If you have ever considered being a doctor, you have likely thought about medical school. Medical school is unlike any other education since it has to prepare you for such a high-stress career. Understanding what medical school is like can help you decide if medical school is going to be the best path for you to follow.
Medical school can seem intimidating, but it doesn’t have to be that way. In this article, we’ll be discussing what to expect from medical school. We’ll be breaking down the typical timeline of attending medical school and offering you some helpful tips and tricks to make studying throughout medical school more manageable.
What is Medical School?
Medical school is the school that students who are interested in becoming almost any type of doctor attend. You attend medical school after you have already completed your undergraduate education and is considered a type of graduate school. There are many medical schools, but since you will be asked to pass a standardized test at the end, every school has a similar curriculum that students follow.
Medical school is designed to help prepare you for everything that comes with being a doctor. This means that medical school will teach you medical information and human physiology. Still, it will also teach you how to work with nurses and other professionals and how to interact with patients.
Medical school is a costly education, but it can pay off in the long run. It is an intense schooling process that starts with a demanding major in undergrad and goes all the way through medical school itself and onto residency after med school. Many students enter undergrad thinking that they will go to medical school after they finish college, but a lot less actually attend medical school than initially planned.
What Does Medical School Look Like Compared to College?
While in college, you, as the student, pick your own major and then take classes to work towards receiving that degree. Medical school is a little more set. Typically, a medical school has a more set curriculum than you likely found in college, meaning that there are more required courses for you to complete throughout your time in medical school. The timeline of medical school is also different from undergrad college.
Medical school is also split into two sections. The first year or two of your time in medical school will be your preclinical years. You will take courses that will prepare you to work in a clinical setting during this time. These courses will all be human physiology-based but will be conducted in a typical classroom or lab setting. This section will feel the most similar to your college courses.
The second half of medical school is generally two years long and is your clinical years. During this time, you will be expected to do much more hands-on work to help cement the information that you learned during your preclinical years. After you finish up your clinical time, you will be done with medical school but not fully ready to be a practicing doctor just yet.
One of the most significant differences between the people at a regular college and the people at a medical school is the level of focus. While you will find people in college who are focused and zeroed in on their careers, everyone at a regular college is not in that boat. The students who attend medical school are all zeroed in on their future careers and are ready to get serious. This can sometimes lead to an intense setting, but even medical school students find time to have fun in their busy schedules!
What to Expect in Medical School?
Understanding what to expect in medical school can help you prepare for starting medical school. The curriculum, the expectations, and the coursework will all be different in medical school than they were during your undergraduate time, so it is essential that you go into medical school feeling prepared.
Being prepared for medical school can mean different things to different people, but, in general, you should understand what will be required of you throughout medical school. It would be best if you also had a good idea of how to study effectively to get through all the information you will be asked to learn during medical school.
Med School Curriculum
Unlike undergrad, where you take classes in all different subjects, a medical school has a much more focused and narrow curriculum. Since medical school is designed to prepare you to be a doctor, the curriculum is also intended to do that and is focused primarily on the human body and its systems.
Most medical schools are geared towards creating practicing doctors, so there will also be a portion of the curriculum in medical school that teaches you how to interact with patients. Learning these people-related skills can be challenging for some students but are vital to your success as a doctor later on down the line.
If you are attending a medical school that is more research-focused or has a section that is more research-focused, you will likely be taking lots of courses that focus on answering big questions. You will be asked to work with others and learn many different techniques that you may need in your work in medical research after you finish up medical school.
The curriculum during your preclinical and clinical years will be very different since the structure of these programs is different. That being said, the overall curriculum between the two parts is cohesive since everything in medical school is cumulative and will build onto itself.
Med School Preclinical Years
During your preclinical years, you can expect a similar set-up to what you had during undergrad. These years are dominated by lectures and labs, both things that will be familiar to you by the time you enter medical school. Generally, you will be asked to take four or five courses at any one time, although some medical schools structure this time in more intensive smaller units.
These courses will mostly be science-based courses that will be designed to give you the information you need to be a good doctor. They are also helping you prepare for the exam you will take at the end of your preclinical years, which will ultimately determine if you pass or don’t pass your preclinical time.
During this time, you will also learn how to interact with patients. Understanding the science of the body is great, but if you are not an effective communicator, you won’t be a very effective doctor. This can be a big challenge for some medical students since it is different from their other courses but vital to learn.
Med School Clinical Years
As we mentioned before, your clinical years will last about two years and will require you to attend rotations at a hospital to practice the skills you have been learning. Typically during this time, you will rotate through various positions and specialties within the hospital, so you have a good idea of which areas are best suited for you.
