🥼The Modern White Coat 🩺

What The Top 5% Of Med Students Do [How You Can Do The Same]

Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links which means I may get a commission if you make a purchase through my link at no additional cost to you. Thank you for your support!

Being on the medical journey as long as I have (3 years of college, 4 years of med school, 3 years of residency, 1 year as a hospitalist, and as a cardiology fellow) – it’s easy to get used to setting the bar high.

If you’re going to go through this crazy long journey – might as well reach a high degree of success right? 

And with that desire comes a particular focus on what other top performers are doing. 

I was lucky to have gone to college, med school, and residency (and now fellowship) where there were high achievers all around me. 

Here’s what the top 5% of students (and doctors) do differently. (And how you can be more like them) 

In today’s newsletter you’ll learn:

  • Where to focus your attention to get the most growth & results in the shortest time
  • Why top performers are experts are experimentation 
  • Why those are the top are the best “chameleons” 

These approaches will help you be on your way to being a top performer or at the very least – getting to your desired potential on the medical journey. 

1. Work Is Nonnegotiable

As much as I like to look for easier shortcuts to boost my productivity – to be at the top, the work is required. 

Plain and simple. 

Remember that rarely does anyone gets to a top-level without putting in the work.

The peers and mentors you look up or want to emulate all have put in the work (even if it’s the background. 

So if you truly want to be one of the best or want to get into a competitive specialty or program – ask yourself this…

… are you putting in top 5% worth input and effort?

Or are your inputs at a “normal” level?

There’s a reason that not everyone has a 6 pack, high board scores, high GPAs, great evaluations, etc.

Extraordinary effort + consistency is needed to separate yourself from the pack.

So if you have big goals – that’s great. But is your input and effort worthy of your ambitions?

It’s a nice self-reflection tool on if you’re being over-ambitious or just under performing.

(And if you’re okay with putting in the effort but want to know the best strategies to implement on your medical journey – then this entire playbook is for you). 

2. Constant Tinkering 

The same peers that were at the top when I was in high school are not necessarily the individuals I see at the top today. 


A combination of persistent ambition and “tinkering”.

What’s “tinkering” exactly? 

It’s a proactive process of evaluating: 

  • What’s working
  • What needs to be improved
  • And what small things you can do to possibly see progress

Not every “tinker” or dial change is going to work. That’s part of the process. 

But when you evaluate everything you do on the medical journey including: 

  • How to study better and learn info better
  • How to plan your time more effectively 
  • How to keep on top of your motivations and emotions
  • How to be effective on your rotations, leave good impressions, and grow your clinical skills
  • How to prep for exams and take them with confidence
  • How to set your CV up for success

… you will find opportunities to make improvements. 

And the more you “tinker” the quicker you’ll find effective solutions for you. 

(It’s how I was able to create these strategies for myself that have worked for thousands of other students) 

3. Be A Chameleon 

There is something underrated about being liked in the medical journey. 

And I’m talking about true genuine “that person is awesome” kind of comments. 

On the medical journey – you need people to vouch for you constantly. Letters of recommendation for med school, residency, fellowships, jobs, scholarships…

It never ends. 

You need the right people in your corner. 

Now there are two versions to make this happen: 

  • Version 1: Suck up to those with power & influence & forget about the rest
  • Version 2: Be a genuine decent human being, work hard, and impress naturally

I would think that the latter is what everyone would pick. But (as you may already have a few examples in your mind) this is not always the case. 

But version #2 is what I like to call the chameleon model. You can blend well in any environment & group of people. 

And the truth is many of us have a combination of both #1 & #2. If we’re not careful – version 1 will begin to creep in and we’ll rub people (and decision-makers) the wrong way. 

I’ve seen in repeatedly that those who have bulldozed themselves to success continue to try Version 1 and eventually pay the price. 

It’s led my peers to not get into the med school, specialty, residency, or fellowship of their choice. 

Your reputation is everything and word spreads fast in the medical journey. 

So as simple as it sounds – to be at the top – work on the soft skills required to be effortlessly liked. 

Be a hard worker. Be kind. Be a team player. 

Be humble. (So underrated). 

Share your honest interest with decision makers, continue to work hard in their presence & absence, and doors of opportunities will be there. 

Want To Start Using This Advice? 

These are simple yet effective tools the top 5% use to set themselves apart. 

Here’s what I would do next to be on your way yourself: 

  • Review the level of your inputs. Are you putting in the level of work required to get the results you want or is there a mismatch? 
  • Consider having at least one day a week where you take 10-30 minutes to review how the main pillars of your medical journey (studying, time management, CV building, rotations, research, etc.) are going. Pick one to make small improvements on for the next week, review, and repeat.
  • Ask how concerned you are with forcing decision-makers to like you vs. putting in the work and being a chameleon 

If you don’t think you have all the tools of the trades to be in the top 5% – I cover all the strategies I wish someone had given to me on the first day of med school in this free resource here. 

If you want all the step-by-step strategies I used in medical school for every single phase, course, rotation, board exam, etc. – I cover it all with our all-in-one playbook in the Med School Blueprint here. 

And if grades are your main struggle – use our personalized help to get you results like these. 

Or — if you’re not ready to dive in to a course yet, just get started with today’s advice and share your results with me on social media or email! 

Hope this helps spark a fire! 😀

Thanks for being a part of my journey. Hopefully I was a little help to you on yours. 

Until next time my friend…

Lakshya Trivedi, MD

Whenever you’re ready, there are 4 ways I can help you:

1. The Med School Handbook:  Join thousands of other students who have taken advantage of the hundreds of FREE tips & strategies I wish I were given on the first day of medical school to crush it with less stress. 

2. The Med School BlueprintJoin the hundreds of students who have used our A-Z blueprint and playbook for EVERY phase of the medical journey so you can start to see grades like these. 

3. Med Ignite Study ProgramGet personalized help to create the perfect study system for yourself so you can see better grades ASAP on your medical journey & see results like these. 

4. Learn the one study strategy that saved my grades in medical school here (viewed by more than a million students like you). 

Subscribe To Our Newsletter

Join 11k+ readers of The Modern White Coat for exclusive tips, strategies, and resources to study & learn better better, manage your time more efficiently, crush our boards & rotations, and remain happy throughout this hectic medical journey.