I like to wake up in the morning and pump myself up: “You. Got. This.”
You kind of have to do that when you’re a confused pre-med at Yale. Otherwise, the world will really get you down. I’ve found self-encouragement to be key.
When I was in the fifth grade, I realized I wanted to be a doctor. Covered in silly band bracelets and still refusing to wear deodorant, I was about to graduate from lower school (# huge deals only), and my teacher asked my class that anxiety-inducing golden question: “What do you want to be when you grow up?”
In the approximately 27 seconds I had to answer the question, I zoomed through possible career paths in my head, taking into consideration one thing: What sounds cool?! I landed on marine biologist with actress gig on the side. “Ambitious,” my teacher declared. Later that night, I changed my mind to doctor. It just sounded better. Short, sweet, impressive. And thus, my pre-med journey began.
When I started my first few weeks of Yale, I had high hopes for myself. Sure, college was probably hard, but I had scraped all the A’s I needed in high school to deem myself a “low-key know-it-all.” I’d always had my academics under control, so why not enroll in math, chemistry, bio, lab and a writing class during my first semester?! Go big or don’t go to Yale, right?
It’s safe to say I had no idea what was going on in half of my classes by week three. I essentially forgot all the years of chemistry I’d learned, I fucked up my first math exam, which resulted in a coarse email from my professor, and on top of all of that, the infamous Dr. G. wouldn’t stop yelling at me for leaving my workspace “a mess” in Gen Chem lab. And then, he slammed me with a 50% on my first lab report and asked that I “stop by to chat.”
I got on a train home and cried when I had to come back to Yale the next week. I thought, “Screw this freaking pre-med life. I am out.” And for a moment I was out, envisioning a poli sci/econ double major kind of future. But then that good old ego kicked in that I picked up during my stellar high school career, and I shuffled back to chemistry Monday morning. This is also the point where I started pumping myself up at the start of each day.
Here comes the good part of this story. In the following months, I made friends. While I found some of the pre-meds at Yale to be super fucking annoying –meaning they knew their stuff and flashed it so that you’d know it as well– I did learn to ignore those people (unless I needed serious pset help) and stick with the other seemingly confused pre-meds at Yale. Those are the friends I have to this day. The collaborative people. The ones who struggle and succeed together, pushing each other up when we need it. The people who get me through junior fall when the dark cloud of future MCAT studying looms over you like a mother******. And accordingly, with these people in my life, I haven’t received a 50% since.
The advice I believe we’ve all held onto over the years and that I hope to impart to any pre-med underclassmen is clear: drop whatever ego you have. Drop it ASAP. You’re taking some of the hardest classes, so recognize it. Recognize you’ll take a few L’s. Pre-med will beat the shit out of you while your humanities friends sit by and read. Just let it happen. Maybe you’ll get above the curve next time. Maybe you won’t. Go to office hours and make those peer tutors work for their above minimum wage salary.
Whoever you are, you have to remember so few people in the world want to attempt what you are doing (second to maybe biochemical engineering because WHO WOULD EVER). And there’s beauty in the pain and the psets if you take many, many steps back one day when you’re a retired family medicine physician with no recollection of anything from Orgo 1 and DEFINITELY nada from Orgo 2. Those will be the good days. And hey, you got this.