The New Year can be a time of great expectations, but also great disappointments. It’s easy to spend the last few weeks of December dreaming of what you’ll accomplish come January, but it’s more difficult to make those plans real once 2022 actually arrives. If you’re a pre-med looking to the future, what should you be getting ready to do in the New Year? And how to make sure you’re not someone who falls off the bandwagon two weeks in?
We’ve got a list of the top 10 New Year’s resolutions for premed students. Not only do we share the best resolutions for success, but also, we tell you how to achieve them. This time next year, you could be setting your first year of medical school goals.
How amazing would that be?
Many New Year’s Resolutions fail because they’re not specific enough. Don’t let that happen to you. The first step to reaching the summit of 2022 is identifying the mountain you want to climb. Is this the year you take the MCAT? Finish your pre-requisite classes? Get that post-bacc? Get into medical school? Whatever the goal, you can’t make it happen until you identify and name it for yourself.
Write it down. Write it down again. Put those goals somewhere where you can see them, and make quarterly reminders for yourself on your calendar to check in on your progress.
Also important is identifying what steps you need to take to accomplish your goals. Break down a large task into smaller, doable pieces. If your goal is to take the MCAT, familiarize yourself with the exam. Take a diagnostic test. Don’t SAY you’re going to take a diagnostic test; actually register for one and put the date on your calendar. When are you going to study? Will you take a class? Do practice questions? Use flashcards? What might get in your way and how will you deal with that challenge when it arises? Anticipating setbacks and problem-solving future solutions is an important part of preparing yourself to meet your goals.
Write these elements down for yourself so that you’re ready to tackle each goal, piece by piece, and not get overwhelmed by the mission you’ve set for yourself. Great climbers don’t summit Everest all at once.
One of the keys to being successful in medical school, and your premed years, is being able to identify what you’re good at, and where you need a little extra help. A fantastic New Years resolution is taking the time to sit down and think about what comes easily to you, and what you need a little extra help with. In what areas of your life do you shine, and what areas of your life lack a little luster?
For example, one concrete way to do this is to think about academics. If you’re taking the MCAT, for the first time, or maybe the second, what is the hardest section for you? What’s the easiest? If you’re a wiz at physics but struggle with CARS, don’t spend all your effort thinking about physics equations! Invest your time and energy in improving what needs improving, and appreciating what is going well.
Having a hard time understanding what your strengths and weaknesses are? Reach out to friends, mentors, and loved ones to solicit their feedback. (Partners are usually pretty helpful in this regard!) Not only will it help you practice receiving constructive criticism, but it will also help strengthen your relationships with others; another important resolution for 2022.
Be honest with yourself. Identifying your weaknesses and asking for help to address them is actually a strength, and one that will serve you well as a future physician.
Do you love research? Dream of innovating a medical start-up? Want to start making a difference during medical school? These are all elements prioritized by different medical schools, and valuable to know prior to submitting your application. Medical schools attract researchers, scholars, inventors, and artists…there is so much more to many of the physicians you’ll train with and learn from than you can possibly know!
Take some time while readying yourself for the application process to identify the programs that speak most to your intersecting interests. Identify potential mentors or people you’d like to get to know. Maybe even send them an email, and learn more about programs you’re potentially interested in.
Knowing what you value in a future medical school, and what/where you’re aiming for, will help you make informed decisions in the next year.
Just like learning about specific programs will help you identify your interests, so too will shadowing! Make this year productive in terms of identifying the specialties that interest you and reaching out to physicians to better understand what they do, day-to-day.
Shadowing, this year, may continue to look different than it has in years past. Pandemic restrictions may require you to continue to participate in virtual shadowing; that’s ok. Make an effort to identify a diverse set of experiences and specialties to help guide your learning and your future goals.
You can also consider asking medical school admissions offices if it is possible to virtually shadow a medical student. Some programs also offer ‘virtual,’ shadowing through Instagram videos or on their websites. Check out our free Virtual Shadowing experience. This can give you a sense of the day-to-day lives of medical students and help guide your future plans.
The growth mindset, a term coined by Dr. Carol Dweck in her work, refers to a set of behaviors, attitudes, or coping mechanisms that can help us respond to challenges with flexibility, empathy and a desire to learn. As opposed to “fixed,” mindsets, where failure is perceived as all encompassing and the-end-all-be-all, approaching a problem or a difficulty with a growth mindset enables us to see our mistakes as opportunities to learn, solve problems, and practice creativity.
