So you made it to medical school, congrats! You’re probably an excited and pretty damn nervous. What is the first year of medical school like? What should you expect? How hard is the first year of medical school? What are some good tips for the first year of medical school?
So many questions – slow down then there. Jokes aside, in this post I will go over my favorite tips for the first year of medical school.
Let’s get to it!
How Hard is the First Year of Medical School?
While medical school is difficult, it’s not as hard as everyone makes it out to be.
Yes, doctors and medical students are smart, but this idea is a little misleading.
Many students are geniuses – I’m not one of them. Still, I’d consider myself to have above average intelligence and capable to be a good doctor.
What makes a medical student into a great doctor is the continual practice and time we put in medical school.
Most students would agree that the toughest part of medical school is remaining consistent.
But the actual material in medical school is not much harder than your college classes.
So how hard is the first year of medical school? It’s like eating a plate of pancakes!
Pancakes? Sign me up!
The pancake analogy is my favorite way to describe what the first year of medical school will like.
Imagine if you were given a plate of pancakes to finish every day. No big deal right? You’ll likely welcome it (everyone loves pancakes).
But the catch is that anything you don’t eat today will but added to your requirement for the next day.
Miss a few days here and there and you can see how your pancake requirement can add up quickly.
This is medical school in a bubble. It’s a daily requirement of pancakes which can make you sick if you’re not consistent.
The ability, or lack thereof, to remain consistent with your material (pancakes) every day is what makes medical school difficult.
If you can commit from the very start that you will finish your plate, medical school will be completely manageable.
Don’t Forget Your Hobbies in Medical School:
Too often the approach for first-year medical students is to first figure out medical school and then add in their hobbies and passions.
No! That’s the opposite of what you need to be doing.
If you allow it, medical school can take over your whole life.
You should, instead, focus on scheduling medical school into your life and not your life into medical school!
Check out the posts below and this YouTube Video on how I manage my time in medical school to keep up with my hobbies and spend time with my loved ones! These are my favorite tips for the first year of medical school.
I hope I can serve as proof that you’ll have enough time to enjoy your life in medical school. I’ve written a book, written over 70 posts, began a youtube channel, put in hours on NBA 2K, got engaged in medical and much more! Check out The Preclinical Guide where I teach every first and second-year medical student the tips for a successful pre-clerkship period!
Don’t Pull Late or All-Nighters in Medical School:
For some reason, people attribute medical school to lack of sleep.
On most nights I get 6-8 hours without any issues. This is even while I wake up at 4:30 every day.
In addition to the lack of sleep, medical students assume you should expect to pull a few all-nighters in medical school.
I never pulled an all-nighter in medical school studying. (I did pull a few while working at a Type 1 Diabetes camp).
If you watched the above Youtube Video, you see how I emphasize the importance of setting a stop time and using Parkinson’s Law in medical school.
Both rules will help you not only enjoy all of your days but prevent you from working late into the night.
Seek Out Patient Exposure ASAP:
We’re going to medical school to become doctors yet we don’t see that many patients our first year of medical school. That doesn’t seem right.
Many schools are changing their curriculum but still many institutions limit the patient exposure their first-year medical students get.
Maybe it’s a form of coddling and hand holding. But you should do everything in your power to see as many patients as soon as possible.
While it’s important to learn the anatomy, physiology, and pathology of the human body, you likely will learn best with hands-on experience.
So seek out patient exposure such as free clinics in your city. You can volunteer at local health related community projects (health fairs, blood banks, etc.).
These experiences will keep you motivated to keep going in medical school.
But more importantly this early exposure will get you past the steep learning curve of good patient care. Since you’re not used to talking to patients there is often an awkward phase.
You much rather be awkward in a stress-free volunteer event instead of a rotation you’re graded on.
I was fortunate enough to participate in a variety of free clinics my first two years. I also used my first (and only) summer in medical school to work at a Type 1 Diabetes camp. These experiences got me past that initial awkward phase when interacting with the patients.
By the time I hit the wards, I received great feedback on my comfort level from my attendings and residents.
So get to it and start pretending to be a doctor from day 1! Your third and fourth-year self will thank you!
Don’t Come In With a Predetermined Mindset:
One of the most popular words in medical school is “gunner”. A gunner is a negative label you never want to receive.
While the term is becoming more of an umbrella term, the concept is the same. It’s a student who wears their interests and accomplishments obnoxiously on their sleeves. They’re very vocal about their success, stress, and how bad they want to become an astronaut dermatologist practicing orthopedic radiologist.
While it’s totally fine to be interested in a field from day one and express your interest, don’t overdo it.
You will isolate yourself from your peers. Medical school is meant to be a community so don’t make every opportunity to make it about you and your life. Learn to remain humble 90% of the time.
In addition, I believe there are first-tier and second tiers gunners. We already talked about first-tier gunners, but what’s a second tier?
Honestly, a second-tier gunner may be more damaging than the first tier type.
A second tier gunner is someone who comes in with a pre-determined mindset. They “know” exactly what kind of doctor they want to be and their only goal is to get there.
While having an initial interest is perfectly fine, it can be damaging if you begin to see medical school another four years you need to get through.
I’ve personally seen peers (some who are no longer in medical school) make their whole medical school experience about one goal. They refused to attend social events, always were vocal about their stress, and just forgot to enjoy the little things which make being a medical student great.
You may say that as long as they achieve their goal it’s fine. But what if they learned (as many do) that they either have different interests or don’t have the grades and application to pursue it.
So come in with an open-minded. Regardless of how big or small your goals are, allow yourself the flexibility to enjoy medical school. It’s probably the one of the most important tips for the first year of medical school I can give you.
Hope you enjoyed these tips for the first year of medical school!
If there is something specific you’d like me to address in a future blog post, comment below or email me at [email protected].
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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.
Until next time…