Allow me to set the scene for you.
It’s the 18th of January 2016 and I’m visiting my grandparents in a not-very-well-known part of Indonesia where the weather is stifling and the internet connection is questionable at the best of times. I’m the first of many grandchildren to take an interest in medicine, much to my grandmother’s delight, and the whole household- aunties and cousins and family friends and dogs alike- all know that today is the day I find out whether or not I got into medical school. Whether I have failed or succeeded. Needless to say, my main objective of the morning is to stay in bed as long as humanly possible, where Wi-Fi is inaccessible and no university acceptance email could ever catch me. What you don’t know can’t hurt you right? Not really. The anticipation gnaws away at me like necrotizing fasciitis (Ha. Med joke!) and eventually I have to drag myself out of bed to face my inbox. I take my seat at the dining table and pretended not to notice how the whole family has congregated around the edges of the room to watch my reaction.
In hindsight, they must have been a little concerned at the number of times I refreshed the email in disbelief and how manically I clicked on the link that said ‘accept this offer’ before I even thought to turn around and announce my big news.
Now, a couple of years down the track, I can safely say that I reflect on the memory of that day- one all-important, life-changing, turning-point of a day- and say it was not nearly as dramatic as my anticipation of it might have suggested. Despite a tragic inward battle, a great deal of disbelief and serious concern that the university was going to retract their offer if I didn’t accept it as quickly as the struggling Wi-Fi signal would allow, I did manage to get in!
The moment I opened the email is actually a bit hazy in my memory. I put it down to the stress of it all, or maybe the fact that it was a literal dream come true. However, what I do remember with a great degree of clarity, is how my family members were not nearly as astonished as I had expected them to be. In fact, they smiled, and congratulated me, and said “I knew you could do it”. Yes, I realize that phrase is the most standard of standard responses in the context of praising someone for an achievement. Nevertheless, reflecting on the memory makes me wonder- why is it that I was so certain I wouldn’t get in? Sure, there’s an extent to which it is natural to be nervous about an important decision that is out of your hands, but why, in this situation, did I have more doubt about my ability to succeed than anybody else?
The unfortunate truth is, somewhere along the lines someone told me that only the kid who’d been learning anatomy from their surgeon parents since they were ten, or the guy who started private UMAT tutoring in year nine, or the school captain, sports-star, perfect ATAR model student was going to get into medical school. What’s worse? I totally believed it, and I get the impression that there are plenty of current high school students who are full of potential (yes, all of you guys) that will believe it too.
Now, please don’t take my message the wrong way. I don’t mean to say that the process is going to be easy, that you shouldn’t study or don’t need to work hard. Nor is this a platform on which to brag and put down anyone that may have missed out on their offer the first time around. But, what I am here to do is set the record straight once and for all and say- medical students are not that special!
I consider it a blessing that I went on to put a great deal of effort towards getting into my dream course, despite feeling so uncertain about the outcome. But there are still far too many students who I have conversed with about medical school entry that are where I was two or three years ago. Students who begin half their sentences with “I know I’m probably not smart enough” or “other people are already way ahead of me” or even “I don’t come from the right demographic, I’m not at a private school or a selective school” when, realistically, a great deal of them are more than capable. I hate to think that some of these students may go on to give up their dream because somebody painted them a false picture, and told them they would never be able to achieve it. So please allow me to be the opposing voice and say that truly, it is possible and you have what it takes.
The bottom line is, if you truly want to get into medical school give it everything you’ve got! Don’t fall into the trap of worrying about how other people are more equipped than you are and take yourself out of the race before you’ve even started running. Prepare thoroughly, give yourself as much control over the process as possible, and go into the university acceptance period with confidence that you’ve given it your best shot. Above what everybody else has to say, putting yourself in the game is the first step to reaching that end goal!
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