5 essential aspects of medical school that you wouldn’t expect

Interview season is winding down and budding physicians everywhere are clutching tightly to their hard-fought medical school acceptance letters. I thought now would be an opportune time to reflect on what I wish I had known before starting medical school.

Let’s boil it down to five essential aspects of medical school that you wouldn’t expect or are of such crucial importance you should be reminded of them.

1. You will have time for a life. Please, this is medical school. You will have no time for a life. Your time will be dedicated to weeding through intricate theories on the latest medical advances. I was actually picturing this upon matriculation to medical school. Luckily I was wrong! Yes, medical school is hard and it is time-consuming (devouring?) but you will have time to do the things you love. It is all about time management. Determine what activities are most important to you and make time for them. You will perform better in the long run.

2. Ignore the gunners. People will give you different definitions when asked to define a gunner. I define them as people who are willing to throw their peers under the bus if they think it will help themselves succeed. The truth is the majority of these people are misguided and likely have some form of personality disorder at baseline. Ignore them. Let the gunners gun. It is not worth your energy to compare yourself to them. Let their verbal diarrhea run in one ear and out the other (how’s that for a visual?). Here’s what you can do. Worry about you! Your job is to do what you have to do to succeed.

3. You will make sacrifices. Medical school is expensive not only monetarily but also emotionally.  It can be extremely difficult to see your friends from undergraduate living it up while you are spending the majority of your time with your nose to the books. You will miss out on some events that are extremely important to you. If medical school is anything it is a lesson in delayed gratification. I don’t mean to sound bitter (I’m not!) I just want to express that this is a very real phenomenon. You have been forewarned!

4. You probably won’t be at the top of your class or get a 270 on the USMLE. I know, I know. You breezed through high school and excelled in undergraduate. Why would medical school be any different? You will rock this too gosh darn-it! Be realistic. Look around the room. All those people you see are thinking the same thing. If you find yourself somewhere in the lower half of the class do not get discouraged! Be realistic and remember…

5. Your classmates will be amazing people … and you are amazing too! I am constantly humbled by all the extraordinary things my colleagues have done. Advanced research, volunteering, fundraising, these are the ingredients of a successful medical school applicant. Guess what? You are part of this elite group. Don’t ever forget you deserve to be there too!

Regardless of what I tell you and what you read, you will always feel unprepared on your first day. Don’t be afraid, dive in head first. I thoroughly enjoyed 95% of medical school and you will too with the right attitude.

“Survivor, DO” is a physician who blogs at Surviving Gray’s.

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