So Your Journey Begins…

Congratulations on meeting your offer, you are now officially a medical student! It is such an achievement and something to be so proud of. Well done!

I will never forget the joy I felt when I found out that I got into medical school. The feeling is truly indescribable and I just couldn’t believe it! However this excitement was short lived as the reality of medical school hit me. I started thinking about the hard work, the long hours and all the exams that I’d have to sit. I began questioning my ability to make it through the year BEFORE I had even started! All of this negative thinking made me anxious and set me up for a rocky start. If I could go back to the start of my first year here are some things that I would have changed to better prepare myself for the transition.

Have a positive mindset and be excited!

You worked so hard this year to get this place at medical school so be excited about starting this beautiful journey! You deserve your place at medical school. One of my biggest worries was that I wouldn’t be smart enough. I knew that I would be surrounded by students who were incredibly intelligent with a natural ability to learn new information and I didn’t perceive myself as such. This was the wrong mindset to start the year with. If you got the grades to get into medical school, you are more than able to do well. Start with the mindset and the belief that you are smart and most definitely capable of excelling during this year. You are no less than anyone in your cohort. So get excited! You deserve this place at medical school!

Be prepared for the hard work to continue

I personally found the workload intense as it is much heavier than A-level. However, I quickly realised that the content isn’t incredibly hard, there is just a massive volume to learn. The most difficult thing is finding your feet and adjusting to this new way of teaching and learning. To do this, try your best to keep on top of your work so that you don’t fall behind.  Attend all lectures, tutorials, dissections/prosections and other scheduled teaching. Remember, you are paying for tuition so make the most out of it! Also, it is key to integrate as much as possible with your course mates. You will meet people who will become your support system and some of your closest friends during your time at university.

Also, find out your style of study as early as you can. How will you take notes during your lectures? Will you handwrite them or type them up? How will you write your study notes? Will you use flashcards, posters or mind maps? Are you a fan of group study? Asking yourself these questions before you start will have you well prepared for the rest of the year.

Most importantly, make a plan to track all of your commitments whether it be studying, attending a society event, catching up with friends or having time to yourself – planning will keep you organised and less stressed during this year.

Work hard, play hard

Your first year is the best time to be as active as you can be in societies as your timetable tends not to be as intense as later years. Use Freshers week as time to get to know your course mates, make new friends, become more familiar with your campus, the local area and your surroundings. Use your first term to adjust to your new environment and the medical school lifestyle. Attend the freshers fair and get involved with as many societies as possible. Joining a society will allow you to have some “me time” after studying and they can be a great way for you to relax and have some fun! You can also learn new skills that you can use to build your CV. So be sure to check your universities student union website before you start so you can get an idea of societies that may interest you.

Always remember your why

You may sometimes find that you are struggling with your work as the workload intensifies during your first few weeks. In these times it is easy to forget why you are here as you start to lose sight of the bigger picture. It is important to remind yourself of why you want to be a doctor and use this to restore your motivation. Also, getting involved in medical societies that interest you can serve as a great reminder too. Most importantly, when things become a little overwhelming and you feel like you are struggling, please speak up and seek support from those around you. You can talk to your friends, family, your personal tutor or the well-being services provided by your student union. If you are struggling with anything, please don’t be afraid to ask for help.

Focus on self-care and balancing your health with your academics – you will excel this year. Good luck, you’ve got this!

Written by Sarah O’Connell

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