Everyone knows them: They’re the students who don’t necessarily seem to be the best or the brightest of the bunch, and yet somehow they are also often the ones who end up making it to medical school in the long run. They might not look the greatest “on paper,” yet they seem to have something that propels them above and beyond their classmates, gaining them eventual acceptances into medical schools, despite sometimes having to wait a few years past graduation to make it there. While every student is obviously his/her own individual “case,” it is inarguable that each of these highly successful premeds has found within himself/herself some way to get out of ruts and move forward. The following ideas are just a few of the things that such students often do.

They make intentional use of downtime

Being a “highly successful” premed doesn’t necessarily mean that you will get accepted into medical school on your first try. It does, however, mean that you know how to make the most of your “downtime.” Whether it’s working in a science lab or as a substitute teacher, the most highly successful premeds are those who know that even when things don’t go according to plan, all is not over. They realize that their downtime could actually be seen as a “gift” that, if nothing else, should make them all the more determined to make the most out of their eventual acceptances. Instead of complaining about how life is unfair at times, they take advantage of their “in-betweens” in life and turn them into meaningful times for personal growth.

They find positive sources of inspiration

Staying down and in a rut is easy if you surround yourself with things and people who will help you stay there. However, the opposite is just as true; choosing to find positive sources of inspiration who can lift you up out of a rut can be just as effective at determining your overall mindset as well. Successful students realize this and make use of this principle. They, like everyone else, can feel stuck and burnt out during their premed journeys, but they also know how to re-motivate themselves to think past their current situations. Whether it’s reading a good book, shadowing an inspiring doctor, or even volunteering for various organizations a few hours a week, these students find ways to lift their eyes out of the little ditches in their lives to the full, exciting roads that lie ahead of them.

They don’t make the same mistakes repeatedly

Unlike premeds who stay down in ruts, highly successful premeds know that perhaps the most important thing for them to do in order to avoid staying down forever is to avoid making the same mistakes twice. If they think they got rejected from medical schools on their first tries because of low MCAT scores, them they will retake the MCAT (and achieve higher scores) before applying again. If they find themselves feeling burnt out after a stressful school year followed by a busy summer of research, they’ll intentionally make time the next summer to relax and refresh. Overall, highly successful premeds don’t necessarily make different initial mistakes than other students; they do, however, intentionally choose not to make those same mistakes repeatedly.