Everything One Needs Before Entering Medical School

Hello, first years. I hope this finds you all well and you’re enjoying summer and NOT trying to study in advance for your first day. Seriously, don’t do that. Anyways, since I have survived my first year in medical school, I figured I would share some advice and tips for all of you incoming first years. It should be pretty useful for those of you this coming fall and years to come. This can also be added to for those of you that aren’t first years and are farther along than me and reading this. Feel free to comment on it and share your ideas. So read it, take it in, share it, whatever. These are in no particular order. Enjoy and good luck! XOXO, Student Dr. Diva

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  1. Plan your week out on Sunday night – thank me later. You will save so much time being on a schedule, knowing when you are going to the gym, what you’re going to eat for dinner, how many hours of studying you need to put in for the day, etc. I plot my schedule in Excel and plot an Ideal vs. Real graph and plot what I really did after I’ve planned out my ideal schedule for the week. It shows me where I spent the majority of my time and where I can save time in other areas. A Sunday well spent brings a week of content!
  2. School Supplies: As far as this goes, everyone is different but here are a few of my absolute necessities: papermate felt tip colored pens and other ballpoint colored pens, computer paper, mechanical pencils, hi-lighters, a stapler, staples, white-out, scissors, a hole punch, pens, (you’ll get a bunch of free medical ones though), the pens that come with 4 colors in one (I use these for frameworking before lectures, see previous blogs), colored pencils, a pencil sharpener, markers, huge 4-inch 3-ring binders for each course, binder tabs, a good agenda (I like Erin Condren or Lilly Pulitzer), a stylus for you tech people, sticky notes, page tabs, a pencil pouch (Michael Kors or Lilly Pulitzer are my favorites) and a crate to put it all in or a desk organizer at your seat in class.
  3. Ipad Air – mini or full size – The mini fits in your white coat and can be used a lot during rotations. However, my friend uses her mini during x-ray lectures to see the screen better. Also, a ton of my classmates take notes on ipads, apparently it saves more trees 😉
  4. A good pair of headphones – I personally recommend Beats by Dre. I have the noise cancelling studio headphones but I recommend paying extra and getting the wireless. This does wonders when trying to cancel out noise to listen to lectures, or just studying with no music. It really helps when I’m studying the morning of exams to cancel out the noise from the students talking nonchalantly. HIGHLY RECOMMEND. Plus they come in tons of colors! Mine are hot pink!
  5. Make friends and fast. You’re going to want a buddy to cry with over how much work you have left to do, how there is not enough time in one day, grades, relationship problems, or about how med. school just sucks in general some days. It’s always good to have people going through the same things as you so you can relate and it definitely helps to not be alone. Plus you can encourage and motivate each other! Most people find their best friends in medical school.
  6. Be nice to people! Don’t be that gunner that is rude to everyone and purposefully teaches people the wrong terms on a cadaver practical and screws all of their friends over on purpose to get ahead. NEWSFLASH: 1ST 2 YEARS OF GRADES DON’T MATTER IN MEDICAL SCHOOL. Take that, gunners.
  7. Back to grades – if you don’t make straight A’s, so what! 7-0=D.O. or C=M.D. Just be careful with these statements if you want a top notch residency in neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins, etc… then your class rank might matter a little. But as far as that goes – all that matters are BOARDS SCORES, interviews with residencies, WHO YOU KNOW AKA CONNECTIONS, letters of recommendation, 3rd and 4th year grades, and thennnnnn clear at the bottom are 1st and 2nd year grades which I’ve been told by residency programs that all they do is check for an academic transcript. So don’t jump off a bridge because you got a B or even a C. Seriously, some people contemplate it. I’m not making fun or a joke, it’s seriously sad seeing someone getting so broken down over them. It’s not that big of a deal, promise. Ever ask your family physician his grades in medical school or what rank he was? No I bet you haven’t nor have even thought about it until you just read this sentence. Most of them can’t remember nor ever kept track or cared. Pre-med/Undergrad is over people. Don’t sabotage your friends/classmates for grades that don’t “amount to a hill of beans”…WV reference.
