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5 Things to Know Before You Go to Medical School

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Let’s face it. Going to medical school is a serious investment in a person’s time and finances. It’s not something most students jump into lightly. They’ve likely fallen in love with the field of medicine and have planned the path to med school for years.

Still, it’s one thing to have a passion for helping others become healthy and another thing entirely to be successful in medical school. Before you enroll, there are a few important parts of the reality behind the scenes that you should know. 

These five tips will make transitioning into the challenges of medical school a little easier to get under control.

1. Organization is Life

Have you made it this far by skimming notes, procrastinating, and letting the chips fall wherever they land? If so, you’re setting yourself up for more difficulty in medical school unless you adjust your habits now.

It’s not too difficult to cram before an exam in college, shoving as much info as possible into your brain without paying attention the rest of the semester. But in med school, you are required to learn most of the subject matter on your own … in large quantities … in extremely short time chunks.

Since you’re taking multiple classes alongside internships and possibly work schedules, how well-organized you are will make or break your success. You’ll need to learn how to prioritize the important things, create optimal study habits, and pay attention the first time material is presented to you.

2. Avoid Comparing Yourself to Your Peers

Comparison is a typical part of human nature. Many of us are raised to compete with others, watch how they’re doing, and try to emulate or “beat” them. But if this sounds like you, it’s wise to try to knock that trait out of yourself before you start med school.

The thing about your next chapter in life is that no one is prepared for it. There will be those who look like they know what they’re doing, and maybe they’ve had experience with parents who were doctors or otherwise involved in healthcare. But the reality is that everyone’s medical journeys are unique, and nothing can wholly prepare you for this adventure.

The best thing you can do is to try to compete with yourself. Always push yourself to do a little better, organize your schedule more efficiently, and keep aiming for a work/life balance (more on that later). 

Put blinders on when you see others doing well. Acknowledge them in positive ways, but remember that they aren’t competition. Once you graduate, you’ll all have separate careers. 

There’s room enough in the healthcare field for everyone, and unless you’re aiming for a top-rated position in the prestige research centers, your GPA is going to be left in the dust after your first job. From there, experience and reputation will matter more than grades.

3. You’ll Need Business Skills, Too

Your med school training will predominantly focus on medical aspects. But as a physician or nurse practitioner, it’s wise to take some business classes, too.

You’ve heard the horror stories about accountants and managers who have skimmed big bucks from unsuspecting business owners or employers who take advantage of unknowledgeable employees. By learning about the factors involved behind the scenes in healthcare, you can avoid becoming one of these statistics.

Learn about billing and coding, accounting, write-offs, malpractice insurance, and contract reviewing. Check out sites like Physicians Thrive on your own and study up on less-thought-about topics like how your insurance impacts your financial planning goals.

The more you know now, the easier it will be to ensure you get the pay and benefits you deserve when you start your first official job.

4. Many of Your Diagnoses Will Relate Back to Nutrition

You’ll learn the symptoms of countless medical conditions while you’re in school. They’ll teach you the proper medications and therapies to treat each one and what non-treatment can lead to. But what many physicians skip on their quest for the best pharmaceuticals and fixes is the fact that most of these problems have a root in nutrition.

Teaching your patients about how their bodies work and how diet, exercise, and building an immune system can prevent further damage and aid in healing isn’t always popular. In fact, many of your patients are going to want a quick fix in the form of a pill or injection. 

However, there will be those who listen and understand as you explain the role vitamins and minerals play in organ functioning. The more classes you take on physiology and nutrition, the better you can inform those who can benefit from this knowledge.

5. Your Work/Life Balance Starts Here

Personal time is hard to come by in medical school, but to avoid the risk of burnout, it’s essential. 

Use your scheduling techniques to optimize your work/life balance. At first, you’ll likely have 99% studies, and the 1% will be full of sleeping and essential chores. Over time, challenge yourself to add more enjoyment to your week until you’re at a healthy balance. 

This doesn’t mean you have to hit the coveted 50/50 mark. In fact, it can be extremely challenging to get there, even once you’re out of school. But find the balance that works for you and your friends and family. It may be more like 70/30 or 65/35. 

Whatever it is, be sure you have enough fun and relationships in your life that you’re not solely surrounded by work and school. Otherwise, without you realizing it, you’ll be on a fast track to physical and mental overwhelm.


Starting medical school is both exciting and terrifying for most people. With these five tips, you can segue out of college and into this new time of your life without unnecessary stress.

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