Perhaps you weren't meant to be a doctor.

So another semester is coming to a close, and despite my best efforts, I have not been able to raise my GPA. Instead it keeps going downhill. No matter how much studying I’ve done, I can’t seem to get those A’s. I always aim for an A, but usually get a B or sometimes C. I know that premeds are “a dime a dozen” (as another poster put in in another thread). I’ve changed my study habits, started studying at night and sleeping afterwards, and this has helped my grades somewhat. But it has not been enough. Again, I just couldn’t recall all that I had studied, and I studied a lot. Did self-testing, quizzed other students.

I am not normally one who believes in pre-ordained fate, but lately I’ve beginning to wonder if there is such a thing. The academic obstacles and stumbling blocks that I’ve encountered just never end: labs experiments gone wrong, failed tests, bombed quizzes, mixed-up deadlines, etc. It appears that I can do little right in my courses. For example, I’ve been getting C’s in the parasitology/mycology lab and B’s on the lecture tests for the same class. In order for me to get an A in the course, I would need to get a high A on the last two labs tests and last two lecture exams. But alas, that wasn’t meant to be. I got a C on the lecture exam and a C on the lab exam. It looks like this entire semester will be B’s.

One of my best friends is a 3.99 premed. She consistently gets A’s on all her tests; studying with her has helped me a bit, but she clearly has a significantly better memory than I do when it comes to recall during tests. I wish there was some way to acquire her recall ability; it’s very natural for her.

Recently we were discussing my premed quest and she brought up the quote, “Perhaps you weren’t meant to go to medical school, perhaps you weren’t meant to be a doctor.” I am beginning to think that she is right.

What do you think about that question? You’ve been working very hard for a very long time. Do you have more in you? I have to warn you that medical school and its exams are even more dependent on the ability to memorize facts and retrieve them quickly in exams.

If you couldn’t be a doctor, what else would you be? This may be a good time to give the question serious thought. Is this career for you? If it isn’t, what is? I am so sorry you have had such struggles. You may have a big decision to make now, and that too, will be a struggle. Take the time you need to make it well.

Have you really exhausted all avenues? Have you tried a tutor? Are you working and going to school at the same time?

These classes are tough and need 100% of your time allocated to them. I had to stop work so I could concentrate my classes.

Here are some other things that I have tried that might help you. Reduce your TV watching (I had a bad habit of watching too much TV). Study in a library and not at Starbucks or other loud places.

Do not try to work and go to school. We are now older and need more time to study. Do not try to compare your memory with your friends. You will only get depressed. We all learn differently and at different paces.

If you have tried all the above and more, then maybe it is time to do something else. If not, then it is time to step up.


Each week, almost every other day, you post the same thing. You got a C, or a B or a D, you’ve repeated classes, and keep telling yourself that you are not worthy.

Today, you compared yourself to someone else who gets or got an A.

I worry about your self-esteem bashing and how that has to affect you. Machinating every week about what to do, how you did, where to go, what you’re doing wrong, is all going around the root issue.

Anyway, you already know my thoughts and my concern for you. I hope you find it within yourself to get the real help you need. I don’t for a second believe it’s that you’re not smart enough; it is the “other” thing entirely.


There are such things as Non Cognitive Variables. These are things that the adcoms will look at and make a decision about acceptance based on these even though your grades or MCAT scores may not be up where it is optimal but were enough to grant you an interview.

Thank being said, I agree with the above poster that you are focusing on what is going wrong with your studies. I can tell you from experience if you do not have the confidence in yourself that you will do well, then you will not succeed in medical school. Unlike Undergraduate or even graduate work, there is no such thing as dropping a class. You are allowed, in some schools, a maximum of 5 years to complete the program.

You need to sit down and think long and hard about what you want to do for your future. If it means taking time off to regroup then do it. But treading water and not getting anywhere will only get you more upset and hit your esteem even harder.

  • samenewme Said:
What do you think about that question?

I take that question to mean that perhaps medicine is not the field for me despite my desires and efforts. Sometimes things never work out for some people, and as other posters have corroborated, perhaps it is time to pursue something else. Not all of us can get what we want; hard work is not enough.

  • thomasfx10 Said:
Have you really exhausted all avenues? Have you tried a tutor? Are you working and going to school at the same time?

I don't if I have exhausted all avenues; I have hired a tutor in the past. My problem isn't understanding the material, it is recalling that material, especially under testing situations.
  • jkp2117 Said:
I hope you find it within yourself to get the real help you need.

