Second Year of Medical School
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Acing the Second Year of Medical School (Part 2)

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In this post, I continue to provide tips and tricks on doing well in your second year of medical school. If you’ve haven’t read part one then click here first to get advice that is more academic based.

In this post, I’ll focus on things outside the lecture hall and the syllabus.

Explore Different Specialties:

Most medical students don’t know what they want to do. Unfortunately, the hectic schedules hinder us in exploring potential career paths.

While it’s true that many students find what they love during their clinical years, it’s never too early to begin looking.

In addition, the pressures of performing well on clinical rotations may also prevent you from properly focusing on a specialty you wish to pursue.

It’s much easier to shadow during you first and second year of medical school where there is little expectation of you. The physicians know you’re early on in your education and this makes a great opportunity to explore a potential specialty.

Also after shadowing one physician, don’t suddenly decide that you love/hate that specialty. Every experience will be different, and it’s recommended to have multiple experiences before you can have a clear picture.

Bottom line, don’t stop exploring and shadowing. You’ll wish you had done more when you finish your coursework – I surely do. 

Get Involved in Research:

When people hear of research many may have the immediate reaction to gag. Yes, research isn’t for everyone, but it’s better to know if it’s for you or not earlier than later.

This tip is incredibly important even if you’re remotely thinking of doing something competitive and research oriented. You don’t want to be in your latter half of medical school trying to crank out research projects while managing a clinical workload.

The summer after the first year is a great opportunity for you to get involved in a research project. It provides you 2-3 months with a mentor and the responsibilities of a project.

If you’re like me and didn’t do research during the summer, you can work on a project alongside your classes. The key here is to be explicit about the time commitment you can put on in the project.

I’ve worked on a few projects that would normally take 4-5 weeks during the summer but asked for 2-3 months to get it done. Physicians are often understanding of your availability and will give you more leeway during the semester.

Don’t Become Boring:

The second year of medical school can be hell if you just study, study, study. In fact, it’s quite easy of falling into the trap of studying from sunrise to sunset.

Thus develop a routine which has you studying for either a specific amount of time a day or complete a certain amount of material. Once you’re done, you should go out and enjoy your day!

One thing I’ve noticed during my second year is that student becomes more and more serious about their studies.

Maybe they haven’t done as well as they wanted and now they’re putting in more hours. They could also have done amazing during the first year and have a desire to do just as well in their second-year curriculum.

While it’s important to do well, you need to constantly evaluate how well you’re managing the stress that comes with studying. If you’ve gone a week of long hours and nothing fun or social in between, you’re on the path of burning out if you continue.

To combat this I always suggest that you plan something fun every day before you plan you’re studying. It can be at the start of your day or the end, but it prevents you from performing the following cycle: waking up -> studying all day -> going to bed. I’ve previously discussed how I minimize my time studying toless than 5 hours a day.

I also recommend encouraging social gatherings with your peers. Some of your peers will be more unavailable because they’re more dedicated to their studies. While this is admirable, we also don’t want our friends to go on the path of burning out. Thus encourage social lunches and dinner or weekend activities if possible!

When you’re a second-year student you realize how close third year truly is. Mine is only less than 3 weeks away at this point (Yikes!). If you think you don’t have free time now, then you’ll be in for a surprise when you’re no longer on a flexible school schedule.

So have fun now before the time constraints increase!

Take Care of Your Body:

It’s a common to hear students that say they haven’t worked out in over 2-3 weeks.

Normally that may not be so bad, but being a second year medical student is an extremely sedentary lifestyle. We wake up and sit for hours studying, attending lectures and different activities, and we rarely move around much.

Plus add in all the Starbucks coffee we drink with the “healthy” fast food that we pile on into our days; it’s a recipe for disaster.

Try to do something that will elevate your heart rate at least once every other day. Go to the gym 2-3/week.

Also, try not to eat out more than twice a week. Your body will thank you and your focus and energy levels will rise.

Moral of the story is don’t let yourself go. It can be quite challenging to become healthy in medical school if you’re not already. The stressors of medical school will make it more difficult to transition to a healthy diet and activity level, so don’t fall too off the wagon.


So there you have it. While there are more tips and advice that I’d like to give, I think these will serve as the foundation of your second year of medical school. If you can master each one of these items I know that second year will be one of your favorites. It was mine for sure.

If you still haven’t read part one for study tips and resources during the second year of medical school, click here.

Comment below if you have any questions or advice to provide others. I’m glad my second-year experience was an enjoyable one and hope that you can take these tools to aid you in yours.

If you enjoyed this article, check out similar popular articles below:

Studying with a Memory Palace in Medical School
Studying in Medical School: How to Use the Feynman Technique
Medical School Tip: Why You Need a List of Done
5 Tips on Succeeding in Medical School
Medical School Success: Studying No More Than 5 Hours A Day

If there is something specific you’d like me to address in a future blog post, comment below or email me at [email protected]

As always please like, share, and subscribe. Sign up for my monthly newsletter to receive updates on new blog posts. By signing up you also get access to my free eBook, Top Ten Resources for Medical School. Sign up here!

Top Resources For Medical School

If you’re a first or second-year medical student wanting guidance on how to succeed in medical school, read my book, The Preclinical Guide. I provide all the tips I wish I knew day one of medical school. Check out the book here.

Top Tips for Medical School

Until next time…

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