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10+ Year Member
Feb 21, 2005
Or do they suck as much as 1st and 2nd year only in a different way? Can you get alot of sleep and free time to do things? Or are you constantly at the hospital late writing SOAP notes and other crap? I realize it depends on the rotation but in general is it worth the effort or is it way more grueling than you intended.
I'd like an honest perspective, not some sugar coated one. If you'd prefer not voicing your opinion about this to others, you can PM me privately with the lowdown.


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15+ Year Member
May 24, 2003
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3rd year sucks, with the exception of rotations that you enjoy. that of course will vary for each student. 4th year is just waaaaaaaaay too expensive for a vacation.


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15+ Year Member
Apr 5, 2000
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Third year is okay. It's better in my opinion than years 1 and 2 because you don't have to spend so much time studying and taking tests every 2 weeks over stuff you'll forget after the test anyway.

At least in 3rd and 4th years you are learning practical, relevant material. How to practice medicine, workup patients, write notes, interpret labs, read films, suture, etc....

however, having said that third year is incredibly time consuming. You no longer control your schedule. Lots of weekends, call that blows because students where I am at don't get to leave early postcall.

Another problem with 3rd year is that your schedule is often times soo time consuming that you have difficulty finding any time to study at all and the shelf exams (which are kind of difficult) are always looming at the end of the rotation.

I also cannot stand the differences in chiefs, senior residents and interns in the way they want the SAME THING DONE! they all do everything differently and have their own set of rules that you have to abide by. You are definately the lowest on the totem pole.

Overall, i'm just waiting for fourth year and putting up with third year.

Having said all of that. I have learned a TON of medicine and am grateful to be in medical school.



15+ Year Member
Dec 7, 2001
Some rotations suck harder than others. Surgery, in particular, has the trifecta of long hours, abusive residents, and lots of opportunities to look like an idiot.

The only good thing abut surgery is that generally, you don't round as much.

The thing I hated most about third year was rounding. Especially on medicine where you might round with your team twice a day for three or four hours at a time.


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Aug 29, 2000
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I'll start with the good stuff. Third year is great because you learn so much, and what you are learning is by and large practical knowledge that you will use over and over (unlike much of what you learn in the first 2 years). Taking care of your own patients is very rewarding. You also get your first true look at the day-to-day practice of medicine. It is exciting to start thinking about what direction you'd like to go with your future career. If you are lucky enough to work with really good residents or attendings, you can really be inspired by their knowledge & dedication to their work.

With that said, third year was my least favorite experience in medical school. You have a very short period of time (no more than 4-5 weeks per rotation at my school) to prove how much you know. You feel like you are always in the first month of a new job, where you don't really understand what is going on, what is expected of you, or how to deal with the quirks of the people with whom you are working. In addition, you are always aware that you need to impress these people because you will be getting a very important grade from them (at my school, 3rd year rotations are our only true grades so they are very important for AOA and residency applications). The grading is also frustrating, as there is a signficant subjective element to it and you are never quite sure which criteria each resident or attending is using to evaluate you. So you feel like you are constantly under scrutiny. Add this to the fact that you are working long hours and spending each night studying, and it's just a very exhausting year. All of this is assuming that you have a relatively nice group of people on your team. Occasionally you'll also have a malignant resident or attending or a gunner med student to make things more difficult.

In terms of lifestyle/sleep/etc, depends on the rotation. On the toughest rotations I slept around 4-5 hours each weeknight. I was able to go out with friends & catch up on sleep during my 1.5 days off each weekend.

I hope this is helpful. Feel free to PM me if you have more specific questions.


Senior Member
10+ Year Member
7+ Year Member
Feb 21, 2005
depends totally on personality if the first two years are better or the second two years...

if you liked having your own schedule and not having to show up for anything unless you really wanted to and not stressing about "competing" with your peers for grades, but rather just competing with the material itself...then the first two years are better.

it definitely is much more structured, you have to be there many many longer hours, and you don't get to choose when you leave (most of the time). On the other hand, much of the time commitment is not about actively using your brain (although it helps), but rather using your hands, pen, stethoscope, mouth, ears, and eyes. The thing that I found very hard was having to worry about being evaluated subjectively and realizing that being memorable in one sitting for 30 minutes with the attending who grades you on 1/4 of your grade can count as much if not more than busting your butt 12 hours a day for your resident/intern. You have to figure out how to play the game a bit if you really are worried about doing well.

For the most part though, you do well by just showing up all the time, on time and prepared and being pleasant to be around. That counts for a big chunk of 3rd and 4th year and its surprising how many people can't do that for various personality or other reasons.

It is a totally different world, and the biggest thing is the amount of free time that you take for granted as a 1st and 2nd year that you realize was a total blessing. 3rd year is definitely the year that requires the most stamina, but it goes by fast because you're doing something different every few weeks. 4th year though, aside from a few very intense rotations with a lot of responsibility ends up being a pretty relaxed year (except for the stress of getting into residency).

The material, in the clinical years, is a thousand times more interesting.


I enjoyed most of my third year rotations, though Surgery was of course my favorite...certain days were more painful than others, of course (call nights in the L&D department of OB, or at the Psych ER). Fourth year is mainly about scheduling electives that are either interesting to you, or focus on your weak areas (e.g. reading x-rays, dropping central lines, etc.). It's also a nice break since you get to pick most of your elective rotations, plus you have time off to interview, etc.