Getting Started in Medical School (And How to Make It Easier on Yourself)

Bardia Adibmoradi
Published on Aug 13, 2020. Updated on Sep 15, 2020.

Transitioning into medical school is often very stressful for new students. In this blog, Bardia Adibmoradi shares his tips for making a smooth transition.

When I started medical school, I was faced with a fast-paced flood of new information that I didn’t know how to navigate, and was intimidated by a brilliant cohort of students who had excelled in their undergraduate years. I experienced stress and self-doubt as I struggled to improve my grades. 

As the weeks went by, I began to talk to my peers, mentors, and upperclassmen in search of a solution. By using every resource available to me, I finally managed to overcome the challenges of transitioning into medical school. 

This experience isn’t unique to me—in fact, it’s quite common. In this blog, I’ll share some tips for students who are newly transitioning into medical school.

Osmosis illustration showing the danger of comparing yourself to others.

Take advantage of school resources

Most medical schools offer extensive services that are in place specifically to support students throughout their medical education. Take advantage of them! These services can help you overcome both academic difficulties and personal challenges.

In my case, I met with the director of my school’s academic support center to talk about study strategies and exam result analysis. I also used wellness coaching sessions to create a balanced schedule and acquire tools for coping with stress. In addition, my associate dean provided me with advice on how to self-evaluate and make progress towards my goals

Such guidance and resources allowed me to adjust quickly to my new environment.

Avoid comparison and do your best to improve

Students enter medical school with varying levels of knowledge. This means that while one student may be struggling with Anatomy (like I did), another might breeze through the course due to their past experience as an Anatomy teaching assistant. Some students even have Master’s degrees. I made the mistake of comparing my progress to others’ and assuming I couldn’t measure up. However, medical school is like a marathon, not a short sprint.

Instead of focusing on short term outcomes, try to cultivate long-term success strategies and avoid comparison. Design a rigorous study schedule, utilize spaced-repetition techniques, and make sure you understand topics conceptually. Your performance in the first block or course doesn’t determine how you will perform later on in your medical education or on your board exams. Don’t lose hope—keep going!

Osmosis Step 1 Study Schedule display ad.

Set aside time for fulfilling activities

While preparing for challenging exams, it’s easy to lose sight of why you chose this rigorous path, especially if you find some of the material difficult to get through. You may even question your decision to go to medical school.

The practice of medicine, however, is about helping and interacting with patients. It’s about the art of diagnosis and engaging in discussions with other healthcare providers. The preclinical years of medical school are not a reflection of what the future holds. Aim to set aside time to shadow physicians and do volunteer work, which will give you a sense of meaning and help you keep sight of what matters.

Cultivate your study techniques

Everyone learns differently, so it’s important to figure out what works for you. Initially, I struggled to figure out my learning style and tried to use a variety of books, videos, and interactive modules. The unique time constraints of medical school may mean that study techniques from your undergraduate years are no longer effective.

I realized that I needed a conceptual understanding of physiology and pathology to be able to apply deductive reasoning to complex questions. I used Osmosis videos, one of my most valuable study tools, to hone this understanding. I studied the information I needed to learn in gradually increasing intervals by using premade decks on Anki, a spaced-repetition flashcard software that medical students swear by (and can be synced with your Osmosis Prime account). 

Finally, I tested myself and filled in any knowledge gaps by answering questions.

Osmosis illustration of a medical student learning by Osmosis.

Stay calm 

Remember to stay calm! This is perhaps the most important thing I learned during my transition into medical school. The amount of information you have to learn and the limited time you have to prepare for your next test can be overwhelming, but do your best to keep a cool head. Though this is easier said than done, it’s important for alleviating stress.

Personally, I found that once I stuck to a schedule and acknowledged that it’s impossible to know everything, I became more relaxed. Trust yourself and your preparation, and remember that there’s always another exam around the corner. That’s another opportunity to do better. In the meantime, enjoy the ride!

About Bardia Adibmoradi

Bardia is a first-year medical student at the University of South Florida Morsani College of Medicine and member of the Osmosis Medical Education Fellowship program. Bardia has lived in three different countries and his hobbies include spending time with his friends and watching interesting YouTube videos. 

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