😣 The Hardest Part of Medical School, and How to Overcome It

Medical Students

This article was originally published in the online magazine in-Training in 2016. It has been reformatted and updated for the website!

During my first year of medical school, I had the privilege of speaking at several local high schools and colleges🗣️. The purpose of these engagements was to shed light on what I did to matriculate into medical school, to discuss my experiences as a medical student, and to answer any questions🙋🏼. No matter where I went, one question always followed: “What is the hardest part of medical school?” At first, my answer was something most people would expect. I talked about managing difficult classes like microbiology, the long hours of studying📚, or how hard it is being accepted into medical school in the first place. However, the more I thought about it, the more I realized that none of these were the actual answer.

The hardest part of medical school is convincing yourself that you belong there.

No matter your story, whether you came straight from college or after years working in an entirely different field👷🏽‍♀️, transitioning into medical school can and will be stressful. My own personal experience of starting medical school came after completing a one-year master’s degree🎓. I completed medical school level courses and received high marks, so I was confident this would immediately carry over to medical school.

Then I looked at the rest of my class.

Some students had multiple master’s degrees🤯. Some students had higher MCAT scores. Some students even had professional degrees such as a JD⚖️ or had already been working in the medical field for years! It was intimidating, and this was only amplified during exam time when I found myself sometimes scoring below the average. Below average. And just like so many other medical students each year, I began to question if I really belonged here😢.

These thoughts and feelings during times of change are something everyone faces at some point in life💭. It can happen when transitioning from college to medical school, medical school to residency, or even outside of the medical field entirely. When we are thrown into an unfamiliar environment with new people, it takes time to find our footing🚶🏾‍♀️. Luckily, I discovered some important ideas that helped me find mine, and I was able to quickly adjust and help others do the same🙌🏽.

1. You ended up where you are for a reason. Nobody handed you an acceptance into medical school. You worked hard, studied tirelessly, volunteered, passed the MCAT…you put in work😲! The journey may not have been easy, but you stuck with it and got where you wanted to go. Keeping that in mind will give you a boost of confidence to continue moving forward💫.

2. There is enough success to go around for everyone. It sounds intuitive, but anyone struggling with self doubt can relate to this. Sometimes it feels like success is a limited resource that's going to run out just before it gets to you😨. In reality though, your success is only limited by the amount of time and effort you are willing to invest. This is a thought that frequently kept me grounded and helped me to refocus on myself and my goals🛣️.

3. Achieving your goals is dependent on you, not anybody else. I remember many times when I looked at exam grades and I got a 75%, while several of my classmates scored a perfect 100%💯.I thought to myself “Why can’t I do as well as them?” As easy as it is to think that, I had to tell myself that I actually could do as well as them. A big part of this is understanding that people learn in different ways and at different rates📝. So even though it takes you a little longer to study for a test or for a concept to truly “click,” you can still get the same end result.

Medical school is a long, difficult journey, and it is easy to get discouraged😟. However, keeping in mind all of the moments that helped you get there as well as the hopes and dreams you have for your future can keep you on track. While at first some students in your class might seem superior, trusting and believing in yourself will enable you to see them as the peers they are🧑‍🤝‍🧑.

A journey in medicine is long and difficult, but it's overcoming those difficulties that makes it all worth it✅.