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Why I Stopped Reading Premed Forums and Why You Should Too (or at Least Cut Back)

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 Furthermore, a lot of information out there is outdated and outright wrong.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!

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  1. psychoswim
    psychoswim January 2, 2012

    I completely agree with your points!

    I found PM101 last year just around the time I decided to apply to med school. But I didn’t visit the forum and register until the week before the admission answers were due, and at that point it was just fun chatter. I don’t think it’s particularly helpful for applicants.. yes it has some info, but when you surround yourself with stressed out people it just makes it worse! (Just the same as in med school really..)

    Now, I still visit often but mostly to chat with the friends I’ve made there, and to help out a bit mostly on the French boards. For me, it’s also a good diversion when I hit study times. But yet I stay away from the CaRMS threads because I don’t want to stress myself. I just don’t visit that site specifically for the premed content.

    Outside interests and friends out of med are really important.

    • Honorable Med Dylan
      Honorable Med Dylan June 27, 2017

      If you guys need a blog to check out, I just started one that I am hoping to reach pre-med students with. If you would like to explore it, it is and I plan to post 2-3 times a week.

  2. Josh
    Josh January 2, 2012

    It’s still a procrastination outlet for me, but I can’t say I spend much time on premed101 these days other than to check the CaRMS applicant thread. Most of the actual “premed” discussions seem far removed from my current preoccupations. I am fond of this blog:

  3. Gary
    Gary January 15, 2012

    Medaholic brings up some excellent points. I will add a few:

    1) Many of the applicants exaggerate their stats, and make it seem as though med school is impossible to get into. I remember all the students with 4.0 GPAs, 40+ MCAT, publications, international travelling, etc……then they would get rejected pre-interview, and complain that med school is a lottery. Yet, when I had my first interview, I was shocked to come across candidates who were no different than many of my classmates. I realized that reading this forums made me underestimate my accomplishments and potential.
    2) Most of my friends who got in to med school never used a med school forum. They used info directly from the admissions website, and talked to admin and current med students. This is the best source of information.
    3) The threads often have redundant, irrelevant arguments on topics like mac health sci grade inflation, research being necessary, international volunteering, are grades necessary, interview horror stories, etc…

    Now, the forums are useful in many respects. I remember wanting to go to UofT (downtown campus) for my undergrad. It was reading the stories of others before me that convinced me to go to a smaller, friendlier school. And I have gotten useful help from current med students on that site. I think the key is to take the forum with a grain of salt, and not to get caught up in the stats/numbers games.

  4. kmonkey
    kmonkey January 16, 2012

    Hm… as a pretty seriously non-trad student, it’s been nice to connect with others who are in my shoes. I would never run into them in real life by chance. I also feel like a mentor sometimes to people who are about to make the same mistakes I did, but I do that in real life too. If I spent that time “constructively” pursuing more ECs, I would probably look even better on paper, but it’s not really the way I am.

    It CAN really trigger anxiety, in myself and others, though.

  5. vanillabear
    vanillabear January 18, 2012

    Any suggestions for good medical blogs?

  6. Honeebeed
    Honeebeed April 9, 2012

    I needed this today. I had to stop going to those websites because it was starting to pysch me out. Then I had to wake up and realize at the end of the day, every school is different and the only people that make the decisions are in the admissions boards. As someone with circumstances that will no doubt make it harder to gain admission, I need to just work on strengthening what I can and just apply. I work a full time job in microbiology and go to school for my second degree at night. I don’t have the time to waste.

    • medaholic
      medaholic April 9, 2012

      Glad you found this post useful. Life is too short to get caught up over small things. Best of luck in your studies!

  7. metsy
    metsy November 15, 2012

    another thing about pm101 is that most ppl are hard-core gunners and there’s a herd mentality to ‘avoid’ the ‘easy’ specialties and go into the ROADs

    you can easily be surrounded by that mentality (as you subconsciously read on about people bashing FM eg)

  8. Jordan
    Jordan December 18, 2012

    great post

  9. john hunt, md
    john hunt, md March 23, 2013

    As a long time physician and medical faculty at a university, I recommend that people who want to be physicians should spend their college years doing as little to do with formal pre-med as they possibly can get away with. The bare minimum. You will be fully taught in medical school all the biology and chemistry you will need. You will never once need calculus. You will benefit from all the statistics education you can get, though. I recommend spending your college years seeking core values that are inherently consistent as opposed to contradictory. Learn about how Rome collapsed. Learn sociology, philosophy, and most importantly, microeconomics. Learn honor, integrity, and how to be a rational thinking human being. Learn how to not be a sheep. Learn how to recognize and fight against fascism (most colleges are great places to see how fascism works, because so many faculty unwittingly support it).

    To hell with Pre-med. Become an honest and integral, and most importatnly INDIVIDUAL human. That’s the most important part of being a doctor.

    And good luck to you all

    • johnsoncaprio
      johnsoncaprio April 24, 2015

      Hey! thanks sharing article.
      Getting admission in medical is little bit tough but if one time you will get admission in medical college your life will be settle. Medical School in USA prepared their students for cracking the entrance exam.

  10. john hunt, md
    john hunt, md March 23, 2013

    To be clear, medicine is the most noble profession. But beware, really truly beware, how much badness is in it, not because of the individuals, but because of the ‘system’ and those who just won’t fight the evils of that system.

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  14. Jason
    Jason September 3, 2013

    Wow! This is exactly what I needed to hear. I especially like the alternatives part of the blog. It makes everything so simple; if you want to do well, study.

    The forums do represent something to me that is somewhat disappointing. I want to find a magic bullet. Part of why I sleuth day and night through the posts is because I want to find something that will tell me how to get into medical school with less effort or ace the MCAT in one easy step. But, as I get older, I figure it’s best to stick to the proven track of paying my dues. Looking for a magic bullet can be more work then just buckling down and studying.

  15. Megan
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  16. Izzie
    Izzie August 15, 2014

    If you’re looking for a good blog for both Med Students and PreMeds, I would recommend ! I discovered it a little while ago and it is the coolest combination of student advice (from med students, young docs, experienced surgeons), medical news, and fun comic articles.

    I know the SDN Pre-Med forums are super popular but I can’t understand how everyone trusts the strangers on the site. Not to mention, preparing for Med school is stressful enough as it is, why does everyone want to read about their competition’s MCAT scores and extensive lists of extracurriculars??

    Anyways, great article. Thank you for someone finally telling it like it is about these online forums.

  17. Rachel
    Rachel April 14, 2015

    After almost completing year two, I voluntarily withdrew from medical school. Truthfully, I couldn’t handle the stress without being an unhealthy person. For anyone who is interested, or who may be struggling with a similar decision, I’ve recorded a video discussing my experience:

    • medaholic
      medaholic April 19, 2015

      Thanks for sharing your experience. Takes a lot of courage to do what you did. Medicine is not for everyone, and I’m happy that you found that out early on.

    • Mimi Brown
      Mimi Brown July 20, 2015

      I couldnt watch it, but im really sorry. I hope you find happiness in whatever you are doing next.

  18. Paula Mincey
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  19. Dorren Frank
    Dorren Frank December 30, 2016

    Jack up your mcat scores, contact medihacks on gmail.

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