Off-Days

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Last Saturday, late in the afternoon, I was meticulously working my way through my first chapter of physics review for my MCAT studying. Physics and General Chemistry are my worst subjects – I completely failed at all attempts to learn them while I was in college, and promptly ruined my GPA and mental sanity due to these mega “weed-out” courses at the large public institution I attended for undergrad. So, while studying for this last chance MCAT (#LCM?), I made a vow to not touch new material until I fully understood the material I was working on. That means regardless of the meticulously crafted schedule I had designed for myself with an exam date of April 23rd looming nearby, I was not going to proceed forward in my preparation until I could explain to myself what everything meant.

I had great luck with this strategy the previous night, as for the first time in my life, I was able to understand orbital chemistry in the first chapter of the Gen Chem review book. I almost cried for two reasons – out of sheer joy that I wasn’t skimming over the subjects of the review books I feared the most and subsequently scored the lowest on, but also that if I made this commitment earlier in my education, I would have saved myself a lot of time and spared the pain, potentially ending up with a higher GPA and not having to retake this exam. But, isn’t the whole point of my journey to recover what I have lost? I must be thankful for the opportunity to learn and relearn this material, because now I can master it and never look back come the relaxation of test day.

However, all small wins defeated when I opened up Chapter 1 of Physics and gasped pretty audibly. It covered everything from translational motion to rotational motion and even torque and equilibrium (the material takes up about 250 questions in the 1001 MCAT Physics Questions I owned – needless to say, it was way more than 1 chapter’s worth of information). It was going to take me way longer than the 4 hours I had allotted in my schedule to this chapter. So, I sat down and began to work…and work…and work. Soon, it was the next day, and I still hadn’t finished this chapter due to my overwhelming commitment to master the material before proceeding. However, I was making incredible progress with Khan Academy videos and equation-memorizing. But it kept wearing me down, and the last feeling I wanted to experience was pre-exam burnout, ESPECIALLY in this crunch time period.

So, I did what anyone who is facing exhaustion and feelings of being overwhelmed would do. I got up, went to the kitchen, and proceeding to eat my way to relaxation. The first thing in the pantry that caught my eye was a box of pancake mix, and before I knew it, I was mixing up some batter and tossing in some frozen blueberries from a package I reserved for morning smoothies.

As I ate and dived into my latest read, Gone Girl (potentially a book review to come?), I thought about the crazy schedule I had created for myself, and why I was rushing to complete it. I made the commitment to master material before moving on, and what scholar could master a course’s worth of material in just 4 hours?! Not someone with anxiety and depression that was working at the top of their skill set to maintain calmness, that’s for sure. And, why did I even decide on that test date – April 23rd? To apply to AMCAS right out of the gates on Day 1? That’s what I did this current application cycle, and what purpose did it serve? My new MCAT score was delayed in processing, and I didn’t receive interview invitations until December anyways. Plus, friends of mine who applied later in the cycle had gotten in to schools on a normal timeline anyways. Why should I place this crazy amount of pressure on myself only to regret my actions a few months down the line.

So I took an “off-day” – I sat and read for pleasure, I watched the Superbowl with my family (slay QUEEN BEY), and I wrote out some thoughts in my journal, all the while questioning my decision to cram for this exam. After much thought, and a day of rejuvenation, I came to the conclusion that I was going to postpone my MCAT exam until June because I really wanted the extra time to prepare material (I wasn’t going to squander time aimlessly and I also wasn’t going to drive myself insane) and I would have enough time to submit an AMCAS application in July and still had the chance to make it into medical school and complete secondaries before any potential post-bac programs started up.

This break was one of the best decisions I’ve made so far.

-A.

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