Question: Hi HPA – I’ve been told by a lot of people that reflecting on my premed activities and experiences as I have them may be helpful when I apply to medical school, but I’ve never really been good at writing in a journal or being reflective. Do you have any advice?
Answer: When you apply to medical school, the expectation will be that you’ve done some “soul searching” to understand why you’re pursuing a career full of sacrifice and challenge, and you’ll have to articulate how you came to the decision to become a doctor to others. Practicing this means of communication before you reach the application stage can be helpful, and journaling is a way to capture your thought process as your understanding of and motivation for medicine evolves with your experience. Journaling isn’t a natural skill for many people, so don’t worry if you have trouble getting started!
Here are a few ideas as you get started:
1. Read others’ reflections for inspiration – jot down ideas based on their writing. Aspiring Docs Diaries is a good place to start – these blog entries are written by current premeds, med students, and residents: AspiringDocsDiaries.org
2. Identify experiences or influences—special events, service projects, shadowing experiences, conversations, books—that inform, inspire, or challenge you. Record significant details about these moments, and then describe your impressions, feelings, and thoughts.
3. Use a format that helps you – some people prefer to type, some to handwrite, some to dictate into their phone as an audio journal. Some people blog online because they’re inspired by having an online audience, some want to keep their thoughts private, some do a mix of both. Doodling and illustration are also encouraged!
4. Over the summer, HPA will post “pre-health ponderings” on our Facebook page. These questions make good journal prompts. You can view last summer’s posts on the Premed Pondering section of our Facebook page.
QOTW in 2016: Am I Cut Out to be a Doctor?