Your clinical years are a massive hands-on time in medical school. They are structured very differently from your preclinical years since they are not classroom-based. Your schedule during these years could vary greatly depending on what rotation you are in at that time.
While you learned about how to communicate effectively with patients during your preclinical years, you will get a chance to practice these skills during your clinical years. It can be challenging at first, but knowing how to communicate with your patients is a massive part of being a doctor and is something that many students don’t give too much thought to, so it is essential to practice.
At the end of your clinical years of medical school, you will take another standardized test, similar to the one you took at the end of your preclinical years, that will determine if you pass or not. This test will culminate your time in medical school and will test to see how well you retain the information covered during your four years.
Although the medical school itself is done after you complete your clinical years, your education is not done yet. After medical school, you will then go on to complete your residency before you take your final exam to become a certified, practicing doctor. The results of this test will also be used to help get your placements for your residency.
How Long is Medical School?
Medical school is something that many people talk about as taking a long time, but the schooling itself isn’t what makes it take so long to become a doctor. Medical school itself is only four years long, but that does not include your time in residency. Residency is an extra time that is outside of medical school but is part of the track to becoming a doctor.
In order to become a doctor, you must first complete your undergraduate education, which typically takes four years. After this, you must attend medical school, which typically takes another four years. After medical school, you go on to complete your residency. A residency can be anywhere from three years to seven years, meaning that in order to become a doctor, you will be training for 11 to 15 years.
One reason it can take some people a long time to become a doctor is that the upfront cost is pretty high. Undergrad, med school, and residency all have their own costs, so many students have to work while they are in med school. Working in school sometimes means that students will take a year off between undergrad and med school to work and save up money. All of this combined can really make the whole med school process feel really long.
How Hard is Medical School?
Medical school is known to be challenging, but it is meant to prepare you for a career in medicine, so it is important to take it seriously. If you stay on top of all your work in medical school, it will be challenging but not unnecessarily burdensome. Medical school covers a lot of information, so they have to keep up the pace, meaning that students will have to work hard to keep up with all the information that is being covered.
Medical schools teach towards a standardized test. This means that every medical school must cover the same information in order to have their students be prepared for the test at the end of each section. If you aren’t able to process all of the required information to pass the test in the end, medical school might seem really hard for you.
Since being a doctor is a very demanding job, medical school will be challenging. This doesn’t mean that anyone out there is designing it for you to fail, but they are developing the curriculum for medical school with the end profession in mind. You will be expected to continue learning and adding new information to your repertoire throughout your medical school years.
Med school is only the start for most doctors since like we said above, you’ll always be learning as the medical field advances. This means that doctors really have to be dedicated to their craft, so having medical school be a challenge is a great way to make sure that the people who attend and graduate from medical school really want to be doctors.
How to Study for Med School?
Studying for medical school is just like studying for any other school. It takes lots of time, dedication, and practice to be good at studying for medical school. In order to be well prepared when you go into medical school, it is important to start establishing good study habits early on in your college career. This will set you up well to keep up with your studies throughout medical school.
If you go into medical school expecting it to be a breeze, you may be entering the wrong profession. The medical field is constantly changing and growing, and people in the medical profession are expected to be able to keep up with these changes. Studying and continuing to learn are essential skills to being successful in the medical field.
Studying effectively and efficiently are skills that you will need to practice. These are skills you should probably have a good mastery of before entering medical school, so you should think about developing good study habits throughout college. Waiting until you get to medical school to learn how to study is a little bit too late.
In general, someone who is good at studying stays on top of their work. They study a little bit for every course every day, so they go over all the material that they are covering many times. This helps move the information from their short-term storage and into their long-term storage in their brain. This also helps minimize the need for cramming before exams and ensures that the information you learn stays with you after the exam as well.
You should make sure you do when studying in medical school to save your notes. Since medical school is cumulative, meaning that everything you learn builds on itself, it is crucial to keep all of your material to use for reviewing later on. If you make study guides or flashcards to study as you go along, these can also be super helpful when it comes to reviewing for your big tests.
Wrapping Things Up: What Is Medical School Like?
Medical school is an educational experience like no other. From the timeline of the courses to the job you are preparing for, medical school is very distinct. Given how intense a job being a doctor is, it only makes sense that the schooling required to enter that career field is a little intense.
We hope that this article has given you the tools you need to feel prepared to enter medical school. Make sure you take your time and prepare well and you will succeed during your time in medical school!
If you are looking for some tools to help you improve your studying, feel free to check out our other articles on studying. We have articles on everything from taking notes to how long you should study for. Taking some time to really learn how to study effectively can be super helpful in medical school.