Even though we as college students are technically considered adults, we are still burdened by stress at a young age. Especially in a pre-med oriented school, we feel pressured to keep up with or even surpass the achievements of others as we struggle to maintain our busy schedules while attempting to balance what little time we have left for ourselves. It's a sad reality.
1. The competition
Coming from a very pre-med oriented university, I can't help but feel the competitive vibes around me. During the lecture, I can hear the students around me ask their peers what score they received on the most recent midterm while others boast about how busy they are during the week because of all of the things that they are doing outside of the classroom.
It's this dog eat dog environment and constant comparison that makes students and myself included feel as if we are somehow lagging behind or not doing as much as we should be doing so we push ourselves even harder to keep up. As much as we don't want to, we have the tendency to measure our success in terms of others' success, and this, in turn, makes it more difficult for us to focus on ourselves. Now, I'm sure that you've been told not to compare yourself to others, but in the end, isn't that how you gain admission into medical school? By being compared to others? It's all relative.
2. The authenticity
It's not rare to see a pre-med student taking 18 or more credits while trying to squeeze in some volunteer work, a campus job, and even some research hours all into one day. At times, however, I question whether or not they truly want to do all of these things, but at the same time, I understand that they feel pressured to embody the "ideal" medical school applicant.
One of my friends once said to me, "I need to beef up my resume", and it's sad to see how she now feels constantly pressured to apply for a volunteer position or a job because of this. I also see others dread the work that they do, but they continue to stick with it and overload themselves because they believe that is what admissions officers want to see. I am a firm believer of doing something because you genuinely want to and not because you feel like you have to, yet this mentality gets lost as one becomes so immersed in meeting the requirements of the medical school.
3. The balance
While doing well in your classes is important, so is eating, showering, and sleeping. In fact, I think that one's physical and mental health triumphs all else. I recall the hectic week that one of my friends recently pushed through. She had a weekend class and an exam as part of something she pursues on the side, and that same week, we had a chemistry midterm followed by a biology one and not to mention all of the other assignments we had due in between. My friend already felt tired and burnt out from the weekend, and this led her to miss a lecture and some homework assignments. She even went a day without eating an actual meal.
With only a bag of popcorn for dinner one night, she stayed up until FOUR in the morning to catch up on what she had missed during the day. Many of my other friends who are pre-med struggle to balance academics, extracurriculars, leisure time, and maintenance of their overall health because there is always a trade-off. There are only 24 hours in a day, and one thing has to be sacrificed in order to obtain the other, and I wish it wasn't this way.