In order for you to set a firm base for your medical education, you need to set yourself a few standards to help you navigate study and social pressures. Below are 10 tips for new medical students to help you do so.
1. Understand how to learn and study at medical school
Med school is very fast-paced and there is a lot of work involved. The way you may have learned before may not be suited to this new and different way of learning. It is worth understanding what works for you now, as this will help your knowledge base and give you greater confidence throughout your time of the study.
It is great to understand whether you are a kinaesthetic, visual, or auditory learner. There are various ways to learn, for example, an auditory learner may record a lecture and play it back to help them memorize facts. Visual learners would learn well from illustrations or drawing out their own concept maps. Others are able to learn well in the classroom, whilst some are able to learn best at their own pace.
By understanding this, you will learn to study smarter, not harder. Be aware of when your mind wanders and you need a break, this may be when you are reading sentences multiple times, or you are just aware of a lack of focus, get outside, take a break, have a nap or watch some TV.
2. It is best not to compare yourself with others
The reason you are now in med school is that you have proved that you are capable of being the best you can be by getting this far. You will meet lots of people and discuss different ways of studying, people will talk about how many examples they’ve memorized and boast about completing the reading of Harrison’s Manual, and that’s okay. Try not to compare yourself to them, try and be happy and think about what you’ve been capable of.
Plan what works for you and gives you confidence in what you are learning. Put your efforts where it works for you and do not listen to other people’s (often) exaggerations. It is personally important to ensure that you, and only you know that you have prepared as best you can when it comes to your exams. It will take you further academically and support your mental health if you focus only on yourself.
3. Develop relationships with the staff and admin teams
These are the people who know more than yourself and the other students, they’ve usually been around longer. They will teach you about the medical school procedures and processes as well as what you are taught in the classroom. These people may be useful when you need someone to confide in, or need a shoulder to lean on. These people are neutral and can offer support that your peers may not be able to.
4. Find other med students who are further on in their studies
On a personal level, they will be able to give you advice on where to celebrate and take time to relax, and on an academic level, they may be able to advise on lecturers, certain course advice, and logistical advice about practical examinations. They have been through it all before, so they may be able to support and advise you on how to make fewer mistakes!
5. Take advantage of all non-academic aspects that med school brings you
Studying is obviously the main reason you are at medical school, but there are so many other aspects you can enjoy whilst there. Make sure you take the time to enjoy your personal activities and interests as it will have an overall positive impact on your well-being and ultimately your studies. Look into the teams and social groups you can join or create one of your own with people of similar interests, such as basketball, theater visits, or even tiddlywinks!
6. Keep a record of everything on your computer
Type it all and use CONTROL + F. During your first two years, you will cover a humongous amount of material and attend many, many lectures, and it will be vital to keep track of all your study notes. The function CONTROL + F will be your best friend when you want to look back and find something quickly within the huge amount of material you will have stored.
7. Mental health comes first
Everyone knows how important a balanced lifestyle is in everyday life, especially to help when studying. Sleeping well, eating well, and spending time with the people you care about, are all vital to your well-being. Anxiety and depression can creep up on anyone at any time, so be aware, and if you struggle, get help from the various sources that are available to all.
8. Developing new friendships
The people you meet in med school will usually have similar goals and interests as you. You will meet people who are the most distinct and dedicated people, with a huge amount of intelligence, just as you have. These people will be your peers and will help you with your networking, you will share study materials, they will help you create more cultural awareness and you can share your professional as well as extracurricular activities with them.
You’ll be surprised at who may become part of your social network, so make sure you keep an open mind and try to get to know as many people as possible.
Remember your friends and family back home, they may feel that you are becoming more distant / removed, so consider quick check-ins when you can. It will give you a break away from your studies, aid your wellbeing, and will help to make your day a little brighter.
9. Ask questions all the time, and seek support
You are bound not to know everything on day one, week one, or in your first semester! As soon as you recognize you need assistance, seek it, and don’t waste any more time. Every student is in the same boat, so make sure you seek advice and help from those who can support you, this might be your academic peers, professors, admin assistants, or your social network.
10. Play the doctor role from day one: be professional
As a future physician, society will view you in a particular way, this is not something you have direct control of, but you can play your part. People around you will notice your actions and words as a professional and your presence will be noticed. Your impact on others’ lives will be stronger than ever before, so embrace this honour and start now! It is important in the classroom and outside the classroom, to carry yourself with professionalism in every walk of life.
Always stay humble, this is the most important aspect to consider. Be kind and polite to everyone you meet, carry yourself with pride, and dress to reflect this – ditch your old t-shirts and sweats and dress to impress! Watch your social media posts and watch your language, these are all a reflection on you as a future physician (it won’t hurt to go back and remove any damaging historical social media posts).