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Making Friends in Med School: How to Find Your People

  • by Dr. Mike Ren
  • Oct 12, 2023
  • Reviewed by: Amy Rontal

Starting medical school can be both exciting and daunting. Med students have the opportunity to experience a time of immense academic and personal growth along with the pressures that come with it. Perhaps more so than during other periods in life, this will be a time when you’ll benefit most from a robust support system. Building relationships in med school is not just about making friends—it’s about creating a network of individuals who will support you, both academically and emotionally, throughout this challenging time.

If you’re about to start med school or are worried about how this transition will impact your social life, here are some reasons why making friends in med school can be helpful as well as tips on how to find your people.

Your med school support system includes more than just people—it’s also your Qbank! And this one is super simple to find. Redeem your FREE Anatomy Qbank to help you transition into med school courses. 

The Ultimate Guide to Making Friends in Med School

Why Having a Support System Matters in Med School

Having lasting friendships and a good social circle of support during medical school are beneficial for students in various ways. Here’s three reasons you want to find your med school support system: 

1. They’ll understand what you’re going through. 

Medical school is, without a doubt, taxing due to the rigorous curriculum, long hours of study, and the pressure to excel. Having a circle of friends who understand the challenges you’re facing can provide a safe space to express your feelings, share your struggles, and receive empathy and encouragement.

2. They can help you if you feel isolated.

Med students often spend a significant amount of time studying or in clinical rotations, which can lead to feelings of isolation. Social support can help combat this isolation by providing a connection with peers who share similar experiences.

3. It can be great for your academic career.

Aside from social benefits, having a group of peers you consider to be a community can be an academic boon. You can collaborate with peers in study groups, share resources, and discuss difficult to grasp concepts. This can enhance your understanding of the material and improve the performance of all involved.

Additionally, interacting with a diverse social circle can broaden your horizons, expose you to different viewpoints, and even help you find a speciality you may not have otherwise known about. In other words, making friends in medical school can be tremendously helpful for emotional well-being, academic success, and personal growth during your med school years and beyond. 

How to Find Your People in Med School

Despite knowing the benefits of having a support system, far too many incoming medical students are daunted by the prospect of making friends and building social networks.

Whether it’s living in a new city or new environment, feelings of inadequacy or imposter syndrome, or simply not having enough time to socialize due to the busy and demanding medical school schedule, many students find making and keeping friends challenging.

If you’re worried about making new friends and keeping old ones while your in school, here’s some things you can do to ensure you have a good support network:

1. Be kind (and effective) with time management.

It’s no secret that medical school is time consuming and students have a complicated schedule. They spend most of the day on coursework and then are expected to study once they get home. Later years aren’t easier given the hectic clinical schedules where your classmates and friends are at various hospitals for different rotations. In addition to the hectic schedules, medical students have to deal with a high stress environment that doesn’t leave a lot of room for mistakes or second chances. 

So yeah, you’re definitely busy. But it’s important to recognize that other people are too. Be considerate. You’re not the only one with career aspirations or a hectic schedule. Don’t be so consumed with yourself that you neglect to consider the schedule or preferences of your friends. 

When it comes to finding ways to socialize when you’re pressed for time, one of the most effective things you can do is mingle at medical school events. This allows you to knock out two birds with one stone, in a way. You can meet people from your fellow students to upperclassmen to mentors and research PIs. You can also easily discover new speciality interests in medicine and perhaps even catch a free meal.

If you still find it very hard to make time for socializing, you can also set a schedule. Keeping an organized calendar of events and outings can be helpful as you start your MS1 year as there will surely be tons of things going on. Taking a break from hitting the books and attending some extracurricular activities will rest your mind and stimulate socializing.

2. Take advantage of resources your med school has to offer.

“Okay,” I hear you saying, “but I find making friends and meeting new people a lot harder after college.” It’s true, people are more selective, have less time, and often already have established social cliques. However, medical schools recognize this and have spent millions to help rectify or at least mitigate the issue. As a result, all medical schools in the U.S. offer programs and resources to make students socialize more.

