For years, I have been sharing how I could be the first student in our college to stay with the maximum residency offered by our university. I started medical school in 2015, right after graduating with my bachelor’s degree. Applying for my college was a long shot considering my six years in college after poorly choosing my initial course and having several flunking along the way.
Unfortunately, I failed numerous medical school subjects, paired with three semesters of filing for leaves of absence to lead me to where I am now: a fourth-year medical student after six years.
Thanks to people who have been helpful to my journey, I have already deduced the problems resulting from this. Of course, regrets have been reviewed, and some things have been seen to be necessary for my growth, but these are 12 things I wish I knew when I started medical school:
1. It’s okay to feel that you know nothing at the start
Since I started college, I have been battling insecurities because of feeling incompetent compared to my peers and classmates. I have been blessed enough to have entered institutions and groups that have academically excellent and brilliant students as members. Yet this increased upon entering a medical school where a biology major like me is often seen as having inadequate background. I did believe that, too, at first and shuddered thinking about the nursing and laboratory science majors that I have as classmates. Inevitably, this new chapter will sometimes bring so much uncertainty and leave you ignorant, especially with every new subject or lesson that the school may throw at you.
2. Make medical school your main priority
This was perhaps my biggest Waterloo. I have delved into various activities outside school, which seemed like I was only a part-time student. While I did give a great value to my education and was firm in my conviction to become a doctor, I swayed much of the time and gave focus to other things that took my attention from my studies. And I am not talking about relationships; I was fortunate enough to be with my future wife, who understood my priorities. You, too, can find that kind of relationship, but it still leaves you the decision to focus on things you think matter. As I thought maintaining my ‘jack-of-all-trades’ patina was fruitful, I was drawn to less important projects that disrupted my studies.
3. Extracurricular activities will not hurt
To compensate for my intention to be an all-around guy, I avoided all invitations for in-campus extracurricular activities as my way to focus my campus life solely on medicine. But in the process, I gave less time to classmates and peers and instead became much of a loner, out of touch with my classmates and establishing a blur with my relationships. Even though these activities, specifically that of academic and cause-oriented organizations, may add up to the demanding schedule of medical school, you will be exposed to people in your school that could create lasting friendships and partnerships that could extend in your professional career. This is still one of the major regrets that I have today.
4. Finding constants is a must
Constants might be your friends, acquaintance group, organizations, hobbies, significant others, etc. Even your family could be a part of your constants. I like to present these as things that will bring you focus, give you respite, and be your refuge when time gets rough. This might sound cheesy for some, but finding something or someone to pour out your concerns would be cathartic and would make medical school life easier. Your hobbies can bring you back to normal. Your religious organization can help you brave your spiritual journey. Your friends can make you laugh despite the odds.
5. No medical student must be an island
Mentors would always remind us that you must find belongingness while in medical school, or you may never survive. While this will also depend on one’s personality, and there are some who did survive without friends, I can confirm that because I withdrew myself from friends most of the time because of my other transactions, I found it hard to get along with groupmates and classmates in terms of classwork and other activities. Stick with someone not because you can mine their intellect, though. Become a partner and establish connections to brave the challenges.
6. Attending medical school will make you humble
As I have said, at first, you will think that you never knew anything in your preparatory course. But there is still more to that. Aside from placing you within your intellectual capacity, the medical school will also let you experience the reality of life and seek out the value of learning the basics on how to heal them and become a medium to uplift other people’s lives.
7. It would be wise to find an inspiration
When I entered medical school, I was already in a long-term relationship with my now-wife, and she has become an anchor from time to time, and our future goals became my go-to ideas when I feel like losing the battle. But inspirations could also come in the form of things that tell you to go on. A month before the opening of classes, my maternal grandmother was hospitalized and suffered due to old age, but her experiences were very far from ideal. She died days after I heard her ask me to pray for her recovery. I cemented her situation in the hospital as a motivation to become a doctor and help those in need of care to be given an ideal healthcare experience.
8. Take time to refocus and relax from time to time
I initially thought that avoiding extracurricular activities was the best way to focus on studying yet; unfortunately, all the other things that occupied my mind also got in the way. Separating time to realign one’s senses into reality will help withstand the pressures of medical school and other issues that may spring out of it.
9. Create an efficient study habit
Deciding to become a doctor, you may already have an idea about the academic load that you have. Do not be like me and do your homework! To reiterate: CREATE AN EFFICIENT STUDY HABIT! Others try techniques like the Pomodoro or note-taking, but no technique is appropriate for everyone. By and by, you will discover what will work for you! You got the NMAT right; do your thing and ace the rest!
10. It’s okay not to be okay
Thankfully, mental health awareness has been very much well accepted, and its wellness is being prioritized at all times. Medical schools have also been advocating mental health wellness for their students. I was unfortunate to have been denying myself of the reality of sadness and doubting and tried to force myself to be okay even though I was feeling otherwise. It became a burden that I continued to carry until recently, when I finally allowed myself to seek help. In any situation, whether in medical school or not, seeking help is always a good thing.
11. Be ready to have daily bouts of information overload
Different medical schools would usually have their own curriculum or own way of educating students but experiencing information overload if you are caught unguarded. You would feel like every semester you had in your preparatory course is equivalent to two to four weeks in med-school. This might turn you off or sway you away, but the information is the best tool forward for something as important as medicine.
12. Settle on why you entered medical school and create goals
I mentioned that I had made my experience an inspiration to go on and continue my medical school journey even though I have failed so many times or have suffered in part due to my actions. But knowing the reason for entering medical school is necessary for one to continue. Remembering and reminding myself that the reason I am here is that I want to be a doctor has changed me. Goal-setting is also a helpful thing. If I knew this before, I have set things apart and made my education my top priority. But hey, I would not have this post to tell if I did!
Even though I wished I knew these things before entering medical school, I have no extreme regrets about my experiences. They have formed me to become who I am today, and I think I was made better because of this. Once one enters, the journey could become different, but the endpoint must be forward-looking, whether or not becoming a medical doctor.