I am seeking that help you suggested. But I am still in the preliminary stages; I had my first interview last Friday and they want to do some testing before going further.
  • gabelerman Said:
. . . grades or MCAT scores may not be up where it is optimal but were enough to grant you an interview.

I don't think would get an interview with my grades. I haven't taken the MCAT, but I've put it off because of this memory/recall problem. And about the 5 years to finish medical school: that is also bothering me because I know I could finish within the 5 years, but I've purposefully prolonged my post-bacc to try to improve my grades. Hasn't helped.

I know that I have been posting my problems here as of late. But I really feel that I need to vent somehow and somewhere. For years I just kept my academic problems to myself, but that was taking its toll. Sorry if that offends anyone.


I am going to be very blunt and honest but with NO intention to hurt your feelings or bring your self esteem down. NOT all people have the potential to be X or Y period. There are folks that would love to be an engineer/physician/mathem atician/chemist but just do not have the academic prowess to do so. This has nothing to do with DESIRE or HARD WORK but some of us are just not wired for certain things. Also, as we get older things DO take longer to absorb/learn/ recall and if on top of that you have memory problems/ability to recall/academic deficiencies it is super hard to overcome. You have been posting a lot regarding your struggles to get A/B grades in undergrad classes which compared to medical school classes and the USMLES are super doable. You would have a HUGE amount of difficulty based on what you have posted to even be able to recall and do well on medical school exams where the information is at the speed of light. Please really reconsider “other” options for yourself at this point. Try another field see how that “fits” and then go from there. If for some reason three-five years down the line you are able to take classes and ace them and your recall is better then maybe you can try this path again.

  • efex101 Said:
Also, as we get older things DO take longer to absorb/learn/ recall

Efex, I think that you are painting this issue with a pretty broad stroke.

Though I do not necessarily know the OP's history, I do know that semantic memory / cognitive ability decrease is negligible until about the 6th or 7th decade of life (sometimes not even then).

After that, long term memory recall DOES decrease, but again, this happens on an individual basis and there are multiple variable to consider(depending on whose intelligence theories you are reading).

I still firmly believe that there is a place in medicine for everyone.

Persistence and determination will win...if the desire is there.


I have to disagree. Medicine is not for everyone and not everyone can be successful with hard work, perseverance, and a good, strong, noble dream. Every year, several somebodies in most med schools don’t make it. Many of them work VERY VERY HARD. It is best to work hard as a pre-med, sure, and be perseverent, sure. But it is also wise to engage in some introspection now and then and really assess your chances of success. I think it is preferable to do this before signing that first $42,000+ promissory note.

I do not know if Nahani is at a point where it is wise to throw in the towel. But I do believe this is a time to really think about things.

I have to disagree, things to take longer to learn/absorb/regurgitate for those older than a 20 year old that is WHY most folks go to school/undergrad/grad when they are younger. Sure, it may be a minor decrease in memorization but ANY decrease will be HUGE in medicine where the amount of information is astronomical. Believe it or not but I have seen it first hand with all the non-trads in my medical school class and with other non-trads on this board and other boards. Take it like you will but the bottom line is that it is best to tackle degrees while you are young and spry and have NO other issues competing with your time. It is NOT impossible but it does take more work as we age. No, I am not going to look for the study but it is there in regards to non-trads in medical school.

Also, there is NOT a place in medicine for everyone thinking this is quite ludicrous IMHO. Perseverance and hard work alone will NOT do it period. You have to be able to absorb a lot of information and have the know ho to apply it and take a huge amount of timed exams lasting 8+ hours to two days period. Not everyone is cut out for this due to a variety of factors. I am not saying that Nahani is intellectually inferior I am saying that maybe he/she should rethink this path based on the multiple posts with multiple attempts at classes with less than stellar results.

I agree with efex. Each step of medical training requires an ability to manage large volumes of information that is frequently changing. The skills and information you learn in the prerequisite courses DO matter when you are a physician. If you cannot do basic algebra, then you cannot calculate peds med dosing. If you cannot write a coherent essay, then you will not be able to write coherent grant applications, patient notes, or patient letters (just to name a few). If you cannot understand basic experimentation or produce a good quality research paper, then you cannot critically evaluate patient diagnostic and treatment studies.