Hit the ground running by taking advantage of student organizations, scouring event calendars, and societies at the start of your MS1 year. Often there will be an event or extracurricular calendar for the semester starting from day one at orientation. Many are a bit hesitant to go to school events, society meetings, etc., but try and stop finding reasons why you can’t attend these types of things. Just do it. Simply go to an event!

Often, the many choices available can initially be overwhelming for new students. It may be a good idea to talk with upperclassmen about potential events based on your interests. Select one or two organizations and check out their introductory events. There is little to no commitment so don’t worry if you don’t hit it off initially. You never have to go back again. Try to pick activities aligned with your interests, but don’t be afraid to try some activities outside your comfort zone.

Additionally, most schools have a student affairs or a well-being office for graduate medical education (GME) that is incredible in supporting medical school socials. There are often student-led organizations that put on dinners, day trips, and other wellness activities that help bring students from the class together.

Finally, be patient and persistent. Finding your people takes both time and effort and persistence pays off. You’re not likely to find your best friend or your research meeting after just one event and one conversation. Keep at it and even if it takes a few meetings, the people you connect with along the way will still contribute towards your professional growth. Know that you will have to make time for extracurricular events, and set aside a few blocks in your schedule to attend them.

3. Be yourself.

Now, I know some of you are thinking, “What if I’m an introvert?” Well, introverts still need a support network. But you should also be yourself and set boundaries. There will be plenty of opportunities to make friends so take your time with it. Be comfortable and don’t feel pressured to attend every event or join every student organization. Furthermore, don’t feel the need to befriend each and every one of your classmates. Be reasonable and do things at your own pace and comfort.

If you’re a bit shy, it’s especially important to keep the friends you already have. Maintaining connections with the friends you made before medical school and family members can keep you grounded and in touch with the world outside of medicine, which, shockingly, is most of the world. Regularly calling or visiting your hometown friends or family members can offer a sense of continuity and a valuable emotional outlet when you need to talk about your experiences and challenges.

Also, if you’re really not comfortable going to events and socializing, you can sit in the comfort of your own home and check social media. In fact, many medical schools have private online groups or forums where students can interact, share information, memes, and discuss various aspects of life. For example, you can join your med school class’s Facebook group. In this group, you can introduce yourself, ask various questions ranging from the curriculum to student housing, and even find potential study partners or roommates.

If you’re looking for an easy way to make a friend, some medical schools offer mentorship programs where senior students provide guidance and support to incoming students. This is literally a gimme. Sign up and get a valuable upperclassmen mentor to show you the ropes.

So, those are some things to consider if you’re a bit introverted. But remember, you still need to get out once in a while. Trust me, you will get bored of sitting at home studying medicine. Branch out every now and then to meet people in various settings.

Relationships Should Support You, Not Distract You

If you’re saying to yourself “I want to make friends, but I’m struggling in class,” it’s important to remember your grades do need to come first. So don’t compromise your coursework. If you fail your classes, you don’t get the coveted MD/DO degree. (I know, shocking.)

When your grades are an issue, you need to set boundaries and prioritize things that are important to you. If you’re struggling with a histology class, then maybe skip the two or three hours of extracurriculars you initially planned. Boundaries work the other way, too. If you’re doing fine in a class and have a date with your significant other, go enjoy the social outing and avoid cramming a few more Anki cards at dinner to eke out an extra one or two points on the upcoming pharmacology exam.

Your support system is important, but as a med student you have to realize there are some things you need to do on your own. Your support system, no matter how robust, isn’t going to ace your exams or care for your patients in your stead.

But also understand that prioritizing your coursework doesn’t mean you should burn yourself out! Finding balance amidst the studying is crucial. Attend social events, celebrate milestones, and take breaks to maintain your mental well-being without jeopardizing your academic standing. 

Further Reading

Remember that building meaningful relationships takes time, so be patient with yourself. Not everyone you meet will become a lifelong friend, but every interaction can be a valuable learning experience. Med school is a challenging but rewarding path, and the people you meet along the way can be an essential part of your success and well-being.

So, take a deep breath, step out of your comfort zone, and embark on this incredible journey with the confidence that you will find your people in med school. Over time, they’ll become an essential part of your support system and make your journey through medical education all the more enriching.

Looking for more (free!) content to help you transition into medical school? Check out these other posts from Blueprint tutors on the Med School blog:

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.