Before we begin our discussion on the habits that distinguish successful medical students from ordinary ones, congratulations are in order! It goes without saying that getting into medical school is one of the hardest things you’ve ever had to do, and it is about to be topped by actually having to get through medical school.
There are some good omens, however; one thing that is fundamental to successful people’s mindset is the desire to continuously improve and your presence here, reading this article, shows that you have the raw materials to be among the best medical students. Taking it from there, USDoctors.co has compiled a list of tips from successful medical students that will help you stand out in medical school! The first part of this article will provide you with some general habits of high-achieving students, while the second half will elucidate the study habits of successful medical students.
The Habits of Successful Medical Students
Successful medical students have some general habits in common, a few of the most important ones are listed below:
- Healthy Living
The best students acknowledge that their health is central to all their ambitions; that is, without sound health it would be impossible for them to perform at the required level. This includes not only physical health but also mental health, as both are inextricably linked to high-performance. Great students have a regular exercise routine, whether it be in the form of going for morning walks, participating in sports, or working out at the gym. They also keep an eye on their mental wellbeing by practicing mindfulness, yoga, or simply meditating every morning. These are small considerations in the grand scheme of things, but they add up and help prevent the stress-related burnout which is all too common in medical school.
- No Comparisons
Medical schools are highly-competitive environments, and if you’re inclined towards competing with your peers to improve yourself, then they are the ideal setting. However, they can also be toxic if you are constantly comparing yourself to those around you. This is because the comparison makes it easy to ignore that you are unique individuals, from different backgrounds, with access to different opportunities. It is also quite common to have no nuance when comparing yourself to a high performer, meaning that you only see the end-product and not the sacrifices that had to be made by your competitor to achieve it. Most successful medical students recognize that comparison only leads to dissatisfaction with your own life and may even lead you to set unrealistic expectations for yourself. Ultimately, you will be unable to meet these unrealistic expectations, resulting in disappointment and stress.
- Build Positive Relationships
An underrated aspect of studying in medical school is being surrounded by highly-intelligent people, be they your peers or instructors. Building relationships with those around you helps you survive the grind of medical school and also improves your academic performance. There are unique avenues to receive mentorship from your seniors, who would have faced all the challenges you are going through. There are even opportunities to give back to the system by mentoring a junior, which can serve as a revision for you as well. The best medical students don’t see their peers as robotic-competitors but rather as humans, from whom they can learn a lot. So don’t isolate yourself; open up to the amazing individuals around you and you are bound to appreciate it later down the road!
The Study Habits of Successful Medical Students
- Learning Style Locked
As used in this instance, ‘locked’ does not carry the same meaning as ‘inflexible’, rather it should be read as ‘figured out’. The study habits of successful medical students often include determining one’s study style. Of course, it’s something that will evolve over the course of your education depending on the type of task and it’s requirements. Having said that, the fundamentals remain the same. Having a set learning style is key to studying effectively because until you learn how you study best, you cannot know how you absorb information. As a result, you cannot design study strategies that help you excel and you will always find yourself expending more effort than necessary.
- Organized, Focused, and Efficient
This point is fundamental to developing good study habits. It is crucial to stay organized, have set schedules as far as possible, have predetermined study locations, and not to let clutter creep into your life. Medical school stops for no one, and missing out on even one day of work can be disastrous to your schedule. It is important that whenever you sit down to study, you do so with absolute focus. That means no distractions from your friends and no cell phone notifications. The logic here is that you will have to study every day to progress well in medical school, and the best students know that 3 hours of focused study is better than 6 hours of distraction-filled study. Finally, study efficiently because no one, not even the most successful medical students, can learn everything that is taught.
- Diversity of Resources
Don’t become a slave to the teacher’s recommended texts and feel free to look for resources that could be better for you. Often the teacher recommends books that would suit the majority of the class but may not be suited to everyone’s learning style. So don’t limit yourself to these recommendations and look for other avenues, such as asking your peers or searching for them online.
- Rest and Relaxation
Rest and relaxation may sound very similar to “taking care of your health” as prescribed above, but successful medical students recognize that there is a key difference. The rationale for adding this here is that it is important to consider breaks a part of your study schedule rather than something outside of it. The work keeps coming when you’re in medical school and if you don’t schedule breaks for yourself, you will suffer in the long-term. We are all human and it is unrealistic and even dangerous to expect high performance without appropriate rest.
Many successful medical students often find themselves relying on the habits they built in medical school well into their careers. This shouldn’t come as a surprise since studying medicine means committing to a lifetime of learning, which inevitably means that you’ll need strong habits to maintain your learning capacity. It is important that you understand, adopt, and internalize these habits as they may prove to be the difference between becoming an average and a great doctor. Hopefully, the tips mentioned above will help you distinguish yourself!
If you’re confused about any aspect of life in medicine, check out the excellent resources at the USDoctors.co blog!