Medical School - Preclinical

5 Things I Wish I Knew First Year of Medical School

As a first year medical student, I was wide-eyed and somewhat clueless. I did not know what to really expect, but I felt as ready as I would ever be. Looking back, there are definitely some things I would tell/warn past-self.

Everyone’s first year medical school experience is obviously different, but here are 5 things I wish I knew first year of medical school:

1. Annotate lecture notes into First Aid
Every second year told all the first years not to worry about USMLE Step 1 during first year. I think this was good advice. There is no reason to worry about Step 1 that early. But I don’t think annotating first aid with lecture material necessarily counts as worrying about Step 1. First Aid is not only a helpful study tool for first year lectures but annotating it helps with future Step 1 studying during second year since all your notes are in one place.

2. Utilize Firecracker
I discovered Firecracker as a second year and instantly wished that I used it during first year. Firecracker is the perfect tool for me because I prefer flashcards and repeated testing as opposed to rereading and making outlines. Firecracker covers a lot of physiology as well, which would have nicely supplemented first year physiology lectures.

||Read: How I Study in Medical School||

3. Develop a strong relationship with an MS2
My school has a big sib little sib program that pairs MS2s with MS1s, but my big sib never reached out to me and I was too lazy to reach out to him. I met some other MS2s throughout the year but never really made an effort to build strong relationships with any of them. Looking back, I wish I did reach out to these MS2s because having an MS2 guide/mentor me would have made my life a lot easier.

4. Don’t compare yourself to your classmates
I already knew I did not want to compare myself to my classmates as I started medical school. But it’s incredibly difficult not to compare, especially since is it part of human nature. When I compared myself to my classmates, I would always wonder whether or not the admissions committee had made a mistake by accepting me. Although that feeling did not last long, I’m still fighting the temptation to compare myself because the comparisons just create unnecessary stress and anxiety.

||Read: A Future Doctor’s Greatest Struggle||

5. Keep doing what makes you happy
This is another principle that I tried to keep when starting medical school while failing to realize just how important it was. I love hanging out with friends, playing/watching sports, reading, and exercising. I tried not to sacrifice those things completely but found myself slowly doing so for the sake of studying. I’m still struggling with my “work-life balance” but I can confidently say that now I set aside time for the things I love to do and give me peace.

Edward Chang

Edward Chang is the Co-founder and Director of Operations of He graduated from the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA and is currently a urology resident at the University of Washington. He also attended UCLA as an undergraduate, graduating with a major in Molecular, Cell, and Developmental Biology. If you are interested in contributing to, please contact him at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @EdwardChangMD and Prospective Doctor @ProspectiveDr.

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