Are you dreaming of becoming a doctor, or a dentist? If so, … good dream. We need awesome, caring, wonderful healthcare givers, and if that is you, then we need you! So how do you make this dream come true?
Well, if I’m not wasting time sugar coating it … hard work. Plain and simple. Except, not actually simple. For example, thinking of hard work, you might automatically think of your coursework, and if so, you’d be correct in thinking this, but it’s also much more. So. Much. More.
Did you know that over half that apply DON’T get in? That can be a very intimidating stat, but it doesn’t mean that you can’t make it happen, or even that you won’t. It just means that you need to know how to set yourself apart from everyone else … It means you need to shine brighter!
That doesn’t mean you have to get straight A’s or get perfect scores on your MCAT or DAT – although, sure, that would help. What it means, though, is you need to know what it takes to build yourself into a competitive applicant. And today, we are going to focus on Phase 1 of the two phase process of being a competitive applicant, where Phase 1 is everything you do leading up to the application, and Phase 2 (which we’ll save for another chat) is everything you do while you are applying.
Now mind you, I could write books (here’s another book or check out my author page for more) about about everything there is to do and know for Phase 1, but for this chat, I want to focus on 3 things that are essential to your happiness and success!
You need to start by taking excellent care of yourself. … Don’t roll your eyes at me … LOL, or worse, hit the snore button. Seriously, if I had a nickel for every time this topic gets me a yawn or disinterested look, I’d be so rich – but honestly, this is a big deal. And it oftentimes goes undervalued or overlooked. Hey, I get that you’re busy and young, and I mean, you like, slept for 5 hours and ate a whole power bar with that cup of coffee, so you’re fed and rested, what’s the big deal? Right? Well, the short of it is, you need to do well in school and in all of your developing and growing activities, and if you aren’t doing well, then you won’t do well.
So you need to love yourself and care about yourself, and you need to give yourself the healthy basics. You need to get enough sleep to actually rest and restore your body (science shows that number to be on average 7-8 hours for peeps … you know … science and health, the basics of the career field you are interested in). I get that you’re a busy student with SO MUCH to do, and you can’t always get this kind of golden, glorious sleep, but try – seriously TRY to get this amount more than not, and when you can’t, schedule in a “make up” day and make it happen. If you’re not rested, your brain productivity and reasoning skills are going to drop, and that’s not doing you or your GPA any good.
Eat a healthy diet … yep … I speak of those fruits and veggies … food with fiber and nutrition to fuel your brain and your body (and if you eat them, eggz iz good for da brainz! … it’s the choline in them; it’s a rare and uber helpful nutrient!). Find fun; find laughter – and LMAO every chance you get. It’s stress relief of the golden kind. You’ll kick up your endorphins and other happy brain chemicals, and your body will thank you! Hydrate, my awesome peep! Carry your water bottle around with you daily. Keep it filled up! Did you know that when you get dehydrated you and get tired and lose your ability to fully concentrate, among many other non-conducive-to-being-awesome-in-your-education-and-prep kind of things. Such an easy fix to keep you alert and ready to learn and perform. So hydrate!!! And last but not least for taking care of yourself, exercise! Whether you walk or bike around campus, do yoga, hit the gym … whatever works for you … make time for it! Make it happen. It will improve your mood, coping skills, and overall mental, emotional, and physical health!
You want to follow taking care of yourself with developing awesome, effective study habits! If you have just recently landed at college, and are just out of high school, it is very likely that you are realizing how much work your classes can be, and how much faster the professors cover material than your HS teachers did. It’s college, and classes usually move at a minimum of 2X faster than HS. That means you’ve got to up your game, and up it fast! Get brave, learn to raise your hand in class and ask questions. If you have a question, stats show that at least one other student in the room likely has the same question. Be awesome and get that answer. Every bit you don’t understand is a bit that can kill your performance on the test, or on that paper, or however your prof is assessing your learning. And that results in lower grades … and you want HIGHER grades!!!
