1. The Medical Profession is not a cult. I get flamed for saying this. You do not have to sacrifice your sanity, health, and physical fitness to its service, especially not in first and second year. It is just a profession. Treat it as a demanding job to which you expect to devote sixty hours a week and you will do fine.
It is also all right to dislike certain aspects of it or to be bored by certain subjects. You are not offending some rigid order if you do. Many people, for example, have unashamedly discovered that they despise pediatrics. I am one of them. I would rather flip burgers than be a pediatrician. Some people, on the other hand, love it.
2. Don’t get obsessed with the minutia of first semseter lectures. Of course you have to learn it, of course you will be tested on it, but around spring-break of first year you will realize that you don’t remember any of the little details of biochemistry that seemed so important in the fall. This is normal. Most first semester stuff is trivia, absolutely useless to a clinician except as part of his deep background of knowledge. You will have two days of lectures, for example, on proteoglycans, the important and (more importantly) Step 1 testable portion of which could fit on a small index card even though the professor who is an expert in the subject will deliver six hours of lectures.
It’s his area of expertise, after all, a subject to which he has devoted his life.
3. As you progress, you will develop a knack for knowing what is important and what is trivia. Even though you cover more material in second year, you will probably only study a third as much as you did in first year for the same grades.
4. Be aware of the honor code. It is a pesky little thing that most people don’t think about but which can whip around when you least expect it and sink its fangs into your ass. I have never had any trouble but some people in my class, and I will not name names or get more specific out of respect for them, were involved in what seemed like an innocuous action which resulted in some pretty severe punishments which were just short of expulsion.
If you knew how trivial the offense was you’d laugh.
Not trying to scare you. Just want to make you aware. Do I even have to say to steer clear of the obvious honor code violations like cheating?
5. Exercise. Nothing demoralizes most people like sitting around trying to study while they feel themselves turning into lardish library potatos. If you can’t make an hour a day to run or lift weights, especially if you are single, then you are doing someting wrong and need to examine your study habits.I don’t know if it’s scientific but I study better if I am in shape.
6. Studying: Quality over quantity although you do need to do a lot of it. Many of the people who claim to study twelve hours per day are probably in front of their books or at the library 12 hours per day but a lot of what passes for study time is not technically studying. Internet surfing, for example, can suck vast quantities of your study time as can socializing, daydreaming, or studying material you have a good handle on because it is easy.
I got by in first year on four hours per day of good quality studying. I didn’t surf the internet, I didn’t socialize, and I didn’t take breaks. When I was done with my four hours I quit and didn’t worry about it. Of course you should study like crazy at least for the first couple of tests to see how you do. If you are happy with your grades you can start to back off a little.
You will probably be amazed to discover that the amount of studying you do does not always directly correlate with your grade. Unfortunantly at many schools you will not have access to old test questions from the so this avenue of low effort, high yield study is closed to you.
7. When you are done with a course, move on. As long as you passed you can put it in the “win” column. This applies to everybody but those of you planing on matching in highly cometative specialties. Unfortunantly you will have to obsess about grades. Sorry.
Still, there is no point crying about a grade. Move on. Most of us are used to getting good grades in our undergraduate years with minimal effort. You can work like a dog and still get Cs in medical school. Don’t let it bother you.
8. You do not, repeat not, have to get in a study group. They will issue dire warnings about this during orientation but I can assure you that studying alone is best for most people. Your head will not explode.
9. Your milestones are the following:
Step 1: Must pass. End of Second year. You will usually have five or six weeks off between second and third year to study for it or for vacation or any combination. Fail it once and you will have to take your third year vacation month to study and retake it. Fail it twice and you have to sit out the rest of the year and come back with the lower class. Fail it three times and you are done.
Step 2 Clinical Knowledge: Any time in fouth year before April but realistically you want to take it early both to get it out of the way and to have scores for your residency applications.
Step 2 CLinical Skills: Any time in fourth year before April.
ERAS: Electronic Residency Application Service. Start getting your letters of reccomendation early in fourth year. You should have an idea of what you want to specialize in. Submit common applications as early as September.
Interviews:Most usually in November, December, and January.
NRMP:Submit Rank Order List by end of February. Last year the deadline was the 23rd.
Match Day:Third Thursday in March of fourth year.
Graduation: Late May.