I recently read this entry (I love reading both AspiringDoctors and The Not Quite Doctor and it got me thinking about my own approach to medical school. When classes started almost a year and a half ago, I was definitely aiming for “Honors” -defined as at least a 90% – in my courses. But after taking my first exam, I realized that I would have to make many more sacrifices in order to achieve this goal. It definitely wasn’t out of my reach, but I wondered if sacrificing time with family and friends, my extracurricular activities (e.g. AMWA, my blog(s) (Med School Insight; personal; MedScape) and other non-medical school pursuits was really worth it just for a grade.
I’ve heard from numerous sources that preclinical grades aren’t a huge factor for residency applications. Although it definitely makes a difference if you do well enough to receive an invite to join the AOA; very few people are selected for this honor. In the end, I’m not saying that I want to be a “mediocre” doctor (who really wants that?!), but my personal idea of a healthy balance in medical school includes more than just sitting in front of books all day long. It involves more than living, breathing and being in medical school – indeed, going to school, studying and thinking about school take up the majority of my time, but I like to make sure that I make time for a bit more dimension to my life. I would probably go insane if all I did was study, which is what I would need to do in order to get “Honors” (there are definitely some geniuses out there that can hear a concept once and know it but I’m not in that category).
There is definitely an “anti-gunner” mentality that is widespread and pervasive in every medical school. It’s impossible to avoid. I’m not a fan of “gunners” that will do everything possible to do well (including sabotage his or her peers), however, I am not going to discredit my colleagues that wish to do well. More power to you! Sometimes I wish I had that mentality and focus to achieve the highest possible marks, but I know myself and I know that it’s just not in my personality.
My mentality is somewhere in the middle of “just pass” and “do as well as possible.” I do hope I pass my exams (since all of our exams are high-stakes, we always need to get at least a 70% so there’s no skimping on at least doing that well), but I try to do my best within my means. Our last block exam before winter break, I was a mere 2 points away from getting “honors” – hopefully with the start of the new semester and new year, I’ll come closer to achieving this goal. But in the meantime, I’ll be enjoying this break as much as possible (while trying to study for Boards, of course…).
What is your optimal balance?
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All of the opinions expressed here are the author’s and hers alone, and do not represent necessarily those of Kaplan or its employees.