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How to Succeed in Med School by Really Trying

You’ve been accepted to medical school, and the excitement and relief are a great high after the wait and anxiety. The weeks before starting school have flown by and the thousands of things you heard during orientation have basically gone in one ear and out the other.

Lo and behold, here comes the anxiety all over again, but this time it’s focused on how to succeed and develop an academic record that will ensure your placement in a good residency four years from now.

You look around at your classmates and you’re certain they are all smarter than you. Here’s the good news: whether they are or not really doesn’t matter much. It turns out that the keys to success are steady hard work, good time management, dedication and a healthy dose of compulsiveness.

Young medical student feels pressure

Medical school studying is not like college studying. Most of us succeeded at college by cramming just before exams. It worked; otherwise we wouldn’t have had the grades to be accepted to medical school. But that technique won’t work in med school. There is just too much information coming your way and it’s coming fast. Miss a lecture or two (whether in person or online) and it’s hard to catch up and keep up.

Many premeds have excelled at playing an instrument, mastering a martial art or two or playing competitive team sports. It’s that sort of dedication that is needed to excel in med school. Just as the music teacher or athletic coach says you need to practice four hours a day to stay in the orchestra or on the team, you, as your own coach now, have to tell yourself to study four hours a day to pass all your exams. That’s the ticket to success.

Remember: we would all like to have brilliant, dedicated physicians when we are  sick. But if I have to choose between a brilliant physician and a dedicated one (think “obsessive”) —a doctor who will leave no stone unturned in making a diagnosis or determining the right treatment— I’ll go with the dedicated one every time.

What helped you make it through your first year of med school? Share your story in comments.

Be sure to check out our #MedMo page for tips about getting into and getting through medical school! 

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  • Thiago daLuz October 30, 2013, 11:57 AM

    Excellent points and advice, very comforting. I think that Edmonton medical school is a little more…comfortable, than other places. That may just be because it’s Canada, but regardless, I think they foster more of that desire to be a dedicated physician, rather than just brilliant.