7 Top Tips for Your First Term at Medical School

Well done on getting a place at medical school! You achieved outstanding A-level results and you’ve made it through the tough application and interview process. Now you’re about to embark on the exciting journey to becoming a fully qualified doctor.

Getting through medical school is going to be hard work. The first few weeks could be particularly tough as you get used to a university life so very different from what you’ve known before.

Here are our top tips for settling into medical school and getting the most from those important early days.

  1. Say some big ‘thank yous’

Securing your place at university to study medicine wasn’t easy and you couldn’t have done it without encouragement and support from some really important people in your life. Before you jump into the exciting and hectic life of a medical student, take some time out to thank those who’ve helped get you this far.

It might be a hug, a phone call, a Facebook message or even a small gift. Gratitude is powerful and saying ‘thank you’ to your supportive friends and family can create a treasured moment in their lives. If a teacher in school inspired you to consider a career in medicine, how about letting them know that you’re on your way?

  1. Enjoy your enthusiasm

Early excitement and nerves are expected at the start of medical school, along with a massive dose of enthusiasm to start learning. While the nerves will quickly disappear and the excitement may fade, do all you can to maintain that keenness for your studies. If only there was a way to capture and bottle it, because you may need a shot later on!

There are likely to be times when you ask yourself why you went to medical school. It can be a gruelling experience and it’s not unusual for medical students to question their capability to see it through to the end. In the early hours of the morning, when your head it spinning with all those new medical terms you’re supposed to learn, that early excitement will feel very, very distant.

This is when you need that enthusiasm booster, as a reminder that you deserve to be there and that you’ll overcome the seemingly unsurmountable challenges.

  1. Make lots of new friends

Some of your early day nerves at university will come from not knowing anyone there. Almost everyone is in exactly the same position, so be confident and you can establish friendships that may last for years, if not a lifetime.

Look beyond first years for your new friends. The advantage of getting to know more senior students is that, being ahead of you, they can advise on what’s coming up and can be an invaluable source of support.

  1. Be prepared to overcome some inhibitions

You know that medicine involves working with all aspects of the human body, and not all the bodies you encounter will be alive. There’s no easy way to be prepared for what this really means, except being ready for a shock and working your way through it.

A sense of humour, along with deep respect for those who’ve left their mortal remains to help you learn, will go a long way towards seeing you through.

  1. Start learning right away

It’s impossible to learn everything they teach you at medical school. In fact, after a month you may wonder whether you’re learning anything at all. You won’t be alone—it’s quite common for medical students to feel they’re floundering in the first term. Experience shows it will eventually start to make sense.

By being serious about learning from the very beginning, you’re giving yourself the best possible chance for success. While it can be a little confusing in the early days, make a point of developing good learning habits.

  1. Know where you’re going from the start

You probably chose medicine because you had a longer term career aspiration—say to go into paediatrics, or research, or general practice. As you go through medical school, you’ll be faced with choices and that vision of your future self will help you navigate through the options.

Of course, that vision may change as you’re influenced by experiences and opportunities. That’s quite normal, because your perspective is limited to what you know and the more you learn, the wider your vision becomes.

  1. Be more than a medical student

Contrary to what some say, you will have time to do more than eat, sleep and breathe medicine while you’re at university. It may not always feel like it, but there is time for life outside of being a medical student.

Make space in your life for interests, hobbies and people beyond the walls of your medical school. These help you become a more rounded, more interesting person. They can be a great way to relax, an escape route from what is undoubtedly a demanding schedule of learning.

Make it easier for yourself by discovering ways to enjoy the journey from fresher to medical school graduate.