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Lessons Learned From First Year

Originally posted on The Differential on September 3, 2008

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I’m sitting here in my room on the island of Kauai. It’s the week before classes resume and my second year begins. Coincidentally, I’ve met two of my classmates on Kauai within two days of arriving on the island.

Being this close to the start of a new school year, I can’t help but remember the feelings I felt before starting first year. I also can’t help but think about what I’ve learned during the first school year.

My cousin, who is now an OB/GYN, told me to just study like I did in college. Unfortunately for me, I hardly studied at all in college. I was in an undergraduate program that was heavily math-based. I used to cram and be alright for tests because all I needed to know were theorems and/or concepts. The rest could be figured out or derived during an exam. Medical school was a big shift for me because now the majority of my studying consists of rote memorization.

So, from the perspective of someone who has had his share of first-year struggles, here are some of the lessons I learned from first year.

1. Figure out your learning style and figure it out fast. This one seems like it’d be common sense. But sometimes students find out that their way of studying isn’t working and instead of changing their approach, they go at it harder. Personally, I felt that going to lectures helped me. But I know many of my classmates hardly ever showed up. If you thrive in a good group study, seek out some classmates and make a group. If not, then don’t be forced into one. However, even lone “study-ers” can benefit from the occasional discussion with classmates.

2. Seek help. Students who make it into medical school are used to being near, if not at, the top of their respective classes. It might be hard to ask for help. If you need help, put aside your pride and ask for it. At my school there are tutors available for the first and second year students. I think that if I had sought out a tutor, I could have had some better scores. Don’t wait until it’s too late to get help.

3. Make time to do other things. It’s really easy to get caught up with studying when the pressure starts piling up. But it’s important to remember to make time to do things outside of schoolwork. Volunteer to tutor high school students. Take up a new hobby. Continue an old hobby. Go to the gym. Or even go and volunteer at a free clinic so you can get patient interaction. Don’t let studying define who you are.

4. Study hard. Push yourself — at least through the first semester. Then, you can decide how much you can afford to pull back while still attaining acceptable (in your eyes) scores. It’s easier to “ease off the throttle” because you’re studying more than you need to, than to “floor the pedal” trying to catch up at the end of the school year.

5. Finally, visualize. Remember the reason you wanted to go into medicine. Don’t forget it. Then, picture yourself done with medical school and residency, and practicing medicine. Aim for that goal. Try not to let the stuff in between — the grueling hours of studying in medical school or running around in residency — get you down. They might be necessary parts of the journey, but they sure aren’t the destinations.

Good luck!

  • Pingback: Secrets to Medical School’s First Year « Medliorate()

  • tanya

    luv all your blogs, keep up the good job, i also an indo in llu looking into the future to go to medical school there. your blogs are insightful and very helpful. plez help!!!!

  • tanya

    luv all your blogs, keep up the good job, i also an indo in llu looking into the future to go to medical school there. your blogs are insightful and very helpful. plez help!!!!

  • Kauai! I’m jealous! My wife and I went there for our anniversary and can’t wait to go back!

    Great advice!

  • Kauai! I’m jealous! My wife and I went there for our anniversary and can’t wait to go back!

    Great advice!

  • Frances

    Thank you very much for taking the time to post this. Everyone should know about these things. I enjoy learning new things so I subscribe to blogs like yours. Frances

  • Frances

    Thank you very much for taking the time to post this. Everyone should know about these things. I enjoy learning new things so I subscribe to blogs like yours. Frances

  • Irma

    This is good info for us all. Glad you posted this. I will be subscribing to this blog. Irma

  • Irma

    This is good info for us all. Glad you posted this. I will be subscribing to this blog. Irma

  • Hey this is good stuff. So glad you posted. I like reading blogs like this. Sandy

  • Hey this is good stuff. So glad you posted. I like reading blogs like this. Sandy

  • Bob

    Cool blog, like what I read. Will be back to read more. Adding to RSS feeder. Bob

  • Bob

    Cool blog, like what I read. Will be back to read more. Adding to RSS feeder. Bob

  • dr.sms

    hi jeff

    very cool post and blog this is my first visit and i’ve bookmarked u

    good luck in ur life and thanks for these advices

  • dr.sms

    hi jeff

    very cool post and blog this is my first visit and i’ve bookmarked u

    good luck in ur life and thanks for these advices