  8. MAKE TIME FOR YOURSELF, YOUR FRIENDS, FAMILY, AND RELATIONSHIPS! Only the crazies study medicine 18 hours a day and have no life or friends. Medicine is a huge part of what we do, yes, but it is not all that we do or all that we are. Never forget that. You have people that love, care about you, support you, and would do anything for you. Never leave them behind for a career that will always be there. Your parents and grandparents won’t always be around, medicine will. Remember that.
  9. Eat well and exercise! I swear this is one of the most important concepts people fail to realize. Our bodies are intricately and perfectly designed machines. They are just like cars – they run on what we put in them! You wouldn’t put 85 unleaded gas in a Ferrari, so why put a ton of fried, artificial, junk food in your body especially on weeks of exams? Stress eating is real, but learn to combat it with healthy foods and snacks! It does wonders for your brain and energy levels. Exercise at least 30-45 minutes a day, 5-6 days a week. Not only will it boost your energy levels and endorphins, it will help rid all of the stress in your body and get your mind off of school for a while. It’s also been proven to help with memory, learning, and the list goes on and on.
  10. A nice computer. Usually your school gives you one. Ours aren’t that fabulous. I recommend a Macbook Air that is lightweight, top-notch, and thin enough to be carried anywhere and everywhere. Yes, you will be trying to research and study in the areas you’d never believe you would.
  11. Start prepping for boards. I’m not saying take your first aid the first day of class and fill it out vigorously and read every page. I am saying though, that every exam you take is preparing you for boards. There are multiple questions on each of those exams that you’ll take that you will see again on boards in a different style, version, etc. Take it seriously.
  12. Try not to procrastinate – take it from me! Also, youtube why medical school is like eating pancakes and you’ll understand this procrastination concept in medical school. It is much different from undergrad. It is so hard to catch back up. I know you don’t feel like studying today, but don’t make it hard on yourself by having double the workload tomorrow. Suck it up, get it done, and stay on task.
  13. SLEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEP. Another concept students don’t seem to feel is important. They’re gonna regret it when they graduate and look like they’re 50 years old when they’re actually 25. Sleep is CRUCIAL for encoding memories, healing the body and mind, and again, the list goes on. So don’t avoid it or you will crash and burn, literally. Try to get at least 6 hours, each body is different (I need at least 7) and can work on different ranges but 7-9 is preferred.
  14. Don’t be that annoying person that asks a question every single lecture in the classroom on purpose to hear yourself or something. I really don’t get what these people get out of it but that’s just my guess. Definitely don’t ask it if you don’t know what you’re talking about. People will talk about you and might even question what you’re doing in medical school, it might be so bad and distracting to students that they might even include it in a blog like “Everything a first year needs to know”. Just being honest. You wouldn’t believe the comments and remarks I’ve overheard about certain “question girl or boy” as they’re referred to. You don’t want to be that person.
  15. Invest in supplemental materials for boards and to help encompass curriculum learning: Picmonic, Firecracker, Pathoma, Sketchy Micro, Osmosis, etc. These all get pricey but I do have a discount I can give you guys on Picmonic – tweet me for details! I love using Picmonic because I am a visual person. I will remember a picture, not words. I also love firecracker because it’s like a huge question bank that I can access on an app and use while I’m waiting in lines, traveling, etc. I am not endorsed so I’m telling you for your own benefit. Make sure you check the program out to see if it fits your needs before you go spending a ton of loan money.
  16. Textbooks – if you want an ipad and use PDF’s disregard this. If you’re old school like me and kill trees (not purposefully, I love nature tbh) then you’ll still use textbooks. You don’t need every textbook on your list that the school gives you and if you need it, you can always access it in the library and print off pages by making copies. Save yourself a few hundred bucks and talk to your peer mentor, a current student, or the employees in the bookstore. I have a list that my school recommends which will probably be different from your list. I will update this blog July 1 when it is released and give it to you all. Come back then!
