7 top tips for your first day at medical school

Well done on getting a place at medical school! Your MCAT and GPA were good enough, your application was successful and now you’re about to start out on the exciting journey to becoming an MD.

Here are our top tips for getting the most from your very first day at medical school, setting you up for the busy weeks and years ahead.

  1. Send a message to your family and friends

It’s taken a lot of hard work for you to get this far and you couldn’t have done it without the support and encouragement of the important people in your life. Before you throw yourself into the busy, busy world of a medical student, take a few minutes to say a special ‘thank you’.

Whether it’s a hug before you leave home, a phone call or a Facebook message, those few words for your Mom and Dad, and other supporters, can create a treasured moment as you embark on a new phase of life.

It’s too easy to forget to give your loved ones time, particularly as you become immersed in studies and your new world. Staying in touch will be important throughout your time at medical school.

  1. Enjoy your enthusiasm

Excitement and nerves will be competing emotions on your first day, overlaid with massive enthusiasm to start learning. Don’t allow anything to undermine this early keenness for your studies, and if you can, find a way to capture and bottle it! Because you’ll need a dose later on.

Medical school can be tough and there are likely to be times when you ask yourself why you’re there. It’s not unusual for medical students to question whether they’re good enough, particularly at 2am, after long days of studies or when facing what seems like an impossible test.

This is when you’ll need a boost of that early excitement and enthusiasm, as a reminder that you deserve to be there.

  1. Look forward to making new friends

Some of your first day nerves will be because you don’t know anyone. Be confident that through those early days and months you’ll establish friendships that will last for years, even a lifetime.

Don’t just look for friends among your fellow freshmen. Establish good relationships with those beyond the freshman year, as they can be a great source of advice and support.

One word of guidance that you may well hear from your professors is: “Don’t fall in love.” That’s because relationships distract from studies. Despite these words of wisdom, plenty of medical school students form relationships, many leading to marriage. And they still qualify as MDs!

  1. Be prepared for the cadavers

Working with dead bodies comes as no surprise to medical students, but nothing can fully prepare you for the reality. A sense of humor, along with respect for those who’ve left their mortal remains to help you learn, will be a big help.

  1. Start learning right away

You won’t be able to learn everything they teach you at medical school. The good news is, neither will anyone else, because there is simply too much to take in.

To give yourself the best chance of learning as much as possible, absorb all you can on the very first day and develop good learning habits.

By the time you reach medical school, you should have a good idea of how you learn, so leverage that knowledge to make it easier on yourself. In particular, refine your techniques for taking on new terminology and abbreviations, because they’ll be coming at you in swarms from the very start of your education.

  1. Have a specialty in mind from the outset

How do you picture yourself in the future? As a pediatrician? A cardiologist? Or a family physician? There is no shortage of options and as you go through medical school, the vision of your future self will be influenced by the experiences and opportunities that come your way.

It’s useful to have a specialty in mind from the start of your learning because this will help when it comes to making choices. Your time will be pressured, so you need all the assistance you can get in making decisions as quickly and effectively as possible.

  1. Enjoy yourself!

Despite what you may have heard, medical school isn’t all work, work, work. Yes, there will be times when it feels like you’re being asked to learn more in a week than you learned in a whole year at high school. Yes, you’ll suffer deeper frustration than you thought possible, either with yourself or your professors and probably both. And at the end of it, you’ll experience immense pride and satisfaction at having made MD.

Learn to relax when you can, make fabulous new friends and discover how to successfully navigate the highs and lows of medical school life. Enjoy the journey, from that nervous day one right through to the excitement of graduation.