The MCAT Taught Me You Always Need To Remind Yourself Why

The MCAT Taught Me You Always Need To Remind Yourself Why

You need to have a life.

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As I was planning on studying for the MCAT (the Medical College Admissions Test) a couple months ago, I told myself something like this, as I was trying to motivate myself to study for the behemoth that is the 7 and a half hour exam:

"Ryan, you're going to study 12 hours a day, stay 100% sober, and take 14 practice tests over the next three months."

Well, a week before my MCAT, I have not accomplished these summer process-oriented goals, not even close. I have written before about how perfectionism is an attempt to be your own God, and here I was shamelessly trying to be my own God. No, I have not studied 12 hours a day - although there are a couple of days I've come close, the reality is that I've averaged somewhere between six to eight hours of studying a day, with a lot of variation depending on how motivated I feel. I have not taken 14 practice tests - I've barely pumped out seven. I have not stayed 100% sober.

But that doesn't mean I'm not satisfied with the progress I've made along the way. From my first diagnostic practice test to my last full-length practice exam, I improved my score 25 points, almost 6 to 7 points per section. No matter how well I do on the real thing a week from now, I have to be satisfied with that growth. But if there were things I would have done differently and ways I would have approached this exam differently, this is what I would have told myself three months ago, and what I would tell anyone who is taking the MCAT soon.

You need to have a life.

Who actually studies 12 hours a day? I had this epiphany the other day - 90% people who tell you they're studying 12 hours a day aren't studying productively for 12 hours a day. I know this because I am one of those people - studying two hours, getting really tired, taking a two hour nap, working out, studying another two hours, watching YouTube videos, running errands, and then studying another two hours and going to bed is what people really mean when they "study 12 hours a day." What I really meant was that the MCAT was on my mind 12 hours a day.

I blew off hanging out with my friends and having a social life a couple of times the past couple months, and now I seriously regret I did. The key to doing well on the exam and doing well holistically is balance - and having a life, hanging out with friends, spending time writing and doing things I enjoy were all a part of that. One thing that made sure I wasn't doing too much and burning myself out was being on my college cross country team. The past several weeks, I have had an obligation to run 80 or more miles a week, and when that happens, there was a severe limit on my ability to study 12 hours a day.

Another big thing I learned was this:

Don't spend time comparing yourself to others. You have to do whatever works for you.

I shamelessly admit that I spent too much time on the MCAT Reddit page seeing how people raised their scores from somewhere in the 30th percentile to somewhere in the >100th percentile. In doing so, not only did I feel bad about myself and feel more and more impatient about my slow pace of progress, but I didn't realize that it was statistically impossible for as many people to score 524+ (100th percentile) on the exam as the number of people who said they did. It was upon first scanning the MCAT Reddit page that I first set those unrealistic expectations for myself.

I'm the first person to tell people not to compare yourself to others and not to care what other people thought, and here I was doing precisely the opposite of what I preach. There were people who said that they improved their scores on the MCAT by being 100% sober and studying 12 hours a day for three months, which was why I wanted to do the same. There were people who made 5000 flashcards, which I obsessively downloaded and made on my computer.

What I realized was you are not those people. You have your own style and ways of doing things - I wrote 150 pages of my own notes, which helped significantly more than some other person's flashcards.

It's a game of the patience, persistence, endurance.

I cannot tell you how many times I've felt like giving up only 10 to 15 minutes into a full-length practice test of the MCAT - the fact that I had to sit in a chair for the next seven hours felt excruciating. I cannot tell you how many times I did give up and just wait the next day, when I had more energy and motivation, to finish it.

But somewhere late in my preparation, I learned this: it is a very long exam. I can't tell you how many times, too, I've gone through a passage in the CARS (Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills) section, understood absolutely nothing about the passage, came back to it some other time and gotten every question in the section right. I can't tell you how many times I thought I was going to fail a passage and knew nothing about whatever topic they were testing, only to see that I did know it. Every cliche there could possibly be about life applies to the MCAT - it truly isn't a sprint, it's a marathon.

You need to remind yourself why.

The original reason why I wanted to be a pre-medical student and a doctor, coming into college, was a series of circumstances that afflicted my family. A not so noble and extrinsic reason for wanting to be a doctor was because my parents want me to be one. Several times down the line, I lost motivation and forgot about those reasons. Every time I gave up on studying or gave up on a practice exam, I had to remind myself why I started in the first place. Writing this article is one of those times.

"I want to be a doctor because my parents want me to" and "I've already taken all the pre-med courses" were sentiments I had to seriously reckon with multiple times in the process - I needed something better, something more to push myself intrinsically. It said something to me that I'm inherently passionate about almost everything I do, and completely not passionate about the medical school application process and this exam - I'm not ready for medical school right now. I felt that before. I don't know what the future holds, and I don't know if I ever will be ready. God might have that plan for me down the line, or he might have some other plan. Reminding myself why has been a more challenging battle than ever studying any of the material on the exam, and that is a battle I will keep reckoning with as I go into my last year of college.

The truth is there's a chance I might not even go to medical school, and might not even be a doctor. I'm at a very transient stage of my life where that bridge is very far down the road, but the no matter my career and life choices, and no matter the outcome, studying for the MCAT has taught me many life lessons and traits that will stick with me for a long time. It has taught me to be more patient, it has taught me to have more balance, and it has taught me not to compare myself to other people, and those lessons are far more valuable than the score.

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The Evolution Of Your Starbucks Order, From Middle School To College, As Told By An Avid Coffee Drinker

It's expensive, but damn it's good. And also way better then Dunkin'.

