How to Survive Medical School

Most people have a perception of med school that includes countless hours of lectures, lab work and studying without much sleep along the way. While coursework can feel overwhelming, there are things you can do to be a successful student while still taking care of yourself.

survive medical school tips suggestions skills strategies

Take Practice Exams

Given the massive amount of information you must take in during med school, any steps you can use to focus your study can help. People who've made it through suggest that med students obtain exams from previous years to get a feel for the format of tests and their subject matter. This practice can provide insight into what areas are most important to study. In addition, hold on to any quizzes or other class handouts you're given. In most cases, you will see similar problems or diagrams on the exams.

Maintain Learning Priorities

Some first- and second-year med students feel the need to split their time between coursework and preparation for Step I of the USMLE or COMLEX. Many experts, however, recommend focusing study on class material and exams. Getting good grades should be first priority during this time; working on higher-level requirements can wait.

Schedule Your Time

This may sound like a basic suggestion, but it's also critical. Medical school includes so many intensive responsibilities that it's important to account for virtually every hour in the day. Be as specific as possible when mapping out your schedule. For example, plan precise times at which you'll do work or study for different classes. Furthermore, make sure you set aside time to study for upcoming tests a couple of weeks in advance. Although some students can be successful cramming the day before the test, you will be a lot less stressed if you break up your studying into smaller sessions.

Join a Study Group

Joining a study group provides you with access to the knowledge, learning strategies and resources of peers. Other people may be able to provide insight into the expectations of different faculty members, an advantage that can help you succeed. Study partners can also offer support on those tough days when a little commiseration goes a long way.

Limit Outside Activities

It's a fact of life during medical school that you'll have to spend more time studying than at any other point in your college career. It's a good idea to adjust your rhythm early on, cutting down on social engagements and extracurricular activities. While it can be hard to put limits on these experiences, the goal you're seeking is worth the price.

survive medical school tips suggestions skills strategies

Find Mentors

Even with preparation and diligence, medical school can present many academic and emotional challenges. Overcoming obstacles is easier when you have faculty members on your side. Not only can these people offer support, they can also provide inspiration as you weigh professional options. If you feel as though you're really struggling, finding a tutor or asking a fellow classmate for assistance can also help turn your academics around.

Stay Focused on Goals

As you go through med school, remember why you're there. Being mindful about your goals will be helpful as you choose classes, ponder specialty areas and, ultimately, consider residency options. When you're focused on what you want to achieve, it's also easier to make it through those inevitable overwhelming periods.

Take Care of Yourself

It will often be hard to get the sleep you need, and a shoestring budget may not allow for a lot of pizazz in the grocery department. Do your best, though, to get the rest and nutrients your body needs - your focus and performance will benefit. Also, remember to take a little downtime away from studying, whether to relax or be with friends. This can help you approach your studies refreshed and more focused.

Know What to Expect

There are entire books and websites about medical school. Check these out for advice on everything from clinical rotations to licensing exams and patient presentation to residency selection. Use these resources to familiarize yourself with different aspects of med school so that you'll be prepared when you encounter them. It's no secret that med school is difficult for most. If you struggle at the outset, don't let that discourage you from continuing your studies.

Need to take a break from the study grind? Check out these free online web apps meant to help you relax.

Next: View Schools

Popular Schools

The listings below may include sponsored content but are popular choices among our users.

Find your perfect school

What is your highest level of education?