The first wave of tests is finally upon us! As the second semester of my junior year flies past, I, like any pre-med looking to apply this cycle, am feeling the pressure of the process. I have found that the life of a pre-med is a delicate balancing act. It is difficult finding time to devote to extracurricular activities, volunteering, research, classwork, and readying applications for submission. It feels like I am constantly adding things to my to-do list and never crossing anything off.
The first round of tests seems even more daunting when you have to start off the semester behind in all of your classes. I think my experiences are pretty indicative of the typical pre-med experience. I spent the entirety of winter break and the first week of classes studying for the MCAT, and I think about half of my anatomy class took the MCAT right along with me. Medical school hopefuls, and any student who wishes to attend graduate school, do not get time off, even during school breaks. As graduation approaches, breaks are spent gaining pertinent experiences.
I have learned a lot about myself through my experience preparing applications and taking the MCAT. Studying eight to 10 hours a day almost every day for the entire winter break definitely took its toll. However, it showed me how important it is to take some time for yourself. Sometimes stepping away from my studying was one of the hardest things I had to do. There were some days when I became so stressed from not studying long enough that I would force myself to study longer without actually absorbing any of the information; I was my own worst enemy and my stress kept feeding on itself. Stepping away from my studying allowed me to return refreshed and helped me look at old problems from new angles.
Similarly, I found that it was really important to do something fun and stress-free to break up the studying. Whether it was a movie night with friends, a night alone with Netflix, or a nice dinner with my parents, I felt like the day after I had taken a night off was much more productive than one after a long day of studying. Likewise, being able to lean on people who made up my support system (parents, friends, siblings, etc.) was so important during this extremely stressful time. Even if I couldn’t admit that I needed a break, the people who care about me pushed me to take care of myself.
I believe that the things that got me through studying for the MCAT can be applied to almost any kind of situation. It is important to take care of yourself and remember that even if you don’t do as well as you had hoped, you can always find the silver lining and take something away from the situation. With that being said, good luck to all on the first round of tests and good luck to anyone waiting on their MCAT scores!