May 6, 2020
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I received my first acceptance to med school this past weekend - a goal I’d been working seemingly my whole life to achieve. I don’t feel excited though nor especially proud. The journey was tough, and I thought after it all, coming out with competitive stats, a fun college experience, and now, alas, an acceptance, I’d be elated or over the moon. Instead I just feel like something is off.

I overcame my fair share of obstacles along the way and have been working so hard for this moment for so long - took MCAT twice to bring it up ten points, many disciplined study nights, lost friendships due to my focus on my prep. Now I have what should be a victory and it doesn’t feel that way

I don’t want to seem ungrateful at all because I know a lot of us, myself included, are still waiting to hear back from programs. I do feel blessed and am grateful...I just don’t know if I’m having a bit of an existential crisis and was hoping someone could offer some advice or maybe has felt the same way. My friends and family have noticed my apparent lack of enthusiasm and commented on it, which makes me feel even more lost in this moment.

i know how I should feel. I just don’t feel very triumphant nor in a celebratory mood. It was a bit of a relief at first but after that - nothing. Not sure if I just hyped all this up in my head and the reality of it isn’t as exciting but I thought I would’ve felt a little happier after finally achieving a lifelong goal. Especially as it didn’t come easy

Thank you to anyone who responds and good luck to us all.
 
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TehTeddy

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Indeed, I also felt the same way after my acceptance. But I wasn't really surprised; that's simply the nature of desire.

It might help to put it in evolutionary terms. It's important to keep in mind that evolutionarily successful creatures are not those with clear and accurate perceptions. Natural selection only cares about reproduction, not truth, so false perceptions will prevail if they're advantageous.

The way the reward system is wired exemplifies this quite well. It's common to overestimate the amount and duration of pleasure we'll obtain from something, while significantly underestimating how fleeting it will be. "If I get X, then I'll be happy" is a common sentiment. This is a highly useful ideology; it makes a person productive, increasing their material wealth or status, and consequently their reproductive odds. But after they've acquired what they sought, there's no benefit to further rewards, from natural selection's perspective. If anything it's counterproductive, because a content creature is not as "successful" as one continuously scanning their environment for imperfections and striving for more. A reward system wired this way, giving dopamine hits while chasing and getting things, while quickly shutting off once it's obtained them, is a great way to encourage acquisition. Sustained happiness was never selected for. Thus the same mechanism aiding the success of a species leaves individuals feeling deceived once they get anything, and perpetually unsatisfied even as they're materially better-off.

Taking this angle on it, my advice would be to never expect external rewards to make you happy for very long (at least, once you've secured the necessities). Maybe for a few days or weeks, but eventually you'll return to a certain baseline. I've noticed this for everything I've done too. You could give me the Nobel Prize and I'd come down to baseline in a week.

It's kind of like the hedonic treadmill, except from the perspective of the person on the treadmill. Why doesn't he just get off, if he sees he's not going anywhere? Is he dumb? In my view, it's because it's not just the reward mechanism (the spinning fabric) that's advantageous, but also the ideology that the next step would bring him lasting joy. Otherwise he would see the running for what it is, and either continue to run mindfully, for the sake of running, or step off the treadmill. The ideology is the real trick; otherwise the whole project fails.

Don't fall for it. Good luck - Wisconsin is a great medical school, and I'm sure you'll make a great doctor :)
 
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Jun 24, 2020
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I received my first acceptance to med school this past weekend - a goal I’d been working seemingly my whole life to achieve. I don’t feel excited though nor especially proud. The journey was tough, and I thought after it all, coming out with competitive stats, a fun college experience, and now, alas, an acceptance, I’d be elated or over the moon. Instead I just feel like something is off.

I overcame my fair share of obstacles along the way and have been working so hard for this moment for so long - took MCAT twice to bring it up ten points, many disciplined study nights, lost friendships due to my focus on my prep. Now I have what should be a victory and it doesn’t feel that way

I don’t want to seem ungrateful at all because I know a lot of us, myself included, are still waiting to hear back from programs. I do feel blessed and am grateful...I just don’t know if I’m having a bit of an existential crisis and was hoping someone could offer some advice or maybe has felt the same way. My friends and family have noticed my apparent lack of enthusiasm and commented on it, which makes me feel even more lost in this moment.

i know how I should feel. I just don’t feel very triumphant nor in a celebratory mood. It was a bit of a relief at first but after that - nothing. Not sure if I just hyped all this up in my head and the reality of it isn’t as exciting but I thought I would’ve felt a little happier after finally achieving a lifelong goal. Especially as it didn’t come easy

Thank you to anyone who responds and good luck to us all.
Did you get the A from your top choice or one of your low choices?
 
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Jun 24, 2020
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Success doesn't change us - we experience it, and emerge the exact same. Any sense of pride or exhilaration is short lived, and fails to deliver on its promises. It can be hard to accept this, especially when you've likely invested years working to achieve this point, and have likely told yourself that "when I get in, it'll be worth it" or "just think about how proud or relieved or excited you will feel when your hard work pays off".

During moments like these, i think its important to remember that while setting and achieving goals is important, your accomplishments do not say anything about you as a person. your grades or school name or accolades - if you were to strip all of them away, what would be left? your creativity or compassion? your discipline or sense of duty? the love you have for those close to you? whatever it is, i think that these qualities are the things that define us and can bring us enduring fulfillment in our lives. i would say to try and reincorporate things into your life that can and do bring enduring fulfillment, it could be as simple as picking up hobbies you once enjoyed or perhaps even sacrificed for academic success, or taking time to reconnect with yourself and friends. in my life, i've found that the littler things bring me the most joy. i do hope this is helpful to you, and that you feel better soon.
Looks like you are saying that if we got into pre-med not because we wanted to, but because others (like parents) wanted us to, we will not feel as elated?
 
