Practical tips for life at medical school

Finding the right balance

University is an exciting time. It's important that you balance your study with enjoying yourself and taking time out.

Here are five tips to help you find a healthy balance between life and study:

  • Build a routine - being organised with your time means you can fit in your university work alongside socialising, hobbies and general life admin.
  • Get to know people - getting to know your fellow students, on and away from your course, will help you to settle in.
  • Look after yourself - your health and wellbeing are really important, so make time to rest and relax.
  • Reach out if you need extra help - if you're struggling, don't be afraid to ask for support or advice.
  • Know your limits - anything in excess, whether it's partying or studying, can offset your healthy balance.

Don't just take it from us. Here's some advice from current medical students and recent graduates:

A marathon, not a sprint

I've thoroughly enjoyed my time as a medical student. Starting medical school was a particularly exciting time: freshers' week, meeting new people and exploring new environments. However, if I could go back and give myself one piece of advice, it would be to slow down and look after myself more.

Medicine is tough. There's a lot to learn, a lot to do, and you won't get far if you don't take care of yourself. Create a schedule, get enough sleep, eat well and - most importantly - have fun!

Dylan McClurg, 5th year, University of Aberdeen

Accept the support available

We, as individuals, are more resilient than we think. However, we're still human and some days will be more difficult than others. A strong network of family and friends will provide an invaluable web of support. Most universities will allocate a personal advisor who, alongside the medical school and university student support departments, will be there to help you.

It's important to recognise that everyone will need help at some point. Making yourself a priority is vital during your time at medical school.

Laetitia Jervis, 5th year, Norwich Medical School

Learn how you learn best

At medical school, you may find that you're left to learn a large amount of content all by yourself. This can seem daunting at first. It's important to use the first few weeks to find your most effective method of learning. Explore different methods of note-taking and identify reliable sources of information relevant to your curriculum.

Once you've developed your preferred method, you'll find that the workload which seemed impossible at first is now much more manageable!

Shafeer Rishad, 5th year, University of Glasgow

Collaboration over competition

Medical school is full of intelligent, talented and driven people. It's such a privilege to learn from and interact with them. However, comparing yourself to others can often lead to burnout and stress.

Instead, try to shift your mindset from seeing them as competition, to seeing them as colleagues! So much more can be achieved through collaboration, rather than competition.

Ciara Irwin, 4th year, University of Birmingham

Let yourself switch off

Don't let your studies take over your life!

Make sure you keep doing things you enjoy. I feel refreshed and ready to learn when I've had time to 'switch off' from my studies. Balancing work with downtime will help you to feel calm and positive, allowing you to focus and learn more effectively.

Take guilt-free breaks, get away from anything medicine-related, and have some fun.

Aysha Ahmed, 3rd year, Leicester Medical School

Healthcare professional first, student second?

At university you'll meet new people and have great experiences. Whilst it's important to make the most of these, you must remember that you're also a representative of your medical school and the NHS. Patients and service users may find you on social media, so it's best to make sure that all your accounts are private. Think about what you post and share.

Similarly, if you let your hair down on nights out, make sure you remain respectful of others. You might be talking to one of your future patients!

Laith Evans, 5th year, Norwich Medical School

Find your routine

Naturally, it's important to work hard, but this doesn't mean that you have to burn yourself out. Make sure to schedule part of your day for studying, but also factor in some time for yourself. Physically drawing up a calendar or keeping a weekly to-do list can help with this.

There's a lot to cover at medical school, so use your first year to find out how and when you work best.

Sara Beqiri, 5th year, UCL

Switch it up

Some parts of the curriculum are not easy to get your head around the first time. If anatomy lectures are frying your brain, find some 3D models. Renal physiology getting you down? Grab a friend and map it out on a whiteboard. You might feel as though you need to have recorded everything immediately, whether from a textbook or a lecture, but don't worry - you'll usually cover it again.

It's worth taking the time to try learning in different ways: as a group, out loud, teaching someone, mind maps, flashcards or online quizzes.

Declan Leahy, 3rd year, Newcastle University

Imposter's syndrome

At first, I really struggled to believe that my own hard work had earned me my place at medical school.

Even though I felt like an outsider, I soon realised that most of us had similar thoughts, which became something we bonded over in our first few weeks. Instead of focusing on why we felt we shouldn't be there, we shifted to focus on how to make the most of such an amazing opportunity.

Lucy Richman, 3rd year, University of Cambridge

You've got this!

Try not to become overwhelmed when you enter medical school. The transition from school to university can be a challenging one and it takes each of us a different amount of time to adjust. If you're struggling, don't be afraid to ask for help. Your peers in later years will be more than happy to share their experiences with you.

Remember: everyone started where you are now. Enjoy medical school - it will be an experience you will cherish for the rest of your life. You've got this!

Saad Khan, FY1, former University of Birmingham