Medical School - ClinicalMedical School - Preclinical

How Hard is Medical School?

Med school will arguably be the hardest time of your life. Adjusting to its demands and finding out your study groove won’t happen overnight. There’s a beautiful, vivid analogy I heard that summed up med school pretty well. It goes, Starting med school can be likened to a parent plunging a child into a pool without first teaching him or her how to swim”.

The content you will be learning isn’t necessarily hard. But rather, the sheer volume of information you’re expected to memorize is what’s difficult. Imagine going through a semester worth of material from undergrad, in just one week. That’s essentially the pace you’ll be expected to move at in med school.


Why Medical School is a Whole New Challenge

You’ve managed to keep your stellar GPA of 4.0, an amazing MCAT score, research experience, and a wonderful letter of recs. You got med school under control, right? 

Med school is a different beast in its entirety. You’ll be pushed to your limit, and constantly contemplate if you’re cut out for it. But, it is manageable. Despite the rude awakening, you’ll endure in the beginning weeks, with a strong support system and study routine in place, your success in med school is inevitable. 

How Can I Prepare for Med School?

How do you prepare for med school? Contrary to popular belief, you don’t want to study ahead on med school material. The reason being is that there’s no telling exactly what you need to know. In med school, your professors will inform you about certain topics you’re expected to be proficient in. 

If you study beforehand, you run the risk of immersing yourself in material that isn’t fully covered in med school. Plus, you’ve worked hard for your med school acceptance. Take a break to pursue other interests outside of medicine. You’ll be studying nearly every day throughout medical school; the break you have until you matriculate may be the only free time you’ll have for the next four years. You want to take advantage of that and not let it go to waste.

But, If you’re absolutely persistent on getting ahead and can’t fathom the idea of enjoying yourself and not being productive for once, then there’s good news.

There’s something you can do.

Discover How You Learn Best in Medical School

Ask yourself, “What’s the best way to learn in medical school?” the answer is completely subjective. Maybe you learn visually, by viewing witty cartoons to solidify concepts. Or auditory, by repeating lectures and reading out loud. Test out these different methods and see what works best for you. Once you’ve established your preferred method of learning you’ll be at an advantage over your peers who are still finding out which methods work best for them.

Dealing with Imposter Syndrome During Med School

Throughout your med school journey, they’ll be times when you don’t feel like you belong. That you somehow slipped through the cracks of ADCOMs and were miraculously granted a seat at your school. The exceedingly high expectations and massive loads of information being thrown at you can indeed feel intimidating. But that is no reason to feel like you’re unfit for medical school.

The key to dealing with this is to not compare yourself to others. But to instead compare yourself to the student you were yesterday. 

What’s the Hardest Year of Med School?

The third year of medical school is by far the hardest, current and former med students will almost always agree.

What Makes 3rd Year the Hardest Year of Med School?

3rd year is the hardest year of med school because you’re beginning your clinical rotations. All that knowledge you’ve frantically absorbed from the previous 2 years, will be presented physically in the form of patients. Just as you’ve finally adjusted to med school and found a study routine that’s working well for you, you’re forced to switch over to a hospital-based learning system. Oh, and you’re still required to keep up with independent studying because there are shelf exams at the end of each rotation. 

A common practice you’re bound to see during 3rd year is “PIMPing”. “PIMPing” is an abbreviation for “put in my place”.

Essentially how it works is a resident or attending will ask a med student an absurdly difficult medically related question during patient rounds. Med students will most likely not get the question right, and subsequently, feel demoralized in front of their patients and peers. If the student somehow manages to answer the question correctly, the attending and resident will up the stakes and increase the question difficulty until the med student gets it wrong.

Having to adjust to a completely new model of learning is hard enough as is. Add that with the embarrassment from peers, patients, and medical staff, and you’re way in over your head. 

Is Medical School Going to be Too Hard For Me?

Med school is indeed excruciatingly hard, you often feel alone and constantly doubt your capabilities. New concepts and terms are being thrown at you left and right, and you struggle to stay afloat amidst the deluge of new information. But just like anything in life, you struggle at first but eventually learn the ropes.

Think about when you first learned to ride a bicycle, it took a couple of bruises and cuts until you were able to balance the bicycle on your own. Now riding a bike is second nature. Think of medical school in the same way. You’re going to struggle at first; you might even fail an exam in the beginning. But eventually, you develop a study system that’s cultivated to meet your specific needs. Your study system becomes ingrained into your daily routine, it becomes second nature. Sooner than later, you’ll notice medical school is very doable thanks to you diligently following a daily routine.


Working together to help you achieve your medical school dreams. MedSchoolCoach provides pre-med and medical school admissions consulting services, MCAT and USMLE/COMLEX tutoring, and unique experiences that help students become physicians.

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