In undergrad and medical school, you have the luxury of time. Time to study, time to take care of your life outside of med school (i.e. bills). Once you enter residency, you now work the equivalent of two full-time jobs and you are expected to absorb volumes of information on a regular basis. After internship, you take Step 3-- two full 8 hour days of standardized testing. In undergrad, I wrote a paper about the failings of standardized testing. However, standardized tests are a SIGNIFICANT reality in my life and I must face them head on. No amount of desire made me pass them. Being able to learn and synthesize VOLUMES of info got me past them.

And it doesn’t stop there. In 10 months I will be taking my neurology boards, for which I will pay $3000 for the privilege of an 8 hour computer standardized exam. This month is peds neuro and I am expected to become very proficient at it as it is 1/3 of my boards but I only do three months in residency. Next month is neuro pathology-- one month to learn an entire textbook. Psychiatry was one month last year–again 1/3 of my boards. The challenge is learning the details of diseases and testing that you DO NOT see in everyday practice. Again, I can cry about it if I wish, but the reality is that I must learn it to pass the exam. Additionally, knowing these details is important to know about when taking care of patients. If you do not know about a disease, then you will not think about it when you are diagnosing a patient.

Just my two cents from the front lines of residency about to go into practice.

I have to agree with efex on this one - it could be that you need to sit down and have a heart-to-heart with yourself. Why do you want to be a doctor? Why not any number of other healthcare careers? It could be that deep down you don’t really want to do it and this is causing internal stress that is sabotaging your scores. At the same time, you do need to stop bashing yourself - science scores are not a measure of your worth.

  • gabelerman Said:
You need to sit down and think long and hard about what you want to do for your future.

This has been suggested many,many, many times to the OP, but he/she just isn't listening.

I agree with Efex (as usual) but will add this once again. Take a break from school NOW before irreparable damange is done to your academic record.

Not now, has never ever meant now ever so let the classes go for a while!

Also, your worth as a human being is NOT defined in any shape or form by your career/profession/job. Maybe as a pre-med it may seem that way but from the trenches believe me it is NOT worth sacrificing your sanity, family, health, well-being. There are a PLETHORA of very rewarding careers out there that can be highly fulfilling and give you a great sense of accomplishment while truly helping others (if that is your cup of tea).

I do not pretend to know much if anything more than the others that posted here. But here’s my opinion, which may have been brought up before–I haven’t followed all your posts, so I don’t know.

OK, you say you understand the material but then you can’t recall it during test time.

A few things come to my mind.

One is that you merely “think” you comprehend and understand the material. I’ve seen students do this. Some things may click somewhat, and they “think” they’ve got it. What I know about students (myself as well) is that the more they truly and deeply understand something, the more connections they/I make with things they/I already know–the more it sticks.

Random information can tend to “fall out of your brain,” so to speak. But if you connect that to other things and meaningful understanding, it gets “locked in.” Sure there are some exceptions, and there is also a curb of forgetting.

I also find that many students are NOT truly active readers, and they do NOT know how to get into what they are learning. To me, “getting into it” is KEY. If you are not getting into it, there may be a subconscious issue of not truly being motivated enough. Sometimes we think we want things on one level, but at another level, there is indication that the deeper desire really isn’t there.

Also, certain things must be learned sequentially and systematically. If there is a weak link or break in the sequence, it can then weaken further learning. There is definitely something in the concept of learning “line upon line, precept upon precept.”

People do, say, x amount of problems, and they think they really have it cold. They have the basic idea, but there are often weaknesses–weak memory or understanding traces. The only way to overcome those weakeness in order to move forward is to iron out the fundamental wrinkles by systematic and sequential practice–daily, weekly, monthly, etc.

It’s kind of like learning to play piano. You know why so many kids quit–besides perhaps not truly being innately talented? Well, it is because of the regular, systematic, sequential practice, practice, practice, ad nauseum that is required. And then some put the time in, but the quality in the practice sessions is just not there–again, they are just not into it–or they want to jump into harder stuff before they have strengthened their core, fundamental understanding and ability. My daughter used to practice classical pieces like this. She’s a bit on the hyper side of things. She could do certain classical pieces with such nimble, adept, quick fingures. And when she had to be slowed down in order to learn certain nuances or complex portions of pieces, she would get frustrated–to frustrated at times.

Yes sometimes you have to take a break from a particular piece and move to another one; but there is no getting around the practice–the regular, frequent, consistent practice–and also in refreshing on pieces that you may have already mastered–and also in slowing down in order to gain increased understanding or ability.

