As I browsed through forums and blogs, the challenges that come with my decision seemed insurmountable. If students well-versed on life sciences are struggling in passing even one quiz, how would a development communication graduate cope with such a time-consuming and mentally demanding course that tests one’s resiliency and determination?
Then I figured: Why would I compare myself with other people? Shouldn’t I try to outdo my past performance instead of following a common definition of ‘success’ as having a score higher or credentials more stellar than most people? If I scored lower despite the efforts, why would I classify myself as a failure when all feats require constant adjustment and improvement?
For now, I haven’t received my NMAT results yet but I realized that inculcating guidelines for myself, drawing a line between right and wrong, and being aware of my actions and intentions are essential before studying becomes part of my everyday routine. I’m a neophyte in this field. But when the stress becomes too much to bear, such ideas and principles will keep me collected while maintaining clarity of thought instead of being overwhelmed by the volume of tasks to the point of embracing learned helplessness.
I did re-take the NMAT (National Medical Admission Test) without telling a lot of people. Outside my immediate family, only 5 friends knew that I will re-take it in another city. Unlike the first one, I refused on announcing it because a) I’m not a public figure whose life is being followed by many people, and b) the mere act of constantly telling my goal to hundreds of people gives me “a false sense of accomplishment.” I was relying mostly on internal motivation so this “social reality” was a high possibility.
After months of reconsidering my decision and some prodding from my mother, I retook it with higher hopes and more focused efforts to have a higher percentile rank. I could go on with how my first take can be saved only by a miracle.
To cut a long story short, I got a meager percentile rank of 41. That means I scored higher than 41 percent of all examinees nationwide yet I was outshined by the other 59 percent.I describe it as meager because XU-JPRSM’s cutoff score is 60. It is a requirement. There’s no other way to put it.
As expected, some friends say I will still be admitted because my mother is a professor at XU-JPRSM. I don’t take any offense from such remarks — which are an attempt in comforting me — but I refuse from achieving a milestone based solely on connections. I can attain an objective not because of the people I know but because I can do it.
Let me share a conversation, translated to English, between two girls I heard while taking a bathroom break:
G1: “Why did you take the NMAT in Cebu? None is conducted in Iligan?”
G2: “None. But it’s okay. Anyway, being accepted in the school will be easy because my father knows someone.”
I get it. People tend to trust others more when they have a common link. But relying only on connections for admission or work — while being exempted from other requirements — is a perfect recipe for nepotism. I wrote an essay in 2nd year college on how this culture is another face of corruption. I still find it disgusting. I can’t control other people from succumbing into this thinking but I remain steadfast to my principles.
Oddly enough, although the test date and its succeeding “waiting game” are equated with unhealthy levels of stress and anxiety, I have remained calm. I didn’t cry in a public place after taking such mind-boggling test. While waiting for the result, I am not overwhelmed by nervousness, to the point of having a nightmare about it, experiencing sudden pain in the head and loss of focus, or feeling fast and loud heartbeats. Whether I earn a percentile rank of 1 or 99, I will still apply.
Yes, an NMAT result helps in filtering applicants because medical schools want the “cream of the crop.” In my opinion, an NMAT result, from a one-day standardized test, does not define a student’s performance in med school. It has no correlation with a future medical practitioner’s competence.
But my retaking must be a great indicator of my determination to commit myself to this field. In the first place, I did not resort to any plan B for almost a year as I prepared to study again.
Some people may ask, “Why did you graduate with a course in communication when you’ve always wanted to be a doctor since grade school?” Simply put, my 15-year old self chose a college degree based only on interest. I have always loved writing and my fresh-from-high-school self heard that dev com involves heaps of it. Clarification: Dev com goes beyond writing.
It’s far from being an ideal pre-med course but I don’t regret taking it at all. Had I shifted to another course, I may not have gained the experiences and learning from 2010-2014. I may not have forged friendships with people, some of whom I consider a non-biological family. I’m pretty certain, too, that the skills honed in those years can be applied in medicine.
You see, I do love writing. When I committed myself to a student publication for 3 years, I witnessed how it can influence mindsets and translate thoughts into action. It’s a craft that gives a win-win solution: the reader broadens his perspective and the writer gains a sense of fulfillment in sharing his knowledge. However, I can’t see myself writing forever for a career; it is more of a hobby, a form of catharsis, and a way of self-expression. I can love two things at once but not with the same level of priority.
I can only envision myself working in the field of medicine. The way I see it, being a doctor is a win-win solution, too: it’s a service to people by literally saving lives, and it will maximize my skills and expertise while giving unparalleled joy in doing something greater than myself.
In most cases, people ask my plans of specialization. I bet most aspiring medical students have encountered this question although they haven’t applied to a school yet. I do have an answer to that question — be a neurologist and work in an organization like Doctors Without Borders — but things can drastically change in five years. Theory is different from practice.
In the middle of a “funemployment,” I thought: “To what point should I postpone this dream of becoming a doctor?” When I die, I will most likely be unrested if I failed to try. The only limits I should believe are the ones I set on myself.
Its rigorousness will entail adjustment. I could miss social events, hang out less with friends, some of whom may misunderstand at first that I have to prioritize studies over them; I have to find new friends, find ways to learn better, overhaul my routine, and deal with disappointment healthily.
Perhaps in the next months, my to-do list will revolve around medicine. But I don’t plan on making med school or medicine my life as if a career will define me as a person. I will still be a family member and a friend. I will still have interests outside this study. One of my greatest nightmares is becoming a person controlled by his title — as if doctors are immortal beings entitled to VIP treatment 24/7, are unable to understand people without high educational attainment, and are used to treating patients as mere appointments. As one true story demonstrates: insisting that he be called “doctor” instead of “sir.”
I’m certain, however, that I genuinely want a goal when self-doubt and apprehension — coupled with full awareness of willingly signing up for grueling tasks and setbacks I may not have experienced — go hand in hand with the excitement and determination. I could be debarred, which means I will not be allowed to re-enroll in the institution, or I could also graduate on 2020 with my sanity intact.
On a summer day free of obligations, I find myself reading and watching videos on medical students’ experiences, different ways to study, and the like. I don’t feel obliged to research; simply knowing other people’s insights on this topic can be classified as fun.
I’m a neophyte. I’m naive in this field. I’m still in step 1 out of 999. As that pop song goes, I’ll “take it one step at a time.” The waves may be rough and the ship won’t be smooth sailing all the time but my eyes are set on the destination.