Study Tips

What I Wish I Knew Before Medical School

Osmosis Team
Published on Sep 8, 2020. Updated on Mar 18, 2023.

In a survey of 100 medical students, we found five trends in the lessons they learned since starting medical school and what they hope incoming medical students can prepare for ahead of time. 

It’s universally acknowledged that medical school isn’t easy. You’ve dedicated yourself to a challenging career. Maybe you knew that you always wanted to be a doctor or you discovered that passion later in life. Through conversations with your peers, health professionals, and a couple episodes of TV’s best adaptations of doctors, you have an idea of what to expect from medical school and being a doctor... sans the cast of Grey’s Anatomy, most likely. 

We surveyed 100 medical students as we were curious about what they have learned since starting their medical school journeys and what they wish they knew before setting out on that path. We found a few common themes. Here’s what they had to say: 

1. Change your study habits

By far, this was the most popular response. Medical school delivers way more information at a much faster pace (cue the fire-hose references). How you study has to change to keep up with the new workload. You’re also balancing studying for your classes and preparing for board exams and eventually managing clinicals. How you learn can be just as crucial as what you’re learning. Osmosis offers a course in just that.

How to learn in medical school. Become a better student using science methods you can put into action today

2. Use study resources available to you 

In forming different study habits, you don’t have to figure this out on your own. Admittedly, Osmosis’s audience was a little biased in wishing they knew about Osmosis before medical school. A study resource provides many ways to absorb and learn materials: videos, flashcards, question banks, a study schedule, and workspaces. Just be careful not to get inundated with too many resources—there’s nothing worse than task paralysis!

3. Take time to do what you enjoy 

For your sanity, it’s important to still take the time to do what you enjoy and participate in extracurriculars. Whether that’s spending time with family and friends, sitting down to read a book, or exercising, doing what you enjoy is a form of stress management. You will have the time and you should take the time, as medical school can take an unexpected emotional toll

4. Remember, you do belong

Medical school can be intimidating, and while it may feel like you’re the only one struggling through it, you’re certainly not alone. Ever heard of the bad pancake rule? You are not defined by the first test grade. Everyone is in the same boat. Remind yourself of how hard you worked to get into medical school, and continue striving to do your very best. 

Quote you are not defined by your worst test grade. Everyone is in the same boat. Remind yourself how hard you worked to get into medical school, and continue striving to do your very best.

5. Seek out mentors and shadowing opportunities 

Gain insight from trusted peers in upper level classes or health professionals that have been through all the experiences you’re about to go through. They may help save you time and frustration in sorting things out on your own. Shadowing also helps you decide on your specialty, find mentorship in a practicing physician, and engage with patients. 

These five lessons learned are unlikely to cover every transitional experience of your medical school journey. Osmosis is constantly sharing insights from health professionals and students, tips for studying, and clinical experience stories. Along the way, you’ll surely gain a few insights  of your own to pass onto future students. 

Osmosis illustration of a medical student taking time to relax under a tree and reading books.

All of our information was gathered from medical students around the world who have partnered with Osmosis. Interested in sharing your insight as a medical student and representing Osmosis on your campus? Learn more about the Osmosis Medical Education Fellowship (OMEF) program here


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