Jun 24, 2020
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i'm going to read your comment charitably, so no, i did not state or imply that.

first, i'm saying all of this from the perspective of a premed applicant whose parent never pushed them in this direction, but has achieved very prestigious accolades in the face of excruciating adversity and discrimination- only to emerge feeling hollow and unfulfilled.

what i am saying is that delayed gratification cannot deliver on its promise of enduring fulfillment. i dont think its healthy to live your life thinking that "if i can just get to this next step/award/school etc, i will finally be happy". i think that we are responsible for our own happiness, and that we owe it to ourselves to create it - we cannot just pin it on to our next conquest. because if we fail to achieve it, we might feel inadequate. and even if we do achieve it, we will just set our sights for an even greater goal. and then the vicious cycle repeats.

perhaps that the best ways to create happiness are to focus on the immediate things and qualities that bring us the most joy. for me, i'm not the greatest painter, but i really enjoy painting because it brings me tremendous peace and joy (even if i'm quite ****). spending time with loved ones and doing hobbies i'm not the greatest at have brought me infinitely more joy than training at elite schools or wining "prestigious" accolades ever could.
Thanks for taking my post in the right spirit and for the detailed reply.

I will wait for the OP's answer to my previous question. The amount of happiness (or lack thereof) might be related to where the OP got the A from - that's my simple theory. Let's see.
 
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CricB4Tube

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I had the total opposite reaction when I got my first acceptance (at a low-ranking school on my choice list). I was ecstatic, went out for drinks that night with all my friends, celebrated, etc. It was probably one of the best feelings ever getting that phone call.
Have you sat down and thought about why you want to become a doctor? Are you sure this is something you want to do? Or are you just not an excitable person?
 

Hopeful101

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It took me a few days for it to set in and to be excited about it. I'm sure it will come. But remember getting in is the easiest thing you will do in medical school. It's going to be a sacrifice. If you're starting to realize your doing this for anyone but your self, take some time to think about it and get your thoughts and priorities clear in your head. The time commitment of medical school is much greater than any part of pre med college. Steps are much harder than the MCAT. Just know what you're getting into for the next decade.
 

anniekat2025

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Jun 7, 2018
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I received my first acceptance to med school this past weekend - a goal I’d been working seemingly my whole life to achieve. I don’t feel excited though nor especially proud. The journey was tough, and I thought after it all, coming out with competitive stats, a fun college experience, and now, alas, an acceptance, I’d be elated or over the moon. Instead I just feel like something is off.

I overcame my fair share of obstacles along the way and have been working so hard for this moment for so long - took MCAT twice to bring it up ten points, many disciplined study nights, lost friendships due to my focus on my prep. Now I have what should be a victory and it doesn’t feel that way

I don’t want to seem ungrateful at all because I know a lot of us, myself included, are still waiting to hear back from programs. I do feel blessed and am grateful...I just don’t know if I’m having a bit of an existential crisis and was hoping someone could offer some advice or maybe has felt the same way. My friends and family have noticed my apparent lack of enthusiasm and commented on it, which makes me feel even more lost in this moment.

i know how I should feel. I just don’t feel very triumphant nor in a celebratory mood. It was a bit of a relief at first but after that - nothing. Not sure if I just hyped all this up in my head and the reality of it isn’t as exciting but I thought I would’ve felt a little happier after finally achieving a lifelong goal. Especially as it didn’t come easy

Thank you to anyone who responds and good luck to us all.
First of all, congratulations on your acceptance!

I would describe my feelings of excitement after getting an acceptance as a "slow burn." At first, like you, I felt nothing. It was just sort of an "Oh, that's nice." Objectively, I knew that the acceptance was a great thing and that my response "should" be one of excitement or elation, but I mostly just felt a huge wave of exhaustion. It was as if the last 3+ years of wondering if I would ever be accepted had finally caught up with me. Over the following days and weeks and months I have felt more and more excited and now I'm grinning as I type this as I remember yet again that I'm going to be a doctor some day.

Don't get caught up in how you "should" feel. Feelings are just feelings, they aren't negative and positive. They just are. Journal. Take a walk. Some times the most monumental events in our lives take time to process. Just because you didn't have the OMG-screaming-and-crying moment does not mean this is any less of an accomplishment or that you are not going to be a stellar physician.
 
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It seems like you treated your journey of getting into medical school as the means to an end. In reality, it's only the beginning. Nothing magically intrinsically changes once you get accepted and once you actually start med school, for that matter. It all just happens. I felt varying levels of this same emotion when I was starting different milestones in my journey. I don't think its abnormal, I don't think you're not grateful. I don't think deep down this might mean you don't want to be a doctor (?? someone commented something like this, I swear). Especially in the context of the pandemic, it might just be harder to enjoy even the most simple things right now.
You probably just had a different thought process approaching it than the people who.. well cried and got drunk ahaha. Anyway, enjoy your freedom while it lasts and you return to the study grind because guess what - you're in :)!
 
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It's perfectly normal to have a response of "okay, now what?" and to even feel a bit of a letdown. Athletes after the final game of a winning tournament, and actors after the last performance of a play also go through that experience. You've been so focused on one challenge (in this case, getting that "A") that it can be hard to readjust to life without that challenge. Making it even more difficult/confusing is the intangible nature of that "A". It's just an email, which can seem pretty small compared to all the effort you've put in to get it. The excitement may not come until you have actually started school, when it will seem a lot more real! Good luck!
 
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