  17. A good stethoscope! You’re going to want to hear that murmur your grader is telling you she hears so you better have a good stethoscope, not a fake, plastic one from wal-mart. It’s an investment, it’s not that expensive, and you’ll use it more than anything else and can carry it all the way through medical school and into residency and beyond. I recommend Littmann Cardiology III. I love it, it’s great quality, and mine is pink! Yes, you can get whatever color you want and no, it is not unprofessional. Don’t be boring and go with grey. At least get black with brass and your name on it or something 😉
  18. DO NOT REFER TO YOURSELF AS DOCTOR ANYTHING. YOU ARE NOT A DOCTOR. You are a piddly first year that is a STUDENT doctor, so do yourself a favor, take Dr. out of your bio on Instagram, twitter, snapchat, Tinder, whatever social media you have. It’s kind of lame/rude when you refer to yourself as doctor when you haven’t earned it yet. Also, you’re not going to have the answers when a patient asks you a question or when your attending asks you a question, so you’re going to want to be a first year. Live it up while you can. Trust me, I’m only a silly second year. Also, prepare yourself for the millions of questions you will now get from your friends and family that assume you know everything a doctor knows. My favorite reply has been an educated guess followed with “but I’m not even a doctor yet so I’d recommend going to see someone for that.”
  19. Professional clothing. I’m not saying don’t wear yoga pants (because I wear these basically every day that I’m out of class and studying in the other classroom) but I do try to dress nice and look professional for each lecture when I can. These are your professors, future colleagues, mentors, etc. Impress them. I’m not saying dress up every single day, but nice jeans, a nice blouse, nice shoes, not your club clothes with tons of skin showing. Again, undergrad is over. No more thirsty Thursdays wearing those sky high heels. You’re thirsty Thursdays will now consist of drinking massive amounts of red bull or coffee and will be spent in a library. You also need a nice suit, dress, dress pants, and blouses etc. These will be for shadowing your physicians, patient clinical encounters, awards banquets and ceremonies, etc. Look sharp. A professional, well-dressed person earns more respect.
  20. A whiteboard. This is one of the most important study tools in your entire medical school career. Don’t drop 200$ on a fancy, expensive one either. Save your money and get showerboard from Lowe’s! I got a 5ft. x 8ft. whiteboard that is thin but I screwed into my wall for around 20$. I used this so much over the year that my hands would get stained from markers.
  21. Treat yo self, but don’t overdo it. If you get an A in a course and want a new Tory Burch tote, or Lilly Pulitzer dress, or Michael Kors watch, or a Sephora trip, go for it guuuuuurl. Obvi, boys get your boy things like a new video game or something idk. Just don’t be doing that once a week or anything crazy. You are a broke med. student and most likely you’ll be taking out loans unless your parents are rich and pay for your entire tuition, bills, rent, food, textbooks, diagnostic equipment, clothes, gas, etc. In that case, spend whatever you want, lucky you. If you’re like most people, you’ll be 200,000 dollars in debt on average – so don’t spend $1,000 on an unnecessary coffee table for an apartment you’re only going to be in for 2 years. Just a suggestion.
  22. PICK A GOOD SEAT. Yes, even if you have to go in the night before orientation and sleep there (all my friends and I did it, it’s fine, we have no shame.) It was worth the sleepless night. We got the exact seat we wanted, and they were the best seats in the class, sooo there ya go. If you’re in the back, you can’t see as well and definitely aren’t engaged by the professor. In our lecture hall of 215 seats, it’s impossible for the professor to make eye contact with every person. If you sit up front, studies show that you pay better attention, plus it’s just rude to text in the lecturer’s face while they’re presenting. Trust me on this one, ALL SEATS ARE NOT CREATED EQUAL. But for other people, they don’t get distracted and it doesn’t matter where they sit so they might like the back, especially if they want to be the first ones out of lecture.
  23. Go to class! If you can speed the lecture up at home and don’t take many notes, that’s understandable, or can’t keep up and need to slow it down, also understandable. Again, studies show that one learns more by simply attending class and absorbing the material. I know it made a world of difference if I just listened to the lecture or actually went and saw the professor talking. I’m not an auditory learner which brings me to another point:
  24. Figure out your learning style. Our class was made to take a short quiz and see which learning styles we would utilize based on our responses. I’m visual. My friend is auditory, my other friend is kinesthetic. Learn this early on and it will save you tons of time by knowing how you can learn the most efficiently which is key when they bombard you with SO. MUCH. MATERIAL.
  25. TAKE TIME OFF. Don’t try to study ahead on thanksgiving or Christmas breaks. YOUR BRAIN NEEDS THAT BREAK! Seriously, burn out is so real. Don’t study the night after exams either. Go have fun with your friends, go drink, go do whatever it is non-medically related that you do. You will be much happier and simply put, sane.
