Congratulations on your acceptance to medical school, you are one step closer to achieving your dream of becoming a doctor. Your undergraduate grades, MCAT score, extracurricular involvements, and clinical experiences demonstrated your ability to succeed in getting into medical school. But more importantly, you expressed specific motivations that admission counselors believed were strong enough to push you towards graduation. Over the next four years, keep reminding yourself of all the reasons you chose this noble profession of healing. Your professors will test your drive in the classroom and the clinics. The speed at which you are expected to learn may seem daunting, but it is doable. There will always be an exam creeping up and deadlines without enough time. Here are six tips to help you make the most of your medical school experience.
1 | Learn How You Learn Best
Learning is a skill you must master as a medical student. The volume of knowledge you will be expected to understand is exponentially more than you had to in undergrad. Take an online self-assessment; it will help you identify your learning style and will share effective study methods. Regardless of the learning technique employed, avoid cramming. Instead, space out your review using a program like Anki. Spaced repetition will help you do well in class, and when the time comes, makes board studying a bit easier. Another study tip is to answer as many practice problems as possible. Ask your professors for questions, refer to textbooks, purchase question banks, or form a study group to create and share questions with explanations. Most importantly, learn as much as you can because medical school will provide you with the foundational knowledge you will need as a resident and attending physician to treat your future patients.
2| Find Help Early If You Are Struggling To Keep Up
Honing your learning techniques may take some time, but the professors will continue their lecturing. It may seem impossible to catch up. But it is feasible, you just need to be efficient. Most medical schools have their lectures recorded; attempt to listen to the lectures at 1.5x or 2x speed. Another option is to work with other students to divide the lectures and share the essential objectives of each lecture. If these techniques do not lead to expected results, reach out to the course director for further guidance. You can also find tutors at Med School Insiders. You deserved your acceptance to medical school, so do not doubt yourself. All medical schools want their students to succeed, and they will help you, especially if you reach out.
3 | Connect with Peers and Your Professors
The primary goal of attending a medical school is to learn about the human body, diseases, and the healing process. However, realize that everyone around you can teach you something. Medical schools attract talented students and experienced clinical faculty. Your peers can not only help you with your academic weaknesses but also help you develop new hobbies. Your clinical professors can also help your development outside of the classroom. It is essential to build genuine connections with your professors; they have a wealth of knowledge and can aid you in specialty exploration while acting as a source of support and advice. Medical school is your chance to learn medical knowledge and build your professional network. Eventually, you will be providing medical care to patients and may need a colleague’s expertise in making a medical decision.
4 | Balance Work and Play
Studying medicine has the potential to take up all your time. At first, you may feel like you need to study every second of every hour, but that is not sustainable. Allow the pressure of doing well to be a source of motivation; however, too much stress will eventually lead to burnout. Unfortunately, medical students commonly sacrificed sleep and physical activity first. Realize being sleep deprived and inactive is counterproductive. It is best to organize your schedule to include adequate rest, study periods, short breaks while studying, and enough time away from studying to feel refreshed. The volume of information will always feel neverending, but with a well-rested mind, you will be more productive and have a better time learning. Find activities you enjoy: painting, sports, nature walks, reading, writing, anything outside of medicine. Medical school is challenging yet enjoyable if you manage your time and find a balance between studying and life outside the library.
5 | Explore All Your Options
When you applied to medical school, your goal may have been to become a clinician, to see sick patients and provide them with any relief possible. The clinical aspect is only one of many career options you have as a doctor. Your medical degree opens many doors, especially if you register for a combined degree program. Obtaining an MBA provides students with a fundamental understanding of financial statements and business management. Finishing an MPH program provides you with skills to gather data that informs on a population’s health need and the ability to influence government policy. Having a Ph.D. is helpful for students interested in academia or research. However, obtaining one of these degrees is not necessary for everyone. With the right connections and experiences, your medical degree can be enough. Medical school is your opportunity to pursue internships, research, or any other career interest you may have.
6 | Find Early Shadowing Opportunities
As a first-year student you will learn the details of many diseases, some common others rare. After a few weeks, the list of conditions starts to blur unless you keep up with your review. Another method of learning is observing the disease presentation in the clinic. Your clinical professors may be managing patients with a disease they are responsible for lecturing. Having a strong connection with your professors could lead to a shadowing offer. This early access to patient exposure could solidify your clinical understanding of the disease and teach you the reality of patient presentation and management. The textbooks and lecture material are an excellent start to learning, but listening to patients, reading their labs, and participating in a physical exam will help you see the bigger picture in medicine.
Attending a medical school is a great accomplishment but also the start of a new endeavor. The skills needed to learn must be perfected to succeed. The ability to learn from your peers and professors can lead to professional and personal development. Your academic performance is essential in your career development, but so is the ability to maintain your life outside of the classroom. When feeling overwhelmed, remind yourself of why you chose to become a physician. The skills and experiences you gain in medical school will define the trajectory of your career. While these four years will be some of your toughest, they will also fly by quickly. Find the time to laugh, learn, and live.