Well done on getting a place at medical school! You worked hard to get the right results and now you’re looking forward to a new life opening up.
How are you feeling? Nervous? Excited? Both?
Leaving home for university means massive change. When that university is medical school, the challenge can appear overwhelming.
But people get through it, and enjoy it, and so will you. To help you get started, we’ve put together this list of tips to help you prepare for the exciting journey that’s about to begin.
1. Be confident
Of course you’re nervous. You’ll be living away from home, probably for the first time. You’ll be surrounded by strangers. Everyone else will seem better qualified to be there than you are.
That last statement sums up how a lot of new medical students feel. They question whether they truly deserve to be at medical school.
Be confident about your right to be there. You got the results and the approval of the admissions team. It’s natural to question whether you’re doing the right thing, but don’t allow irrational doubts to undermine your confidence.
2. Prepare for a new world of learning
A change in learning styles is a big cause of insecurity among new medical students. You’re about to leave behind the highly-structured approach to GCSE and A-level teaching and learning. University study means self-directed learning which feels very different.
By now you’ll have a good idea about your own learning and studying styles. If you’re deadline driven, used to working hard into the small hours, now is the time to train yourself to pace your work more effectively. If you don’t like studying by reading lots, it’s time to learn how to read intensively.
The quicker you adapt to the learning methods needed for medical school, the easier you’ll find it.
3. Adopt long-term thinking
Have you thought about your medical specialty yet? Got ideas for how you see your medical career developing?
You’ll get more from your medical school experience if you have a firm eye on the future. Of course, your ambitions and choices may change as you go through your studies. Opportunities you never considered may open up and your opinions and feelings may change.
Long-term thinking means considering how your choices today could impact your future. Choices about the relationships you build, the events you attend and the subjects you explore.
The more positive experiences you accumulate, the more opportunities could be yours in the future. You’re already familiar with this approach to planning for your life to come, because you adopted long-term thinking to secure your place at medical school.
4. Join groups and networks right now
Connecting with others can help reduce some of the anxiety associated with starting out as a medical student. Making friends online means you won’t be among total strangers on your first day.
It also helps you to prepare by seeing how other students are dealing with the practical issues of living away from home for the first time. You can discuss what cooking utensils to take, how to manage dietary preferences in a shared kitchen and the options for pursuing your favourite pastimes.
Sharing information can help you avoid spending money on items you later discover that you don’t need. This applies to both the gear required for living and study material, such as expensive text books.
You may benefit from getting involved in more formal, subject-oriented groups on networks such as LinkedIn or Google+.
5. Enjoy the experience
Making a positive decision to enjoy your first days at medical school can make a massive difference to how they make you feel. Uncertainty, questions and nerves are inevitable, so don’t be afraid of them. Pretty much everyone around you will be going through similar emotions and experiences, including many of the parents!
Starting at medical school is literally a life-changing moment. Choose to enjoy it and you’ll help make it a memorable and valuable part of your own life story.
What are your top tips for preparing for medical school? Let us know in the comments section below!