Last Updated on December 28, 2022
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How To Prepare For Going To Medical School
Now that the start of medical school is in sight, you might want to know more about what a typical day as an SGU student looks like. For a behind-the-scenes look at what being a first-year student entails, check out our article What Is Medical School Like? A Day in the Life of an SGU MD Student.
Join social media groups and connect with peers
- Create your ideal study space
- Supercharge your time-management skills
- Explore different career paths
- Take some time to appreciate your accomplishment
The proverbial “drinking from a fire hose” aptly describes the knowledge that a medical student is expected to learn. As a first-year student, you will be exposed to all the fundamentals of the sciences: the interactions of chemicals forming the basis of DNA in biochemistry class, how tissues look under the microscope in histology, and at the organismal level, how the human body functions in physiology class.
In addition to the medical knowledge, you will also receive a crash course on the art of doctoring, where you will learn the core skills such as interviewing a patient, performing a comprehensive physical exam, and have discussion-based learning on the key tenets of medical ethics. The method of teaching will vary depending on the class, but expect to see small group learning, hands-on lab-based experiences, and lecture-style courses.
How did you cope with the huge amount of facts you are required to learn?
My advice is to find out your own learning style early. At the beginning of the year, experiment with the different learning tools and styles available to you.
Are you a “read a book, write down notes, and review”-individual learner, or are you a “study in a group, teach a friend”- group learner? Once you have identified the best strategy, you can set yourself up for success by incorporating the right strategies to cope with the knowledge volume.
The earlier you learn your study method, the quicker you learn, and the more time you free up for your social life. For the individual learner, I suggest using tools like First Aid, Pathoma, and Anki early to help you solidify information. For the group learner, start a weekly study group with like-minded people or find a study partner so you can help each other thrive.
Online tools such as Picmonic and Sketchy are great for the visual learner. For the audio learner, in addition to recordings from your lectures, I recommend using the free OnlineMedEd website in preparation for the wards.
How did you manage your money?
For the most part, once tuition and rent was paid, being a medical student did not require that much extra money. As a financial aid student, I was left with a small stipend that I could allocate to my life.
The largest expense was the purchase of textbooks and other learning aids. Lucky for me, my medical school has an electronic treasure trove of resources passed down year-to-year that I would always review at the beginning of each semester. I also used many online websites and scoured email list-serves from upperclassmen who sold gently used books.
As to budgeting for other expenses, I used a simple budgeting tool that was developed by our financial aid office that helped outline expected costs for each semester. As you transition to become a senior medical student, take notes of paid teaching opportunities with minimal time requirements that would help offset some of the larger expenses of the United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE) Step exams and residency interview travel costs.
How To Prepare For Medical School The Summer Before
Concepts, concepts, and concepts. The first two years of medical school focus on the minutiae of everything. There are so many details to memorize that you will absolutely get bogged down if you aim to learn all of it. Your top priority in prepping for exams should be to focus on high-yield and core concepts.
You will find, as you enter the clinical years, that the details will escape you, but if you have a solid foundation of concepts built from the first two years, you can often logically deduce the answer. Once you’ve mastered these concepts, you can then spend time mastering low-yield information.
Has medical school been what you expected?
Absolutely and so much more! The friendships you make through medical school will last forever. You will call on your friends over and over again throughout your life as you step up to residency and finally become a clinician. This is a journey filled with excitement, challenges, and funny stories.
Always remember your reason for wanting to do medicine during the tough times. There is no other time in your life where your sole job is to learn. So, become a pluripotent stem cell and fulfill your potential.
About What To Do Before Medical School Starts
It’s in your nature to plan ahead. For you, preparation played a key role in successfully completing your med school prerequisite courses, obtaining excellent letters of recommendation, and just about every other part of the medical school application process. It clearly paid off, because you’ve been accepted!
While you’re eager to begin your medical education, you realize you’re not entirely sure of how to get a head start. What’s the best way to prepare for classes?
Are there any to-do list items you can tackle? Are there books to read or specific things to know before medical school?
You might not be able to get a head start on your education, but there are things you can do to ensure you have a smooth transition from pre-med to medical student. There are a number of tasks you can complete that can help relieve any anxiety about starting medical school and will ensure you have a great experience — and you can get started right now.
Your path to Residency starts at St. George’s University. Are You In?
WHAT CAN YOU DO TO PREPARE FOR YOUR FIRST DAY OF MEDICAL SCHOOL?
