What to Expect From Your First Year at Medical School

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Few people know what to expect when they head to their first day of class at medical school. It can be exciting, but you’re far from alone if you’re a little nervous about starting this next chapter in your life. If you haven’t gotten in yet and you’re hoping to attend med school, you’ll need to start preparing early, as even just getting in can be a significant hurdle due to the low acceptance rate for most top programs. Many people describe medical school as similar to “drinking from a firehose,” so it’s a good idea to have realistic expectations for your workload from the start. Whether you’ve been accepted or are hoping to attend in the future, keep reading to learn more about what you can expect from your first year at medical school.

How can you prepare for medical school?

Medical school is much different than other types of graduate programs. Due to the amount of technical and pre-professional knowledge you’ll be expected to master, the curriculum is notoriously dense and demanding. Acceptance rates for top medical schools are lower than they’ve ever been.


High test scores and solid academics are necessary, but they’re often nowhere near enough to make your application stand out. It’s a good idea to use your application to demonstrate a lifelong interest in medicine and show extracurricular activities and work experiences that have helped you prepare for a career as a doctor. Medical schools make a significant investment in their students with the expectation that they will go on to be qualified professionals, which is part of why they’re so selective in the admissions process.

While your college transcript will be most important, you can start preparing for a career in medicine as early as high school. College admissions are highly competitive, especially for top schools like Yale or Stanford. You may have heard about an NSHSS scam, but honor societies can actually be a huge benefit if you want to pursue a career in a field like medicine. Organizations like NSHSS can also help you obtain exclusive scholarships, which can help cover the cost of your education.

What should you expect in your first year?


The first year of school is focused almost exclusively on learning the basics of human physiology, anatomy, biochemistry, and histology. You’ll also typically have your anatomy lab in your first year. Anatomy can be fascinating, and you’ll get hands-on experience working with cadavers, but the classes are typically extremely challenging. You can expect to spend long nights in the lab during anatomy.

Invest in a quality work desk for your dorm or apartment, because you’ll be doing a whole lot of studying. There are a number of advantages to opting for a standing desk instead of a traditional office desk, especially if you’re having trouble getting enough physical activity after spending all day in class. While your school library probably offers work space, most people prefer to study in a more private setting where they finish their assignments in peace.

Your first year at medical school is likely to be incredibly difficult; most students find it hard to adjust to the workload and the long hours that are required to keep up. The information you learn can be dense and take more time to study than you’re used to, and you might find yourself working in the lab until late at night sometimes. Though the experience can be grueling, it’s important preparation for your career as a doctor, where you’ll face many similar time management challenges. Medical school is widely considered to be one of the most demanding forms of graduate education, but proper training is especially essential for anyone whose career involves saving lives.

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