You Didn’t Do Well, Now What?

By Elisa

You have probably stumbled on this article because you either have now found out you didn’t get into the medical school you wanted, or maybe you want to read this ahead of time to prepare for the worst. Regardless, here I am to tell you it’s going to be okay, and also I am a strong believer in plan B. I usually have a plan C, D, and E, so here I am to help you out with planning for the after effects.

No one wants to talk about it, but sadly around 85% of the people that apply will not get in. So what happens if you are part of the 85%? Don’t lose hope, it isn’t the end of the world; 85% of people just like you tried and didn’t get in. It’s part of the deal.

Breathe in.
Breathe out.

Welcome to the group, now let’s talk about it. I feel that most people after taking the IMAT, and for example if you were like me, I found out I scored badly wayyyy before I knew my ranking which made me end up going through the entire despair of not getting in ahead of time. (I got a 19.5, I hope this makes you feel better about your score.)

So let’s go through the 5 stages of grief: IMAT version.

1. Denial

You either just saw your ranking or calculated what you scored and it’s lower than what you thought you would have done on the IMAT. You are thinking, “No way did I score that badly? That must not be my score, but a mistake and I’m reading someone else’s.”

At first, you won’t want to accept that…you messed up and now most probably have no shot of getting in. That’s okay, but probably denial won’t last very long once you find out your ranking in October. If you’re still denying it then, it’s okay boo. You gotta go through the stages.

I kind of absolutely skipped the bargaining stage and went straight to the depression stage. Get tissues if this is the case.

2. Anger

Now you’re angry because you’re thinking of all the things you could have done. All the times you got tired of studying and played with your cat (I am very guilty of this) or decided to binge watch a show (also guilty). You could have done more practice problems, read more books, lost your sanity a bit more, sold your soul to the Kreb’s Cycle god, but you didn’t do any of this and what did you expect? No wonder you didn’t score that well or didn’t make the cut. You’re beating yourself up thinking, I could have tried harder. Studied harder. You’re thinking “if I had just suffered more I would have gotten in”.

You might be right. You could have tried harder. But you also could be wrong. You did really do your best with the knowledge and time you had. It is in the past, stop wasting time and effort on things long gone.

I could list you countless quotes telling you to let it go, but I know you will eventually move on. I hope so, now onto the fun stage!

3. Bargaining

This is the lovely part where you try to bargain with the secretary and directors of the university you applied for. I definitely did this. I would send emails back to back, 5 at a time sometimes, to force them to answer my questions that were going to be responded with a clear “no”.

You prayed to your god (the Kreb’s cycle god as well too). You try to figure out every single loop hole to get in. You message your second choice uni’s. These are all good things to do, because you never know and might get surprised and get into another uni. Still, all of this effort to figure out a way might result unfruitful still. If that is the case, you might move back again to the Anger stage, or you may move on forward to the worst stage of all which is the one I am trying to prepare you for, the depression stage.

4. Depression

This is when we hit rock bottom, and this is the stage people stay the longest in. I hope you do not linger here, because this is a horrible stage to stay stuck in.

Nice tips to cheer up a bit:

  • If you have a tub, I suggest taking a nice long bath and use bath bombs or cool bath salts.
  • If you are of legal age, I suggest champagne or a good glass of wine. Now don’t drink yourself into grief please, your liver will not appreciate this. If you’re not of legal age, a nice cup of tea does the job too 🙂
  • Pick up a book or start watching a show. It lets you escape reality for a bit.
  • For inspirational/motivational books, I highly recommend “When Breathe becomes Air” by Paul Kalanithi, “Tools of Titans” by Tim Ferris, “The Secret” by Rhonda Byrne, and “You Are a Badass” by Jen Sincero.
  • Find other lovely people just like you that didn’t get in, and motivate each other. Daydream about new future plans, or make study plans on how you are going to ace the IMAT next year.

5. Acceptance

Congratulations dear friend! You have made it. You survived, now let’s get back to living the fruitful life you deserve.

You have accepted the world isn’t ending and that it is going to continue spinning on its axis with or without you.

Okay now on to the fun stuff!

You have a decision to make first. To either continue pursuing medicine or to not? Is medicine your calling? Is it what you have been wanting to do since you were four when your parents gave you those cheap plastic kid stethoscopes (mine were pink and I put on it a hello Kitty sticker on it)? If it is, and you still you got some fighter material in you then you need to plan to take the IMAT once again next year or maybe pursue medicine in your country (I cannot help you in this department but I wish you lots of luck).

You can either take a gap year or do something meanwhile you study. For example: my friend Emna took a gap year and studied like a madman for the exam. My plan was to go to back to engineering school and study for the IMAT at the same time.

If you decide to try again next year then YAY! I recommend assessing the mistakes you did this year and try to work on them. If you noticed you lacked skills in Chemistry then work on that a lot now. I would also recommend in deciding maybe to not apply to the same school, but this is a very personal decision. If you applied to Milan or Pavia for example, and didn’t get in then maybe you should think of applying to a not as competitive uni next year. But I still support you still if you strive for the big uni’s since now you will have an entire year to study for the IMAT. Whichever decision you make will be a good one, just reflect on it. I recommend to check out our testimonies in this blog, because you can read how different students picked their unis and also how they prepared for the IMAT.

I recommend to still stay in touch with all of your IMAT friends (if you made any, I hope you did). The friends you made that got accepted into their unis will be the most helpful because they can help you prepare for enrollment and if you are applying to their same uni, you have a person on the inside. EXTREMELY HELPFUL if you have a university that sucks at responding emails like mine (Bari), so you can send your friends to bug them in the office.

Now you can also plan what to do in these next wonderful 12 months of preparation. I also recommend to decide to take Italian language classes so when you get in next year, you don’t struggle so badly with getting around in Italy. Pick up new hobbies, med school related or not. I decided to get myself to exercise more, since I didn’t want to get fat on gelato when I got to Italy.

If you decide not to go for it next year, that is okay too. I hope you the best of luck in whatever you pursue and remember that you not getting accepted this round doesn’t reflect on you at all as a human being. If you didn’t make mistakes ever in your life, it means you never tried to do anything worthy. Part of trying to live a good life, is we mess up a lot. Maybe you find your calling in something else. Maybe you try again in two more years from now. Maybe you decide to go volunteer in Africa. Maybe you get married and raise tiny humans. I know usually us pre-med students believe that the only way to help the world is to save lives. There are countless ways to help this planet besides stitching people up. Raising happy children and being a nice cashier are forms of being part of humanity as well. We forget this often but here I am to remind you.

Anyways, I hope this article has been helpful and I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments below. I highly recommend to check out our testimonials since it makes this whole IMAT process more human and you get to meet other people that struggled just like you. Have a wonderful day in whatever longitude and latitude you are in!

Ciao,