You have every reason to believe you’ll excel as a medical student, particularly if you make use of the tips below. It’s also a good idea to keep track of your progress using the Accepted Student Enrollment Checklist to make sure you don’t forget any important steps.
You don’t have to wait for the official start of the term to begin connecting with classmates. There are numerous ways to meet and interact with other accepted students, including joining the Accepted Students Facebook Group and attending a New Student Welcome Session.
These pre-orientation sessions aren’t required, but they’re a great way to meet peers in your cohort and get answers to any last-minute questions you may have.
You can also request to get in touch with a current student who would be happy to discuss what their experience at SGU has been like so far. Many incoming students find it incredibly helpful to gain this type of personalized insight as the term approaches.
CREATE YOUR IDEAL STUDY SPACE
Remote instruction for medical school is just temporary, but it’s always a good idea to be prepared. The best way to be successful in your online courses is to set up a dedicated study space that’s clean, organized, well-lit, and free of any distractions.
It’s also wise to make sure that your workspace is designed with your health in mind. You might, for example, want to invest in a supportive chair and a laptop stand to make sure you’re comfortable.
You can get some more ideas and inspiration by taking a look at this welcome video from a handful of SGU Student Government Association (SGA) members, which shows how they’ve arranged their own study spaces.
Creating a dedicated learning environment can also make it easier to disconnect when it’s time to take a study break. Most physicians will tell you that prioritizing personal time is one of the most important things to learn before becoming a medical student.
SUPERCHARGE YOUR TIME-MANAGEMENT SKILLS
For many medical students, creating and sticking to a schedule is probably the most important tip for juggling everything. Start by picking up more time-management techniques like identifying the most efficient study methods for you and meal prepping. Once you determine your priorities, you can figure out how much time you should devote to your academic pursuits. Then you can figure out how much free time you have for relaxing and engaging in activities outside of school.
EXPLORE DIFFERENT CAREER PATHS
It’s never too early to start familiarizing yourself with the various medical specialties and subspecialties. One way to do this is by arranging some informational interviews with a few physicians. You can ask them about why they chose their specialty, what they like about it, and what advice they have for medical students.
Observing doctors in a health care setting is also a great way to gain a better sense of what different fields are like. While you’ve likely already done a fair amount of physician shadowing, it’s never a bad idea to seek out even more of these opportunities.
If in-person experiences aren’t possible, consider watching recorded procedures or videos that delve into different physician careers. These can be helpful in identifying your interests.
You might also consider taking advantage of SGU’s Doctors On Call events. These virtual information sessions focus on specialties ranging from neurology to pediatrics and feature SGU graduates who pursued those fields. These sessions are great for gathering firsthand insight on a variety of medical careers.
TAKE SOME TIME TO APPRECIATE YOUR ACCOMPLISHMENT
Lastly, take some time to recognize how far you’ve come. It took a lot of hard work and dedication to gain acceptance to medical school. You deserve a sincere congratulations for everything you’ve accomplished already.
And don’t be shy about expressing gratitude to all the loved ones who’ve helped you along the way. Your friends and family will genuinely appreciate that you noticed their efforts to support you as you’ve prepared for medical school. A simple, “Thank you,” is all it takes.
My biggest challenge for the transition to medical school was learning that it’s okay to say “no” to extracurricular activities. As an undergraduate, you have the flexibility of the curriculum to be involved in many activities, and it was possible to make up a day of missed school work.
In medical school, however, the density and the volume of the work and the pace at which it was taught made catching up extremely difficult. In the beginning, I would often find myself studying entirely on the weekend in order to make up materials I missed during the week.
As a new student, it is okay to turn down volunteer activities and other commitments until you have figured out your style and availability. Perhaps start by only joining one or two extracurriculars and then adding on more activities only if you feel that you have adequately mastered your study routine.
Personally, I found that the first two pre-clinical years were easier in terms of burnout prevention as there were dedicated breaks and vacation periods. I always had a trip or a break to look forward to after that end-of-term exam. Third year, as a medical clerk, was more challenging.
My friends were all scattered at different sites, and everyone had different schedules and unpredictable weekends as some rotations expected you to take call on weekends. I experimented with many strategies to keep myself mentally energized. Eventually, I landed on doing 15-20 minutes of yoga a few times a week and making sure I always had time to prepare and enjoy dinner.
Cooking may sound like a chore to many of you, but I found the routine and the joy of eating a delicious meal at the end of the day particularly satisfying. Regardless of your activity, may it be reading, meditation, or running, you need to set time for yourself at the end of each day, so you can escape to your happy place and take your mind away from work – even if it is just for a little while.