By Kylee Kus
Medical school acceptance letters come with the joy and excitement of accomplishing a long-term goal and, oftentimes, feelings of nervousness or anxiety associated with the upcoming changes and challenges involved in transitioning to medical student life. Although these concerns are valid, my first 2 years of medical school have resolved these initial worries.
Is There Time to Do More than Just Study?
Yes! Attending classes and studying does consume a substantial portion of my schedule, but there is still plenty of time to live your life. I have been able to continue several of my pre–medical school hobbies and even managed to pick up some new ones introduced to me by peers. It is very doable for me to maintain a workout routine, cook all of my meals, participate in student organizations, volunteer in the local community, and still binge Netflix. I have also taken advantage of the opportunity to explore a new part of the country. Giving time to non–academic-related activities has been incredibly beneficial to my own wellness and health. We have an entire career in medicine awaiting us, and I would argue that the journey of medical training is as important as the end goal if not more so. Prioritizing the balance between school and life has made my experience incredibly fulfilling thus far. Most students I have encountered have been able to find the balance that best suits them and make it work with their study schedule.
What if I Do Not Know Which Field of Medicine I Want to Pursue?
It is very common for medical students to start school without a strong interest in a particular area of medicine. I would encourage even those with a determined direction to explore all the opportunities available. Joining my school's internal medicine interest group was greatly helpful in gaining exposure to the various subspecialties in internal medicine and meeting physicians who work in these diverse fields. I serve as the group's chair of allergy and immunology; however, as part of the larger organization, I have attended panel discussions that hosted cardiologists, pulmonologists, gastroenterologists, endocrinologists, nephrologists, and infectious disease doctors. In terms of determining which area of medicine you want to pursue, I would advise students to focus less on specific specialties and instead explore what characteristics best suit you. How much do you value patient interaction or longitudinal care? Do you want to involve procedural aspects? Would you rather see a different case every 15 minutes or dedicate consecutive hours to solving the problem at hand? For students entering medical school, there is plenty of time to decide your future career path; in the meantime, be sure to learn about and appreciate what each specialty has to offer.
Will My MCAT Score and GPA Predict My Medical School Success?
From what I have observed in my first 2 years, undergraduate GPAs and MCAT scores have minimal correlation with exam grades in medical school. I was concerned that my subpar college grades might predispose me to struggle academically in medical school, but that worry has been assuaged. Some of the brightest members of my class were accepted off the waitlist or had below average metrics. I feel that once accepted to medical school, students are on an equal playing field, each with their own strengths to contribute to the class identity. I would advise new students to consider the start of medical school like a clean academic slate. Do not doubt yourself or your abilities to excel in medical school simply because of past academic performances.
Is Moving 800 Miles Away from Home a Good Idea for Medical School?
I completed my undergraduate education and my gap year in my home state. Moving partway across the country for medical school was equally exciting and anxiety inducing. So many of my peers stressed the importance of having a support network nearby that I wondered whether moving away was a good plan. Upon starting school, I found that many students were in a similar situation. Soon, connections were made and our student community took form. My colleagues and classmates have become my support network away from home, and they often understand medical school–related experiences better than friends or family who are less familiar with our daily lives. Moving to a new setting for medical school encouraged me to be more outgoing and involved. In addition, I now have ties to two geographic areas for when I apply to residency!
How Hard Is It Really?
I feel that the difficultly of medical school was overhyped before matriculating. Do not be intimidated by horror stories that abound on Internet blogs and online threads. There are elements of medical training that are undeniably difficult and times that you will be pushed to your limits. But you would not have been admitted if the committee did not firmly believe you were capable of succeeding. I think the increased challenge magnifies the rewarding aspects of attending medical school. Many times, I would find myself sitting in undergraduate lectures wondering, “When will I ever use this?” In medical school, everything you learn is useful and practical, and this makes studying much more worth it. Most students would not describe medical school as easy by any means, but it is the hard work and time dedicated that make learning medicine so deeply satisfying.
Oakland University William Beaumont School of Medicine
Class of 2021
Back to the September 2019 issue of ACP IMpact