18 things they never told you about Med School

Nikki Payawal
If this is really what you want, it will be the most fulfilling decision of your life. Welcome to the science of saving lives!

Everyone tells you that med school is hard, but that’s all they really say.

Here are a few things I wish I knew before I entered it:

1. You will be extremely grade conscious “GC”, or if not, you will wish you were, especially by the end of the year. I know someone who made an Excel file that computes your grade to the decimal, which is extremely useful. I highly recommend you be “GC” early on because you need every point you can get.

2. There’s a difference between true learning and being test-ready. You want to be the best doctor you can be – great! But learning things that will be helpful in the hospital may not necessarily help you pass exams. You need the skill of test-taking or predicting questions. Study old exams from upperclassmen so you know what’s expected of you since it’s impossible to study everything. There are “must-knows,” and there are “nice-to-knows.”

3. If you don’t already have a dorm, you will wish you had. When you live more than 30 minutes away from the school, especially in Metro Manila, traffic is the worst. Traveling is exhausting, and all the energy you waste is the same energy that you could be using to study or rest.

4. You will have less time with your family. Even if you live with them or not, you will see them less and regret it. I’ve known classmates whose parents got seriously ill or even passed away while they were busy with school. 

5. It’s all you will think about – and you can’t help it. If you don’t eat and breathe your medical life, then you won’t pass. Take a break, though, when needed. Your mental and emotional health is more important than you think.

6. Talking to non-med people will seem weird. But once you meet your non-med friends, it will be like a breath of fresh air, and you will realize that there is life outside medical school.

7. It isn’t just the tuition fee that’s expensive. So are the books, so are the notes you need to photocopy, the dissection kits, the coffee, etc. You might even get things you don’t need but will help (like my 3D anatomy app).

8. There is no such thing as over-studying. Sometimes professors make you memorize a huge table of information only to ask one question, and you memorize it, because you need that point. Even if you started weeks ahead, you will study until the very last minute.

9. Studying ahead will come a long way. It’s so easy to lag behind, since every day is full of new material. Studying ahead means sleeping early one extra night, something your future self will be thankful for.

10. People who say they didn’t study enough or at all are lying. You will feel relieved that someone is just like you or worse – until you see that they topped the test. They just don’t want to raise people’s expectations, so don’t be fooled. Don’t let the efforts of your classmates determine how much you should study for an exam.

Photos from Shutterstock.

11. You will have moral dilemmas. To cheat or not, to spread high yield notes or not, to peek at your classmate’s grades or not – those are the questions. While cheating has the gravest repercussions, other issues can affect your relationship with your classmates – the same people you will stick with for years. It’s small decisions like this that will determine what type of doctor you’ll be.

12. You will change your study style more often than you’re comfortable with. You will try studying alone, or in a coffee shop, or with friends, or while listening to EDM. Though, in the end, no matter what anyone tells you, your study style should be your own.

13. You will wonder if you should have chosen a better pre-med course. There is no perfect pre-med course. Whether you took biology, nursing, or even accounting, your pre-med can only help you so far because at least 90% of what you’ll learn is new.

14. High-yield materials are the way to go. It’s impossible to cover everything, so get these from upperclassmen or fellow classmates. Try asking those who get highest in the tests.

15. You will want to give up, and that’s normal. Every med student goes through this. Just get through it, and this too shall pass.

16. You will fail – and that is OK. I can’t even count the number of times I failed myself. If you didn’t study enough, don’t cram next time. If you think your grades are in trouble, consult. Just make ways to be better.

17. You don’t have to be smart. You just have to really want it and work really hard. You can have average IQ, but be the best doctor in the country.

18. You will realize that you must really [expletive] want to be a doctor. Because deep down, you really think that every sleepless night, missed meal, lost weekend without family or friends, must be worth it. 

And it is. You will be God’s healing hands. You may have to be a little crazy to put yourself through this, pero kayang kaya (you can do it)! Before you know it, it’s over, and you will be so proud of yourself. If this is really what you want, it will be the most fulfilling decision of your life. 

So welcome to medical school. Welcome to the science of saving lives! May God bless you! – Rappler.com 

Nikki Payawal just finished her first year as a medical student in the University of Santo Tomas, Faculty of Medicine and Surgery located in Metro Manila, Philippines.

Photos of students and books via Shutterstock.

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