Thomas Edison has a quote that speaks well to this idea; when asked by a reporter how it felt to fail, one thousand times, in his pursuit of making the lightbulb, he replied, “I didn’t fail. I just found 1,000 ways that didn’t work.”
The growth mindset is important to practice early, because it will serve you well during your medical career. The journey to medicine WILL have setbacks. A class won’t go as well as you hoped it would, your test day might get bumped, a world-altering pandemic could change your volunteer plans. While these things are difficult, the important thing is not that they happened, but how you responded to them.
When you encounter a setback, ask yourself, “What can I learn from this? What opportunities are available to me, as a result of this situation?” Use your challenges as a chance to think creatively about what to do next. Seek out the things you struggle with to give yourself opportunities to practice. The more you practice putting yourself in situations where things don’t go well, the better you’ll be able to call on these skills when challenges in medical school and medical practice arise.
It’s no secret that medical school is tough and hours long. The best way to meet the rigor of hours in the anatomy lab or library is by getting yourself into a great physical (and mental!) health routine.
You don’t have to start training for ultra-marathons in the Arctic or going on a juice cleanse. (In fact, for optimal health, you probably should steer clear of extremes!) Instead, focus on making small changes that can be incorporated into your life as a busy future medical student. Take a walk at the end of your study day. Eschew that third Red Bull and actually get yourself dinner, ideally including something green. Your body will thank you, and it is an investment in your health that will carry over into your academic performance too.
Equally important? Spend some time getting your mind right! Are you someone who engages in catastrophic thinking? Are you plagued by insecurities? Are you anxious? (You’re a premed…of course you’re anxious.) Consider meditating this year. Make a power-up playlist to motivate you when the going gets tough. Take up journaling or set aside time every week to spend an hour in nature. Many people benefit from talking things out with a close friend or a therapist–try it! These are small things that can bring a big boost to your mental health AND your performance in all areas of your life.
Many companies like to say that their best resource is their people. It’s a little cliché but if you look at your own life, you’ll probably find it’s true for you too! This year, take some time to express gratitude for the people in your life who have been part of the journey thus far, and hopefully, will walk alongside you in the future.
Spend time with friends, family and loved ones. Send an email to your mentors and let them know what you’ve been up to. Let your people know that you’re there for them; just like they’ve been there for you.
It can be easy, in the process of getting ready for medical school, to forget what we’re doing it all for…if you’re like many premeds, the journey to medicine started with a desire to help others. Connecting with your community, through service, can be a great way to remember your why and reinforce your commitment to your journey. Even if service wasn’t your primary motivation for applying, volunteering is still a great idea. Volunteering has been shown to improve moods and reduce stress; that’s a win-win situation for both you and your community.
This is maybe the most fun resolution on the list! Find something, before you start medical school, that relaxes you and makes you happy. Learn how to bake. Pick up painting. Join a virtual choir. Start raising sea monkeys. It doesn’t matter. Find something meaningful to you, outside of applying to medical school, that can serve as an activity to ground you and destress you in the months and years to come.
Oftentimes, in medicine, we forget that being a doctor, though an important career and for many, a calling, is just one part of who we are. You are so much more than a premed student…so much more than a collection of test scores and shadowing experiences. Hobbies not only make you more well-rounded and interesting, they also serve to help keep in mind that you are bigger than your medical school application. There is more to you than an MCAT score or a personal statement. Don’t forget it.
All this resolution making can be a bit overwhelming. Even with the best plans, it can be hard to stick to a resolution and carry it out on your own.
That’s why it’s important, and necessary, to ask for help.
Would you benefit from a tutor? Many undergraduate programs offer free or reduced cost tutoring programs for students and alumni. Does your personal statement need some work? Motivate MD offers affordable editing services to make your writing its best. Need to practice for an interview? We’ve also got you covered! Just want to talk to someone about the next steps in your medical school journey? That’s what advising is for!
Seeking out assistance and motivation from the people in your life, and your support system at Motivate MD, is a crucial part of succeeding in your journey.
Don’t be afraid to make big resolutions this year. We’re here to support you, every step of the way. 2022 is your year; it’s the year you keep your resolutions and make your medical school dreams a reality.