Medical school is considered by many to be one of the toughest academic programs a person can go through. It requires years of intensive study, hour after hour spent in libraries and lecture halls, and more exams than you can imagine in your worst nightmare. Medical students quickly learn many survival mechanisms to get them through medical school. As a medical school graduate myself, allow me to impart some of my key medical school survival tips.
Get enough sleep.
Yeah, I’m going to start with a tip that doesn’t involve studying. One of the worst mistakes I’ve seen medical students make is to not get enough sleep. There may be a week here and there where you just aren’t going to get enough sleep – and that’s fine. But month after month, you cannot maintain that. It’s very important to sleep. Studies have shown that memory consolidates better if you sleep well – so you can make a strong argument that sleeping actually helps your studying.
Be efficient with your time.
Medical school is largely a practice in time management. There is enough time to get everything done (well, not always, but usually), but you don’t have time to waste. Even little things, like living close to campus, can make a big difference in the end. Don’t ever procrastinate. You’ll regret that immensely.
Learn to love reading and studying.
If you aren’t the sadistic type who loves to live in libraries and read arcane medical textbooks, medical school may not be for you. Learn to love studying, you’re going to be doing a lot of it. And by “a lot” I mean “really insane amounts”. You’ve never studied as hard as you will when you’re in medical school. If you don’t take a positive attitude in to this work, you’ll wash out. You have to love studying.
Exercise is good for you for any number of reasons. It gets you away from the books, if only for a short time. It allows you to sleep better. Exercise keeps you in shape and makes you mentally and physically tougher and more resilient. It also gives you something to do that gets you out and shakes up your routine. In my first year, I was able to get out for a 30 minute run every afternoon, after my last lecture. This did wonders for my mental health. Find the time – find a form of exercise you like. Do it. No excuses.
This sort of goes hand in hand with the exercise tip. If you don’t eat well, you’ll feel like a lazy lump, and you won’t be as efficient as you could be. Not much more to say here… you know what to do.
Be on time.
If a meeting, class, lecture, or anything starts at, let’s say, 2pm – be there at 1:50pm. Don’t ever be late. The instructors and doctors you are learning from are very busy people – very few things will annoy them as much as wasting their time waiting for you to wander in. Don’t be late. Ever.
So there you are, some of the top medical school survival tips. You may have noted that most of them are lifestyle in nature. There’s a reason for that. Medical school survival is as much about creating a lifestyle that is conducive to learning as it is about anything else. You don’t have to be a genius to survive medical school, you just have to know how to navigate all the obstacles. Good luck.