4th-year medical student
Ateneo School of Medicine and Public Health, Philippines
What Is Medical School Like? How Hard Is Medical School?
The short answer is, it depends on the person. Medical school is like the feeling you had before you learned to ride a bike or make new friends. It looks daunting at first, but once you get into the flow of things, you will find most of it is quite manageable. The reason why it sounds hard is likely because you’ve heard how medical students have to read 3 books a month or they’re up to their ears in exams. While these may be true, different people study in different ways. Some of our top students study 6 hours a day, 3 hours before the exam, or not at all once they get home. There will be days when it feels too overwhelming to continue, but what we tell ourselves each time is to “remember why you started,” and that reason has to be enough to motivate you through those challenging years.
Is a Degree in Biology or Chemistry Enough for Medical School?
Having a degree in related courses is sufficient… for the first few months. I have classmates from Biology, Nursing, Pharmacy, and related courses having a harder time than those who graduated from Management, Engineering, and Finance. Sure, it helps to know a lot of biochemistry and anatomy, but there comes a point at which everyone struggles the same way. If someone told you that medical school is an entirely different ball game, they meant it. Any pre-med path you choose, as long as you attain the required amount of units needed for medical school, is okay. For example, I graduated with a B.S. in Psychology and my two seatmates were graduates with a B.A. in Philosophy and B.S. in Biology respectively. Part of what made my experience amazing was that we were all different, but we were selected because the school saw the same qualities they wanted in their physicians in all of us.
Medical school is a test of character as much as it is a test of knowledge.
Should I Go to Medical School? What Type of Person Do I Have to Be?
The people who get into medical school usually have experience being in a competitive field. It makes sense we would think that med students are also very competitive. However, you should really expect to meet different kinds of people. You don’t have to fit into the mold of what a stereotypical doctor “should” be like. You just have to fit into the kind you want to be. The most important thing you need to be is adaptable to change. Medical school cannot adjust for you, you need to adjust to medical school. Each school year, specialty, and subject will keep you on your toes and change your study style faster than you can say “burnout.” You need to be someone who can get up in the face of hardship, and even sometimes in the face of failure.
Will Medical School Take Time Away For Myself?
The short answer is no. The long answer is, it’s not about having time, it’s about making time. There will be days when the work can be overwhelming or hospital days are toxic, but it is perfectly okay to take a day off to do things you like and rest when work gets too tough. You can even have an hour or two each day strictly for the things you love. What’s more important than excelling in med school is making sure you don’t lose yourself in the process.
How Do I Know When Med School Is Not For Me? Is It Okay to Quit?
I have classmates who took a leave of absence or quit medical school altogether. Like many vocations, it is a calling. Just because anyone can become a doctor, doesn’t mean they should be or that they are meant to be. Failing an exam, having a hard time understanding, or being unable to save a patient doesn’t mean medicine isn’t for you. These things happen to the best of us, and they make us better doctors. Choosing to stop should be based on whether you can live with making these kinds of mistakes, and the lifestyle and responsibilities that come with it. It doesn’t make you any less of a person to say you were meant for something else.
What Else Can I Do With a Medical Degree?
Many people believe that graduating from medical school means all you can do is practice medicine. However, a medical degree opens up more opportunities than people think. There are graduates who become public health workers for their local government, teachers, medical journalists, researchers, and many more. If just having an MD feels too limiting for you, there are also dual degree programs you can take at the same time, such as a Master of Science (MS), Master of Public Health (MPH), Doctor of Philosophy (PhD), Juris Doctor (JD), or, my current dual degree, a Master of Business Administration (MBA). These courses can be time-consuming and add to the already heavy weight of medical school, but what’s a little extra effort if it’s to become the doctor you want to be?
What Did You Wish You Knew Before Medical School? Do You Regret Anything?
I asked some of my friends from different medical schools in my country this question, and most of them said they wished they knew how much they had to study because the workload was intense. It’s true that it can get overwhelming. It stopped being a question of whether we could handle the workload – it was that we had to. There was no room to doubt ourselves. Luckily, there are comprehensive videos and reviewers easily found online that made the readings easier to digest. So, don’t start forcing yourself to read 3 chapters of Harrison’s Principles of Medicine in one go. You need to study smart and efficiently to be able to use your knowledge in the hospitals.
Memorizing is easy. Applying what you’ve learned is harder.
I don’t regret anything about medical school. It’s more fun and fulfilling than I could have ever imagined. I don’t think knowing how much I had to learn would have prepared me, nor would it have stopped me… and it shouldn’t stop you either. This field is not for everyone, but with a passion for humanity, the discipline to work hard, and the desire to help people in need, you’re already on the path to becoming a doctor.