- It isn't that bad! Before I started, I was warned over and over just how completely impossible and daunting medical school is. I was extremely nervous about this, because everyone worries about doing well. After half a year I can tell you that it just isn't that bad. Don't get me wrong, it is difficult, but not in the way I was expecting. The concepts that we are learning aren't very difficult to comprehend, however the difficulty lies in the amount of information you have to learn and the extreme level of detail that you need to achieve.
- Be prepared for long hours. The first six months is like a boot camp. Some people figure out things pretty quickly and are able to eventually spend less time than at the beginning. For me, I am still working on finding the best approach to maximizing my grades. I have tried many different approaches and each time I have spent a ton of hours. I still haven't reached my goals yet, but I have seen a constant improvement which means I am moving in the right direction. The hard part of medical school is learning how to learn. The most important thing is not to quit trying and changing things when you don't get the result you are expecting. You have to be humble and willing to admit that your approach may not be the best.
- Pick only one student group to participate with. There are so many student groups that want your participation that you could easily become overwhelmed doing extracurricular functions. This is a huge trap and it robs you of valuable study time. I think people should be involved in at least one group though. It is a nice social outlet, especially if you spend all your time studying.
- Find an organization system. Whether it be a calendar, a to-do list. There are so many assignments, labs, activities, and other items that happen within a week that it impossible to keep track of it unless you have it organized. What works for me is a sequential list ordered by when it is due (date + time). Every day I look at that list and make sure I have completed the top items before moving on. I didn't start doing this until I missed the deadline for a paper I was supposed to write. I knew about the paper, but thought the due date was later. That really hurt my grade and was the wrong way to learn my lesson. Learn from me and just start out doing that. You will thank me.
- Anatomy sucks the first few times. After that you just stop thinking about it. I joined the cadaver team so that I could do all the dissections. I wanted to do this, because I learn better by doing and seeing than by memorizing a picture. The first time I was nervous about how I would react to a cadaver. Once we started the first dissection the nervousness went away pretty quickly. After that I would only get a headache after about 2 hours of constantly smelling the formalehyde. Take some Ibuprofin just in case.
- Formaldehyde - It stinks. Don't make the mistake of wearing your street clothes to a dissection. They let you wear a lab coat over your clothes, or you can wear scrubs. Take the scrubs option. Get a pair of scrubs that you will burn later and use only those. The worst thing in the world is to be studying later at the library and to keep getting whiffs of formaldehyde from when it seeped into your clothes.
- Avoid the temptation to complain. It is almost a past-time for undergraduate students to complain about their class. "Why are we doing calculus? I will never use this in the REAL world..." So far I haven't seen anything that I won't ever use in the "real" world. Yes there are probably a few things I will use rarely, but it is all applicable and important. Try to enjoy all of the material. It will make it that much easier to remember when you have to study it again for the Steps.
Those are the impressions that immediately come to mind. I have immensely enjoyed my experience so far. I am always up for answering questions, and can't write about something else if someone is interested. If you are still trying to get in, don't get in. It is worth it!