Default image

On Being Average

Aaron G., M1

You’ve lived your whole life by the doubled-edged sword of comparative metrics. You’ve never even seen the bottom half of a normal curve. But now you’ve just had your first exam and found yourself squarely within a single deviation of the mean. The neurotic pre-med devil on your shoulder whispers in your ear, “You just spent the past four-plus years developing a CV that would make any freshman gunner drool. How are you supposed to match into orthopedic cardiothoracic brain surgery by being AVERAGE?”

This was my introduction to being an average medical student at WashU — statistically, it’s likely to be yours too. Every year, the admissions committee curates 100 of some of the most talented, intelligent, and driven individuals from across the country. Being an extraordinary student at WashU then becomes the average, yet the average student here is no less extraordinary. The beauty of a true pass-fail curriculum is that 71% is the same grade as a 99%: Canvas might say otherwise, but the average grade isn’t a percent, it’s a P. As hard as it is to internalize, being average is empowering — a chance to explore and expand on the interests that make you not better, but different. With classmates who’ve published in Nature, played in the NFL, and graduated college as teenagers, it’s both unreasonable and unfair to compare yourself with others anymore. Instead, take pride knowing that you’re constantly surrounded by such outstanding people, and that you’re right there with them.

Default image

On Being in a lot of Extracurriculars

Jazmine M., M1

Medical school allows ample freedom for students to engage in extracurricular activities. A myriad of school and community organizations provide volunteer and leadership opportunities. I am an SNMA board member, an HPREP leader, a Schnucks leader, a NICU cuddler, an SNHC coordinator, a Beyond Housing tutor, and an eGFR founder and leader. These activities are time-consuming, yet incredibly rewarding. I understand this may be my final opportunity to engage with such varied community organizations. I encourage everyone to pursue their  interests before they enter the rigorous practice of medicine full-time. Cultivating passions and engaging with local communities are essential components of maintaining a well-balanced life.

Default image

On Knowing What Specialty You’re Interested In

Jack B., M1

I came into medical school knowing that I was interested in emergency medicine, and I’ve found that WashU has tons of ways to further explore that field. From shadowing to interest group meetings to clinical skills practice sessions, you can find both exposure and applicable clinical knowledge at every turn for the field you’re interested in. However, I’d recommend still keeping an open mind — most people change their minds about their specialty interest at some point in medical school, so don’t be afraid to branch out and try new specialties. Whatever field you end up in will be awesome (although EM is definitively the most awesome and you should for sure go into it).

Default image

On Mental Health

Colin M., M1

Medical school is stressful. It is difficult going from 0-100 at the beginning of the semester, and as the content and Anki reviews begin to pile up, it is easy to get overwhelmed, anxious, and apathetic. One of the keys to having stability is to have a system for when things get rough, and because you are likely starting in a new place with new people and new content, those systems will not necessarily be stable when you are in need. However, this doesn’t mean that there is no hope in starting the next chapter of your education. Arguably one of the best things that you can do is recognize your strengths and weaknesses in the difficult times you’ve experienced in the past and work to develop and nurture the skills and tools to work through predicaments. Some people like meditation. Some prefer exercise. Others like setting everything aside and taking time to immerse themselves in hobbies or passions outside of the classroom. Whatever it is that works for you, find it, and work to nurture and strengthen it before starting school so you can have that system in place while you are working to build up the other support systems.

Default image

On Not Knowing What Specialty You’re Interested In

Garrett C., M1

One of the most important choices you’ll make in medical school is what field you’ll be going into. So, as someone who had no clue what that would be, I was apprehensive coming in — especially since as soon as I was accepted, everyone I knew was asking me. However, when I arrived, I quickly found out that I was far from the only person who didn’t know. Further, all the mentors I talked to stressed that even if I thought I knew, I would probably change my mind half a dozen times before the end of my third year. That’s not to say I haven’t been able to narrow it down though; thanks to mentors, interest groups, easy shadowing opportunities, and just talking with my classmates, I feel like I’ve learned a lot about the breadth of medicine and the areas I might want to pursue. Most importantly, in addition to showing me everything I could do, what the WashU community really did for me was to give me peace of mind knowing that I will be able to do whatever I end up deciding on, whenever I end up deciding on it.