Congrats to the folks who are about to start their journey into medicine! This post is for
you because in a few short weeks, you’re going to get smacked in the face with painful reality. Right now you’re bright-eyed and bushy tailed, beaming with pride and stocking your closet with professional clothes. You’re thinking about meeting your new classmates, how you’re going to study, etc. Orrr if you’re wise, you’re on a beach with your friends and a drink in your hands because you’ve already realized that there’s no point in stressing out this early. I’m writing this to tell you everything (well some main things) you need to be set up for success.
The time to stress is coming. Take advantage of this time to get sleep, hang out with your friends, spend time with your family. If you wanted to go the extra mile, this would be a great time for you to pick up some kind of relaxation/mindfulness technique. Breathing exercises, meditation, yoga, etc. are great mechanisms to have in your back pocket for the stressful times. If you developed them now, they will be second nature when you really need it.
2. Develop a healthy habit
If you don’t already have one, I highly suggest this! Probably the best thing I did for myself before starting school was start running. I talk about this in other past posts. I never in history did distance running. Running a mile was actually scary for me. But I wanted something that could challenge me and take my mind off of the world. And I felt like if other people could do it then I could too. And the key word is habit. Whatever you decide (yoga, pilates, weight training, running, kayaking, rock climbing, dance, etc), it should be something that you keep up with at least on a weekly basis to help you escape from your woes. The other key word is healthy. Binging TV shows or stress eating are not healthy habits. It’s important to have something else so you don’t resort to these things all the time.
3. Find your study style, sooner than later
Hopefully you figured out what worked for you in college and can easily translate that to med school, but this isn’t so for everyone. Or you may be some years out of college. Also if what worked for you was hand-writing notes (like me), you may want to experiment with other more efficient styles of learning. Some styles include audio (listening to lecture multiple times), visual (finding youtube vids, flow charts, diagrams), reading (textbooks, lecture handouts), talking (quizzing with a friend, explaining concepts out loud), writing (self-explanatory), flashcards (anki, quizlet), etc. There’s a ton, and everyone will subscribe to their own unique combination. You should try them early and quickly decide what works best for you.
4. Ask for help as soon as you think you need it
Don’t let your pride get to you. Don’t think that you can just wake up 3 hours early/stay up late and you’ll get it on your own. That may be true from time to time, but once you realize that you’re struggling with something, you need to phone a friend! Lean on your friends, study partners, or even ask someone who you may not be as close to if they understand the material. The thing is that everything builds on top of itself. If you get by without understanding something, it will eventually come back around and bite you. So for your sake, exhaust all your resources to make sure you comprehend as much of what is thrown at you as possible.
5. AVOID COMPARISON
This is the biggest one. The most dangerous. Please take it from me: everyone in med school wears a mask. Everyone looks like their lives are great and things are easy (you’ll do the same thing–no one will know that you spent an hour crying the night before). They will lie about how much time they spend studying and make it seem like you’re crazy for taking a while to understand something. You have to be your own comparison. Each week you compete with yourself. You aim to surpass your set expectations and no one else’s. Just be assured that everybody is struggling–you are not alone. As you get to know people and form deeper relationships, you will open up and share your struggle with people that you trust. And they’ll give you the most reassuring words: “girl, me too!!”
Heed my advice! I know what I’m talking about. You will have a happier, healthier transition into and through medical school. Wishing you the best! Please share with your friends that will soon enter their first year!