Being a premed student is a journey filled not only with a lot of hard work and planning,
but also with many doubts and fears.
Do you find your thoughts running wild:
What if my MCAT scores aren’t high enough?
What if I miss early application deadlines?
What if I get rejected?
What if I'm simply not good enough?
Can you define your fears?
Are you being honest with yourself?
Is your fear of failure holding you back?
Fears and hesitations plague most students, including one of mine.
Case Study: Anita
(name changed but shared with permission) She’s an average premed student with a “traditional” premed plan:
- to spend 4 years in undergrad,
- to take the MCAT in the spring or summer of junior year,
- to work on applications in the summer or fall,
- to finish out her senior year of college while flying to/from medical school interviews with hopes of an acceptance in time to start medical school right after undergrad.
Life isn’t going according to plan.
Her schoolwork, combined with extracurriculars including volunteering and a part-time job, distracted her from her junior year MCAT study plans.
She pushed her MCAT date from May to July and is now scrambling to test in September.
Her ‘strategy' up to this point consisted of study, study, study, and hope for the best.
The first thing I asked her was this:
“Given where you are right now, and knowing deep down that you won’t be ready to do your best on the September MCAT, why are you in such a hurry to test this year?”
She had a slew of reasons:
This is how I've imagined my life, I can't change it now
I've planned it this way for so long
I've already told my family
I've already told all of my friends
If I postpone my exam I'll be stuck taking a gap year
If I postpone my exam I'll be letting down every person who's believed in me and supported me on this journey.
A terrifying list full of ‘end of the world' and ‘end of my life' scenarios.
Have you had similar thoughts or fears? An exaggerated list of dire consequences for deviating from your initial plan?
I assigned her a series of homework readings/activities with the promise to pick up the conversation in a week.
But sometimes when advice comes from your advisor, it’s difficult to take it to heart.
People can reason, “They don’t know what I’m going through. They can’t understand.”
“They don't have as much on the line? They don't…”
Tim Ferriss’ Approach to Fear
So I looked for someone else who had a novel approach to the issue I was seeing, and I came across a TED Talk on fear by Tim Ferriss.
(Read till the end then watch the video)
The video spoke to me personally on many levels.
Having gone through a turbulent childhood, I recognized some of my own coping mechanisms.
I also recognized that many of my fears today are very much along the lines of those of this student.
If XYZ doesn’t happen EXACTLY as planned, then these (insert long list) negative consequences will occur.
So I tried the exercise and had Anita try it as well.
The results were impressive enough that I want YOU to try it as well.
No skimping, no cheating, no rushing through it.
Take out a physical pen and three sheets of paper, and watch the video.
Anita's New Plan
In case you haven’t watched the video yet, I won’t ruin it for you.
But here’s what changed in Anita's life:
Anita is now starting over with a fresh plan to test in January of the following cycle with a solid and realistic goal.
She now has:
- A strategic study plan with measurable milestones and data-driven checkpoints to ensure she’s on track for the January exam (as I discuss in great detail in Step 5 of my Ultimate Guide to MCAT Prep under ‘Minimize Panic').
- A realistic schedule that aligns with her desired targets.
- A two month buffer (Feb/Mar) if in the “worst case scenario” she has to retest in April.
- A plan to start on her new application AFTER her January MCAT, ensuring she has more than enough time to complete and polish every component.
- The confidence to recognize that it really won’t be the end of the world if she waits another year.
What You Should Do
While the exercise discussed in the video can be applied to anything in your life,
I want you to grab three sheets of paper right now.
Watch the video, then try the exercise with a focus the fears surrounding your immediate premed goals and dreams.
Use your newfound courage to dive back into your studies and make your dreams happen.
If like the student above, you want my help creating and executing your plan, there are two options for working with me:
- Strategy Session
In this one-on-one video chat, we work together to analyze your targets and create a plan to get you there. Click for details.
- MCAT Study Hall
My guided MCAT prep program includes a strategy session along with everything you need to execute your plans: content foundation, strategy and progress, and help and support every step of the way. Click for details.
I’m looking forward to helping you reach your MCAT goals!