Medical school is widely perceived as one of the most challenging experiences for students. Questions like “How hard is medical school?” and even “What is medical school like?” are common, especially for those who are trying to decide what to do with their lives and careers.
If you are interested in going to medical school, you should start preparing for it while still pursuing your undergraduate degree. Many pre-health students benefit from programs such as the Health and Wellbeing Sciences bachelor's degree from U of M CCAPS. It can help prepare you for careers as varied as dentistry, counseling, pharmacology, and wellness. Other students may choose related majors, like biology or psychology. If you know from the beginning which area of medicine you’d like to specialize in, this is a great way to customize your courses and deepen your knowledge early.
But never fear! This post is here to help you learn how to prepare for medical school the right way. First, we’ll discuss a brief explanation of what it is, then dive into a list of tips to help you become the best medical student you can be.
What Is Medical School?
Medical school, or med school, is the four-year education that trains students to become doctors. Once accepted, you will learn all about the human body, common and rare pathologies, medications, treatments, and more.
To get in, you need a bachelor of science or a bachelor of arts degree. Med school combines classroom learning on campus with hands-on learning in hospitals, clinics, assisted living facilities, or other medical settings.
Med school is challenging, but you can count on a fairly high probability of graduating. According to recent statistics from the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC), "Medical school graduation rates for nondual-degree MD students … ranged from 81.7 percent to 84.1 percent” for four-year students.
"Six years after matriculation," adds the AAMC, "the average graduation rate was 96.0 percent of nondual-degree MD students."
That’s pretty good. It indicates that if you make a firm commitment to seeing the journey through, you’re likely to succeed. Of course, that means it’s important to set the right goals and take the right approach.
How to Prepare for Medical School
Preparing for med school means first getting an applicable degree at the undergraduate level. For instance, you might consider a Health and Wellbeing Sciences bachelor's degree if you are strongly focused on medicine from the beginning. Once you’ve been accepted into your program, the following tips will help you succeed.
1. Do Research Projects
Research projects show you’re driven, intelligent, and experimentally minded. Plus, they can bring your work to the attention of professors and deans whose support can help you get into your desired medical school.
2. Put in Time Serving Others
Helping others is valuable for more than the obvious philanthropic reasons. Sharing your knowledge as a tutor, for example, can help you cement your own learning. Perhaps that means helping a struggling classmate or offering to work with someone on a research project who hasn’t had success in that department. Additionally, if you can help teach or explain something to someone else it means that you have a pretty high understanding of the subject, which can be great for learning and retaining valuable information.
3. Apply to Multiple Schools
The likelihood of acceptance depends on your GPA, your MCAT scores, your letters of recommendation, and how well-rounded you are as a person. Even with a stellar resume, you might not get into the best schools. For that reason, it’s important to widen your net and apply to several options.
4. Study Early and Often for the Medical College Admission Test
The Medical College Admission Test, or MCAT, will greatly impact how many of your chosen schools you get into. Check with your schools to learn what their minimum MCAT scores are, then start studying.
5. Practice Tests and Taking Your MCAT
Don’t forget about practicing. As with the SATs and ACTs, it’s not enough to study. You should take practice tests to immerse yourself in the testing environment, especially if you have exam anxiety. Schedule your MCAT early in the year so that if you get a score you don’t like, you can take it again.
6. Learn Another Language
Foreign languages are an innovative way to deepen your experience and make yourself a better candidate for med school and jobs in the medical field. The most common foreign languages in the United States are Spanish, Chinese, Tagalog, Vietnamese, French, and Arabic.
Any of these languages can set you apart from other candidates during the school or job application process. They can also make your time in med school more interesting and open up greater opportunities.
7. Don’t Skimp on Extracurricular Activities
Gatekeepers are always looking to see how well-rounded you are. This starts with college applications, continues through medical school and residency, and even matters when applying for jobs. Pursue healthy interests outside of school, such as team sports, arts and crafts, or volunteering. Not only can these increase your chances of success, but they also keep you mentally fit.
8. Take Care of Your Mental Health
Speaking of mental health, it’s critical to prioritize it in medical school. This time can cause anxiety and depression in many students. Make sure to take care of yourself and your mental health before starting medical school. Start nurturing your relationships, spending time outside and moving, eating well, and doing activities you enjoy. Getting a solid start on this before starting medical school will help you go a long way.
9. Get Plenty of Rest
Sleep is crucial. Studies show that adults aged 18 through 64 need at least seven hours of sleep per night, yet almost two-thirds of US adults get less than the recommended amount. It’s important to take your nightly Zs seriously!
How Hard Is Medical School?
So, how hard is it, you’re wondering? Medical school is admittedly difficult, but it’s worth it and extremely rewarding once accomplished. Plus, it sets you up for a lifetime of good earning potential.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median pay for physicians and surgeons in 2021 was $208,000 per year. Note that you will have to pay off considerable student loans, so it’s important to factor that in. However, if you remain in the field for several decades, your earning potential could very well exceed this threshold by a good margin.
Would you like to begin on this career path? Explore the Health and Wellbeing Sciences bachelor's degree today!