1. They’re done trying to weed you out
You’ve made it to medical school, congrats! Admissions looked at you extremely thoroughly, analyzing nearly every element of the past few years of your life. They are confident that you’ll make a great doctor. Now they’re going to support you in every way they can to get you the residency spot that you want. At this point it’s seen as a failure of the school if you don’t make it, so take a deep breath and relax knowing that all the your school wants you to succeed.
2. Everyone is freaking out, but there’s no need
The biggest thing that I wish someone would drill into all first year medical students is that everything will be fine. I remember feeling like there was no way I could possibly manage all the material and that my classmates were somehow different than me. I actually thought that I had faked my way into med school, that I looked good on paper, gave a good interview, but really didn’t deserve to be here. But you’re here for a reason. Admission into an MD program in the United States is extremely competitive and thorough; you can’t fake your way in. You got in because you’re brilliant, you’re hard working, and you’re well rounded.
3. Surround yourself with good people
Inevitably you’ll have a crappy exam and do less than stellar at some point over the next four years. If you open up to someone about it and they make you feel crummy about it, don’t hang out with them. Med school can be an incredibly competitive environment but it shouldn’t be an isolating one.
Also, the first few weeks everyone is going to try to be cool and find their place. Just relax, be a nice person, and you’ll find a solid group of friends organically. And try to not judge people by how they may act in the first semester. Everyone is trying to define themselves as medical students and figure out who they are.
4. No one cares what your MCAT score was
You worked so hard for so long simply to get to this point, have pride in your hard work but at this point it’s completely irrelevant. Some of you may rest assured that no one will ever look at your MCAT score again but others may be bummed that it doesn’t matter. But whatever your score was, it got you here and that’s what matters.
5. Sign up for extracurriculars
No matter what you’ve been told, you will have free time in med school. Sign up for student government, clubs, volunteer work, and research. Maintain the activities that define you. Don’t lose who you are because of your classes; it’ll make you a better physician, a happier person, and a better applicant for residency.
6. Use mental health services if you need it
Med school can be very overwhelming and most people are going to have periods of being down at some time or another. And part of being a good physician and a good person is overcoming social taboos. If you’re having a tough time, go get help.
7. Talk to the class above you
The second year medical students are a great resource and can tell you what did and did not work for them. Ask them open-ended questions to get them talking. They’re an invaluable resource to give you the tips for each class. Seriously, don’t pass up this opportunity.
8. You will be fine
I know I’ve said this already but it needs to be said again. Everything is going to be okay. You are a human being on planet earth, alive to witness and cherish this amazing place and hopefully make it a little bit better than it was before. Remember your purpose in med school. Even on those late nights in the library, make it relevant and remember that you’re here to help people. But you can’t help others if you don’t first take care of yourself. Don’t let it consume you, don’t let it tear you apart. Everything is going to be okay.
I hope these tips for first year medical students have been helpful. If you have any questions about first year, please don’t hesitate to ask me in the comments below or on my contact page. I would love to share any information I can about how to succeed.