August 30, 2020

4 Things to Know Before Starting Medical School

Miscellaneous
Nishtha Sharma

4 Things to Know Before Starting Medical School

Congratulations! You made it! You received your acceptance email/letter for medical school, and I am sure you are on cloud nine now. After maintaining your GPA, working tirelessly in extra-curricular activities, and writing numerous essays, you survived the pre-med journey!  

As you get closer to the start of medical school, feelings of anxiety can arise from not knowing what to expect as you go into the next phase of your journey. Do you use this summer break to begin studying? How different is medical school from undergrad? Will I have any free time to continue doing things I enjoy?

As a third-year medical student, I vividly remember feeling lost and anxious before starting medical school. I wish I had someone to guide me as I started medical school to make the transition from pre-med to med smoother. Hopefully, this article can be your guide and address some of your concerns!

The Fire-Hydrant

There will be A LOT of learning during the next four years of your life at medical school. The pace that information will be thrown at you will be as fast as water gushing from a fire-hydrant. It may be overwhelming at times, but I can assure you that you will adapt beautifully to this pace of learning. Understanding that it will take time to get used to this pace of learning and being gentle with yourself throughout this adjustment process, will help you overcome this challenge. In a couple of months from now, you are going to look back at yourself and see how far you have come!

Another thing to keep in mind is that not everyone in your class will be vocal about feeling overwhelmed.  However, you must constantly remind yourself that you are not the only one going through this. Everyone in your class is in the same boat as you, and everyone, at different times, will encounter difficulties in retaining and memorizing the abundance of information you all are being given in a short period of time. Keep pushing through. Within a matter of time, you are going to be running around in hospitals educating patients and teaching other medical students about everything you have learned.

Med School Environment

Surprisingly, medical school has more of a collaborative environment than a competitive one. After experiencing brutal pre-med competition in undergrad, it’s understandable to believe that the toxic culture may carry over into medical school. But it doesn’t! In medical school, everyone is rowing the boat together. Whenever I encountered difficulties in comprehending something from class, my classmates and peers turned out to be the best tutoring resource on campus. In medicine, the best type of learning comes from teaching others. Therefore, being able to teach peers a concept allowed me to solidify my own learning. Lastly, most schools implement collaboration by team-based learning assignments and projects. Medical schools understand the importance of teamwork for the best patient care outcomes in the healthcare field. Therefore, competition is not encouraged in medical schools. Due to the network of support in medical schools established through comradery, students are able to gain more support and stay motivated.

Choose my Specialty?

Many students come in knowing exactly what they want to specialize in, which has its pros and cons. Being dead set on one specialty gives you tunnel vision, causing you to miss other important and meaningful experiences in medical school. There is nothing wrong in coming to medical school with an open mind. This will allow you to thoroughly experience everything with an unbiased mindset and help you pick the specialty that works best for you. Most people say the third year of medical school, or rotation years are reserved for making that decision. There is no need to stress out before that if you don’t know what specialty you are interested in. Coming into medical school, your only goal should be to learn and grasp all general medicine principles well. In that way, you will have a sturdy foundation for when you begin studying for boards or rotations.

Wellness

Yes, you will have free time in medical school. It may not be as much as you did in undergrad, but there will be plenty of time to engage in hobbies, cultivate relationships with peers, and focus on well-being. While medicine is geared around self-sacrifice, it is important to remember that a physician’s well-being goes hand in hand with the type of care they can provide to their patients. A well-rested physician can think faster and catch red flag symptoms in patients. However, an overworked, burned out physician may overlook critical details in a patient’s history. This same concept applies to medical students. For students to absorb medical knowledge at an efficient rate, our brains need to be rested, rewarded, and encouraged.

Wellness for students is unique to everyone. For some, it may involve exercising, traveling, spending time with family, praying, or spending time with friends. Understanding the importance of wellness is key in learning at medical school. Don’t be afraid to pause studying for a while to engage in wellness activities. Wellness will help you strive to become the best student you can in medical school.

Feel free to reach out to our AcceptMed advisors if you have any questions or need guidance before you start medical school! Good luck on your next chapter in life!

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