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    Congratulations, you got into medical school! Now what?

    Here are 7 tips for rising first years at the start of their medical school journeys.

    Medical students in the classroom raising their hands to ask questions

    If you are one of the more than 22,000 people to secure a spot in medical school for this coming academic year, congratulations! Your hard work has paid off. After the stressful process of applying to medical school (the average applicant submits 18 applications and fewer than half of applicants matriculate), attending interviews, and waiting for acceptances, you deserve to pause and appreciate your achievement. 

    Of course, this is just the beginning of your medical school journey. You may be eager to prepare yourself for what lies ahead when you join the medical school class of 2028 in a few months. To get started, AAMCNews compiled the following tips for rising first-year medical students.

    Finalize your commitment.

    First things first, be sure you’ve secured your spot at the medical school of your choice. April 30 marked the first day that applicants could use the Choose Your Medical School Tool from the American Medical College Application Service (AMCAS®) to select “Commit to Enroll,” which indicates they have made a final decision about where to attend. For those who were accepted or waitlisted at multiple schools, it’s important to check each school’s “Plan to Enroll” and “Commit to Enroll” policies and timelines. For example, a student may have secured an acceptance to one medical school, but was waitlisted at a different school that they would prefer to attend. That student may decide to select “Plan to Enroll” at the school where they were accepted, but wait to “Commit to Enroll” until after they have a final decision from the preferred school. If this applies to you, be sure to confirm the deadline for committing at the accepted school so you don’t miss your chance to secure your spot in the medical school class of 2028. Applicants can reach out directly to the school of their choice if they have any questions and should withdraw their applications from other schools as soon as they’ve decided against attending so that spot can be offered to another waitlisted applicant. Visit the AMCAS® application webpage for more detailed guidance.

    Make the most of your school’s orientation programming.

    Orientation is more than just getting a tour of the medical school campus, although that could be useful too. Medical schools put a great deal of effort into building orientation programs that will inform students of the resources available to them during their time in medical school — from academic advising to student health. It’s also a chance to meet and get to know the students and faculty at the school. 

    Prioritize your physical, mental, and emotional health.

    Medical school can be physically, mentally, and emotionally demanding and it’s not uncommon for students to experience poor mental health. More than a quarter of medical students and residents experience depression. Now, more than ever, is a good time to establish or enhance healthy routines to make sure you are taking care of yourself physically and mentally. Identify the mental health resources provided by your school and maintain friendships and close relationships that can serve as your support system in good times and in bad. 

    “Be conscious of the fact you’re a person first and a medical student second,” says Sachin Jain, MD, MBA, an adjunct professor of medicine at Stanford University School of Medicine and president and CEO of SCAN Group and Health plan. “Eat well, exercise, get enough sleep, all basic things you would tell your patients. It’s a version of ‘physician, heal thyself.’”

    Henri Ford, MD, MHA, dean and chief academic officer at the University of Miami Leonard M. Miller School of Medicine and the chair of the AAMC Council of Deans, concurs. “Make time to decompress and replenish yourself regularly to avoid burnout,” he says. “[And] find a reliable group or network of friends to support one another during this arduous journey.”

    students and faculty posing during white coat ceremony

    Henri Ford, MD, MHA, dean and chief academic officer at the University of Miami Leonard M. Miller School of Medicine and the chair of the AAMC Council of Deans (third from right) poses with students at a white coat ceremony in 2022.

    Courtesy of the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine.

    Don’t compare yourself to — or compete with — your peers.

    The competition to get into medical school can be fierce, especially at schools with low acceptance rates. Every student entering medical school has impressive credentials and, as someone driven enough to get into medical school in the first place, it’s natural to feel discouraged when comparing yourself to your peers. Remember that everyone has different strengths and is on a different path in their journey. You belong in medical school as much as anyone else in your class. But, be careful not to let that self-assuredness lead to competitiveness. Medicine is a collaborative profession, and it’s best to treat fellow students as colleagues rather than competition, notes Jain.

    Read multiple medical journals and stay curious.

    Jain also suggests furthering your knowledge of various medical specialties by reading a wide variety of medical journals. Some journals offer student discounts and some medical schools have institutional subscriptions, so you may be able to read the physical copies for free at your university library. Jain recommends paying attention to which journals you gravitate toward naturally, as this may help give you clarity about what specialty and career path you ultimately choose.

    “A medical degree is just the start of your profession, not the end,” Jain says. “You’re going to have to be a lifelong learner to be a caring and competent physician. So notice what you want to read when you’re not forced to read it.” 

    Ford agrees that you should be eager to learn, not only in medical school, but throughout the rest of your career. “Stay curious so that you can apply yourself to learn all the medical disciplines,” he says. “[And] embrace lifelong learning to achieve mastery of the subject matter.”

    Find your mentors.

    Pay attention to the residents and faculty who are exhibiting the qualities of the doctor you hope to become and don’t hesitate to seek out their mentorship. Mentors in medical school can help guide you, not only to be successful in medical school, but also in your applications for residency and fellowship. Jain says it’s especially important to take advantage of your status as a student to be curious and explore a variety of specialties. It’s one of the rare times in your career where most doctors will welcome you to shadow them or observe a procedure. “You don’t realize the golden key you have to health care as a medical student,” Jain says. 

    Embrace the challenge.

    Students are used to hearing about the challenging times that the health care profession is facing, particularly in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. There are high rates of burnout and concerns about workforce shortages that could exacerbate systemic issues, such as overworked health care professionals, financially constrained health systems, and reduced access to health care for patients. 

    Ford urges rising medical students to be conscious of when their experiences in medical school begin to dehumanize and desensitize them and resist this instinct. “Remember the ideals that you wrote about in your personal statement that made you want to become a doctor. Try to exemplify them,” he advises.

    Beyond that, Jain challenges new medical students to see the current challenges facing the medical field as opportunities to bring innovative solutions into the practice of medicine. “It’s an opportunity to try to turn the tides, make a dent, try to change things,” he says. “That is really exciting … We need people who are going to challenge the status quo.”