Tuesday, January 3rd, 2017

The Comparison Spiral

Tyler Wilson

Premed students tend to be, by nature, determined, focused, and driven. It’s not surprising that the arduous medical education and the demanding career of a physician attracts these individuals. During your years as a premed, you’re destined to be surrounded by similar people in your major, core classes, volunteer sites, etc. It can be easy to start comparing yourself to your peers and worry about your own medical school chances.

I attended my hometown state school, and although it wasn’t a small school, we didn’t have a specific premed major like some other larger schools. Nevertheless, the science departments were filled with brilliant premeds. Many of whom were producing impressive research, participating in volunteer opportunities, and holding leadership positions in various clubs. As you can imagine, many  successfully matriculated into MD programs around the country. I consider myself somewhat of a chronic worrier so it was challenging for me to not look around the classroom and think to myself, “If only 45% of applicants get into medical school, who here will make the cut?” It was hard not to compare scores on the last midterm, or not try and squeeze people’s MCAT scores out of them to see how you size up against your competition.

Hindsight is always 20/20, but now that I’ve graduated, I wish I would have spent less time comparing myself to classmates during my undergraduate years. It’s easy to look around and think so-and-so has more research than you, or a better GPA, or a better MCAT score, or doesn’t sleep because they work as a scribe at night and go straight to class after their shift. How are you supposed to measure up? The answer is: you don’t. You cannot possibly compete with everyone in every aspect, and that’s okay. In fact, your classmates are likely looking at you and thinking some version of the same thing. The sooner you realize this, the sooner you can go back to doing things you’re passionate about and that make you unique and just as competitive on an application.

You might be thinking: Is he an admissions expert? No. Is he telling me not to do all the things that medical schools like, and that will enhance my application? No. What I’m saying is this: choose to do things that align with both your interests and with the missions of medical schools you hope to attend. Do things because you enjoy them, not just because you think an admissions committee wants to see them. I’ve realized that too many people go through undergrad doing things because they feel like they need to in order to be competitive, rather than because they enjoy actually doing them. By conforming to what you think medical schools want, sometimes you lose what makes you, you.

Since graduation, I’ve been able to immerse myself in activities and opportunities that I never did during undergrad. I started volunteering at a needle exchange program for IV drug users, I took a position as a scribe in a Level 1 trauma center, and I had the chance to work with doctors at a professional sporting event. Are these all things I couldn’t have done during undergrad? Not necessarily. However, now that I’m involved in so many things that I truly love, I wonder what took me this long. I don’t regret any of the opportunities I took during college. I learned an incredible amount about people, made great relationships with classmates and faculty, and built the foundation for my medical school application. But that’s just it, I did things because I saw my classmates doing them, and was just checking the boxes of what I thought medical schools wanted. I involved myself in a multitude of activities, few of which I can explain enthusiastically if asked about in an interview. By doing things that you legitimately enjoy, you will have experiences that are a thousand times easier to explain in a personal statement, or an interview with genuine enthusiasm. There is no recipe to the perfect medical school application, but if there’s one thing this year off has taught me, it’s that the application process feels a lot less intimidating when you have experiences that you’ve thoroughly loved under your belt.

About Tyler Wilson

Tyler graduated with a B.S. in Biology from Fresno State in May 2015. During his time at Fresno State he was a two-term Senator for the College of Science and Mathematics where he spent time advocating for students on university committees, and was appointed to an Interim Dean search committee. While attending school, Tyler worked at his family motorcycle dealership nearly full time, and eventually launched his own side ecommerce company in 2014. After graduation, Tyler continued to run his business while also volunteering with the Fresno Free Medical Clinic and Needle Exchange program. Tyler also began working as a scribe at Community Regional Medical Center in Fresno. With the medical center’s affiliation with UCSF Fresno, Tyler has gotten involved in research, and is currently involved in a trauma study. In his free time Tyler loves to be with friends and family, and is an avid motorcycle enthusiast.

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