Going through medical school is certainly not something you can breeze through. There may be several situations you did not expect to face on your journey to becoming a doctor. Life as a medical student is no doubt hard, and you may find many of your peers facing similar difficulties and doubts. However, as much as being a medical student involves giving it your all, it can also be the most fun you will ever have. There are several misconceptions about being a medical student, but the truth is that it can be enjoyable, interesting and highly rewarding. With your perseverance and support from peers and mentors, going through med school may become some of the best years of your life. In this article, we will go over what life as a medical student is like to give you more clarity on what you will face on the road up ahead.
What to Expect as a Medical Student
- You will gain skills for a lifetime
As obvious as this is, it’s an important point to note. Unlike many other courses in which you tend to forget what you studied for the exam, in med school you will remember what you study for the rest of your life. The medical school covers subjects across a variety of areas, including anatomy, physiology, biochemistry, pharmacology and pathology, all of which you will use to diagnose and treat diseases. When you study medicine, you not only study to obtain a medical license, but also to build a strong foundation of medical knowledge.
- No shortcut to hard work
This point is also an obvious one. Medical students on average have to work harder than students in other courses. You can expect to spend a great amount of time on lectures and practicals, plus a significant amount of time on reading and re-reading study material, writing essays, lab reports, and in general, staying on top of academics. No two weeks will be the same. Your workload may vary each week, with some weeks having high volume of work, while others giving you more breathing room. Be prepared to be flexible and ready to face what comes each week.
There’s also a significant amount of pressure to deal with while studying for the exams. Unlike other courses, in med school there is an additional challenge, which is the very high passing score for the “2nd MB” exams. These are the exams you have to pass to be certified to work in a specific subject area.
- It’s not always work and no play
While the workload is heavy, you will also have enough time to fully enjoy the experience of undergraduate life. You can make the most out of student life by participating in other activities at your university, such as sports, music, art and drama, etc. By juggling your schedule, working on your interests outside of medicine should be easy.
- There’s more to studying medicine
University life is not just about earning a degree. It’s also about discovering yourself and learning from other people, all of which will shape you into a good doctor. Although the main reason you might engage in extracurricular activities is to enjoy and take your mind off of academics, they are very important in developing your skills as a doctor. For example, performing in theater or playing an instrument in front of a large audience will help you become more confident in delivering speeches and presentations later in your career. Therefore, it is important to find a balance between work and life.
- Studying anatomy is bloody unpleasant
Simply studying pictures of human anatomy is not enough. Your first year will mostly involve you dissecting a cadaver. This means grabbing a scalpel yourself and cutting open a human body, which can be an unpleasant task. As a medical student, you should be prepared to get your hands dirty and bloody to thoroughly familiarize yourself with human anatomy.
- Lifelong friendships
Some of your best friends in university may be from your class. Bonding over exams, the difficulties of the field, or even your favorite professor can help you form friendships to last a lifetime. You can also try to socialize more with students from other courses. Participating in extracurricular activities will provide you with opportunities to form lifelong friendships with people from other backgrounds as well.
- Don’t compare yourself to your peers
The medical field consists of extremely hardworking and intelligent people, so it’s easy to compare yourself to your peers and feel demotivated. Don’t fall into that cycle of feeling low about yourself because someone else seems to be more intelligent than you are. Try to learn from your peers as much as you can, and remind yourself that you’re doing your best.
- Latest research in medicine
Studying medicine gives you access to the latest scientific developments and research, more than what is found in textbooks even. Your professors are probably involved in research in their field of interest, and as their students, you may get to work with them. The medical field will have you staying on top of the most advanced developments.
- Studying medicine is a long haul
Medical school is a 5- or 6-year intensive program, for which there are no shortcuts. Your holidays become shorter each year, with the workload and number of working days increasing. Although this seems like a long time, when you’re in university, you will be so busy that you won’t notice how fast time flies. Use your vacation time to catch up on the previous term’s lessons.
- Take a break
After working hard all semester, take a well-deserved vacation if you’ve completed all your assignments and exams on time. You can also do as many activities as you can while in residence, and vacations provide the perfect opportunity to do them. Remember to strike a balance between rest and work. You don’t want to be too exhausted during vacation time, or be out-of-touch with the syllabus for the next semester.
- Organizing helps
The organization is one of the most important skills you will find useful in juggling a hectic schedule in med school. Unlike in high school where you had teachers and parents to help plan your schedule, you have to create your own system of organization to avoid any clashes. Organizing will help you avoid constantly being in a rush or showing up just in time or late to events.
- Pass the exams to become a doctor
As obvious as this seems, it needs to be mentioned that you can be a licensed doctor only after you pass all the exams. Passing the various exams qualifies you to apply for further studies in a specialized field, bringing you one step closer to becoming a doctor.
While preparing for medical school, it’s common to go through all the practicalities of attending university, but the actual realities of being a medical student are understood only when you arrive on campus. As much as medicine is a scientific field, it is quite nuanced and includes a lot of gray areas. It’s a privilege to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with some of the brightest minds you’ll ever come across and to learn from some of the most intelligent and experienced professors. Remember to make the most of your undergraduate life, and you’ll be sure to come out the other side a better human.