My friends and I laugh at ourselves when we think back to undergraduate. Somehow, we were convinced that it was hard at the time. I remember talking to classmates after a test thinking, “Wow, I studied for six hours in the library for three straight days to prepare. I’m exhausted. I feel like I earned an A.” I wasn’t lying.
Well welcome to medical school. A friend of mine went out on a date with a med student who had to cut the date short so he could get back to the library, and he wasn’t blowing her off. I remember Uncle Neurophysiologist telling me that my life would be in a book, my weekends in a book, my nightlife in a book. I didn’t believe any of this. Well the rumors were true.
Medical school is the beginning of your life-long devotion to learning. You will spend the majority of your next two years (preclinical) in the library on a Friday night learning the morphological differences between Tropical Sprue and Whipple’s Disease. You will be a student of the 17th and 18th grades. And you had better be an expert at studying.
You will hear about the Cornell Method of note taking. You will flirt with concept mapping (CMap is the best program I’ve seen). You will swear by flash cards until the rubberband breaks sending your brain spilling across the floor. You will stick with the outline style of note-taking you learned in high school. You will see someone read the notes with a highlighter, achieve understanding, and then put it away until the test comes. You will hate that person. You will see someone that highlights too much, with too many colors, and has colored pens at the ready. You will see people with 3M sticky notes covering their cubicles, the organization making sense only to them. You will see people with too many other sources stacked around them, drowning in it.
Rarely will someone go to the student help center to learn about note taking styles and strategies. And that’s a shame. You’re going to study more and be tested more than any person that you know outside of this world. It makes too much sense to say that you should become an expert at what you do. So my advice to anyone in medical school or thinking about the plunge is to go to the bookstore, research studying methods, talk to an expert, and earn a black belt in note-jitsu. It’s going to be a long hard fight.