The intent of this guide is, as the title suggests, to help you maintain as much of your sanity as possible as you navigate the path to medical school. Some of you reading this are already be in the process of applying to medical school, while others are still lying on the couch trying to decide if pursuing medicine is a good option. Possibly a few of you are actually in medical school and are reading this when you should be studying some esoteric factoid for the boards. Get back to work!

Regardless of your status, though, one thing is true for everyone reading this: the path ahead of you has been well-trodden by those who have come before. This guide will be broken into a number of sections, with the early parts aimed at new pre-meds, and the later parts focused on information useful to applicants. Cynicism will be aimed at everyone. Everything here has come directly from the experiences, problems, successes, and failures of your fellow travelers who share their hard-won knowledge in the hope of smoothing the path for those who follow.

Good luck to you.

In the Beginning, there was…

…uncertainty. The decision to pursue medicine is a highly personal one, and people’s reasons for doing so vary from the mundane to the spectacularly improbable. For example, some will tell you that it’s something they’ve wanted to do since they were fetus. Holding a tiny hammer in one hand and a stethoscope in the other, they toddled around some third-world country with their parents, building houses and providing top-notch medical care to the local people as a way to pass the time until they could get into medical school. These are the same people who will throw themselves off of a high building at the prospect of getting a “B”. More on those later.

For those of us though who spent our childhood being childish, our desire to pursue medicine likely stems from a complex mixture of our life experiences, intellectual curiosity, compassion, mature introspection, and a predilection for white coats. Television shows featuring stupendously attractive doctors who drive nice cars, have great apartments, and spend their time saving lives in-between torrid love affairs have, of course, absolutely nothing to do with it. I’m glad we got that straight.

The upshot of all this is that your reasons for wanting to go into medicine will be unique to your in some ways and utterly predictable in others. Doubtless you want to “help people,” “make a difference,” and “earn staggering amounts of cash…no, wait, I mean serve others.” Inspired by the suffering of your sick relative, you intend to become a doctor and cure the world.

Annoyingly, these are all excellent reasons for going into medicine that are so clichéd at this point that no one besides your mother will believe a word of it. You’re going to have to dig deeper, and find out what really drives you. What will keep you forging ahead when everything else has run out? When you’re studying while others are partying, when you’re facing at least another decade of education, when you’re so tired you just want to curl up and cry, what will be at the core of you? Don’t frown though; there’s a silver lining! This is excellent practice for your AMCAS application, wherein you’ll bare your soul to a group of people so jaded the air around them has a greenish tinge: the Admissions Committees (AdComs).

While you’re chewing on that, I’ll get started on the concrete stuff.