5 Things I Would Have Liked To Have Known Before Starting Medical School

Hello everyone, I hope you are all having a great summer break! The previous blog I posted had a lot of information (didn’t it?) so I thought it would be nice to write about about some things I wish I would have known before embarking medical school, specifically the first year of medical school. So without any hesitation, here is my list:

1. People can fail, and worse-case scenario, repeat a year

I always thought that the hardest part of medical school was getting in. You have to get great grades in undergrad, be involved in a million of things, take the MCAT and do well at it (or attempt to do well), have a solid application, be a great interviewee etc etc. So once you get that acceptance, it is a home run from here on out right? Uh….not quite. Medical school is challenging in the fact that you learn so much within a short period of time. The things you learn aren’t difficult, but…it’s a LOT. So expect to fail. In fact, if you do not fail an exam during one year of medical school, do not be surprised if you do the next year. The most overwhelming part is that if you fail a final exam, you might get held back depending on the course. Like what?! I was so used to the undergrad lifestyle where you retake classes that you did not do well in during the summer or the next year, all while maintaining your next status. But not in med school :(. I got lucky that my school allows us to retake a final if you fail because in other medical schools, however, they do not allow for that to happen. Make sure to look into that before you commit to a school because you never know what can happen.

2. Just because your school is pass/fail, does not mean you are not being ranked

I was so excited to finally be at an institution that was pass/fail. No GPAs which meant less competition and more collaboration. My classmates and I were all the same, finally. Or…at least I thought we were.

Even though the curriculum is P/F, our school still ranks us based on our exam performances. It’s a big deal to a lot of us because of getting in prestigious programs like AOA, matching into good residency programs etc depends on these rankings. So I guess it makes sense. But I wish someone would have told me that some exams I pushed to the side would be calculated into our ranking…ugh. And if you fail and have to retake an exam while most of your classmates pass, welp, there goes that ranking.

Honestly, my mentality now is to pass all my courses and Step One for the first two years of medical school and then focus more on ranking during my third and fourth year, where is matters more based on your performance during rotation. Hopefully, it all works out in the end.

3. Medical school is kind of like high school again (and a little like premed undergrad)

Yes, this is the sad truth. You are in a small class where everyone is striving for the same thing. In high school, it was getting into college. In medical school, it’s getting into residency. There’s many student organizations (too much in medical school in my opinion), student council, dances, fundraisers etc. Uggh I did not like my high school experience that much so I am getting a little PTSD in medical school. Some things I like about medical school over high school is that everyone is driven and we all take the same classes together as a cohort instead of having separate periods. But I miss the diversity that I had in high school (and my high GPA).

The way medical school is similar to undergrad is that the process of getting in residency is pretty similar to getting in medical school. You have to be involved (ugh), do research (double ugh), take board exams, do applications, get LORs etc like seriously? I just got out of that mess, only to be back in it again. So just a heads up!

4. There are many hidden fees

Medical school is EXPENSIVE. Like they forreal got me selling an arm and a leg out here. There are lack of grants and scholarships, unlike in undergrad, so make sure you save up while you are living in those blissful times. After you pay tuition and all the other fees listed on the massive bill they send you, they got little tiny fees that they want to tell you about halfway through the semester smh. There are student council fees, equipment fees, book fees etc. Also, if you want to join organizations, some of them make you fork over some money too. And if you want to have the latest qbanks and video subscriptions, you better hope your trees in your backyard grow money because they take you out with their own costs as well.

Thankfully, students from years past have made drives filled with old books and videos that incoming students can use. Are some of these things copyrighted? Yes. But are we broke out here? Of course. So honestly, I would not feel bad using them for educational purposes because we got to do the best we can to do well in medical school and get out.

5. Everyone’s way of life in medical school (studying, getting involved, socializing) is different so try not to compare yourself to them and do what is best for you

Last, but not least. I remember for certain classes, upperclassmen and some of my classmates would say that they would study one way for a class to get a certain grade but that way was not clicking for me. It was not until I found my own niche that I was able to thrive on my own.

It is really easy to get caught up on what everyone is doing. There are some people who are able to be involved in three organizations, have a social life, have great grades and are just overall well-rounded people. I would like to strive and be that, but I am trying to be realistic with myself because I know how difficult it was for me to try and be that person in undergrad. This is easier said than done, but please, do not compare yourself to others and focus on your own strengths. Sure get help from others, but do not try to become them. Because in the end, your uniqueness will be your defining character as a physician, not the other fluff that everyone is so caught on. I try to remind myself this every so often, because this advice will be crucial as I continue on this journey.

And that’s all. I plan on posting a blog every week for the next five weeks I will be on summer break because I want to let out everything I know right now before I forget or get too busy to do so (cough *second year*). Please let me know if you have anything you want me to write about. Again, please enjoy this summer break!

P.S. Check out this blog which is a resident physician talking about things he wish he knew, it’s pretty insightful: https://joinatlantis.com/blog/5-things-i-wish-i-knew-before-starting-medical-school-3/

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