Choices Newsletter - August 2011 Ask the Advisor: How to successfully navigate the first year
Information copied from the AAMC's August 2011 Choices Newsletter
We know you have questions, so we went to the experts for answers. This column features experienced faculty advisors and student affairs professionals answering questions about choosing a specialty, applying for residency, and any other career-related concerns you may have.
I am a first year student and anxious to do well. Can you recommend any strategies for adjusting to and successfully navigating my first year in medical school?
Jim Ziv, Northwestern University, © 2007
Starting medical school can be stressful for various reasons. For those who recently graduated from college, you must accept less control over your schedule and the subjects you study. For those who have pursued other interests before medical school, shifting your focus back to education may require a significant adjustment. Most students have recently moved to a new residence and are adapting to new surroundings, possibly new roommates, and potentially a new climate.
These changes—in addition to concerns about succeeding academically, choosing a specialty, maintaining a social life, and making time for family—can certainly cause anxiety among new medical students. But several strategies can help you minimize this anxiety.
Attend all the programming during your orientation. These sessions are specifically designed to address many first-year concerns.
- Take the tours and learn your way around campus and the buildings you will frequent.
- Navigate the Web sites for your courses and familiarize yourself with the curricular expectations.
- Note the resources available to you for academic advising, counseling services, and student health.
- Attend student panels and participate in “big sib” programs offered by upper-class students, as they are generally willing to share their experiences and support.
- Attend social activities so you can start to meet your classmates and make friends.
Identify what activities help you relax and clear your mind, then make them a priority in your schedule alongside classes and studying. Whether you play the piano, cook, ride horses, skateboard, write poetry, swim, or play video games, you must push your reset button.
Don’t overextend yourself. Many students join numerous clubs or volunteer organizations early in their first year, which is a great way to meet people. Some first-year students are most concerned with appearing competitive in their residency applications and divert attention from coursework to study for licensing exams, shadow, conduct research, or attend talks and conferences. These can be worthwhile activities, but the focus of first year should be on adjusting to medical school and succeeding in your coursework. Your success in these areas your first year fuels your success in subsequent years.
However, I would encourage some early exploration of the Careers in Medicine (CiM) Web site , the CiM Student Guide , and attending any curricular and extracurricular career-advising activities offered at your medical school.
Realize the significance of joining the profession of medicine. The white coat ceremony is more than symbolic; you are now a student doctor. Consider the implications of that role not only during the school day or in the hospital, but at all times and in all places, especially in the community and on the internet.
If you’re struggling with any aspect of medical school, talk with your advisor, dean, or counselor—they want you to succeed.
Welcome to medicine, and best of luck!
Meg G. Keeley, M.D.
Associate Professor Pediatrics, Assistant Dean for Student Affairs
University of Virginia School of Medicine
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