You are OFFICIALLY going to be a first year medical student! How surreal does it feel to say that? Yes, it’s exciting but it’s also overwhelming, fun, new and can leave you feeling every emotion under the sun. So to help you on your way, here’s a list of the dos and don’ts for your first year.
1. Make friends with upper years
Help yourself and get to know these friendly sources of wisdom through socials and societies. These guys have been in your exact position, so they will be able to reassure you and share some guidance, resources and tips (as well as be amazing friends!)
2. Have a life outside of medicine
When you get into medical school, it can feel like you need to be studying every minute of every day. Not having the time to cook, look after or enjoy yourself is a COMPLETE myth. Saying this, first year will likely be the year you have the most time to join societies, sports and socialise – so use it wisely!
If medicine were easy, everyone would do it. Right now, you may feel so lucky that you can’t ever imagine complaining about it. Medicine is hard and it’s easy to have a negative mind-set. No one wants to hear constant complaints about the workload, the time or the course. It’s up to you to have a positive outlook, it will really help you and everyone around you!
4. Study group
Finding a small group of people you can study with helps with everything! It will take time to find people who suit your style, but once you do, the emotional and academic support from your peers is priceless. It’s always better to go through medicine with someone rather than on your own!
There’s a lot of uncertainty at the beginning, but one thing is for sure – you’ll have to change the way you study. It is TOTALLY normal to not know how to study the vast amount of information, and it could take a couple of months until you feel comfortable. When feeling overwhelmed, the main decisions to make include:
Which resources should I use? (Use upper years’ advice and your own preferences)
Paper or electronic notes? (Electronic is quicker, but consider whether you remember written notes better)
How am I going to remember the notes I take? (Look back at previous revision techniques and stick to these – flashcards, posters etc. If they’ve worked before they’ll work again!)
1. Don’t panic
Try to ignore the social pressure of “first year is the best year” because it’s often not true! Everyone (and I MEAN everyone) in your year will be struggling in their own way and feeling overwhelmed. Know that no matter what people say or what they look like, you are not alone (for real, I’m in year three and STILL feel overwhelmed sometimes – it’s okay!)
2. Don’t learn everything
With medicine it’s more about breadth than depth, so knowing a little about lots of things is better than knowing a lot about one thing – especially at this stage! It’s a trial and error process that will feel unnerving at first, but stick to your lectures and resources as a guide and you’ll soon get the hang of it. You’ll never know everything and that’s okay!
You have probably heard this one before but it is true! Most textbooks are available either online or in the library and honestly, you really don’t need to spend your precious money on them. If you really want your own though, wait a few months until you’ve found the ones that you actually like and find useful.
4. Don’t neglect your health
Mental and physical – both are equally important and trust me when I say medicine is a whole lot easier when you take care of yourself! If you feel you need support, don’t hold back from seeking the help you need, whether that be support staff at your medical school, friends, family or your GP.
Finally, you’ve been comparing yourself to other candidates for years and now you’re a student! Everyone is on the same playing field now and there is no need to compare yourself to others, it only isolates you and makes you unhappy. Medical school is much more enjoyable if people support each other rather than constantly try to compete.
All that’s left to say is enjoy your first year! It’s a wild ride for everyone but take it in your stride and make it a year of happy memories, friends and laughter – good luck!
Words: Katie Burrell
Katie is a third year medic from Lancaster University who also documents her life at medical school through her own blog.
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