Medical School Applications are a huge task. Getting everything together and perfect can be a pretty daunting task. Here’s some tips on how to tackle it and other big tasks! Some of this may seem obvious. If so, good! It means you understand what needs to be done. Never-the-less understanding what needs to be done and actually doing it are often two very different things.
1. Don’t Underestimate the planning phase of the task. You want to spend at least a few hours planning how to tackle each step. Plan for mishaps, plan for worst-case scenarios, plan for rejection and failure. Planning for these things doesn’t mean you are expecting them to happen, it just means you are mentally preparing yourself for every contingency. Trust your plan. NEVER just wing it.
2. Review the plan with someone! Or better yet, several someones. Embrace feedback, even critical feedback but dismiss those that are quickly dismissive of your plan – they don’t deserve your mental or emotional energy. Learning how to tell the difference between people who give constructive criticism and dismissive feedback is an important life skill.
3. Visualize the entire task from different perspectives. In terms of your application consider it from the perspective of yourself, an admissions official, a student of the school, an alumni physician, etc. This will help you avoid missing anything! Break it all up into small and achievable steps and work on them every day. Getting into the habit of breaking a big task into focused, small, steps and working on it every day is an important skill you’ll need for future success.
4. Reflect on what’s not working & what is and ask others for their opinion. Sometimes you might be too close to it to see a problem. A key mistake most people make is confusing their desire with their ability. Just because you really strongly desire to get an A in organic chemistry doesn’t mean you currently have the ability to get one. Reflecting on what’s not working can lead you to solutions to bridge the gap between desire and ability.
5. Take stalk of where you stand periodically and celebrate your progress. One of the biggest problem with big tasks is fatigue. One way to fight fatigue is through gratitude and appreciation of how hard you’ve worked.
6. Don’t be afraid to revise the plan. Think of the plan like it’s setting your trajectory. If the plan is leading you in the wrong direction, make adjustments. For example; if your plan included volunteering at one research lab – but you find the people there are toxic, mentally, and emotionally draining – then adjust the plan!
7. The end of one big task is usually just the start of another, even bigger task. Congratulations you got an acceptance letter to medical school. That is a huge accomplishment that can’t be under-stated. Take some time to celebrate… then start working on your plan for medical school!
One thing to keep in mind as you are creating plans for big tasks is that you can’t plan for everything. Often you will face the unexpected and need to find spontaneous solutions to problems. That’s ok, that’s just life and part of learning to be a part of this crazy world. Still, that doesn’t diminish the importance of creating a solid plan!