5 Things to do Before Medical School to Increase Success Upon Matriculation - LECOM

5 Things to do Before Medical School to Increase Success Upon Matriculation

Thursday, 20 February 2020

Work on weaknesses:

Reflect on skills or habits that may negatively affect performance in medical school.  This can refer to any area of weakness: Time management, sleep schedule, exercise schedule, extracurricular activities, and anything else that can affect time devoted to medical school should be remedied prior to entering.  Train yourself to overcome these weaknesses prior to entering medical school — Practice holding to a more rigid time management schedule, alter your sleep schedule to match what will work with a rigid medical school schedule, and if you are involved in extracurricular activities that will constrain time to devote to school, transition out of these commitments before they create issues for your success in the curriculum.

If you have experienced academic weaknesses in past course content that you will again face in medical school, use time before entering to improve your knowledge in these topics.  Find out what textbook in that area is common in medical school or specific to the school you are entering – buy the book and start reviewing the material.  A textbook is ideal to develop a firm basis for a discipline – review books are too superficial for this purpose and are meant as a review resource after you have a firm basis.

If there are courses in the first year medical curriculum that you have not been exposed to (Gross Anatomy, Immunology, Biostats, etc) before entering medical school it is time well spent to gain exposure to these topics before you enter medical school.  Access common texts for this topic or, better yet, the specific one used at the school you will attend – and begin reading.  Aim for general exposure and not mastery of the content.

Talk to Family/Significant Others:

You are embarking on what will probably be the biggest challenge of your life.  You will not have spare time to expend multiple hours with family issues or problems with significant others that can be mitigated prior to entering medical school.  The biggest issue that can sink success in medical school for an otherwise well prepared entrant is life issues that suck up their time and lead to under-performance or failure in medical school.

Have a conversation with your parents/family/significant other so they are aware of the time it will take you to excel in medical school and the time commitment you will be making.  Talking to Mom every night for 1-2 hours is not compatible with the time needed to succeed in medical school.  Your parents/family/significant other need to understand that in order to support you they must respect the time needed to fulfill your goal of becoming a successful physician.   Be realistic and honest with them to set boundaries so you have the time you need to devote to succeed.

Have a Growth Mindset:

A growth mindset will serve you well in succeeding as a medical student and physician.  This mindset is one of constant learning, improvement, and optimizing your development.  Too often students believe that success is a product of inborn talent and not a product of hard, deliberate work and study practice.  Sometimes students believe they cannot learn “biochemistry” for instance and will develop a mental block and give up on trying to do well in a course if they feel they will not be successful.  The idea that success is due to hard work and effort and that talent is not usually innate is one of the characteristics of a “growth mindset”.   A growth mindset is needed to adapt to the environment you will face in medical school so you can perform to your maximum ability.  It will allow you to be open to new study techniques and styles that can give you better outcomes, to reflect on study strategies, time management strategies and decisions, to be open to learning subjects you thought you had trouble learning in past, and to work harder and smarter to perform optimally in medical school and as a future physician.  Fixed mindsets stymie success, limit your potential, and are self-defeating.  Related:

The Most Important Mindset for Long-term Success


Keep your goal in mind – remember why you are there:

Medical school will not be easy, keeping your goal of being a physician in mind will make the challenge easier to overcome.  There will be times when you struggle and may get caught up in the day to day requirements/challenges that seem like drudgeries when you forget that all of these challenges are steps you need to complete to achieve the goal of practicing medicine.  If you keep the goal in mind, it will be easier to view these challenges as steps to be negotiated in achieving your dream, and you will be less likely to get caught up in focusing on the challenge as a negative entity.

Find something to keep this goal in mind on a day to day basis – hang a picture of an inspirational figure on your wall or post a phrase on your computer or wall that makes you recall why you are going through this difficult challenge.  This will ensure the goal at the end is your focus and not the day to day requirements which you need to accomplish to reach your goal.

Keep the goal in mind and the challenge will be just steps to reach the goal.

Lose the undergrad mentality:

You will be entering a professional program focused on making you a successful physician.  As a physician in training you will be expected to behave with the utmost professionalism in all aspects.  Professionalism is one of the core competencies of physician training and therefore is an important quality for students to exhibit.

Be aware of the style of curriculum and the school policies prior to entering – if you choose to attend the school, realize you sign on to that curriculum style and the school policies.  The school has put the curriculum and policies in place because they believe this will make you a successful physician based on past experience, outcomes assessment, and student success history.  You are choosing to go to the school – if you don’t want to follow that curriculum and follow their policies then don’t go there… go somewhere else – don’t expect the school to change for you.

Written by Jon Kalmey, PhD