Medical school is a completely different animal than college. You’re jumping into a new world and learning a new language. Here are four things you need to know before starting your first day of medical school.
1| Study Habits Need to be Perfected
Even if you were a top student in college, like I was, your study habits will more than likely need tweaking, like mine did. Trust me, I’ve been there. From active versus passive learning, to time management, focus tricks, study planning, and more, learning the material in medical school is unlike anything you’ve ever done in college. It’s crucial to understand your personal study style – what works for one person may not work for another. Are you a visual or auditory learner? A morning person or night owl? How is your focus after meditation or working out? Are your most effective studying at coffee shops, the library, or at home?
Luckily, our free blog posts and videos will get you well on your way to studying more effectively and efficiently. That means better grades with less time studying. Talk about a win-win. If you want to really take your studying to the next level, our tutors and doctor advisors can guide you better than anyone.
2| You Will Doubt Yourself
Imposter syndrome is not uncommon. “What am I doing here? Do I really belong? Am I good enough?” This tends to come up particularly for students who are not performing optimally in their first or second years of medical school.
Remind yourself of the reasons you went into medicine and are becoming a doctor. Have compassion for yourself – no one is perfect, and we are all bound to make mistakes and struggle at some point. The key is staying resilient and even becoming antifragile. How will you address your struggles? Will you be proactive and actively create a solution, or passively feel sorry for yourself? Reach out for support, critically assess and be honest about what is and is not working, and make the necessary adjustments.
A struggling first year medical student recently reached out to me. He was struggling with depression and his course work suffered, but he managed to completely turn things around. He wanted to give back and help others who may be in a similar situation, so he wrote a blog post chronicling his struggle and victory. It’s actually quite inspiring.
Everyone is dealt a bad hand at some point. How you play your cards is the secret.
3| Professionalism and Hierarchy of Medicine
At each stage in your education, you’ve started from the bottom and slowly worked your way to the top. In high school, you started as a freshman and by the time you were a senior, you felt like you ran the place. Similarly in college, freshman year was a significant adjustment, but by the time senior year came around, things were smooth sailing.
Medical school is similar, but I would argue even more pronounced. You’ll again be at the bottom of the hierarchy: attending physicians > fellows > residents > medical students. For better or worse, medicine is a very tradition-bound profession and hierarchy is closely adhered to in teaching hospitals. Know your role and excel at it before moving to the next phase, and don’t get ahead of yourself.
What I mean is to be sure to respect the hospital staff and your colleagues. I have too frequently seen overzealous and arrogant medical students disrespect the nursing staff or other healthcare workers. Not only is this is an ineffective way of carrying oneself, but those nurses will make your life a nightmare. You’ll realize that residents and medical students who are respectful of their peers, and more importantly the nurses, physicians, and other hospital staff, tend to fare better than those who don’t. This holds true for life in general, but even more so in medicine. Again, you’re in a traditional hierarchal profession, where those above you will control several aspects of your training – so be respectful!
4| You Will Change Your Mind About your Specialty, Constantly
There are a few people that just know. I thought I was one of them, loving the idea of being a gastroenterologist, and… I ended up matching into plastic surgery. You can learn my story of how I went from GI to plastics on my VLOG channel. It’s totally fine to change your mind or to not even have a clue. That being said, the only way to truly determine if a specialty is a good fit for you is by spending time in that setting. Read about it, speak with others, but more importantly get hands-on experience in the form of shadowing, clinical research, and appropriate selection of your third year clerkships and electives.
For those of you just starting, remember that you most likely won’t know your speciality until you do your clinical rotations. And if you think you do already know your specialty, be prepared to change your mind. A lot. Get exposure where possible, but prioritize your MCAT, getting stellar grades, becoming a competitive applicant, and matriculating to medical school.
Let me know down in the comments what you are most concerned or apprehensive about regarding medical school. For those of you who are already in medical school, what do you wish you knew on day one?