Do you spent too much time on pre-med/medical forums?
I know how addictive premedical forums can be. I used to lurk them all the time. I discovered premed101 and SDN in high school while searching for medical school information. There were other sites like College Confidential and Student Awards that I frequently visisted too. When I found these forums, it was like I had stumbled upon a trove of knowledge. Quickly, I read through hundreds of threads on what I needed to do to best improve my chances for medical school. I began visiting the forums daily, I registered and began posting too. In fact, I created one of the most viewed threads that has been stickied and still in use today, “ FAQ: What are my chances?” I was addicted.
And then I got into medical school. I was thrilled, I had achieved what I set out to do and I thought that these forums had given me that extra advantage. But looking back now, I’m not sure if it was all that beneficial. Here’s why I think why reading premed forums are not as helpful as I thought they were and why I have stopped reading them regularly since.
1) It’s a Big Time Sink
It’s easy for you to waste hours reading all the posts and replies that people write. Although you may feel like you are getting good information, it isn’t helpful if you put those ideas into action. All that time spent reading forums could be spent doing things that actually improve your chances of getting into medical school. Studying for your classes, volunteering, becoming a more well-rounded person.
After a while, threads became repetitive. People asks the same few questions over and over. What are my chances, what do I do if I get a bad mark, how do I study for the MCAT. Once you have your answers to these questions, I found that were wasn’y much additional value to be gained. So I stopped reading and began using my time better.
2) There is a lot of Wrong Information
Remember, the majority of posts made on these forums are by anonymous people. You don’t know their credentials, reliability, or even motives. You can’t be sure if they are even telling the truth or not. Furthermore, a lot of information out there is outdated and outright wrong. Not all posts are made equal.
Stick around forums long enough and you often notice a herd mentality on certain stances. It almost seems like there are certain do’s and don’ts of being a premedical student. I want to tell you there is no right way of being a premed/medical student. I know because I did things that were unconventional. Phrases such as “Take your MCAT after your second year when you complete your pre-requisites” or “Don’t do a summer research project and study for the MCAT at the same time.” If I had listened to the advice I had found on these forums, I would have probably disadvantaged myself.
Take home point – learn to critically think about what other people tell you, because not everything will be right for your own situation.
3) It’s just like a Pre-med Club, but perhaps worse
One thing I avoided like the plague in undergrad was the pre-med club. This was something I knew I didn’t want any part of. I’m sure pre-med club can be of benefit to certain people, just not for me. The last thing I wanted to have was neurotic classmates asking about my grades and MCAT scores.
Then I realized that premed forums were in a way an online version of the premed clubs. Cut-throat, secretive, competitive, neurotic, anxious, except with the added disadvantage of anonymity. The majority of users were friendly, but the bad ones could be real downers. You are a product of who you surround yourself with, and the last place I wanted to hang out was with gunner premed students.
What am I currently doing instead?
1) Cut back and set limits
I no longer read premed forums on a regular basis and I have yet to miss out on anything big. I have more free time to spend on activities that matter to me – studying, exercising, spending time with friends and family.
Instead, when I do get an inkling to see what people on the forums are talking about, I limit myself to 15 minutes once a week to peruse the forums. I pick only a few threads to look at and perhaps write two to three replies. That’s it. In a way you get to see the best of that week, you spend less time sifting through garbage and you spend more time on threads that interest you.
2) Read Medical Blogs
If you like keeping up with the internet buzz but feel forums are a bit too monotonous, I highly recommend picking a few good medical blogs to read. I only read a small handful myself, with less than a dozen subscriptions in my RSS feeds. I have found that blog posts are often more well thought out than discussions found in forums.
Be warned though that they can be quite addictive to read too, and it’s important to set some boundaries of how many and how often you want to read them.
3) Pursue Interests outside of Medicine
My motivations are still to be the best doctor I can be, but I know that there is more than just medicine in my life. Perhaps after surviving medical school, I understand it more clearly now. Premed forums are a niche market, they focus in on an already narrow subject. When you spend too much time on these forums, you begin to lose sight of the big picture and see that there’s more life than getting into medical school.
Take it from someone who is almost on his way out of medical school, being a well-rounded individual is important for your health and happiness. It is ironic that medical school has an ability to turn so many well-rounded applicants into highly trained but narrow individuals at the end of four years. Similarly, don’t let your undergrad experience be all about getting into medical school. Finding some other interests will make you a more rounded applicant to medical school anyways.
So I hope you make it one of your new year’s resolutions to cut back on reading premedical forums and more time doing things that are productive!