5 Top Things You Should Know Before Starting Medical School

Congrats on getting into medical school!!!
Today, I am sharing some advice I wish I had received as an first year medical student! Enjoy and good luck!!

You belong here, be proud of yourself!

If you haven’t felt imposter syndrome (IS) before, you may experience it as a first-year medical student! In the context of medical school, IS is described as feeling less intelligent and competent than others. It is having feelings of self-doubt or insecurity, despite your successes. It usually occurs after working with other medical students and feeling like everyone else is wayy smarter than you.

As a physician in training, it’s good to acknowledge your weaknesses and be humbled by what you don’t know. But, don’t be a victim of your own self-doubt. It can be hard being surrounded by so many brilliant people, but remember– you are smart, you are capable, and you deserve to be here just as much as everyone else!

Be patient with yourself as you’re finding which study method works best for you.

One of your goals for your first year is to figure out how to learn a large amount of information most effectively and efficiently. Ideally, you want to have your method down before second year when a significant amount of the material will be on the Step 1 exam.

Take this year to experiment with flashcards, typed vs. written notes, powerpoints vs. word documents, class lecture vs. online recording, etc. Also, explore different supplemental resources and see which ones are most effective for your learning style. This takes trial and error, so be patient with yourself as you may not see results right away! 

Explore your interests!

After your first 4-5 months, you should be a little more ‘settled’ in (even though you may not feel like!). Since you’ll have the most free time this year, take advantage of it! Start to get involved with clubs and research projects that are interesting to you. That being said, spend your time wisely and make it count. Don’t sign up for a leadership position just because it’ll look good on your CV. It is better to pick one commitment and do it well than to have several commitments that you are not fully engaged with.

Also, get plugged into the medical institution and reach out for shadowing opportunities from physicians to explore different specialties! If you know which speciality you’d like to pursue, get connected to the head of that department. As an example, I recently reached out to the someone in the department I am interested in and she added me to their weekly research conferences and OR cases email list. That way, if I have some free time, I can attend their weekly research meetings or shadow a surgery! These are examples of some things you can ask about getting involved in!

Learn how to manage your priorities.

In medicine, there will always be more knowledge to gain and things to do, but you also need to learn how to balance your workload with self-care! Developing a sense of perspective of what’s important (exercise, eating healthy meals, hobbies, etc.) is vital and being able to assess when you need a break from studying is an essential part in your well-being and longevity as a future physician. Trust me, you have time to do things outside of studying and still do well in school.

Don’t worry about Step 1 just yet!

You don’t need to start studying for Step 1 until year 2! Some students will neglect school lectures and only focus on supplemental Step 1 prep material like Pathoma or Boards and Beyond right of the bat. This is not the best idea.

If you focus on acing your class exams, you’ll set yourself up well for Step 1! You should be using Step 1 supplemental resources alongside your class lectures, but they should not be your sole focus!

I hope you enjoy your first year of medical school!! As always, feel free to contact me with any questions!

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