Congratulations on your medical school acceptance. Summer is coming to an end and the first year of medical school is about to begin.
So what do you think it will be like? Exciting? Hard? Crazy? Tiring?
I will tell you about my experience.
The first year of medical school was amazing. I don’t know if it was just my medical school, but I really enjoyed it. It felt like college: lots of excitement, lots of new people, and very little work.
My first day began on August 1, 2010. Yes, it was a weekend — Sunday to be exact. It was the day for White Coat Ceremony, when medical students get their short, white coats. I would get to see all the new faces of my classmates and possibly make some cool friends.
I really miss those early days of medical school. I was in a really good shape and had a really nice tan. Now I’m in a really round shape and have a paler complexion.
I think I partied more in the first year of medical school than any of my college years. It was great!
My school offered a two month preview of many first year courses (such as anatomy, biochemistry, and histology), called pre-matriculation. It is basically summer school from 8:00 AM to 5:00 PM with many exams, which don’t count towards the GPA. It was optional for some people and mandatory for others. It was optional for me so I did not go, I wanted to enjoy my summer.
About 1/3 of my class did attend pre-matriculation. So during White Coat Ceremony, lots of people already knew each other. I knew that lots of friendships were already formed and I had to be proactive to form my own social group.
First Semester – Part 1 of the First Year of Medical School
The first week of medical school was orientation. Lots of people talked to us about what school is going to be like, what the school has to offer, and other topics to get us accustomed to the environment. Free lunch was provided every day. Clubs and the US military were trying to recruit us. In the night, there were events such as bowling and BBQ dinner. I specifically went to these events so socialize and get numbers. I wasn’t very picky and became very friendly with everyone I talked to. I would invite those people to my own social events and hangouts throughout the semester. And from that, I culled my friends.
It is very important that you make friends quickly. Because if you don’t, you will get left out. I know of people in my class who did not have friends in school or were ostracized for whatever reason. Some of them did not make it to the second year. Medical school is easier if you have people to watch out for you. Anyways, you will need people to hang out with when you stop studying. So for the first month of school, put yourself out there. Go to events. Go to class. Introduce yourself.
The first week flew by really quickly and medical school really began. But it was not so bad. The first class I had was biochemistry. And because I was a non-science major, I had absolutely no clue what the teacher was talking about. I did not care because exams were still a long way off — in a month or so. I remember my first histology class. The professor breezed through the different epitheliums. I was lost at squamous.
As the first exam was approaching, I was putting in massive hours of studying. I would attend all the classes and then study until 2:00 AM. Looking back, I over-studied. But it was necessary because I was lacking in science knowledge compared to my peers. I also was not studying as effectively. I remember studying for my biochemistry test by reading all the notes right before the exam. I did not retain much and it certainly showed on my exam grade.
If you want to see my study strategy that I have honed over the course of three semester (1.5 years), visit the studying in medical school section. It will be highly beneficial, especially if you do not have a set way to study yet.
But as the semester went on, medical school got increasingly easier and easier. The first month was the hardest, not because the content was hard, but because I had yet to adjust. After the first month, it felt like I was in college all over again. I was hanging out with my friends pretty much every single day.
One of the things that made first year of medical school easy was because I had lots of good teachers. They taught well. Their class notes were good. Their tests were fair. I could not complain about the schedule either. Fridays were pretty much half-days. There was just one class scheduled, microbiology, and it would last for two hours.
Winter break definitely approached too quickly.
Second Semester – Part 2 of the First Year of Medical School
After winter break, the schedule started to get more packed. Extra courses were added: CIPC (unique for my school) and neuroscience. I was hanging out less frequently with my social group, but I was chilling with the cadavers more. The half-days on Friday are long gone. The golden college days of medical school were over.
With that being said, it is still a lot better than second year. I did not have to worry about the COMLEX or USMLE. (As I am writing this, I am in the second semester of my second year, and I am still not worrying about boards. That is because I study at least 4 hours a day for it since January.) I still got to hang out occasionally.
By the second semester, the novelty of being in medical school will have worn off. By March, I was looking forward to my summer vacation.
Overall, the first year of medical school was not so bad. The hardest part was the first month, adjusting to everything. Everything else afterwards was like a walk in a park. Sometimes, it was a walk in a rainy park, especially the week where pulmonary and renal physiology was crammed into one week. But most times, it was a walk in a sunny park. I met lots of interesting people and made wonderful friends.
When people say medical school is hard, they most likely did not mean first year. Second year however is a different story.
Objective for the First Year of Medical School
- make friends
- adjust to studying in medical school
- have fun
You can find a the list of classes I took for first year of medical school in the subjects taught in medical school section. I loved most of the classes because they were taught by wonderful teachers. If you read what I write about each course, you can find course-specific hints on how to prepare. They will be helpful, especially if you go to UMDNJ in Stratford, NJ.
First Year Courses
- Medical School Anatomy – It’s Kind of Gross with Lots of Memorization
- Medical School Biochemistry – Enzymes and Pathways Galore
- Medical School Genetics – Epitome of First Year Bliss
- Medical School Histology – Making Sense of All the Dots
- Medical School Microbiology – Memorize, Memorize, Memorize
- Medical School Neuroscience – Wrap Your Mind Around the Brain (and Other Stuff)
- Medical School OMT – It’s More Than Just Cracking Joints
- Medical School Physiology – The Most Important Class in Medical School
This article is part of the How to Survive Medical School series. Click on the link if you want more tips and hints about surviving academic hell.