And again, there is that curb of forgetting. Yes, it stinks, but we all have to contend with it. Consistent practice–even when we are bored or tired of something is what makes us better. Although Beethoven was innately gifted, he still had to practice ad nauseum–and he had to get into pieces that he wasn’t always thrilled about–and he had to slow down when and where it was necessary. Same thing with Eric Clapton.

So if there is weakpoint in the sequence of learning, it will negatively affect further learning and development. Do you really know and fully comprehend the material? Could there be weak links in the sequence and the process? Teachers have to move through material relatively quickly. They merely touch upon it; but the students have to develop it in terms of depth and sequence, systematically on their own or in groups with other learners.

And then there is the issue of the EQ power behind learning and accomplishing a particular goal. There is a strong desire for something, but on some level, another part of us knows there are aspects of it that perhaps we can’t or don’t want to live with.

It’s like the music business or acting. Many folks “think” they want it. But when the drudgery, politics, and business-machine of it takes over and becomes increasingly more visible, the motivation is diminished–sometimes substantially.

Sometimes, for some folks, all the negatives that come with getting to that kind of fame and then living with it just work against their core being. Example, personally I’d hate people imposing upon my space and life–dealing with paparazzi and not being able to freely come and go as I please without some sense of unwelcomed strangers imposing upon my privacy and my own space. The aspect of it actually causes me a fair amount of negative anxiety when I think about it. And I have performed in crowds and have stood before people to present and teach. So it’s not now an issue of stage fright. I just know I need my space. It’s kind of like how I feel about being smashed together with many people in an elevator. I do it as I need to, but honestly, I am not at all thrilled about it. LOL, and I’m from the east coast–not the mid-west–where folks are rolling in more open spaces.

My point is there may be underlying aspects of this whole course of preparing for medical school or becoming a physician and the actual change of life that your heart/soul just can’t fully be open to. And that is why the others’ suggestions about taking some time and making some space to openly think about all of this are good. It is good to explore all the dynamics at play–not just the academic ones–not merely the possible discipline/motivation issues or any IQ or memory issues, but the EQ issues. In my view, working in healthcare, I will say that EQ is just as big as IQ–perhaps even bigger.

You don’t seem to be hooking things together come test time, and that may not be so much an IQ/memory issue as it is an EQ issue.

Yes some things do come easier to some folks than others. But those that have soul-searched and evaluated EQ aspects of a particular goal and what is truly in their core being are still into it. They continue to plug away and succeed, b/c they compensate for where/what they may be weaker by way of where/what makes them stronger. They mitigate their weaknesses–and pure motivation and commitment move them through as they exploit (maximize) their strengths to move toward their deeper desire.

The other thing I will share with regard to students I see and teach is that there must come a time where students learn the process for desensitizing themselves to tests–overcoming test anxiety.

Simply it is this. People need to test themselves, or better yet, be formally tested ad nauseum. Even in nursing school this was an issue for students only to a point. In order to prepare the nursing students for state board examination–at one time a two, full day testing process–where the questions were filled with many confusing, yet plausible choices, the schools that showed the highest scores for passing and highest board scores did this one thing. They tested the students A LOT and OFTEN in the course of the years in the program–and they did this with similar test construct. (Those confusing yet plausible choices–rarely any that are truly optimal–which in terms of treatments and such is what you learn in nursing school–that is, the optimal course for problems and treatments–least that is how it was in my school.)

But testing was simply routine. It was like brushing your teeth or showering. It was routine–but the edge was that the tests counted, so if you didn’t do well enough, you’d never make it to graduation and board examination. The tests counted a lot–so not all the anxiety was gone–but that can be a good thing. The testing never ended. It was incessant.

By the time people graduated, their level of feeling overwhelmed by tests was gone. Now, not all of the anxiety was gone, and as it turns out, a balanced amount of anxiety is a good thing–it increases brain activity and alertness. Too much, however, ‘chokes up’ the brains pathways, so to speak. Good desensitization teaches you to use the “fight or flight” to your advantage. It teaches you that during, say exams, psychologically and emotionally you will not take “flight,” but will be pumped up for the “fight.”

So in summary I would suggest these things:

  1. Evaluate whether it is that you truly know and comprehend the material–not just in terms of base facts, but in terms of application. Question your DEPTH of knowledge and also how you can apply that knowledge to practical scenarios. Of course you are not going to be Phd level in physics. But of the most important concepts, how much do you recall, understand, and how well can you apply that knowledge?

