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How to Make the Best Out of Your Second Year in Med School

The second year of medical school continues your medical journey, but offers you more free time than the first year. As an MS2, you get a chance to be more involved in extracurriculars, and I encourage you to find interest groups that align with your career goals. Schools have groups dedicated to different specialties as well as to other topics including advocacy, diversity, etc.

If you have an interest in research:

  • • Find a mentor
  • • Join a project
  • • Work to obtain authorship

All of these things help you grow as a professional and as an individual. They also strengthen your resume, especially if you’re aiming for highly competitive specialties.

Other extracurriculars you can seek out include:

  • • Volunteering at a free clinic
  • • Shadowing a specialist of your interest
  • • Starting a new interest group based on one of your own hobbies 

Conquer Step 1 

By the second year you have honed your study habits and know what works best. Now is the time to put these habits into overdrive and prepare for Step 1. The exam is pass/fail, but it is not any less important for your professional development. Developing strong study habits for Step 1 builds your knowledge foundation and sharpens your standardized test skills. Our recent post on Step 1 going pass/fail outlines the breakdown of what this means for you. Preparing for this exam will help you succeed with the future USMLE exams, which are scored. 

Choose your study resources wisely!

Your first wish might be to get each and every one of these books, lectures and QBanks you’ve heard people recommend. When it’s time to study for Step 1, you can easily find yourself in “resource overload.”

You can use various resources, some of which you may have used already in your preclinical years:

  • • Do you have your copy of First Aid from preclinical years? That book is a fantastic reference resource to build your knowledge base.  
  • • Another keystone is the Uworld question bank, which provides an interface that will look remarkably familiar on exam day.

Choose a book and a lecture resource you like as a starting point,  build on it and use a question bank or two to test yourself.  

Check out this blog post on good study sources to use for Step 1.

Create a study schedule

Build one that works for you, and be realistic. Consider how much time you have and how much time you plan to dedicate to studying for Step 1. Studying will likely become your full-time job, and you will often have to work overtime (paid with a passing score!). Be realistic and avoid overbooking your time. Remember to schedule breaks, catch up days and study-free days to maintain balance in your life. See a movie or visit some friends – or stay at home and get those 8 hours of sleep! Taking good care of yourself is important to prevent burnout.

You will feel way more prepared to face Step 1 once you’ve found your perfect resources and have set up a nice, convenient schedule. Remember to stay focused, but do not be afraid to seek help if the test starts to cause distress. Here is a recent post on our blog with tops tips for test taking strategies.  

Transition to rotations

For MS2s, completing the USMLE Step 1 is the transition between the preclinical and clinical rotations. Clinical rotations are what most of you have been waiting for: the ability to care for patients. Rotation scheduling matters, and you will want to tailor your rotations to fit your goals.

My biggest piece of advice is to go into each clerkship with an open mind.  You never know which one will surprise you! Enjoy every day.

If you know you are passionate about a particular specialty, I recommend scheduling that clerkship later. You will get a chance to expose yourself to clinical life and to figure out the logistics of being in the hospital or clinic. Having some experience beforehand will make you feel more comfortable in the clinical setup. You will have a better chance to impress your attendings enough to receive strong ratings and perhaps a letter of recommendation.

My biggest piece of advice is to go into each clerkship with an open mind.  You never know which one will surprise you! Enjoy every day of each rotation: it may be your last time getting a priceless experience, whether it is closing a patient in the operating room, delivering a baby in labor and delivery, or listening to a patient share his or her health experiences with you in a mental health clinic.  

Second year is a challenging, yet fun time that is filled with opportunities to get involved. This year is pivotal. Many discover what aspects of medicine they enjoy and start working towards career goals. Enjoy your second year, you won’t be back in the classroom once clinical rotations come around! 



About the Author

Mike is a driven tutor and supportive advisor. He received his MD from Baylor College of Medicine and then stayed for residency. He has recently taken a faculty position at Baylor because of his love for teaching. Mike’s philosophy is to elevate his students to their full potential with excellent exam scores, and successful interviews at top-tier programs. He holds the belief that you learn best from those close to you in training. Dr. Ren is passionate about his role as a mentor and has taught for much of his life – as an SAT tutor in high school, then as an MCAT instructor for the Princeton Review. At Baylor, he has held review courses for the FM shelf and board exams as Chief Resident.   For years, Dr. Ren has worked closely with the office of student affairs and has experience as an admissions advisor. He has mentored numerous students entering medical and residency and keeps in touch with many of them today as they embark on their road to aspiring physicians. His supportiveness and approachability put his students at ease and provide a safe learning environment where questions and conversation flow. For exam prep, Mike will help you develop critical reasoning skills and as an advisor he will hone your interview skills with insider knowledge to commonly asked admissions questions.