If you think about academic programs in terms of difficulty, medical school would probably be in a league of its own. Studying is no longer something you do in preparation for exams. As a medical student, it becomes part of your daily routine; a habit you need to maintain just to keep up with all the important information coming your way.
As challenging as medical school is, there are plenty of students who obtain an MD and match for residency every year. According to the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC), 19,553 medical students graduated from a US program in the 2017–2018 school year alone.
Getting through medical school, while not easy, is completely possible. Just ask any doctor. Every practicing physician, resident, and recent graduate clearly figured out some strategies for success.
Grad share their tips for getting through med school
We took the opportunity to chat with some newly minted MDs as they celebrated obtaining US residency placements. We asked them about what they did to achieve their graduation goals. Take a look at this video to hear how they persevered.
5 Tips for thriving during medical school
1. Stay committed to achieving your goal
It takes a certain type of student to pursue medical school in the first place. Your drive and determination prove you already have the right mindset. You’d be surprised how useful that can be as you’re working through your studies.
Dr. Phoebe Martin, who graduated from St. George’s University (SGU) in 2018 along with husband Dr. Tommy Martin, thinks the right attitude makes all the difference. “We knew we were going to be doctors and whatever that took, no matter how many hours in a day to study, no matter where in the world we ended up, we were going to do it,” she says.
"We knew we were going to be doctors."
2. Lean on others who can help you
It’s easy to feel like you’re competing with your fellow students following a rigorous medical school admissions process. You’re better off working with your classmates, though.
“Having a study partner — having somebody with you going through the process is very important,” explains Dr. Jaison John, a 2018 SGU graduate pursuing family medicine.
"Once you find your core group who can help you out — I think that almost anyone can succeed."
Dr. Sarah Falk, a fellow 2018 SGU grad, also credits her friends. “Once you find your core group who can help you out — I think that almost anyone can succeed,” she offers.
While friends are undeniably important, don’t forget about looking to mentors who can support you. They can provide guidance and advice every step along the way. They may even be able to help you find career opportunities later on.
3. Develop study strategies
Understanding what type of learner you are is going to be a big help once classes begin. Some people best absorb information when they hear it spoken aloud, while others need to read it or create charts. If you’re not sure where to start, find out if your school has some sort of learning strategies program. They can help you figure out what works for you.
Also consider that you can benefit from multiple study strategies. You might try a combination that involves incorporating visual elements, repeating review sessions, and self-testing.
4. Think of how you’ll be able to help patients
When you’re swimming in textbooks and notes, it can be hard to remember that you’re ultimately pursuing a career intended to help people. Taking a step back to remind yourself of this fact can really help you push through struggles.
"[I’m] always thinking about my future patients and my love for them."
“[I’m] always thinking about my future patients and my love for them and allowing that to drive me — that helped every single day,” Dr. Tommy Martin says.
5. Remember to take care of yourself
Focusing on the end result and dedicating yourself to a rigorous study schedule will only helpful to a point. If you never take some time for yourself, you’re going to burn out sooner rather than later. Make sure to find some ways to blow off steam, and prioritize your own health as much as you would a patient’s.
Rise above the challenges
While every student encounters struggles along the way, many of them are successful in getting through medical school. Doctors have benefited from leaning on a robust support system, maintaining a determined attitude, and more. With the same determination, there’s no reason you couldn’t join their ranks one day.
Perhaps you’re feeling ready to move even closer to starting medical school. As you start applying to programs and attending interviews, remember that you want to enroll at an institution that will set you on the path to achievement. You can learn a lot by speaking to admissions committees at every school.
Be sure to make the most of these conversations by first checking out, “8 Questions You Should Be Asking the Medical School Admissions Team.”
See yourself as a medical student?Learn More