Today, I’m joined by Blueprint MCAT instructor, Madeline. We talk about her non-trad journey, imposter syndrome, and how to not be hard yourself. If you would like to follow along on YouTube, go to premed.tv.
Listen to this podcast episode with the player above, or keep reading for the highlights and takeaway points.
[02:09] Madeline’s MCAT Journey
Madeline majored in communications while all her friends were premed. So she was able to see them go throughout the process. Madeline had always wanted to be a doctor since she was a kid and through high school. Then when she went to UCLA, she was supposed to be a neuroscience major.
But she was suffering from imposter syndrome thinking she wasn’t good enough so she decided to switch to communications.
Going back to the path she initially wanted, she felt it’s where she was meant to be. This time, she had already gathered all the confidence she needed. So in her junior year and senior year, she decided to switch to medical school and go down that path.
As a nontrad student doing postbac at the University of Utah, she got terrified seeing how students were emotionally struggling with the MCAT.'It's not a test of knowledge. It’s a test of endurance of dedication.'Click To Tweet
[05:35] The Importance of the Test
Madeline admits she had to learn that there are all these other factors involved in the applications, other than the MCAT. And so, for her, there’s almost like a weird reversal of that thought process she had.
She remembers taking her first MCAT and just like any other student, you sit down for those seven and a half hours. You’re 30 minutes in, and you feel you can’t do it anymore. Then you get your score back and you think there’s no way you can improve your score. It’s dead in the water. So that pressure on the score really weighed down on her.
For Madeline, there’s a part of that imposter syndrome that came into play in almost a positive light. Every time she said she can’t do something, she has shown that she can. So she knows she can do it even if she feels she can’t.'Nobody starts at the end of their journey. Everybody starts at the beginning.'Click To Tweet
[08:45] What to Do When You’re Not Happy with Your First Practice Test
First, never compare yourself to other students. Because everybody starts at different points. The next thing is that wherever you start it, there’s always a place forward. There are always places to improve and that’s the great thing about full-length practice tests.'Every practice is a stepping stone.”Click To Tweet
Learn from your practice tests and squeeze all the information you can from those tests. What’s going to propel you forward is by learning from your mistakes and identifying and addressing them.
Don’t give up just because you’re upset with your score. And think about how you’re going to avoid the same mistakes you made on your next exam. Use your weaknesses to propel your score and your confidence forward.
[10:05] The Importance of Reviewing Your Test
It can be intimidating because you’ve just finished an eight-hour exam. It’s not like you want to go and review what you’re weak at. That’s not really a confidence boost.
At Blueprint MCAT, they teach people not only how to review their tests, but how to find trends and things you can work toward to avoid your past mistakes. Once you find your weak areas, they will help you make a plan to work it for the next two weeks. They help students identify these big-picture trends and work towards them in incremental goals.'Let's not just ignore and keep going because then on the next test, you're not going to get better.'Click To Tweet
It’s human psychology that we try to avoid working on our weaknesses as much as possible. And a big part of that is to have this mindset shift. You’re not in this test for pride, but it’s a mile-wide, inch-deep test so you have to have a little bit of information everywhere. And so, you just have to be aware of that. And since Blueprint’s analytics shows you your weakness, you can’t really trick yourself out of it.
[13:39 ] The Biggest Traits Success MCAT Students Have
Having a support system is very helpful. Having people you can lean on is going to be great because mentally, it’s a hard test. So whether you have a study group, somebody online that you’re chatting with, or a family, a friend a significant other, that can be really useful.'This is a mentally hard test and going through it in a vacuum just makes it harder.'Click To Tweet
Madeline noticed that a lot of her students who were successful were able to take breaks to go and get support from their friends and families in order to get to the next step.
Second, you have to give yourself grace at the end of the day. There are certainly days when you probably feel you could have done more today. But try to bring some grace into your life where you know you did your absolute best today.
Whether you did 20 flashcards or 150 flashcards if that was your best then give yourself some grace. Students who are able to do that come out with a mentally fresh attitude every day and are able to hit their studies a little bit harder.
This is definitely a huge mindset shift for a lot of students, especially that the premed population is under this constant pressure cooker type of environment. It’s almost built into their DNA to feel this “should have, would have, could have” attitude.
And so it’s not the easiest thing to switch. But once you’re able to make that shift as a premed, you’ll be surprised by how much calmer, more refreshed, and more ready you’d actually feel.
[17:41] Preparing for the MCAT
From having that imposter syndrome, Madeline was able to prepare well for her MCAT. She was lucky to have a flexible schedule at work so she was able to hit the ground running.
What you need to realize is that the MCAT wants you to know how to apply the content you learned. They want to know how to do mental gymnastics and apply it to a novel situation. And so, you can’t do any of that hard stuff unless you have the basics.
So Madeline spent eight months because she knows she can’t pick up on concepts super fast. But once she had them, she understood them to their core. But that took a long time.
Then after learning her content, she added in more practice, and then more exams. And then, of course, COVID hit, and things lengthened a little bit more. And at that point, she just started practicing like crazy knowing she had content under her belt.
And in those moments she hit those plateaus, she had to really dive deeper into what she was doing right and how she can improve on this other section. Maybe her time was getting better and her comprehension was increasing but in a different way. And once she overcame those hurdles, it was just all practice after that.
[21:00] The Advantages of Taking Online Courses
The online courses teach you and capitalize on how to take this test. They teach you what to look for, how to highlight, and how to utilize each of these strategies. Whether that’s for Roman numeral questions, the process of elimination, going back to the passage, and reading figures – all of these different techniques rely on strategy.
If you know that maybe you’re not the best test taker, if you know that you fall into traps in tests, or that strategy isn’t your big point, then this is definitely where to go.
And not only do they all have the strategies, but they also have so many different thought processes. Their instructors have different strategies to figure out what’s best for you. So they’re able to teach you the strategy that works for you.'Nobody's alone in this... three is a community there.'Click To Tweet
So they are there to obviously teach the task but also to support you and for you to support other people through this journey and to be supported.
[24:40] Final Words of Wisdom
Finally, Madeline wishes to tell students on this journey – to give yourself some grace. Give yourself some patience and kick butt because you’re capable of it.
Keep that imposter syndrome away as best you can, knowing that it never actually goes away. Honestly, I still suffer from it to this day. So just accept it and understand that it’s normal and you push past it.
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