My first year of medical school is finally over … and it was rough. Then again, that is not too surprising. After all, it is medical school, so no one is expecting a walk in the park. During my first year, a lot of the advice and wisdom I heard from other medical students seemed to match up pretty well. However, there were definitely a few things I heard that I felt did not quite hold true. While this is only my opinion and it may vary from student to student, here are my top five biggest misconceptions about medical school:
#5: “Say goodbye to your social life.”
“You are in medical school now, and if you want to do well, that means you cannot have a social life.” That seems a little overdramatic. During my first year of medical school, I had time to go to dinners, parties, the beach and more! The key is prioritizing your time. If you know you want to do something one evening or weekend, make sure you get enough studying done ahead of time, so you are not stressed out about the time you might lose doing something else. That being said, this is not college anymore, so if you are expecting to go out every weekend, I have some bad news.
#4: “You just have to pass the class.”
Passing a class is great, but a lot of medical students tend to forget about the bigger picture. Remember, you are studying hard and learning all of this information so you can become a physician and take care of other people, not so you can simply pass a class. Coming from a medical school with a curriculum consisting of at least one exam every week, I can admit that it is easy to enter ‘autopilot’ and begin studying from test to test. Nonetheless, trying to learn information for your own benefit rather than to pass a test or a class makes it more likely that you are able to retain and apply it long-term.
#3: “There are always a couple of gunners in the class … everyone knows who they are.”
This might come as a shock to a lot of people. If you are a medical student, the term “gunner” is probably synonymous with somebody in your class. Well, I am here to tell you that everyone in medical school is a gunner, in my opinion. A gunner can be a lot of different things. Maybe you like to get to school early so you can review the material for that day. Maybe you like studying your class notes concurrently with the First Aid book. Maybe you stay back and study while all of your other friends go out because you know you need to do well on this test. Whatever the scenario, chances are someone is going to point a finger and call you a gunner. And that is okay. This is medical school, and it is a pretty safe assumption that you got here by working hard, even when you did not want to. So embrace your diligence, gunner.
#2: “Your board scores are really the only thing that matter.”
I was tempted to make this #1. A lot of medical students think that things like mission trips and community service fall way below your board scores when residency applications are reviewed. However, this is simply not the case. While board scores are definitely weighed heavily and somewhat determine the types of specialties you can go into, a solid residency application should have more dimensions and more experiences. I have heard this from faculty, residency directors, heads of hospitals and more. Residency programs are not just looking for good doctors, but also for good people who are well-rounded. That means demonstrating that you actually care about people and want to help them, not just that you can take a long test and do well.
#1: “It’s not that the information in medical school is hard, it’s just that there is so much of it.”
If I had a nickel for every time I heard this, I could pay off my medical school loans. Yes, you probably have heard some of the information in your basic science classes a million times. The mitochondria is the powerhouse of the cell. But do not ask me to explain the life cycle of a fungus or the complement pathway. The further you go in medical school, the more complex the information gets. Even for someone like me who has seen certain things a few times, I still do not fully understand them. While a lot of information is thrown at you at once in medical school, some of it might be familiar and some might be completely new. Either way, you have to learn it.
No matter where you go, medical school is going to be difficult. If you are lucky enough to have some good friends already in medical school, it is more than likely that they will share information and wisdom with you that will help give you a better image of what to expect. However, understanding that medical school is an experience that varies from student to student will help to prepare you even better and ensure that you are not blindsided when something is not exactly what you thought it would be.