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Advice for M1 Students Starting Med School

A guest post from National co-Sponsorship Director for APAMSA Kathleen Dinh.

To all the M1s starting medical school this fall, a huge congratulations to you!! You rightfully earned your spot in this crazy field of medicine, and it’s going to be a long, yet rewarding, journey. We enter this field during a time when many of us experience vast transitions in our lives – marriage, familial sickness, moving away from home, and so on.

Your life may often feel like it solely revolves around studying, but there’s so much more. Each of you bring your diverse and integral backgrounds that shine through in all that you do; so it is equally important to find the habits that work for you early on, not only so that you can succeed academically but also make time to do the things that you love. As an MS4, I’ve curated my top 3 tips that have helped me through my time in medical school:

1. Sticking to a study schedule and improving efficiency

The first time that I stepped onto campus, I heard the phrase “Step 1” uttered everywhere I went. For you all, this will now likely change to “Step 2.”

The best habit you can develop for studying is to be organized and efficient with your time. There are only so many hours in the day and the amount of information we are expected to learn may feel impossible. Using whatever study calendar or schedule that works for you is KEY. Cram Fighter is a valuable resource for you to get your study plan solidified early on.

Some people plan out their studying habits to the minute. I made lists for topics and types of study resources I wanted to cover each day and within a specified timeframe. Because there are so many topics and resources to use (ie. Boards and Beyond, Pathoma, ANKI, sketchy), you will get through the high-yield topics only if you are able to stay consistent to your study plan. That’s why finding a good study schedule that you can keep to is vital to making the grade.

The best habit you can develop for studying is to be organized and efficient with your time. There are only so many hours in the day and the amount of information we are expected to learn may feel impossible.

2. Being flexible with trial and error

Now that you found the tools to create your own study schedule to boost productivity, understand that your entire first year is a trial-and-error process. While the amount of resources available to you may feel daunting, it’ll be extremely helpful for you to try them all out and see what works.

Boards and Beyond helped provide a foundation for my medical knowledge that was more concise and I was able to follow along using First Aid. Sketchy was a great resource for a visual learner like me who had to retain microbiology and pharmacology facts. But these resources weren’t necessarily helpful to my peers. And I went through several different methods of learning before I found one that works. [Editor’s note: You can check out the data on the top resources thousands of students are adding to their Cram Fighter study plan here.]

It’s frustrating having to go through so many resources and inevitably find that some don’t work for you. And maybe you don’t get to everything you wanted to complete in a day because studying a certain topic took longer than expected or hanging out with your friends was too luring- THAT’S OKAY. It’s all a learning process, so be kind to yourself, be flexible, and learn to adapt because that is how medicine is. Just like how it can take time to find the right treatment plan, the goal here is to find the routine that works best for you and you will find it – but that can only happen if you keep trying.

3. Finding your family

This is possibly the most important advice I could give. For many of you, medical school may be the most challenging experience you have had thus far in your life. So I want to emphasize that no matter how independent you think you are, find a solid support system to help you get through those tough days.

As someone who was an explant from sunny southern California to west Michigan, I know my experience in medical school would have been completely different if I didn’t find family in my friends out there. And you don’t need an entire group of friends- maybe your family is your actual family that you can see on weekends, or your significant other and your pets, or friends from home.

But make time to see these people and reach out to them. They are the ones who surprise you at midnight when you forget it’s your birthday, send you coffee when you’ve been in the library all night, cook you dinner that reminds you of home (and you can return the favor). They will be your reminders of why you chose this profession, and on tough days, those reminders can help you soldier on.

You already know this is going to be a difficult journey, but you’ve come out on top of those countless times before.There’s still a lot to learn and there will be mistakes made along the way, but you need to be kind to yourself. Find your family, stay flexible and adaptable to the challenges that come, and do your best to stick to an efficient study plan. If you do all that, I have no doubt you’ll do just fine.

Find your family, stay flexible and adaptable to the challenges that come, and do your best to stick to an efficient study plan.

About APAMSA

I currently serve as the National co-Sponsorship Director for APAMSA. APAMSA stands for Asian Pacific American Medical Student Association, and it is a national organization of medical and pre-medical students committed to addressing the unique health challenges of Asian and Pacific Islander American (APIA) communities. It serves as a forum for student leaders to engage these health issues and develop initiatives and projects addressing those needs, including hepatitis B awareness, cancer screenings, bone marrow drives, and local/regional/national conferences. To be a part of APAMSA and get connected to our vast network of students and physicians, check out our national website at https://www.apamsa.org/.

Use our “APAMSA” promo code and save 20% on your next study plan purchase through Cram Fighter!

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