Amina Sheikh is one of the stars of The Grind Podcast. The Grind follows four college students as they navigate today’s working world. Subscribe to learn more about Amina’s story in Episodes 1 – 5.
As one of the thousands of pre-medical students who face immense challenges in getting through the doors of medical school, I am often too familiar with the taste of failure. As a pre-med, I am expected to excel at all of my demanding courses, hold positions of leadership, and volunteer at a multitude of clinics. The acceptance rate for medical school, as of the 2017 academic year, averages a measly 5.8%; Students are placed in a position where they must be exceptional or get swept up in the flow of mediocrity.
I dedicated two-and-a-half months of preparation, only to get swept inside that dreaded stream of averageness. I experienced that first taste of failure when it came to taking the MCAT for the first time.
In the months leading up to the ‘Medical College Admissions Test’, I had to save up to afford the remarkable price for a prep course, forty-plus hours a week of study time that often involved traveling to the quieter parts of the city, and absolve my social life to better cope with the rollercoaster that this schedule had placed upon my soul. At times, the demand felt so grand that I even considered other career options. Despite this, I persevered and finally took the seven-hour long exam.
The test was a mental marathon, and just when it felt like my brain would catch its second wind, I found myself hitting a new point of exhaustion. It took an immense amount of concentration to decipher dozens of complex passages, and to answer over 200 questions in a short time span. It was beyond any level of intensity that I’ve ever known. Waiting a month to find out whether or not everything that I poured into the test was worth it left me feeling gut-wrenched day-in and day-out.
When October 2nd rolled around and I logged on the website to uncover my results, I realized that I did not even get the score that I needed to reach that 5.8% average. Dread swept over me, and every second I stared at my score I felt my chances of succeeding diminished. Completing the four required years of medical school felt impossible for a person like me, someone who couldn’t pass a single test. My mind was filled with unrealistic negativities that deteriorated the perception of my abilities.
Through those emotions, I had managed to find ways to cope with the power of self-doubt by facing my failures head on, and these three ways have been my recipe to gain back my strength:
- Deconstruct & Absorb. I have come to an understanding that this particular setback will not overshadow my passion and desire to pursue a career that I have been working endlessly for. The difficult part of understanding the reality of the situation is accepting it for what it really is. Yes, I will need to take the test again and will have to form a different study plan to succeed, and that is okay. I had to completely absorb this fact and turn the failure into a lesson.
- Eliminate the need of approval from others. Having told friends, family, and mentors about my score and the need to retake the test was probably an even harder task. I believed that I had disappointed people who believed in me, and perhaps, expected me to nail the test the first time around. I have accepted the fact that I need not place that pressure on myself. My journey is for myself alone.
- Find your support team. The same individuals I was afraid I disappointed were the same ones who have been extremely supportive and encouraging in this recent challenge. The people by my side who understand my years of commitment and dedication in pursuing my dream are a great balance for when the road becomes shaky and things do not go as planned. Always remember to cultivate a group of people who will cheer you up when you are at your lowest points.
Amina Sheikh is featured on The Grind Podcast.
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