During my first year of medical school, I had the privilege of speaking at several high schools and colleges. The purpose of these interactions was to shed light on what I did to matriculate into medical school, my experiences as a medical student and to answer any questions. No matter where I went though, one question always followed: “What is the hardest part of medical school?” At first, my answer was something most people would expect. I usually talked about a difficult course I had, the high volume of studying I did or just getting accepted to medical school in the first place. However the more I thought about it, the more I realized that for me none of these were the actual answer.
In my opinion, the hardest part of medical school is trying to convince yourself that you truly belong there. No matter your story, whether you came straight from college or after a few years of working, transitioning into medical school can be a lot more stressful than one might imagine. My own personal experience of starting medical school came after completing a one-year master’s degree. Not only had I taken medical school level courses, but I had done well in them. I was confident this would immediately carry over to medical school. Then, I looked
at the rest of my class. Some students had several master’s degrees. Some students had higher MCAT scores. Some students even had professional degrees such as a JD or had been working in the medical field for years. It was intimidating. This intimidation was only amplified when exams came around and I found myself sometimes falling below the average. Below average. As I am sure many fellow medical students have, I began questioning if I really belonged here.
This type of difficult transition is something everyone faces in life. Whether it is going from college to medical school, medical school to residency or even outside of the medical field entirely. When someone is thrown into a new environment with new people, it can take a bit of time to adjust. Luckily, I found three important facts that helped me to adjust quickly and helped others do the same, so I only see it appropriate to share this with anyone going through a tough transition.
1. Realize that you ended up where you are for a reason. Nobody handed you an acceptance into medical school. You worked hard, you studied long hours, you volunteered, you took the MCAT … you did a lot of different things. It was not easy, but it got you where you wanted to go. Keeping that in mind will help to give you the confidence to keep moving forward.
2. Understand that just because someone else is being successful, does not mean you can’t be too. It sounds intuitive, but people in this situation know exactly what I’m talking about. It seems as though there is a limited amount of success to go around and it is going to run out before it gets to you. In reality though, everyone can be successful, and it will not take anything away from any one person. So what if someone else is doing well in that class? You can too.
3. Achieving your goals is dependent on you, not anybody else. I remember so many times when I looked at exam grades and I got a 75 percent, while several other people got a 100 percent. I thought to myself “Why can’t I do as well as them?” As easy as it is to think that, I had to tell myself that I actually could do as well as them. A big part of this is understanding that people learn in different ways and at different rates. So just because it might take you a little longer to study for a test or for something to truly “click,” the end result would still be the same.
Medical school is a long, difficult journey, and it is easy to get discouraged. However, keeping in mind all of the events that helped you get there as well as the hopes and dreams you want to accomplish in the future can help keep you on track. While at first, some of the students in your class might seem like your superiors, slowly you can grow to seeing them as your peers. Remember, medicine is not an easy field, but it is always a rewarding one.