After becoming a second year medical student two days ago, I looked back at the last year and gave each week a point value between 0 and 10 signifying my interpretation of medical school intensity where 10 is the greatest. Low points were often vacations (with the next few weeks prorated) and tallest peaks represent block weeks. Call me a geek if you will, but I think it's pretty cool to see the year in graph format.
Things I Wish I Knew
This last week of exams was not difficult academically, but was more so in anticipation of summer break. With one year behind me I have come up with a list of things I wish I knew before my first year of medical school.
- Not all the textbooks were necessary - In addition to presentations and notes, the textbooks added a valuable resource, but there was simply not enough time to read every assignment. Occasionally, books were not even used. Contact current students and find out what they recommend. If possible, get used or discounted books. Often times they will already have markings of the material that is important and you save a little money too.
- Much of the day is spent sitting - Time management is crucial to success. With excessive amounts of lecture and self study, there is little time to exercise. Elbows become sore and dry from hours at the desk, the back sore from pore posture, and the neck aching from constantly looking down. Exercise can be difficult to fit into the rigorous schedule, and it will make a great difference if included on a regular basis.
- Organizing study habits takes time - It seems like a moot point because most people who get into medical school have some experience in studying. As one who has never used a laptop during class in undergrad, it took some time to learn how to organize my notes. When I realized that wasn't for me, I had to move back to paper. Transitioning between school and home is a challenge that requires attention. Having specific times dedicated to studying and following them will help significantly. Do what you are comfortable with, and most importantly how you learn best.
- Associations are everywhere - At first it seems like you are struggling to get the fire-hose out of your mouth as far as information goes. Whether it is anatomical structures, terminology, or concepts it can quickly become overwhelming. For example, if you have experience with a condition you are studying (clinical, family or friends), it makes it a lot easier to remember and understand. Making associations to things you are familiar with personalizes the same message in a way you can comprehend.
- Get involved - At first it was hard to imagine that there would be time to do anything but read. Initially, I was going to avoid the groups and activities until I could handle more which was not wrong thinking, and permitted proper time to habituate. Study groups are vital to bounce ideas and thoughts around. Student organizations are a great way to participate in community events and gain more experience. There is no better time to become a team player than in your first year class.