Baptism by Fire: The Transition to Medical School

by Heather Bergdahl, MSII


When I started medical school, I really didn't have a clue about the challenges I was about to face. Like many prospective medical students, my initial understanding of the forthcoming experience was limited to and shaped by what I had read in medical school blogs, student forums, and recruiting "propaganda." What I learned informally was confusing at best, often scary, and much of the time simply proved not to be the case. As a result of my medical school "baptism by fire" I decided to share some insights with others who are either considering or are already taking on the difficult and seemingly overwhelming challenge of medical school.

Unfortunately, your past educational success and study habits are no guarantee of success in medical school; the bar is much higher. In college, you may have crammed for a test the night before and succeeded. In medical school you will "cram" every day for a week before the test and still walk into the testing room feeling stressed, unsure, and unprepared.

The good news is that by being accepted into medical school, you have already proven that you have the intellectual capacity to succeed. At this point, it's all about applying yourself to the full-time job of studying. You will work harder than you have ever worked before, study until you are beyond exhausted, and at the end of the day you'll feel guilty about stopping to sleep. If that's not enough, by necessity, you will sacrifice time with your family, have very limited time to spend with friends, and forget about any semblance of a normal life. Your life revolves around medical school. It takes a 100% commitment from you and your absolute, undying devotion to your studies.

That's what I have learned from my "baptism by fire" in medical school. I hope my experience helps you avoid some of the obstacles I experienced. I've got more to say but to be honest, I'm feeling guilty. I need to get back to my full-time job: Studying!