  26. Be open minded. Everyone you meet is for a purpose – to teach you something, give you something, learn from you, etc. Everyone is so different in your class, yet you’ll find some very similar to you! Each person’s style and learning techniques vary substantially. Be nice to them and understand this point. Sure, you’re not going to like some people in your class which is normal but who knows! You might meet your best friend as I mentioned before or even your soulmate. I’ve seen it happen. Furthermore, be open minded about specialties. If you come in wanting to do neurosurgery but don’t like neuro, don’t be discouraged, but don’t be so dead set on a specialty that you won’t budge. Most people don’t select their specialty until they can be immersed in it during rotations. It’s great to have an idea once you come in but allow yourself to remain flexible.
  27. Any time you see “HIGH YIELD” or hear those two words in a sentence, star it, highlight it, flag it, write it on your hand, do something. It’s obviously important or on some type of exam you will have in the near future. Also any of these phrases are similar to the high yield phrase and possibly on exams like “this is worth mentioning or remembering, this is important, you should know this, I put stars by this, I made this bold, this is in red for a reason, study the objectives, this is noteworthy, I would remember this if I were you, this is an exception,” etc. IMPORTANT!*
  28. A large desk with the maximum surface area possible. If there is clutter on your desk, then there is probably clutter in your life – also another study found which you can google these said studies fyi. The clearer your desk is, the more organized you are and this is true. Only put your absolute study essentials on the desk and what you have to do that day with all of your needed materials so do actually put your clothes away and don’t just pile them onto your desk.
  29. Scrubs – I like brightly colored scrubs from Wonderwinks. I’d recommend 5 sets one for each day of the work week. We had cadaver lab every day, twice a day some modules and they start to smell. Also, if you have OPP lab (osteopathic medical schools) you’ll need t-shirts and scrub pants and it’s always fun to wear different colored scrub pants each week and not the normal ugly blue, grey, and hunter green ones. I have yellow, bright green, coral, peach, pink, and black……and also the ugly colors (that I never wear. Ew.)
  30. Set rules and guidelines especially if you have roommates. Know what bothers them, let them know what bothers you. Create a list, sit down a talk to each other in weekly or monthly meetings in the house, or whatever works. Work together to not drive each other crazy. Seeing each other all day in class, then at home each night can really be annoying for both of you. It’s medical school. It WILL happen. It’s also important for your friends to not call you during the day to disrupt study time and to let them know when it is okay to call. They might be mad at first but they’ll get over it.
  31. Lastly, but not least, TAKE THE SUMMER OFF BEFORE YOU START MEDICAL SCHOOL. I cannot stress this enough. You will probably tweet and thank me later. You cannot physically learn and prepare all you need to know for the entire year in 3 months of summer vacation. It’s impossible. Your mind won’t get a break, it’s unnecessary, and no one does it. Odds are, you’ll forget most of it anyway and you should be prepared or at least somewhat prepared after your pre-reqs and MCAT. ENJOY THE LITTLE BIT OF FREEDOM YOU HAVE LEFT!
  32. A good phone. I have an iphone 6 plus and I love it. You need a good phone not necessarily to talk to people but basically to check your school e-mail everyday….not kidding. Also call your family from time to time and a reliable phone is important when you have a study group and certain agendas you need to be on time for. I also use this for an alarm which you will definitely need after studying all day until the wee hours of the early morning and getting up at 7am.
  33. Realize you’re not perfect, and it’s okay to say YOU DON’T KNOW. You’re not in undergrad anymore, Dorothy. You CANNOT learn everything. It is physically impossible unless you’re a genius and an amazing test taker with a photographic memory all in one that gets 100s on almost everything. But those are extremely rare. You WILL go into a test that you studied everything for the best you could and still not know 100% of a concept or material. In case you forgot already, read bullet 27 again.
  34. Whatever you do, no matter how hard it is or how much you want to, don’t give up. Remember why you started and why you’re here. Post motivational quotes on your wall, write them on your mirror, print them out and put them at your desks. It will be hard. It will be mentally and emotionally trying but you WILL get through and make it and it WILL be worth it! 🙂

In order to succeed, you must first believe that you can. “All our dreams can come true if we have the courage to pursue them.” – Walt Disney

 

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