First off: CONGRATULATIONS to all of you who have been accepted to medical school! For you, this summer must be a new and exciting time. You’re probably signing the leases on your new apartments, scouring for roommates, and getting to know your future classmates (so many new friend requests). Most of all, you’re making the most of the few weeks of endless free time you have before medical school studying starts.
I moved into my new place last month. Boy was it exciting! (I never thought I would be the kind of person that gets excited over furniture, but I can now say that setting up my new dining table gave me more joy than I thought imaginable. Yeah…I’m one of those people now.) One of the great things about moving into a new home is the promise of new experiences and goals. I can’t help but wonder what memories will have filled the corners of my new home 1 year from now. One thing’s for sure: I want to excel and I hope that, 1 year from now, I can look back and know that I did everything I needed to achieve that goal.
I don’t need to tell you that the large bulk of your time in medical school will be spent on academics and extracurriculars. Hobbies, socialization, relaxation, those are all things that (you should definitely do to keep sane but) will come second. Regardless of how overcommitted and involved you were during undergrad, medical school will undoubtedly be busier. (During my interview at the medical school I ultimately decided to attend, I was telling my interviewer about taking 22 credits of undergraduate classes while balancing a slew of research positions, jobs, and volunteer work. He seemed impressed and said that I may not have as hard of a time adjusting to the busier medical school pace…which is great but also means that everything I did was still not enough to match the magnitude of medical school studying.)
Depending on whom you talk to, a semester of medical school is comparable to 26-30 credit hours of undergraduate classes. (I’m sure that’s more than most of us have taken.) I bring up all of this not to scare you, but to remind you that, as pre-meds metamorphosing into M1’s, we must not forget our inherent inclination of striving to be overachievers. Which brings me (a little longwindedly [sorry]) to my point: you should definitely harness all the potential energy you have during these last days of freedom and use it to prepare for the information snowstorm that will commence once medical school starts.
Why Studying Now Will Decrease Stress Later On
I come from a family of doctors, and, for all of us, the golden rule of exam life prep is to review your medical school study materials at least 3 times. In college, the first time I applied this was the winter of my sophomore year, before my spring Differential Equations class. As a biomedical engineering major, math was supposed to be as familiar to me as breathing. That wasn’t exactly the case for me though. Still reeling from the B I received in my Calculus II and III classes (the absolute horror), I was determined not to let Differential Equations end the same way.
That is why, during my winter break, I opened up Khan Academy and PatrickJMT on YouTube and started watching all the Diff EQ lectures I could find. I used the syllabus my teacher uploaded as a guide so I would learn all the topics in the same order as I would later in class. This was Revision #1. Then, when the spring semester started, Revision #2 commenced in the form of class lectures and notes. Finally, Revision #3 happened when I reviewed my notes for midterms and the final.
BOOM, at the end of the semester I scored an A+ in the class. I did this again to prepare for my Statistics class the following semester and once again the class was a breeze!
Point being: if you study early, you will only be doing a monumental favor for the future you. Don’t you love receiving favors?
How to Study in Preparation for Medical School
The few times I’ve brought up my idea of medical school studying during the summer to other students, they immediately shoot it down and tell me to have fun instead. I’m sure they mean well, so believe me that I also mean well when I say that I respectfully disagree. If I’m going to have to study endlessly once school starts, shouldn’t I start developing a habit of it now so that the transition is easier? (Answer: yes.)
Here’s how I have been studying for medical school amidst all my moving and travels. I implore you to do the same so we can be a step ahead once we officially become M1’s! J
FIND YOUR MEDICAL SCHOOL STUDY NOOK
Like I said, one of the most exciting things about a move are the memories you’ll make in your new abode! Well, one of these memories should definitely be your medical school study routine. Find a corner in your new place where you feel comfortable and happy; that way it’ll be easy to sit there for hours and study! Once you’ve found it, make that space your own (I’ve found this is very motivational and puts me in a more positive mindset)!
However, since tuition is going to suck up our banks like a vacuum, I don’t encourage you to go over the top with what you do with this space (even though the furniture at Urban is super enticing). Do just enough that you feel at home, whether that’s setting up a desk, comfy chair, floor cushions, or fairy lights (my personal fav). This way, it’ll be tad bit easier to look forward to medical school studying!
Now that you’ve found your place to hit the books…you need to actually get those books (metaphorically speaking…who even buys textbooks anymore). I’ve found that the best way to figure out what to use and where to begin is by asking a current student. This is where class Facebook groups REALLY come in handy! Chances are, you have at least one current student at your school monitoring your Facebook group, so go ahead and shoot them a message asking what you should do to prepare (they may even send you resources…my M2 friend did)! You’re going to be friends later on anyways, so why not jumpstart the friendship now?
If you’re not a big Facebook person, no worries! You can go on your medical school’s website and try to find a course schedule or syllabus. This will give you an idea of what systems you’ll be learning first so you can prepare accordingly. If the website doesn’t have any useful course information, then you can always email your school’s admissions committee and ask.
If you don’t want to do that either…go buy a First Aid and start going through the information (our Picmonic CEO, who’s been to medical school, encouraged me to do this)!
Basically, you have NO excuse.
MAKE A PLAN
Once you have your resources, it’s time to actually start learning. It’s best if you start with topics that will largely remain unchanged over time (since medicine is ever evolving). Also assess your strengths and weaknesses and start with your weak subjects. Personally, mine is anatomy so that’s where I’m starting. (An anatomy tip from my friend who has already finished medical school: start with the bone and then learn all the corresponding muscles, nerves, etc. It’ll help all the identical-looking things in our body not look so identical.) Biochemistry is another good one to tackle, ESPECIALLY if you didn’t take a biochemistry course during undergrad.
Regardless of what you choose to do, just make sure you choose and commit everyday. By this point in your life, you have your study technique down, so go forth and conquer!
Life is about balance, and while your scale is definitely going to be tipped towards academics, you should also be doing activities other than just medical school studying. But I get it, it can be hard to juggle everything effectively though (*flashback to MCAT studying*).
My solution to this is to make a checklist and complete the things on it everyday. Now that I’m done moving, I’ve established a routine. Every day I get up around 6, exercise, eat breakfast, and sit down to work. I definitely take breaks in between studying, but to make sure I’m doing an ample amount each day I use a timer. Whenever I take a break, I pause the timer and then restart it when I’m back at the books. This is my way of holding myself accountable and ensuring I study at least a few hours everyday. Do what works for you!
Now, if you’re moving/traveling/adventuring, it will be hard to set up a daily routine, and that’s totally okay! Just remember your checklist and do your best to complete everything on it. (School hasn’t started yet… so you don’t need to be too hard on yourself.) As long as you’re doing something, you’ll thank yourself later.
GOOD LUCK AND HAPPY STUDYING!
Keep up with Aimen’s journey as a first year medical student by following her on Instagram @lil_waimen.
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