    2.Evaluate if this is an EQ issue. Is this (becoming a physician) really what is in your soul–or is it the idea of what you want? When you back off and take some time to figure this out, find some physicians with whom you might shadow–and not just for a couple of hours or so. Get as much day in and day out exposure as you can–and even get some off-shift exposure. Nothing like working the off-shift to test your stress-endurance. Some people simply can’t do the whole off-shift or endless hours thing. Example, my husband just can’t do it. He never could.

    Often what we think we want, when challenged with the core realities of what it is is quite different from the reality–what it mostly entails. Sure, you won’t get the full breadth of understanding on the reality shock end of things by shadowing; but you can get a better idea.

    Healthcare in general is a very trying field to work in for reasons too numerous to relate right now on this DB. Physicians often carry the major brunt of it. Sure, we nurses have stuff that we must answer for and carry with us; but at the end of the day, a lot of the burden falls upon the physicians. And the sheer bulk of their work is often overwhelming–in number, in difficulty, in responsibility and accountability. The process of becoming a physician is so difficult, b/c overall, the work and accountability load is so great and difficult. I know you know this on some level mentally, but emotionally it helps people to try to see the MAJOR difference in actually functioning day in and out as a physician and simply that of playing one on TV. Truly, it’s, well, exhausting, grueling, and even though we nurses may think we corner the market on our work being thankless, well, actually, being a physician is often a thankless job as well.

  2. Evaluate whether or not you are overwhelmed by test anxiety. If this is true, you not only need to deeply understand the material, but you need to desensitize yourself by way of testing A LOT. And the tests have to cost you something. They have to be real.

    Go to a Prometric center, or a place like it, and speak with these folks. You need to be regularly and formally tested until you have only enough anxiety to make you alert enough to increase and enhance focus, not take away from it. And that truly is a process of desensitization for some folks.

    Yes, I used to have serious stage fright. How did I handle it? I kept peforming, got voice coaching to control my breathing and vibrato, and I learned other various techniques. After I learned a lot, I realized that I would always have some level of nervousness, and THAT IT WAS ACTUALLY A GOOD THING.

    I learned that part of the problem was in me fighting it. It’s sort of like going through labor. If you learn how to work with the contractions, the process goes forward with more focus and ease. Fight labor and not only may it get stalled, you will get broken down, defeated, overly exhausted, and unable to complete the task w/o having to go the sad way of many, and that is C-section. (My bias I know. Yes I am fully aware that many times it cannot be helped. I also know that for too many years it has become too common place, when it was really unnecessary–same thing with epidurals–but I digress. . .) No, labor often isn’t easy, but you find that if you are in shape and prepared well, most often it is very doable.

    It’s like exercise. The first so many times around the track, you wonder if you will die, and how you would so much prefer to be lounging in the pool or in front of a warm fire with a nice glass of Merlot. But you continue to push forward, and in pushing through the resistance, it actually becomes easier.

    I embrace the nerves in that I don’t fight them; rather, I get excited by them–I get pumped up by them. A manageable about of nerves and anxiety is good. It means I’m alive! It means the thrill of what I’m doitg is before me! It means I can now more openly move toward a flow-state!

    And when people have test anxiety or public speaking anxiety or performance anxiety, they need to not fight the nerves; rather, they need to embrace them and use them to move into their flow-state.

    Personally, I think we perform best when we are in this flow-state. When you hit it, it’s like the nerve stuff has been swallowed up by the joy of what you are doing and what you are into in the moment.

    But you can’t get to that point until you first embrace the nerves, the discomfort, whatever it is that leads to the stirring up within you. And then when you are stirred, you learn to befriend it and enjoy it, and thus can move into flow.

    I hope this helps you. This is an opportunity for you to figure things out; and if you want to–and if you want to find out your true purpose and joy in life, with the right help and focus, I believe you will.

    Finally it is So true that we are so much more than what we do. Our essence and value and our joy is in who we are within and what, at least I believe, we were designed for.

    Take some time out and find peace, joy, inspiration, and find what it means to connect with something wherein you move freely within your flow-state.

    You are so worth it.

Darn I just now re-read that post. Should read “curve of forgetting. . .” LOL

What were my fingers thinking as they were happily typing along???

Yes, I am letting the classes go for a while, but I think the damage has already been done to the GPA. At this point, I’ve decided to give up.