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The 10 Lessons Every Pre-Med Must Learn

Created January 5, 2015 by PreMedLife Staff

The premed journey is different for everyone. For some, it’s really not that much of a struggle to get accepted into medical school. For others, it’s a significant battle every step of the way. However, regardless of how one’s premed journey plays out, there are definitely several lessons that every premed can benefit to learn prior to entering medical school. While there are easily many more lessons that could be of benefit to certain students, it’s pretty safe to say that these 10 lessons are applicable across the board.

1. Comparisons are not beneficial. One of the most important lessons for premeds to learn prior to entering into the medical school journey is that comparing themselves with other students is never worth it in the end. Whether or not you happen to test better or study better than another student really does not matter in the long run. Unlike general school work that can typically be measured fairly in grades and percentages, the actual work of a physician is more than merely intellectual. It involves being able to integrate medical knowledge with quality patient care—patient care that often involves working together with a group of other doctors. Don’t compare yourself to your classmates; instead, learn to work alongside them as colleagues instead of competitors.

2. The right friendships are worth investing in. Perhaps more of a life lesson than just a premed lesson, recognizing and investing in quality friendships will be of incredible value to you during (and after) medical school. There will be times in your studies when you need someone to encourage you to keep going, and there will be times when it’s imperative for your health that you take a little break. Good friends can help your recognize the differences between those times, all the while continuing to encourage you to pursue and accomplish your dreams.

3. Procrastinating never pays off. While procrastinating during undergraduate studies may have been a feasible possibility, doing so in medical school will only stress you out more. The pace of learning is fast enough that putting things off “until tomorrow” will only add more stress to your life.

4. Saying “no” is okay. Premed students tend to be involved in just about everything, often with the mindset that “this will look good on my application.” However, it’s actually perfectly ok to say “no” to activities as well. Your time is valuable, and doing things because you feel obligated to do them (and not because you truly want to do them) will only exhaust you. In fact, being able to say “no” is another life-long skill that will expand beyond just premed/med school life.

5. Saying “yes” is also okay. On the flip side, saying “yes” is also a life skill to develop. The road to becoming a physician typically requires learning to delay gratification much of the time, but it’s still ok to say “yes” to hangouts and personal desires every now and then. Learning the difference between when to say “no” and when to say “yes” is of incredible value.

6. Personal health should be a priority. Learning to prioritize is an essential skill for a premed to learn. However, this should not equate to neglecting your own personal health. While there will undoubtedly be some nights where you have to stay up late to get more studying done, these nights should be the exception, not the norm. A healthy body and mind are much more likely to work better in the long run; prioritizing your health is a decision that will pay off.

7. Solid learning is better than cramming. The information you learn in medical school isn’t something that is just regurgitated for a test at the end of the month. Instead, the Step Exams require students to remember knowledge from classes that they haven’t taken for over a year. Learning information solidly the first time instead of cramming facts into your short term memory will help you do better on these important exams.

8. It’s okay to learn differently. Not every student learns the same ways, and medical school definitely shows this. Don’t waste your time trying out studying tactics that you already know don’t work well for you. Learn to feel comfortable learning however works best for you—whether it’s writing out your own notes, listening to audio reviews, or even drawing out pictures to help you remember things better.

9. Always have a healthy outlet for stress. There’s no doubt about it. Studying can be stressful, but the life of a physician is often even more stressful still. Do yourself a favor by learning to develop healthy outlets for your stress, and you’ll find that handling the stresses of medical school (and life in general) is much more doable.

10. Failure is an opportunity to grow. Finally, premeds should learn to view failure as an opportunity for positive growth. It isn’t uncommon for premed students to find themselves struggling for the first time academically when starting medical school. While the material is arguably no harder than some of the concepts presented in certain undergraduate courses, the amount of material is significantly greater. Learning to view failure (or simply not doing as well as desired) as a learning opportunity is a practice that will encourage you to keep pressing on, even when studying gets difficult.

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