There are many motivating factors that influence one to enter medical school, and some of them are better than others. Your passion for medicine is a good one, and it may be coupled with family pressure or monetary expectations. These are not bad motivations, but becoming a doctor is more difficult than motivation, and if you are preparing for the Match, your path to a Match is far from over. That is why there are a few tools you can use to mentally prep yourself into a successful medical career.

Three Tools for a Successful Match

Strategy

Strategy is basically the planning process. You don’t just go to medical school, get a couple good recommendations, and Match in a residency program. Of course, there are the tests necessary to apply for residency, such as USMLE step 1 and USMLE step 2. However, more importantly is knowing what you need to get into the program you want.

When you entered medical school, you probably had an idea of the direction you would go. Maybe you were interested in pathology or plastic surgery. By your third year in medical school, you should have it narrowed down to one or two specialties.

After you know where to focus your efforts, you need to look at the requirements. What test scores are required to be considered for that residency program? How are you going to study for the boards? Are there sub-internships available? Find an overseas rotation in the U.S. and make sure you are doing it.

Your efforts should be targeted, and the target should be clear. This will make all of your efforts efficient, so you won’t waste time where it doesn’t need to be spent. You don’t need to study 12 hours a day to get into the residency of your dreams. In fact, over studying can diminish retention. So, focus and plan your efforts to a Match.

Stamina

You must already have a can-do attitude, or you wouldn’t have made it this far. From now on, any procrastinating tendencies you have must be disregarded for committed action. This means committed action in all walks of life.

It is natural to find excuses why you cannot or should not do something. When faced with adversity, our natural inclination is to preserve and protect instead of fight until the end. Some physicians will reflect on residency as “not that bad” or “most people could do it if they tried.” This is not true! They are either remembering incorrectly in a fit of nostalgia, or they are one of a handful of geniuses on the planet gifted with unreasonable talent.

Don’t expect anything to be easy, and don’t plan on waiting for anything. If you want to do something to prep for the Match, get started now and keep going.

Truth

There is some hard honesty that must be had during this journey. One of those truths involves self-reflection. If you are holding on to dreams of a surgical residency, but you just don’t fit in with that group of people or are having second thoughts for other reasons, go with your gut! This is going to be your life. Good physicians don’t clock out at 5 p.m. on the dot, and neither do happy physicians. Recognize the places where you fit, and you’ll shine.

It can cost some money to prepare for your tests, but you need those scores to get into your program of choice. Accept the reality that prep courses work, and you’ll maximize every second spent studying. Some courses to consider are Kaplan, UWorld, and Doctors in Training. You may spend thousands on prep, but think about the time and money you’ll save in the long run. A couple thousand is worth it to capitalize on the hundreds of thousands you may have spent on education.

Lastly, be honest about the integrity of the advice you receive. Listen to the person who bombed their step tests, but take any advice with a grain of salt. They don’t know how to get to where you want to be, as they weren’t able to do it themselves. Unfortunately, these people are typically forthcoming with their advice.

Learn from the mistakes of others, but seek out advice from people who have been successful. They know how to get over the hurdles of residency. Hopefully, they are willing to share. You don’t need to know how not to pass the USMLE or how not to succeed in an interview. The accounts of people who have failed may contain a few useful do-nots, but they contain no how-tos. The tips from successful applicants will be much more valuable.

You are getting so close to becoming a physician, but you still have a long and tough road to travel. With strategy, stamina, and truth, you will be able to reach the end of that road with a career that was meant to be, and one which you will be able to enjoy. Success is not just about money and prestige…but you can have it all in your medical career if you listen to yourself and plan accordingly.