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What I wish I knew before becoming a medical student

Post date: 10/08/2023 | Time to read article: 3 mins

The information within this article was correct at the time of publishing. Last updated 10/08/2023

A medical student considers their early learnings from medical school so far and what they wish they had been told to consider when starting their gruelling studies.

When you tell people you want to go to medical school the first thing you are told is: “make sure you get excellent marks”. As much as the medical school looks at how involved the applicant is in other extracurricular activities and not just academics, academia still plays a major role in the selection criteria and understandably so. But as a third-year medical student there are a few things I wish I was told, not only about medical school but about university in general. 
Firstly, medical school is mentally taxing. I wish I had been told of the mental struggles that come with being a medical student. We all know how academically challenging it is to get a medical degree, but truth is I think it’s more mentally challenging than it is academically. Had I been aware of this maybe I would have been more prepared; maybe some of the struggles wouldn’t have come as a surprise because I would have had insight. Just like the academic struggles don’t come as a surprise because we are made aware of them. 


I wish I could have been told more about the financial wisdom that one needs when preparing to go to university. And as much as we are always told about the freedom that comes with being in university, many people don’t speak about the financial wisdom that one needs to get through university. For me, and I know many students in the same position, getting a monthly allowance is something that we only got to experience for the first time in university; going from being a high school student that did not even know how much a bag of potatoes cost to now being expected to buy my own groceries, toiletries, clothes, stationery and still have money aside for entertainment was a lot.. I wish I was told the importance of budgeting and saving because those are very important skills that one needs to have in university; one literally goes from having your parents managing your life to now being fully responsible for yourself!

The importance of community is not emphasised enough. Becoming a university student is a huge transition from high school, the environment is very unfamiliar and because of that it is very important for one to find one’s community. Be aware and familiarise yourself with the support structures that are available for you because you can really find useful tricks and tips of how to navigate this journey in a much easier way. Get to know the people that are surrounding you and form good relationships, because being a student on your own is very difficult, and to some extent I think it is impossible to complete a degree alone, especially a medical degree. 

And lastly, when you choose to study what you love studying can be fun. University is tough. Yes, it can be very fun, but for the most part, trying to get that degree is difficult and very challenging. The only reason why I am still pursuing this degree is because I love what I am doing. Know your ‘why’. With a medical degree you have to know the reason why you are doing it because the only thing that gets you through the struggles is knowing that you are being true to you. 


Medical Protection’s take on studying at medical school 

Medicine is a stressful career, and this can begin at medical school. The first advice for dealing with stress is to get help early. Being unaware of the depth of the problem can cause it to escalate and lead to more serious issues such as depression, or drug or alcohol dependency.

Be aware that after graduating, you are responsible for informing your employer of any health issues.

Staying well is important for both you and your patients. It’s important both to seek independent and objective advice about your own health. Register with a GP and ask for advice from your doctor or occupational health department at university – or both, if you are worried about your health. This includes mental health as well as physical.

Health issues can arise at any time in your medical career, from the early days at university to the final years of clinical work. It is always important to seek help – the sooner the better. Medical Protection offers support and advice, via our team of expert medicolegal advisers, and through access to a confidential, independent counselling service.

Medical Protection provides advice and guidance for students on how to avoid situations that could affect your career or your future as a doctor. If you are struggling with your work, or think your health may be affecting your studies, do talk to someone, and let your medical school know, before things escalate.

Want to find more about how Medical Protection can support you during medical school? Visit the dedicated student page to explore more.

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