The Abysmal Applicant And The Many Medical School Acceptances

Authored by: Vineet G.

“The reasonable man adapts himself to the world: the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man.” – George Bernard Shaw

When I applied this year, I was filled mostly with hopelessness, despair, and self-doubt. There was certainly no way that I would get accepted, much less interviewed. My MCAT was a bit above average but unremarkable. My GPA was abysmal. I don’t even know how many standard deviations below the mean it is, but if you’re looking at the AMCAS acceptance tables, my GPA is in the “how the hell did this person get in?” category. Getting it to a “competitive” level would take years of repair. I really wish I could share my stats, but as some of us have learned the hard way, our stats are essentially our IP addresses, and I am not willing to pop my head out of the trenches until the dust settles. The main reason I wish I could share them is because my story is the story I was looking for when I searched all of the forums, gripped by anxiety, dreaming there was some beacon of hope for someone like me. (I don’t think I found any.) I was, by all statistical measures, in the “don’t even bother applying to DO schools” category. Nonetheless, I had faith, I knew I had done my best, and I pressed the submit button on my primary applications to both DO and MD schools.

The hopelessness continued, even after receiving some 20 requests for secondaries. It was obvious these schools just hadn’t bothered to screen me out and only wanted my money. But the “unreasonable man” in me was too stubborn to give up. I worked diligently on my secondaries. I wrote passionately in each — as if each was my only hope. I wrote as if the only criteria for acceptance was choosing the individuals whose dreams it hurt most to crush. (Warning: this is an exaggeration — my secondaries were very well put-together, but you get the point.) As we all know, pouring our hearts out like this is incredibly draining. After maybe 10 or 12 secondaries, I said enough was enough and hoped for the best.

Then there was radio silence. I was unsure as to whether or not I should give up on my dream. And I know lots of you still have not heard anything. And it’s just sickening, and heartbreaking, and alcoholism-inducing. Coping with this level of uncertainty and existential crisis is just outrageous. A few weeks is an eternity. I couldn’t even remember the person I was when I started the application process. As the silence lengthened, my despair grew deeper. Would I need to find another career? Would I need to retake my MCAT? Bolster my application? Take night classes at the community college for years? What would I have to do? Should I talk to the schools? Should I update them and tell them I’m working hard and they’re my top choice? Grade replacement? I don’t know if Eddie Vedder knew what the hell he was saying when he said “thoughts arrive like butterflies,” but that’s what happens. There was a million tiny, hopeless thoughts landing relentlessly like butterflies every other moment in my brain. How we manage to function while we’re waiting for news and updates is a cosmic mystery. But then, it happened.

I received an interview invite. I was speechless. I thought, this must just be a pity invite. I felt it was pointless to get my hopes up. It was meaningless. Then, before I had the chance to interview, I received another one. And another. All told, three US MD invites and two DO invites thus far. I began to think maybe I actually had a shot. I started looking at the post-interview acceptance rates for these schools and thought, well, maybe. Just maybe. But I still did not let myself get my hopes up. After all, five interviews or 100, what’s the difference if I did not have an acceptance in hand?

It’s getting late, so rather than drag on the melodrama, let’s cut to the chase. I was extended an offer to my first choice MD school and I accepted it. My life will never be the same. Out of the thousands upon thousands of applicants, they chose me. “That one — the one with the ludicrous stats — that’s the one we want.” I am utterly baffled, but completely validated.

My message is this: you can. Give the finger to all those people on SDN and this subreddit who take one look at your two numbers, laugh in your face, and tell you to give up. There is no formula. The people who make it aren’t the ones with the prettiest stats and the cleanest records, they’re the ones who want it the most. While it’s true that some people get whatever they want handed to them on a silver platter, the ones who scrap and claw to overcome are the ones who can truly cherish the rewards of their labor. To all the others, in the words of Jean Cocteau, I say: “You have comfort. You don’t have luxury. And don’t tell me that money plays a part. The luxury I advocate has nothing to do with money. It cannot be bought. It is the reward of those who have no fear of discomfort.”

Don’t give up. The weakness in you will seek reasons to give up. You will ask, “should I even apply?” You will seek failure. Failure is easier. Returning to your mundane, complacent existence — the one where you end up with a beer resting on your gut while you’re leveling your WoW character, pretending to listen to your child — is just a split decision away. You deserve the life you are dreaming and you can and will earn it. Have the courage to fail, even in the face of great hopelessness and despair. If you don’t get in this year, or next, follow through with this dream to the grave. “Try again. Fail again. Fail better.” And (to annoy you with hopefully one final quote), I love what Bruce Lee said: “In great attempts it is glorious even to fail.” Get out there and fail. Eventually you will succeed. With any luck, your silly stats will make one reviewer pause, think what the hell are they doing here, and then read a little deeper to find how truly great you are.

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