Coping With Your First Course

Getting Top Grades is Different in Medical School: Slap!! Reality Time!! Now is the time to realize that your classmates all graduated at the top of their class too. Not at the end of the semester or at the end of the year. You need to know this now!!. You can’t wait until the last minute to study anymore. There is a lot more material, tested a much deeper level, and the competition is TOUGH! But you can be the smartest by starting early.

Map out what you want to accomplish each day.  Seeing your tasks marked off your list, can be really helpful. Yeah! I am making progress!!! Be as specific as possible on your list – but don’t put 25 things on the list. You need to be spending at least 4 hours a day with INTENSE studying - not just reading over material. Having a strict schedule during your first semester is imperative to success and managing your anxiety. Working now rather than later will help you feel accomplished and prepared and SMART!!

Be as ACTIVE as possible in your learning --- Don't just read the material over and over. (ho-hum. Will someone splash water on my face?)  It won’t work. Be active: Talk it over with others. Organize the material in an outline or charts. Teach others the material; teach yourself by writing and drawing on a dry erase board. Quiz yourself and each other. Write and draw the structures over and over and over. Go to the lab and quiz each other. You cannot learn the material to just recognize it if it shows up on the exam, you have to know it really well. You may not be able learn everything, but you have to know the essentials very well.

Now - for relaxing. You can’t neglect your body. You have to schedule in relaxation time too. At least one hour each day needs to be completely devoted to relaxing and recognized as such. So don't just take an hour to watch tv without saying – “this is my down time where I get refreshed and don't think about school AT ALL!!” A great way to relax is to exercise or do actual relaxation exercises (yoga or meditation counts here too). Put on some soft music and do some SLOW deep breathing - anything relaxing for 15- 30 minutes two times a day.

Positive thinking also helps with anxiety management. Try to keep negative thoughts at bay by knowing that you have been successful as an undergraduate and that you can handle this too. It may take more time and energy, but that it doesn't take more brains. Remind yourself that you are learning each day and building on your foundation.

  •  “I can do this. I am just as smart as anyone else here.”
  • “This is manageable. Hundreds of other students have done this and so can I.”
  • “Learning about the human body is awesome!”

 DON'T ALLOW NEGATIVE THINKING or hang out with others saying negative things:

  • “I can’t learn all this in a million years!”
  • “What have I gotten myself into?”
  • “Memorizing all this stuff is not what medicine is all about.”



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