I’ve found it fascinating to learn how to navigate the financial world, but I know this isn't for everyone.
5) Learn How to Cook- I won’t lie to you. In my gap year, I took my culinary skills to a new level. I began to cook delicious, healthy, and even exotic food items almost nightly (check the food page if you don’t believe me). For me, cooking is a safe space and I have loved every minute of it. I turn on a good playlist or podcast and get lost in the art of creating culinary perfection.
6) Exercise, Exercise, Exercise- My secret weapon. On my most anxious-filled days, I went to the gym and worked my tail off. I have always loved physical activity and competition, so playing hockey, doing CrossFit, and mixing in some long runs each week has been therapeutic. However, remember that I come from a career as a hockey player and as such am probably wired a bit differently than most. I’m not saying to sign up for CrossFit tomorrow, but I think high intensity exercise is a great way to literally burn off some stress.
7) Work and Save Money-This goes hand in hand with (4) above, but get a job if you’re taking a gap year. I was fortunate to be in a research lab that I loved, surrounded by great minds and teachers. I encourage you to find a good situation that allows you to learn and grow. The experience should challenge you academically, this will only make you a stronger applicant.
I hope this helps!