3 Common First-Year Medical School Pitfalls and How to Avoid Them

By Tamiera Vandegrift on March 1, 2017

This article is brought to you by Kaplan, the leader in test prep for over 90 standardized tests, including the GRE, GMAT, LSAT, and MCAT.

Congratulations! You made it into medical school. Your fantasies of entering the profession of your dreams are almost a reality. You should be so proud! I know that I am proud of you.

As you are getting ready to go into your first year of medical school, you probably have a million things going through your mind: What classes will I take? What professors will I have? What specialty will I choose? What color will my stethoscope be?

One thing you probably have not considered are the common pitfalls that first-year medical students often stumble into. After all, who really wants to think about what can go wrong? The name of the game is anticipation and preparation. If you learn more about how to address potential issues before they become issues, you will have a better shot of defeating those issues before they even become tangible, but don’t panic. We’ve got you.

Read on to learn more about the common pitfalls that first-year medical students fall into … and how you can avoid them yourself.

Don’t: Isolate yourself

Once you find yourself in the full swing of academic insanity, it will be easy to shut and lock yourself in your study room and ignore the sunlight for days on end. The terms on your flashcards will become your native tongue and you will have forgotten what your bed feels like.

Do not let this happen to you. Remember that there is a life outside of medical school, and that life is yours. Do not let your academics eat you alive. Above all, don’t isolate yourself from the rest of the world.

Instead: Balance

Establish a balance between your academics and your personal life. Remember to keep in contact with your friends and family. Build a support system among your classmates. Odds are that they are just as stressed out and spread thin as you are. Take time for yourself as well.

Catch up on that Netflix show that you have been meaning to watch. Make yourself your favorite meal every now and again. Take a long walk in nature and enjoy the sights. Having a balance within yourself and a healthy brain will help you to be a stronger student, but more importantly a stronger human.

Image via: www.pexels.com

Don’t: Choose a specialty … yet

Remember how everyone told you not to pick a major right off the bat during your undergraduate years? They were right, and they still are. It is tempting to throw all of your eggs in one basket and pick a specialty the minute you walk through the door of your medical school.

However, I strongly advise you to do otherwise. Chances are that you might not know what you want yet. You might have an idea, but you do not know about all of your options yet. You do not want to make a decision that you will come to regret later.

Instead: Explore

Check out all of your options before you pick a specialty. Take different classes in all areas before you pick a specific area of interest. Waiting to make a decision might be the best choice you have ever made because it gives you the time to grow as a medical school student. You will know more about what you really enjoy and are really passionate about.

In the meantime, when people are hounding you with that age-old question, “What do you want to be when you grow up,” hit them with a, “I’m still deciding.” The road to becoming a medical professional is a long one; you have plenty of time to figure it all out.

Image via: www.pexels.com

Don’t: Work outside of your interests

I’m not going to deceive you. Working part-time while going to medical school will be one of the most difficult things you will ever do. If you can get through it, I commend you, but if you decide not to, there is no shame in that either. Just thinking about the costs of medical school is probably enough to make you want to research how much your organs are worth on the black market, but getting a part-time job is (arguably) the less lethal option.

If you do decide to work part-time, do not waste your time working somewhere that you have no interest in. Don’t volunteer for your local hospital if you are more interested in doing research.

Instead: Search within your interests

Check out opportunities for job shadowing, or continue to search for something more related to what you are interested in. Not only will you be making serious bank, but you will also be doing something you are passionate about and that you will be able to use to develop your resume. This will also be a perfect time to try out different jobs and see if your dream job is actually a dream come true, or a nightmare in disguise.

Above all else, be kind to yourself. It will be easy to succumb to dark thoughts of self-ridicule and despair some days. There will be days when your friends get better test scores than you. There will be days when you draw a blank when it comes to studying terms. There will be days when you begin to question your capacity for success, but above all, be kind to yourself. Be forgiving.

You are a success in your own way. After all, you are a medical school student, aren’t you?

Learn more about Kaplan’s test prep options and start building the confidence you need for Test Day.

Tamiera is a senior at Florida State University, studying Editing, Writing & Media and Digital Media Production. When she's not geeking out about movies and puppy videos, she's on her way to a career in screenwriting, while working intensely to finish a few novels before graduation. Besides writing, Tamiera is otherwise obsessed with Coldplay, feminism, dystopian novels, and various types of junk food. She hopes to see one of her works on the silver screen and eventually finish an entire tube of Chapstick.

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