Written by Rachel A.
Hi, everyone! My name is Rachel, also known as @theartsymed on Instagram. I am a premed who’s currently applying to medical school, and I just took my MCAT this past June. I’m here to talk about how to deal with imposter syndrome when preparing for the MCAT.
The MCAT is a beast of an exam, but it’s not impossible. Every premed will have to conquer the MCAT in order to be able to get into medical school, so preparing early is always best if you can manage it.
But, how do you prepare when facing your own thoughts that say that you can’t succeed? That, my friend, is an example of what having imposter thoughts, or imposter syndrome, is like.
If you follow me on Instagram, you know that I talk a lot about my own struggles with imposter syndrome and how I do my best to fight through the fears of premed life and make sure to give every aspect of this journey my best shot! But, I’m human, and I know not every day will be perfect, and that these thoughts of being a fraud and doubting my abilities will come up. Here, I hope to outline my best strategies of how to identify when you’re experiencing imposter syndrome, tips for managing them, and how to give your MCAT your all when preparing for it!
There are so many challenges that we face as premeds, and sometimes it feels as if we should give up just because of how high these hurdles are. I know that the MCAT has always been a barrier for me, and just the thought of the MCAT used to scare me so much that I gave up on being premed for over a year.
It was not until I spoke with my mentor, a physician whom I look up to, that I realized just how much I was letting fear get in the way of me truly following my dreams. It’s not bad to need support or someone to talk to when figuring out this whole process: it’s hard! But, you don’t have to do this alone. In fact, I encourage you to find a friend or mentor who can give you that support and encouragement when you’re doubting yourself. You deserve that!
So, Tip #1 is: Seek out support when necessary, and feel the fear and do it anyway!
The MCAT will frustrate and challenge you in ways you’ve never been challenged before. But, it will also teach you so many new things that remind you of your love for medicine and even of your “why medicine”!
While studying, you may find yourself thinking pesky thoughts like, “Can I even do this? Is medicine for me? Am I smart enough? Am I meant to become a physician?” If you find yourself thinking these thoughts, then you’ve entered into imposter syndrome thinking, and you need to:
- Take a deep breath.
- Acknowledge these thoughts and know that they are normal, especially under significant stress.
- Remember your “why medicine.”
- Replace these thoughts with positive ones.
If you can complete these steps and replace these thoughts with positive ones, such as: “I can do this! Medicine is for me! I am smart enough! I am meant to become a physician!” then you will be able to change those thoughts with ones that will help you rather than hurt you. It may feel silly at first, and you may not believe them, but by challenging these negative, imposter thoughts with positive ones, you will start to gain confidence and feel like you are capable of succeeding (which you are)!
So, that means Tip #2 is: Acknowledge these thoughts and use positive affirmations to change them.
The last tip addresses how to give your MCAT your all when facing imposter thoughts. Some days, you may not want to study and you may even feel guilty for not wanting to do so. This usually indicates signs of burnout, which I also talk a lot about on my Instagram page.
Burnout is something all premeds have experienced before, and it can make you doubt yourself and your capabilities if you’re not careful. Some premeds wear burnout like a badge that they’re proud of, as if it means that they are “better” than others. Premed burnout is not something to be jealous of. If you experience burnout, it can feed into imposter syndrome, which only makes burnout more detrimental.
To get out of the burnout rut, and to get those imposter syndrome thoughts out of your head, you must take time off. No ifs, ands, or buts about it. You need to give yourself time to rest and recharge, or else you will continue to feed into the endless burnout-imposter cycle that so many premeds face.
Taking the MCAT is hard, but it’s even harder when your mental, physical, and emotional health is compromised. Take some time off, whether it is just one day, a week, or more! Plan for that time to be enjoyable and relaxing. For me, I always took at least one day a week off from full-time studying for the MCAT where I did nothing but have fun, enjoy time with my friends, and not think about the MCAT at all. I used that time to recharge by being out in the sun, spending time on my hobbies (like making art, as my Insta handle indicates!), and by watching my favourite Netflix shows and movies! If I needed more time, then so be it.
Listen to yourself and your body: only you know yourself best!
So, Tip #3 is: Make time for YOU! It’s the best way to rest, recharge, and give the MCAT your all!
I hope these tips help you while on your journey to becoming the best physician that I know you will be! If you’re experiencing any doubt, imposter thoughts, or signs of burnout, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me on Instagram — @theartsymed! I would love to help you in any way that I can.
Remember your power and know that you can and will do this. It’s just one of the many steps on this road to becoming a physician that we have to conquer, but we can do it! I believe in you, friend! Stay strong, and persevere on!
I really hope you enjoyed this blog! If you did, let me know!
About Rachel A. (@theartsymed)
Rachel is an incoming Master of Arts in Design in Health Candidate at the University of Texas at Austin and is a recent graduate from Rhodes College. She started her Instagram, @theartsymed, to offer pre-health students advice and support for all aspects of their journey and to show her own journey to becoming a physician in hopes that it would help others. She shares posts about the medical school application process, burnout and imposter syndrome, and her own struggles with mental health, low GPA, and ADHD. She also hopes to engage with others who share her passion for the intersection of art, health, medicine, and policy. Follow her on Instagram @theartsymed for more advice and insights!