TNQD’s Advice for Incoming M1s
With a little less than a month to go before the Class of 2019 dons their short white coats, I thought it was about time for me to post a few tidbits of advice that I wish someone had told me before beginning my first year of medical school.
Personal Life: Balance is Key
First off, congrats! You have made it! All those years of hard work, long nights, being the lame friend who couldn’t go out on a random Thursday, and suffering through the MCAT have finally paid off. GO CELEBRATE!
Spend this last sliver of summer enjoying life and surrounding yourself with the friends and family who have been by your side during this journey and who you want to remain by your side as you take these next exciting (and mildly terrifying) steps. You must take time to nurture and maintain these relationships. I promise you’ll be happy, especially later on, that you skipped an hour of studying to write a quick letter to a friend or to call your mom. Medical school is a long and hard four years, and it will push you to both your academic and emotional limits at times. You will see both the miraculous and the downright tragic. Sometimes you’ll walk out of the hospital feeling all warm and fuzzy, and another day you’ll walk out having lost all faith in humanity and vowing to be a hermit on some island with a thousand cats (not that I’m speaking from personal experience here…). It can be very isolating at times too. Make sure you’ve got people to share your joys and sorrows with and vise versa. You gotta be there for your friends too. Don’t fall into the trap of simply always being “too busy”). Get in to the habit of saying “it’s not a priority” instead of “I don’t have time.” If applying that phrasing comes off as sounding crude or cold for a given situation, that *usually* means you can and should make time.
In a similar vein, don’t forget that your identity is not simply “medical student.” That name badge is not you. You are a multifaceted individual whose life experiences, spirit, quirks and world view are why the admissions committee chose you in the first place. Be human. Don’t make medical school your entire world. You and your future patients will be better off if you take time to enjoy the activities and interests you love that are outside of medicine. You know the phrase “It takes one to know one?” Well, I firmly believe that it takes a whole person to effectively treat a whole person. You have to be able to empathize with and relate to your patients as people if you’re ever going to earn their trust and be a true physician, not just a MD.
How to Spend this Summer:
- HAVE FUN!
- Spend this summer taking care of you–spiritual, emotional, mental, and physical health; get in shape, eliminate toxic relationships, add a little extra love and nurturing to relationships important to you and plan for how to keep in touch (Sunday night “sanity phone calls,” the sisterhood of the traveling coffee mug, whatever will keep you connected with the people who love you and support you).
- If you enjoy reading, READ. Pull out that booklist and fill your mind with the words of your favorite authors. Revel in them.
- Sleep! Sleep for 8-10 hours. Bask in the glory of being well-rested. It shall soon be gone.
- De-clutter and simplify
Tips for Preparing for First Year
- Get an Amazon Prime subscription (worth the money). Use it to order ALL of the things (P.S. look into using AmazonSmile so you can donate a % of your purchases to charities).
- Find a good planner or calendar app for your phone. Set reminders. They’ve saved my butt on multiple occasions.
- Get a binder or an expand-a-file or something to keep all your important documents organized and in one place (loan letters, vaccination records, apartment lease agreement, etc.). You could even invest in one of those safe/fire-proof box things if you feel it’s necessary/living in a not-so-safe area (which I know many med schools are near in urban areas).
- Purchase a sizable whiteboard. Perhaps even put one on your wall. Go crazy in the dry-erase markers aisle at Staples.
- Notability is a godsend if you have a tablet and your professors use powerpoints for lecture. It was the best $4 I’ve ever spent on school supplies.
- Get your router and WiFi (good WiFi is priceless in med school) set up well before classes start. You don’t want to be meeting the cable dude the morning of your first lecture while pulling your hair out over why you can’t seem to download today’s lecture.
- Make a list of important names, phone numbers, and email addresses during orientation. You’ll forget it 10 minutes later, so write them down! Some suggested ones to include are: campus health, financial aid office, registrar’s office, parking office, campus police, your roommate’s contact info and emergency contact info, etc.
A Few Suggestions for When Classes (and the Med School Insanity) Begin:
- Don’t be afraid to ask for help if you need it. Your ultimate goal is to become a knowledgeable and good physician, so try not to let fear of embarrassment/seeming incompetent/your ego get in the way of your education. I know this is much more easily said than done, but just remember that ignorance and arrogance kill–both patients and careers.
- The above also goes for mental health. There is no shame in seeking counseling services if you’re feeling depressed/anxious/just not right. And it certainly has no bearing on your qualifications or ability to become an excellent physician.
- Find a study strategy that works for you and don’t worry what everyone else is doing. Also don’t be afraid to change up yours strategies. In my case, what worked for anatomy didn’t work for biochem and what worked for biochem wasn’t as good for pharmacology.
- Make 2 or 3 good med school friends! They don’t necessarily have to be the ones you study with, but you want to have someone you can discuss nerdy med student things with since it’s often difficult for non-medical family and friends to truly understand (and not for a lack of trying) the rollercoaster of med life.
- You do you. As one of our physician mentors says, your job during first year is to 1) Do your work and make good grades and 2) Make 2 new friends. Don’t worry about the gunners. Gunners are gonna gun. Just focus on doing your personal best and on improving your skills and knowledge. Again, easier said than done, but I promise you’ll be a happier and better-adjusted med student for it.
- Be nice. Med school can really suck at times, and even though some of your classmates may be jerks, you’re stuck with each other for the next four years. It doesn’t hurt to be kind, especially since we never truly know what’s going on behind the scenes in each others’ lives. It may just make someone’s day.
And last but not least, I wish you all the very best of luck! Please don’t hesitate to reach out and ask questions. My inbox is always open if you need to talk as well. I am so excited for you baby medblrs to begin your medical school journey!