and here’s a real question : how did you survive med school? i’m in my second year and i just want to know how did you survive this thing ;)
Part 4 (finally!) of a 4-year 4-part reply on “Tips for Surviving 4 Years of (American) Med School” — see disclaimer from Part 1, please!
Do you remember, WAYYYY back in the day, when you were a senior in high school? You remember the mixture of status and stress that came with that coveted title, “Senior”? Well, 4th year of med school is just that, times 1,000.
Ain’t nothing quite like being the “top of the heap”, right? As a 4th-year med student, you are envied by all the other med students “below” you. You know your way around most of the hospitals by now, some residents and attendings recognize you in the hallways (this is USUALLY, but not ALWAYS a good thing), you’ve already narrowed down your choices for residency specialties and started taking electives accordingly.
If you’ve played your cards right, you’ve knocked out your USMLE Step 2 exams early in your 4th year, gone through the whirlwind of Interview Season, and still saved up some of that precious “exam prep/interview” time to be spent on a nice vacation instead! (May I recommend doing some overseas travel, possibly a medical missions experience? Go see what other countries’ medical systems are like, and start to appreciate the aspects of American health care that still rock. But regardless of where you go, GO — this will be the last chance you’ll have to do a real vacation for a while).
And on the rare occasions when your world intersects with the lecture-hall/lab-bench world of the 1st-year med students, you can just feel their envy and admiration oozing out through every pore, like some horrible Oedipal cologne. Try to remember what it was like to live in a study cubicle all the time — then be a real champ, and offer to take a 1st or 2nd year student along with you for a day of hospital or clinical experiences during your rotations. Also, start visibly “coaching” the 3rd year students who are on your rotations with you: not only is this good practice for residency, and will help you remember your medical data better, but it looks really good to the attendings who may sit on local residency application committees!
So, as much as you’re enjoying 4th year, you still have some dark spots coming up on your calendar — Interview Season, Match Day, and INTERN YEAR.
- Interview Season, the period of time when most residency programs start offering interviews to applicants for next year’s residency slots, usually begins in the fall and ends in February of your 4th year, so plan your rotations accordingly: Try to line up rotations during Interview Season which won’t be too picky about letting you take a couple days for traveling to and interviewing at your residency choices. Don’t over-load yourself with applications and interviews (unless you’re competing for a really tough residency); when you reach a “breaking point” where you’re just showing up to interviews “because I already had scheduled them,” start canceling them.
- Match Day is gonna be nerve-wracking, regardless of how well your Interview Season went, but hopefully you won’t be stuck “scrambling” for open slots in random residencies.
- With Intern Year looming, 4th year is a good time (similar to 2nd year) to get your ducks in a row: get your relationships with SO’s/spouse/kids stabilized, organize your finances, sit down with a financially-savvy person to discuss upcoming issues like “renting vs. buying a house”, “consolidating your school loans”, and “deciding on supplementary life and disability insurance policies.”
- In preparing for the USMLE Step 2 CK exam, I found Boards and Wards and Swanson’s Family Medicine Review to be the 2 most useful books. (I finished med school before the USMLE Step 2 CS became mandatory, so I don’t have specific tips for that — but practice practice practice!)
- At graduation season, ask your dean’s office to give you a copy of the application essays that you wrote when applying to med school: it’s like taking a trip back in time, to a more innocent age when you had idealistic goals and no uncertainties about the “truth of Science” and the “desire to help others”. Let this “trip” show you how you’ve changed, but also remind you why you got into this in the first place: you’ll need that perspective to help you endure through the rigors of Intern Year.
And that, thisismehidingfromtheworld, finally concludes that!
For those of you who started following me after I started writing this mini-series (which is probably MOST of you!), here are links to all the previous Med School Survivor posts:
3rd Year: Part A, Part B, Part C, Part D
Or you can see them all at once on the “Survival”-tagged page (as long as Tumblr’s search function is working… no promises.)