As I begin my fourth year of medical school, I find myself reflecting upon what I have learned thus far. Medical school is tough. Especially, the first few years. In this post, I’ll share a few pieces of advice that may be helpful for students who are beginning their medical school journey soon.
Your classmates are smart and talented, but so are you.
Medical school can be an intimidating place. It is easy to compare yourself to your classmates, and feel less worthy. But, remember, you belong here! Try not to compare your progress with others. Everyone learns at their own pace and has their own study methods. Also, don’t feel bad about yourself if you don’t know an answer to a question. Trust me, there are many other students who also don’t. Lastly, while it may feel like you’re the only one struggling through the rigors of medical school, you’re not alone. Lean on your peers for support. You’d be surprised to find out how many people are feeling your same feelings.
You will have the most time during your first and second years.
After you (somewhat) get your bearings on the demanding schoolwork, you should start getting involved with extracurriculars. Take on leadership positions, start shadowing different fields of medicine, and reach out to faculty to help on research projects. Your pre-clinical years is a great time to get involved in what brought to you medicine, explore your interests, and to build up your resume for residency!
Take time to do what you enjoy every day.
It is important to learn early on in your medical school journey how to set boundaries and to make time for yourself. I know, it’s hard. It takes a lot of self-control to step away from studying when you feel like there’s room for you to learn more. But, it’s just as important for you to do other things outside of medicine. You need to keep doing things that you did before medical school. Things that make you happy. Take a weekend trip to see your family. Go out to eat with friends. Create a workout routine. Medical school is a marathon, not a sprint, and learning how to make time for yourself early on will prevent burn out!
Your study habits and techniques will change, and that’s okay.
Medical school delivers way more information at a much faster pace than undergrad. The workload is tremendous. At first, you will use trial and error to figure out how to best retain as much information as possible. For example, some students like Anki, while others prefer Quizlet. Some students like reading a textbook, while others prefer video lectures. Be patient with yourself as you explore different learning methods. It took me about six months to figure out what worked best for me during my first year of medical school. Also, keep in mind that learning styles changes based on the topic. For example, you may study differently for anatomy than pharmacology. Even the transition from in the pre-clinical to clinical phase requires you to re-figure out what the best learning method is. Some tips I have for this- Make note of what works and what doesn’t. Make minor, not major, changes to your learning methods. If possible, review your exams and try to figure out what went wrong. Be patient and trust that you will eventually find what works best for you!
Use upperclassmen as mentors.
You should gain insight from people who have already gone through what you’re about to experience. From learning about effective study techniques to the electives you should take, they can save you time and frustration in figuring it out on your own. Don’t be afraid to reach out! Many medical students are happy to answer your questions!
Congratulations on getting into medical school and good luck!!!!