Today, I chickened out of registering for the MCAT… again.

Tram Huynh
4 min readFeb 19, 2021

I began studying for the MCAT in November 2020, in the middle of a pandemic. The month prior in October, I made a rookie mistake.

I went online to register for an exam date but, who knew that registering for a seat to take the MCAT was like purchasing Coachella tickets? When I went online within 15 minutes of the opening hour, my jaw dropped to the cement to find that I was the 20k-th person in line. Then, all of a sudden my x-thousandth number dropped to 0 and I was in. But, I should have known better than to think there was an opening for me to snag after that mysteriously, lucky drop in number. While dismayed, I also felt extremely relieved in not committing to a date before having actually studied. “I wouldn’t have been ready to take the exam anyways,” I thought, “but, at least this will give me the time I need to prepare, so it’s all good…”

From October until now (February), I have been figuring it out. Specifically, I have been figuring how to study for the MCAT. These are the common messages that I have heard from others who are going through the process or have recently taken the MCAT:

  • One person, whom I networked via LinkedIn, shared that it was absolutely necessary to do 1–2 months of content review before diving into UWORLD and doing Mock Full Length Exams weekly.
  • A logical friend reasoned that it is a much better use of time to jump straight into UWORLD and to review content along the way.
  • Another friend recommended ‘smashing out all of the problems from The Berkeley Review books as possible’ because the questions are formatted similarly to the exam.
  • A handful of others highly recommended doing ANKI flashcards daily and to utilize the free Kahn Academy’s MCAT material.
  • And, everyone literally says these two pieces of advice — verbatim too: (1.) ‘the AAMC Full Length Exams are GOLD’ and (2.) ‘This is a reading comprehension test. So, it is important to learn how to take the test’.

Every advice must be taken with a grain of salt and applied cautiously. Why? Because the first order of business is to address my abominably heavy imposter syndrome. I will never go where I want to go (or further, which is the goal) if all I do is listen to the inner voice inside my head that says that I am not good, smart, compassionate, passionate, authentic, wealthy, mentally-strong, worthy, or compelling enough to make it in the field of medicine. The advice that I receive are only as good as the relationship that I have with myself.

It is now mid-February and today was the day, my second chance, to commit on a date for the exam. It was my moment… and I chickened out. I reasoned that even with all of the studying that I have been doing, it is hard for me to believe that I am ready. I am an non-traditional student, who did an informal post-bacc to raise my low science-GPA. The score I get on the MCAT will make or break me. This is my last chance to prove that I am worthy. These were the thoughts that made me choke and it is so unfortunate that I literally got in my own way.

To give myself credit, I have a lot on my plate. I am surviving a pandemic. I have chronic musculoskeletal pain due to fibromyalgia. I live in an unfavorably traditional and conservative, somewhat emotionally toxic household. My family is suffering through food insecurity and like many other Americans right now, worry about home eviction. I just began a new full-time job as a COVID vaccine specialist to be able to put food on the table and keep the electricity running. There are a lot of external pressure in my life right now and all of these reasons are enough to push back the exam. Yet, the first thoughts I have are self-blaming and self-shaming.

An article I read recently regarding imposter syndrome stated that a majority of the most capable and intelligent people suffer from imposter syndrome. Likely from the fact that the more you know, the more you understand that there are things yet to know. With that said, I must trust that it is absolutely my job to believe in myself, first and foremost. I got it. I am more than capable of doing anything and everything that I want to do. I am a superwoman. I am the mitochondria. I mean, I am a *powerhouse! It is important for me to constantly remind myself of my worth. I deserve to actualize my dream. I do it for myself, for everyone rooting for me, for the younger generation who need to witness someone who look like them doing the damn thing, for my community, and of course, for my future patients.

If imposter syndrome is real for you, seek your “Why?”. It is not a matter of if you can do it, because you can. It is a matter of figuring out your purpose and choosing to believe in said purpose over anything else. Life is too short to have self-limiting thoughts. A wise friend once asked me during a really doubtful moment in my life: “You have one life to live. What will you do with this ONE life of yours?”

Good luck, I am rooting for you.

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