My Biggest Fears About Medical School (what I wish I knew)

I want to talk about some of the things that scared me about medical school when I first started.

First, I want to say that medical school is hard but not as hard as you think it is. When you’re trying to figure out which extracurriculars to get involved in, while trying to make new friends, and making sense of the Krebs Cycle all at the same time, it gets tough. I was really scared about entering medical school the first time because I thought that I won’t have time for my friends and family. This also included my fear that I wouldn’t make new friends in medical school. Since medical school has self-directed study, it’s actually pretty easy to schedule time in for phone calls to friends and family. In pre-clinical years, I tried to schedule some weekends in for fun so I had something to look forward to. You will have time outside of medicine, and it’s important to remember that medicine isn’t your whole life. Although it is a priority, you don’t need to let it consume you.

Medical school is also collaborative. My medical school class has been very collaborative since the start, and going through medical school I have met some of the smartest people I know. It is a long process, however, if you remind yourself why you got into medical school in the first place, then you can get yourself through the process. If you’re interested in learning more about my philosophy about staying focused, check out the last video about staying focused on one thing for more than four years, every day.

My second fear was that when I didn’t do well, I wasted a spot in medical school when another candidate would be better suited for medical school. I want to say that imposter syndrome hits everyone, and likewise, everyone is learning how to be a doctor. You know your limitations, and you compare your bloopers to others’ highlight reel. Another thing I want to mention is that while you’re learning, you can definitely learn a lot of patients. You are in medical school to become a better doctor, and every “thank you” that I received from patients convinced me that I should be in medical school.

I heard that medical school, especially the clinical years, will strip you of your humanity. Having to work and then coming back to study is not the most fun, but sometimes it does feel like I’m trying to embrace toxic productivity. We hear that wellness is important in medical school, and I’m not only talking about stress management techniques. I’m talking about practical wellness. Leave one day a week to do something fun preferably with a member of your support system, whether that is with family or friends. Have a hobby which includes exercise, and drink only water. These three tips will help you keep your mental sanity just because you get to see others. If you need more help, most universities have student wellness centers which offer therapy and if you need a mental health professional, seek help when it is early because there is no shame in doing so. Medicine is brutal for even the toughest of us, and everyone copes in different ways.

I feared that medical school would also have too much material to memorize. For me, I knew that I was going to use Anki because I had used it before but even with Anki, I didn’t get spectacular pre-clinical grades. I remember thinking after an exam, is it even worth it to spend this much time to get mediocre grades? I realized that I’m not studying efficiently. What I wish I heard instead when I started medical school was that I wasn’t going to remember everything and I shouldn’t bother trying to remember everything. Medicine is full of triage—in the emergency department, on the hospital floors, on your rotations, and even when you study. Find out the most high yield topics and stick to them. Also, find an upperclassmen who can mentor you. Most medical schools have a mentorship program, and they are definitely super useful to give you tricks for in-house exams as well as giving you the low-down of most rotation sites in your clinical years.

Finally, my biggest fear—what if I fail? What if I have to drop out of medical school and what if I can’t become a physician? The first thing that I want to tell you is that medical school isn’t hard, it’s a test of your willpower. If you’re willing to study hard to memorize the MCAT amino acids, and go through the pre-med schedule to get to medical school, you’re more than ready to tackle medical school materials. Medical school has an 84% graduation rate in 4 years and 96% graduation rate in 6 years. If you need more motivation, you can even retake classes and most medical schools are pass/fail classes. Becoming a physician requires a lot of studying, but we put more pressure on ourselves because we know that we are going to be treating other people’s loved ones and we don’t want to fail them. But by going through medical school, you can rest easy knowing that you can become a doctor.

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