Every human learns and processes information at different rates and with different context dependencies (think about how you and a friend might read the same book and find out that you had different favorite parts, and you read it faster or slower than your friend). When it comes to mastering your coursework, you have to think of yourself and the amount of time it’s going to take YOU to learn it. Don’t worry about how fast or slow anyone else is going. Doesn’t matter. You’re not working for their life or their career goals. You’re working for you life and your goals. So. How much ever time you need to learn the material, that’s the amount of time you need to give yourself. Otherwise, you’re just being self-defeating, and that’s not going to help you.
When you’ve tried and tried, and you’ve read the material, and reviewed your notes, and done all the problem sets or handouts, but you still have questions … pack up (grab your book, your notes, everything that you’ve done) and head to your prof’s office hours. No one knows the material (or how they are going to test you on it) better than your professor, so go to them and have them fill in the blanks and heighten your understanding, so that your new found comprehension can get you those A’s!!! And if you need more, find a study buddy, get a tutor, … whatever … just get help!!! (Also, note, you will need awesome letters of recommendation when you apply … the only way to get those … meaning awesome ones … is to get to know your profs and let them get to know you … let them care about you, invest in you, want to help you achieve your dreams … so beyond immediate help of learning the material, prof’s office hours can help you build those necessary relationships and mentorships that make a ginormous difference during application time!)
So, now that you are taking care of yourself and learning at your highest, most productive awesome-sauce-ness, it’s time for you to get out of the classroom and engage Incredible experiences!!! To be competitive, you must develop lots and lots of personal attributes and skills (like time management, compassion, empathy, responsibility, patient care, etc), along with lessons learned and values gained and developed. And you have to experience STUFF (life, people, hardship, having to make choices, opportunities, etc) to get these awesome-sauce characteristics and traits! So for our quick chat today, I will just add these final thoughts for gaining incredible experiences. 1. Get clinical experience as quickly as you can. Why? Because it doesn’t make sense for you to dive headlong into 3 years of pre-req courses and taking the MCAT or DAT for a career field that you may not even like. (I’ve met with juniors who haven’t gotten in their clinical experience thinking they will do it after they apply. News flash: That WON’T help you!!! Firstly, you need to have the clinical experience BEFORE you apply, so you have something to talk about on your app and in your personal statement. And secondly, I’ve seen some of these same juniors finally get out there and try it, and then realize it’s not for them … and they find themselves lost with wondering what-the-hell-do-they-do-now??? Don’t let this happen to you!)
2. Don’t research if you hate it. If it’s not your thing, it’s okay. You don’t need research to become a doctor or a dentist. But if you do like it … what a great way to build a mentor-mentee relationship and get a much needed awesome letter of rec! Plus, by doing original research, you will build problem solving skills, develop a deeper understanding of science and how new knowledge is generated along with the scientific method, … among many other things. So if research is your bag … fill it deeply with your awesomeness!!!
3. Volunteer only in the things that interest you … even if after you try it you realize it doesn’t really interest you. SO MUCH is learned by trying new things and finding out what you like and don’t like and what your strengths and un-strengths are! But don’t volunteer in something just because a friend told you it will make you competitive. By doing so, you are already proving you’re not competitive. You are showing that you can’t think for yourself or learn for yourself or find out who you are and what you want for yourself … do you see what I’m saying? There is no perfect list of volunteer activities that makes you the perfect candidate except for the list of activities that you choose for yourself and for the reasons why you choose them, and then all of the personal attributes, skills, lessons learned, and values you gain from them. Your journey is personal … yours alone! Enjoy it! Love it!!! Make the most of it!!!
4. Travel!!! Ohmigosh! Meet new people. See new places. Learn about how other people live and learn. What their challenges and joys are. Their culture. All of it!!! You can gain cultural sensitivity and tolerance along with compassion and empathy for others … and you grow your understanding of how the world is and works. And so much more!!! Yes! YES!! YESSSS!!!!
And, finally … 5. work if you have the time. Build your resume. Gain desired personal attributes, skills, lessons learned, and values. Build your support network.
All of these help you develop yourself into your Best Shining Self … and when you do that, you learn how to Stand Up, Stand Out, and Shine! And that is how you set yourself apart from the other candidates! That is how you help ensure you get in!!! That’s how you make your dream of becoming a doctor or a dentist your reality!!!
Know that you can do this!!! You can make good choices and give yourself the time you need to succeed! You can be the dream!!!
Big Hugs and as always, wishing you happiness and success!!!