I am an accepted rising M1 and would really appreciate any advice from people who are currently or have been in medical school -
I was recently accepted to a US MD medical school and have been feeling the excitement of finally attending med school over the past few days. However, as the start date gradually approaches, I realized that I am not so sure on how I want to organize my med school life. I have several specialties of interest, ranging from competitive ones such as radiology and dermatology, to less competitive ones (but still great) like pediatrics and endocrinology. I will definitely prioritize school and step 1 (or step 2 given the current circumstance) but was wondering what kind of extracurricular activities do you guys recommend me pursuing? I am particularly interested in this idea because in college I joined some activities that I later realized I didn't enjoy as much (for example, the research project I did, though gave me a publication in the end, did not suit my interest well). I was just wondering your opinion on how to balance this, as I want to keep my options open but also do activities that interest me?
Thank you so much!!
So I am reading your post and I am literally face palming myself, because you remind me so much of myself. hahhaha. So first of all, - don't be like me: do not try to study before medical school starts!!! I did, and it was totally a waste of time.
So, like the @OnePunchBiopsy
said, 1). definitely get your routine down. THAT MEANS FIGURE OUT HOW TO STUDY. And I am sorry, i know you didn't ask about studying but i really really want to talk about it for a sec because I honestly want you to succeed. I cannot stress it enough: the way you study now and have studied in the undergrad will most likely have to change! I had 3 degrees before starting medical school, and I was SURE that I knew how my brain works. NOPE. I changed study strategy once a month, till I got it right at the end of the first semester. Before that I was going crazy - I was getting 70s (still passing, but low), and I couldn't figure out what was wrong. So I talked to upper classmates, to professors, and to academic development (btw NEVER be embarrassed to seek advice!!). I changed my strategy 4 times, but now I am golden! I feel very comfortable. It is still stressful, of course, because the amount of information is just crazy, but I learnt how to stuff it into my head in the most effective way. On the other hand, I know ppl who had better grades in undergrad than me, and higher MCAT, and failed several exams in a row because they were too stubborn to ask for help. DONT BE LIKE THAT! at the first sign that you are not doing very well, go talk to someone - upper classmate or academic development. Tell them exactly what you do, and they'll help you.
Second thing about studying that i just really want to mention - RESOURCES. there are so many resources out there. Someone told me at the very beginning of medical school that i need to do anki. regurgitating them over and over again for a month and almost failing the first exam made me realize that i was doing it wrong, and also that just because it works for someone, doesnt mean it works for me. First, sit down, and think - what type of learner are you? Are you a visual person? Do things like color coding, tables, graphs work for you? Before school starts i would get first aid book, -it is a great reference book, i literally write notes right into the book. It really helps if you have it from day 1. Definitely download Anki app on your phone and laptop. phone app costs 25 bucks, i think but its worth it. It is much faster to do anki on the phone, you will save a lot of time. I do them while walking my dog, for example. Anyway, download it, and when school starts ask ppl if your school has a google drive where there are premade decks that everyone uses. Use those. There are ppl who make their own decks, - if you want to do that its ok, but it takes SO MUCH TIME. I always just use decks that other made. Also, some people start with anki, then do lectures, but i actually did lectures/first aid first and THEN went through anki deck. This way i already had a big picture in my mind, and anki deck was more of a review. Try both ways and see what works. If you are a visual person, i would try sketchy. My school has it for free. Ask your upper classmates what resources are available for you for free. In my school we have sketchy, free Uworld, premade anki decks, even PDF of school books. Never buy anything unless you made sure it is not available for free. Also, if you do decide to buy some resource, email them first and ask if there is a free trial. They might not advertise it, but give it to you. Or they might give you discount. Just dont overwhelm yourself with resources. Add them one at a time and find a balance. Definitely get First Aid before school starts though, - it would help.
Anyway, after a bit you will get into study rhythm, and engage in extracurricular stuff. So, most likely your school will have some sort of fair in the fall where all the clubs will have a little table set up, where you can walk around and get to know what is going on. That is a great opportunity to see whats out there. Every school probably has professional clubs/interest groups and fun things. For example, i am a member of ultrasound club and pathology club. There are dance club, different cultural things, etc. Basically, whatever you want to do - someone is probably doing it. I do believe that wellness is important, do stuff that makes you happy. Dont just study, make time for other things. I am an introvert, so i do not do things with other people much, but i play video games a lot, love cooking, and go on 5-6 mile daily walks with my dog. Whatever extracurricular things you do - doesnt really matter for career per se. But please do make sure you like it. You might be tempted to engage into something just because it "looks good" - DONT. you will hate yourself. I promised myself that i will NEVER do anything just because it would make me look good. I turned down leadership opportunities, for example, because they were in the clubs i was not interested in, or they were with people i did not like. And i am so much happier. Instead, i made a list of things I LIKE and went off that. There is no single recipe for success in medical school, - MAKE IT YOUR OWN. The only 2 given things - study well, and get good step scores. Everything else, - make it your own. Stay true to yourself. Rediscover yourself and your passions.
lastly, dont be scared to reach out to faculty and doctors. I literally, wrote emails and asked if i can shadow them. and most of the times they said YES. Be professional, be polite, respectful, - but dont be afraid to reach out. I did shadowing in subspecialties of the specialty i am considering, but also in other ones that i just want to explore. Dont rush it though, - allow yourself to change your mind. You are growing, you are exposing yourself to new things. Its ok to go in, thinking that you want to be a surgeon, but then falling in love with pediatrics, for example. I literally wrote down a long list of everything i might even hypothetically consider, and i am exposing myself to these fields by shadowing and talking to people.
if you have any questions, - PM me. Good luck. It will be scary at first, be brave and trust yourself. You might even feel like you are not smart enough to be in medical school (imposter syndrome is real), but just keep telling yourself that admissions committee people are smart and know what they are doing. They would've not accepted you if you were not ready.