The Medical School Admission Process is Not A Competition

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PMY 434: The Medical School Admission Process is Not A Competition

Session 434

The premed and admissions process is not a competition. There isn’t one winner and one loser. Stop competing with your classmates and you’ll see that 1+1= > 2!

This episode is actually to address something that was previously posted on The Premed Hangout, talking about the medical school admissions as a competition.

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Listen to this podcast episode with the player above, or keep reading for the highlights and takeaway points.

[00:32] Collaboration, Not Competition

“Collaboration, not competition, is key to your success.”Click To Tweet

Medical school admissions is a competition. You are not competing against your classmates, because this is not a sport. The person with the highest score does not win. That is what you have to have for it to be a competition.

How do you compete against someone when there is no score that determines a winner? A higher GPA or MCAT doesn’t mean you win. Nor do having more research hours, more clinical hours, or more shadowing hours.

It is impossible for you to be the most dedicated, the hardest working, the most compassionate, and the most empathetic premed applicant out there. It’s impossible for you to be the best in this process. Therefore, how do you compete with your classmates?

[02:41] What Happens with a “Competition” Mindset

“You can't compete with your classmates. It’s impossible. With that mindset, what happens is you have a very, very negative premed culture.”Click To Tweet

When you’re coming from a mindset of having to compete with other students, this creates a very negative premed culture where everyone is miserable – except for the people who think they’re winning, but they’re not winning. They’re just as miserable as you. But they think they’re winning a game where you can’t keep score.

The only time you know you have won is when you get the acceptance. But who did you win against? 

Who did you beat out? Well, you don’t know. Because you don’t know why everyone else didn’t get the seat that you got. You have no idea what their stats were. You have no idea how much clinical experience they had or how many publications they had. All you know is that you got in and they didn’t.

[03:57] Who You Should Be Competing Against

“The only person that you can compete against is yourself – yesterday.” Click To Tweet

Who you were yesterday is who you’re competing against. If you can be better than yourself yesterday, then you are going to have a better chance of getting into medical school. It’s the only tangible competition there is.

Just because you got a 3.7 and I got a 3.5 doesn’t mean that you’ll get into medical school and I won’t. So stop trying to compete with your classmates. They are not your enemy. It’s the people who say that this process is a competition who are your enemies. So stop listening to them.

There are plenty of seats in medical school for those who deserve it. These are the people who have gotten to this point where they applied to medical school and have proven they know they want to be a physician. Secondly, they should be capable of finishing medical school in four years, passing the boards the first time they take it, and with no reservations from the admissions committee that they are academically incapable of finishing medical school.

Conversely, there are a lot of people applying to medical school with nothing other than they want to be a doctor, therefore they should be. But they’ve got poor GPAs, poor MCAT scores, no clinical experience, no shadowing, and all that stuff.

[05:51] Use Your Classmates

This is not a competition against your classmates. Use each other and collaborate with each other. Form study groups because forming study groups is not a sign of weakness. 

“Use your classmates because they’re the ones you’re going to be working with for the rest of your career.”Click To Tweet

Some of my best friends from undergrad who were fellow premed students – we all helped each other through this process – and we all got into medical school.

Again, there are plenty of seats for those who deserve it – for those who have done the right things and who have shown why they want to be a physician. 

I review applications all day every day. And the far majority of students who think they’re competing against each other don’t get into medical school. Sure, they do have really good stats, but they haven’t proven to themselves why they want to be a physician. They just think they won the game and that they had better stats, better GPA, better MCAT score, or more hours than everyone else they know. But that is not how this process works.

[07:33] It’s Not a Zero-Sum Game

Stop treating it like a competition that you can win. When you get your acceptance, you are not beating anyone else. You are just getting your seat, and someone else is getting their seat.

And for those people who do not get seats, then there’s something in their application that is missing, or they’re not connecting with. 

There are some deserving students who don’t get a seat this year. And they can tweak their application and get a seat next year. This is not a season of baseball, where we have the World Series and we declare a World Series Champion. That is not how this process works.

“For the most part, when you get your seat, you are not taking it away from someone else. This is not a zero-sum game. Life is not a zero-sum game.”Click To Tweet

Ultimately, the longer we perpetuate this premed culture of competition, the longer we will continue to have disparities in this whole process. Because everyone is trying to beat everyone else, and we’re holding down those who need your help.

So if you want to make an impact on the premed world, go out and find another premed student and start working with them. Start collaborating with them. And you will find that 1+1= > 2.

“Collaboration, not competition is truly key to your success. And everyone who says otherwise. is wrong.”Click To Tweet


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