Debunking 5 Med School Myths
- Oct 13, 2022
- MCAT Blog, Pre-Med Support
- Reviewed By: Liz Flagge
by Amanda Tosi, M.D.
So, all your hard work and Blueprint Prep’s med school prep has finally paid off. Now, it’s time for you to start med school. So, what is life like as a medical student? Like most med students, I have watched my fair share of Grey’s Anatomy and Scrubs. These shows are dramatic, funny, and, of course, wildly inaccurate in their attempts to portray doctors at work. Mysteriously absent among the slate of medical shows are stories focused on medical school itself. Even without the help of Hollywood, the public often has a vastly different perception of what life is like as a medical student and a doctor than the real experience. Let’s dive into the top 5 common myths about medical school.
Myth #1: You Won’t Have a Personal Life
This medical school myth couldn’t be further from the truth, but unfortunately there’s a damaging stereotype that people must give up a personal life to pursue medicine and become healthcare professionals. The reality is that it’s not a dichotomy. Everyone in my social circle dated throughout medical school with many going on to get married and start families.
While it’s true that the rigor of medical school and residency encourage some creativity in planning big life events, it is more than doable. The key is having a partner who tries hard to understand the demands of your academic life.
And, in turn, it takes intentional effort on your part to prioritize family and friends. Interestingly, the divorce rate among physicians is more than 10% lower than the average population. The study doesn’t venture an explanation for this, but I suspect the same long-term commitment, hard work, and emotional intelligence it takes to become a good doctor also makes for strong relationships.
Myth #2: You Won’t Leave the Library
This medical school myth is technically true. I can’t deny that I spent a lot of time in the library during medical school. The amount of information to learn is astronomical, and it demands a lot of time, focus, and energy, even in the era of Pass/Fail curriculums. However, many medical schools have embraced technology and the flexibility it affords students.
At my school, attending lectures in person was optional, so I often watched at home in my pajamas. I spent countless hours camped out at coffee shops with friends and even traveled home early for holidays to tune into lectures from out of town. Rest assured that while you will spend a lot of time studying, you won’t need to bring your pillow to the library.
Myth #3: You’ll Be Pulling All-nighters
Is med school easier than undergrad? I slept more in medical school than I did in college and certainly more than I do in residency. Early on in medical school, I realized that there is so much information to retain that I was always better served by a good night’s sleep than an extra hour of half-conscious flashcard flipping. Ideally, you learn to treat medical school like a job with set work hours and to be protective of your sleep, exercise, and nutrition.
Myth #4: Your Hobbies Will Die
Many of my friends actually became more invested in their extracurricular activity or hobbies during medical school, whether that be mixology, rollerblading, or, in my case, salsa dancing. Having an activity outside of your rigorous academic life is an essential part of maintaining your mental health as a med student.
There will be days when your head is spinning, and you want to be fully engrossed in an activity where your understanding (or not) of nephron physiology is totally irrelevant. Embrace these small escapes because you will need them to keep you grounded throughout a medical career that is highly rewarding but also demanding and emotionally taxing.
At the end of the day, you will not be able to stretch yourself thin with extracurriculars as you might have in college. Pick one or two extracurricular activities or hobbies that really make YOU happy without any regard to how they appear on a CV, and immerse yourself.
Myth #5: You Will Eat Top Ramen for Four Years
While it can sometimes feel that medical school is an extension of being a broke college student, it is important to look at the big picture. Healthcare professionals like physicians are consistently among the highest earners in the country, with tremendous job security and flexibility.
It’s a long journey to get there, so you should indulge along the way by eating out for friends’ birthdays or treating yourself after big exams. With some creativity, you can use research conferences and other “sponsored” activities to see a new city on your school’s budget.
Most students also will try to take a trip of some sort in the spring of fourth year of medical school, even if it means stretching their loans a bit further. No matter how you choose to finesse your med school budget for some self-indulgence, know that you’ll be in good company!
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