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We can all remember our first cup of that sweet sweet bean juice that has changed our lives for the better. Whether you need it every morning to get a fresh start on the day or every other day to ~treat yourself~, we can all agree that coffee is a necessity. I remember those trips to the mall in middle school where I could practically hear Starbucks whispering sweet nothings to me all the way from the parking garage outside, but just like I've aged well after middle school, so has my coffee taste. Grab that cup of happiness, and let us stroll through memory lane together, shall we?

1. The vanilla bean frappucino

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I think it is a safe assumption to say that every coffee drinker starts here. In middle school, these things were all the rage and honestly, so was that double chocolately chip frap as well, but anymore it might just hurt your stomach.

2. The pumpkin spice latte

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Although still very basic, it rarely ever had that "coffee" flavor, so you were still able to choke it down as an eighth-grader while still looking super cool for holding that sacred white cup. Honestly, I will still order this one like once a year with no shame because it is a classic.

3. The peppermint mocha (or other holiday drink)

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We all know those chic holiday cups that Starbucks so generously graces us with every year (shout out to that red cup from a few years ago that everyone was RAGED about), and they all have such delicious contents. The peppermint mocha is a staple to the holiday season, and also to your coffee timeline. It was probably the first time you enjoyed a coffee drink that had a hint of bean flavor.

4. The white chocolate mocha

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At this point, all of those holiday drinks are gone, and the fake coffee stans are in their state of depression until fall comes back around. BUT, the rest of us who need to be fueled by java are looking at other alternatives, so at this point, you have probably turned to something like the white chocolate mocha. You're probably growing fonder of the coffee taste as well.

5. The vanilla/caramel iced coffee

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We get it, you're sick of hot drinks and the coffee hitting your teeth when you drink it, so you have moved away from them in order to try iced coffee. This might be the largest part of your coffee-lution, and maybe even your greatest... but let's be honest, it was also your most expensive because you drank SO MUCH of it.

6. The pink drink

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Y'all, at this point, you have been a frequent flyer at your local Starbs. The baristas probably know your name, and they know exactly how much vanilla syrup to put into your iced coffee, but THEN, Starbucks pulls this wonder out of their magic little green apron. You tried it the first time, and then you were hooked.

7. Cold brew

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Just when we thought Starbucks was magical enough, they decided to do more for us, as if we even deserved it. When Starbucks introduced Cold Brew, it was so hard to get your hands on it because everyone was buying it so quickly. Oh, and when they ask for cream, by now you say no because you want that full, bold flavor of black coffee. 10/10 on the coffee scale.

8. The espressonade

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OK, I think I may have coined this term myself, and you may not have ever even had this. But it is a lemonade with a shot of espresso. It doesn't matter if it was part of your evolution because it is part of mine, and it's delicious.

9. Black coffee

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Hot or cold, it doesn't matter, it just depends on the weather. At this point in your timeline, you are sick of all the extraness, and you might even be bold enough to order an Americano. Regardless, black coffee will steal your heart, and once you try it, you won't want anything else.

10. Nitro cold brew

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Oh, you thought cold brew was good? That's funny, how about nitro cold brew? Don't ruin it with cream or flavored syrup, just sip that smooth yum yum juice and enjoy the rest of your day, because wow is this stuff good.

Believe me, we all start somewhere, for most of us it was frappucinos, or maybe it was those glass travel drinks that you can get from the gas station. The coffee community is very accepting, so just hang out in your local coffee shop and soak up the aromas.

Just remember folks, always #RefuseTheStraw, and if you don't post your drink on Instagram, then it does not count.

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I’ve Learned To Love The Girl I Used To Be Because It’s Made Me Who I Am

To the friend who feels heavy in the midst of mourning her past.

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"Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come."

2 Corinthians 5:17

Dedicated to the friend who feels heavy in the midst of mourning her past.

Silence is deafening.

It's both quiet and loud when the past is present.

Today, the sun may shine its yellow warmth but all I feel is the loneliness of grey and blue.

It's my first time back here since I buried her and the first time I've allowed myself to feel the weight of remembering her. Remembering the girl I used to be.

It is here at her grave that I feel most alone.

No one else is gravely mourning like I am. I have mourned not just the person she was but also the potential she had to be then.

No one else is solemnly rejoicing that she is no longer with us. Perhaps because no one I know now knew her. The ones that did, I've pushed away far enough so that I never have to dig up the past.

I haven't been back since the burial because I've only allowed myself to remember her when it's convenient. When it serves a purpose for other people, never for me though. Otherwise, I've erased all memory of her so that no one would be hurt by her again, especially not me.

She hurt me the most and I don't like remembering the damage. I don't like seeing my shipwrecked wreckage.

Yet, I'm here again hating the power she still holds on me long after I declared her dead.

The power of making me inferior in any and all relationships. Making me believe that if the people who love me now saw me in my wreckage then, they wouldn't want me anymore.

She has the power to make me fear a resurrection. Because if it is possible to bring the dead to life, maybe it's possible that six feet under, there's an empty casket and nothing ever changed. It's terrifying to think that I never really buried her, that I still am her.

But when I look beyond the tombstone, I see the sun and a promised tomorrow on the horizon.

One day, I'll come back and won't feel cold or lonely.

The warm embrace of yellow will surround me for I will have learned to love the girl I used to be not because of who she was but because of who I am.

She will no longer have the power to haunt me like the ghost we hear in horror stories and I will be free from the walking grave I carry around.

The past won't be so loud as to interrupt the present and talk over the future. I will be able to remember it as a silent movie of all my mistakes and be able to learn from them. Most of all, I will have ears to hear the now as it is, not as it was.

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