First year came and went, so naturally, it’s now time for a post on what I learned. I’m dividing this post into 3 categories, and I’m including answers to questions I received on my last Instagram post about my first year.
Overall, academics weren’t too stressful this year. We had 5 blocks/units, and an exam at the end of each block. For the couple weeks before each exam, I was definitely stressed out and was working hard. But besides those 10ish weeks preceding exams, I honestly wasn’t really stressed out. That’s not what you normally hear about med school, but I feel like Yale has been great about making the entire process as ‘chill’ as it can be. Also, I’ve just stopped caring as much and am not literally unwilling to overwork myself.
I highly recommend that any pre-med students reading this take note and try to choose a medical school that has a Pass/Fail grading system. I guarantee that having to worry about Honors/High Pass/Pass/Fail (which is basically A/B/C/D…) would make everything ten times more stressful. The ONLY reason I am a sane person right now is because of that Pass/Fail grading. That said, our exams are very difficult (in my opinion) and it’s not guaranteed that everyone will pass. I still have to study a LOT just to pass. And I’m not scoring in the 90s on my exams even with all of that studying.
Q: How did you study?
A: Given that my science background was not too strong (relative to people who majored in the sciences) coming in to medical school, I found it really helpful to use Boards & Beyond videos to get a basic understanding of subjects first, and then looking over the lecture slides from class, which were much more in-depth and complicated than the Boards & Beyond videos. This helped me understand the lecture slides way more than I otherwise would. This is also why I never attended class- it was much more effective for me to watch a Boards & Beyond video on the topic before trying to make sense of the lecture. Besides reviewing these two resources, I know that using flash cards is something that helps me (I did it for the MCAT and for some classes in college), but I didn’t do it as much as I’d have liked just because going through lecture slides and Boards & Beyond was time consuming enough.
Q: How did your studying style change from university to medical school?
A: I had a lot of non science courses in university, but the way I studied for those is not very applicable to med school. The way I used to study for my science classes in university involved doing lots of practice problems, reviewing lecture slides, and reviewing past quizzes, exams, etc. In med school, I find that I’m doing less practice problems, and more trying to remember signs and symptoms of different diseases and their treatments. It’s less doing problems with numbers and finding a numerical answer. So my study strategy for class/exams has become more of reviewing lectures and notes. That said, I know that when I study for STEP 1, I’ll definitely have to do more flash cards and things to memorize the massive amount of material.
I tried not to let med school get in the way of the rest of my life, and I think I did a decent job at that. I’m lucky that so many of the people closest to me live in Manhattan, which isn’t far from New Haven at all. In my experience, spending time with people who aren’t in medical school is a really good way to stay sane. Also, it limits the amount that you think about medicine and health care, which is good. I feel like rolling my eyes when all doctors talk about outside of work is medicine, and I never want to be one of those people. I think having interests outside of medicine is also important in preventing that, also.
Q: How much free time did you have? How did you balance school and have fun?
A: I try not to work as much on weekends, but I work really hard during the week (i.e. only taking a break for dinner and the gym, but working the rest of the time). It is definitely possible to study every single waking hour of the week and still not feel like you’ve studied everything. So, the amount of free time you have can be 0 hours per week, or you can just take a day off even though you feel like you ‘should’ be studying, and just accept that you will probably never be able to study everything as much as you wanted to. I think ‘balance’ is such an elusive feeling. I don’t think medical students ever feel like “Oh, wow, I just realized I’m 100% on top of all the material, and now I have time to take a break.” There will always be more stuff to review and study. In undergrad, there were times I finished everything I had to do for the week, and I would be able to relax without feeling guilty. That doesn’t exist in med school, so I’ve stopped expecting to feel that way. I just study a reasonable amount, take time off, and I magically pass my exams every time.
This is the first year that I legitimately gained muscle mass and started running consistently, so that’s a win. I started out the year eating less healthy than before, since New Haven has a lot more restaurants than Princeton did. I was never eating burgers and hotdogs or anything, but even eating Thai takeout a few times a week can add on the pounds. I gained probably 5-7 pounds in the first half of the year, but then I started eating healthier and even did the Whole 30 and l lost it all. I learned that in order to control my weight, I need to have a personal rule that I have to eat salad for at least one meal a day. I’ve noticed that really helps. Also, I started a personal rule where I always have to take the stairs up instead of the elevator (unless I’m in a huge rush, carrying a bunch of stuff, etc.), and that has also helped me be a little more active.
Q: What were your eating habits like? Meal prep vs. takeout? Did you carry lots of snacks around?
A: I don’t cook, partly because of time, partly because I only have access to a shared kitchen. The first half of the year I was eating just takeout and from restaurants like Chipotle. Once I made a conscious effort to start eating healthier, I made sure to get more salads and healthy foods, but still from restaurants. When I started doing the Whole 30, I began buying fruits and vegetables and grilled chicken from grocery stores, and I’d eat that stuff for one meal a day plus snacks. The other meal would still have to be purchased from a restaurant. That is what I am still trying to do now even though I’m no longer doing the Whole 30, just because it’s more economical and I end up eating healthier foods that way. Regarding snacks, I try to keep a piece of fruit and maybe some baby carrots or celery with me during the day as a snack. I’m trying to stay away from granola bars and other things that pretend to be healthy but are actually full of sugar.
If you have any recommendations or feedback, or any other questions, please let me know via email or in the comments below! Also, if you would like for me to continue doing such posts, subscribe to my email list below (or on the right if you are using a computer) <3