Your first year of medical school might be the most challenging year of your entire academic career. You will likely get hit mentally, emotionally, financially, and physically. It’s like drinking out of a fire hydrant! With so many things coming at you at once, how do you handle it all? There will be new environments, new faces, and new material that you must adapt to while restructuring old relationships habits. Making the transition from being a premedical to medical student isn’t always easy. You need to plan ahead and make sure you are prepared. Here are a few areas of change and transition that you should prepare for.
Environment: Finding a new place to call home for medical school can be tough. Many premeds sneak in a few weekends to visit the campus and view real-estate. Some buy their first home, rent apartments/condos, or move in with family or friends. You will need to look into factors such as distance from campus, nearby distractions, cost, and safety. Many medical student and housestaff vehicles were targeted in my apartment parking lot because their white coats were left out on the seats. This always caught the attention of the local addicts searching for prescription pads or those ignorant to the fact that med students are broke. You want to choose a safe location where you feel comfortable driving or walking to at odd hours of the day. The last thing you want to worry about while in medical school is getting robbed! Research your environment very well since many hospitals tend to have a few rough areas in the vicinity.
Relationships: Medical school will affect every relationship you have. Plain and simple, your friends, significant other, and family will likely not understand the dedication medical school demands of you. The hard truth is that many relationships will not survive due to distance and lack of quality time needed for growth. This may actually be a good thing for some but may also be very painful. I have witnessed a number of friends call it quits with their long-time girl/boyfriends but I have also seen others leave medical school because it hindered their relationships. And then there are those who came into medical school somewhat prepared for the challenge. They continuously informed their loved ones about what to expect, set their priorities, and actually grew stronger with them through the journey. At the end of the day, many students come to realize that it was better for them to break some bonds and strengthen others through the process. That’s just a part of life.
Class Demographics: The medical school body may not look exactly the way you expected. It certainly wasn’t the student body I was prepared to meet. My class was a very diverse group of students mainly in their early to mid-20s. Most surprising to me was how socially adept the majority of the class was. This wasn’t the studious crowd I was used to seeing in the library at odd times but rather they were the intramural athletes, student organization leaders, and fraternity/sorority members. Be prepared for a lot of partying in medical school. These people will share a special bond with you. You’ll be surprised just how much you will like your classmates and how many lifelong friendships you will develop.
Studying: Attempting to drink water nonstop from a fire hose…that’s what learning in medical school is like. You will quickly learn that premedical studies were child’s play compared to medical school studies and begin wishing there were more hours in the day. Learning the best way to study so much material will be a challenge initially but be careful not to stress over it. With time, you’ll figure out what works best for you! Also, it is important to filter all the advice you get. Everyone seems to have the “best” strategy for your studies. Many first-year medical students fall into the trap of buying nearly every book in the book store simply because someone else recommends it. It is very easy to spend more time researching which books to buy and how to study that you do actually reading the book itself. These books aren’t cheap by the way. By the end of the year, hopefully you will have begun to develop concrete study habits that work well for you.
These transitions might be tough, but they are definitely doable. What you want to avoid is med school shock. Go in knowing what to expect and things will be much better for you!
Are you a premed? Join Diverse Medicine now. It's free!