Preparing for Your First Year of Medical School

The medical field can be challenging, but a career in health care can also…
a pile of books and glasses

The medical field can be challenging, but a career in health care can also be deeply rewarding for those who are passionate about caring for others. There is a wide variety of reasons why people want to pursue a career as a doctor, but no matter what their clinical interests are, they’ll need to complete medical school first. Even just getting into some of the top medical programs in the United States can be extremely difficult, but even once you’ve been accepted, completing your degree can be just as hard. If you’re planning on attending medical school, keep reading to learn how you can start preparing for your first year.

How can you prepare for your first year of medical school?


Before you begin preparing for medical school, you’ll need to get in. Having the right qualifications is the first step, which means you’ll need to gain acceptance into a top undergraduate program. Given how competitive college admissions can be, it may be worth enlisting professional help from college admissions professionals. A simple search for “admission counselor near me” can help you get started. You can even receive assistance with financial planning, which is a good idea considering how much student loan debt the average medical student has.

Once you’ve been accepted to medical school, you can think about what you’ll need for school. Former students recommend going in with a realistic perspective and a plan for how you’ll handle the workload. You’ll have a lot more material to memorize and long hours spent in class, so you’ll need to treat your education like a job if you want to succeed. Make sure you buy organizational tools that work for you to keep your notes and materials organized.

Though you won’t need to decide on your specialty right away, it’s a good idea to start thinking about what your interests are. For example, if you’ve had experience with a family member managing Alzheimer’s stages and want to pursue a career connected to Alzheimer’s disease research, you can start to think about what courses and electives can prepare you for that goal. If you do want a career in research science as opposed to one as a practicing physician, it’s smart to talk to your advisor or counselor early about the best way to structure your studies.

What else should aspiring medical students know?


Medical students and doctors are often under a lot of pressure, and even an average day can involve a great deal of stress. Mental health conditions are common in the health care field, though many people avoid seeking treatment to manage those conditions. In order to provide a high level of care to your patients, you also need to take care of yourself. It’s okay if you need to seek professional help during your schooling or professional career, and it can actually help make you a better doctor in the long run.

Every doctor and former medical school student will tell you that one of the most important things you’ll need to do is be able to stay conscious of the reason why you’re doing all of this work. When you’re dealing with final exams and complex lab work or spending hours at the hospital, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed and want to give up or do something else. Try to keep something in your dorm, office, or even your wallet that reminds you of why you wanted to go into the medical field in the first place.

Medical school is famously hard, regardless of your level of intelligence or relative skill. The volume of work will be far beyond what you’re used to from undergraduate training, and the subject matter will grow more complicated, too. Being able to manage your time effectively and take care of your mental health will be essential if you want to complete your degree. There’s no doubt that medical school will challenge you in a multitude of ways, but you’ll be grateful you received the type of thorough and rigorous training that will prepare you for a successful professional career.