Surviving Medical School: Studying

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Surviving University: Studying

Everyone, from teachers to parents to current and former students, will tell you that moving into further education is a big step. It can be daunting, exciting, tough, fun and overwhelming, but by reading our survival tips you might just make it through unscathed. This first instalment of “Surviving University” will give you a rough idea of how to cope with the amount of studying you will undoubtedly be doing. And if you think you can make it through by sweeping work under the carpet, or procrastinating every time a deadline looms around the corner, you’d be dead wrong.

For students of medicine this point counts for double. Medicine is a hard subject, and has a well-deserved reputation for piling on the workload. It’s a high pressure subject because it is a high pressure industry, and what University is trying to do is prepare you for the harsh realities of the world of work. And it’s out there waiting for you. Your best chance of survival is to use what University is offering you to your advantage. Basically, don’t forget that there is work to be done. Sure, it’s a great time to socialise, “find yourself”, party etc. etc. but you’ll regret it if you let your grades slide. Don’t take your eye off the ball. I know more than most how easy it is to get distracted from difficult or tedious work, but focus and discipline can truly build character which may one day help secure you a job.

For a subject like medicine, organisation is the key. You’ll be swamped with knowledge, notes, written and practical assessments. So do yourself a timesaving favour and get a diary. It is a simple concept, and after a couple of weeks you’ll wonder how you ever did without it. Be methodical. Check and update your diary regularly. Keep it neat and tidy, because the day you need to remember a book reference, page number or due date will come. Having a written system in place to juggle everything that is thrown at you is the best way to keep your head above water. It’s a sink or swim situation, a diary acts as a pair of arm-bands.

Colour-coding, keeping files for various subjects in a neat and logical order and creating a study timetable are all things those of us who are not naturally anally retentive find repellent. And I’m one of those people. But, like the diary, you will find it incredibly useful. University is not school. No one is going to hold your hand and walk you through it. Hit the ground running and you’ll give yourself a starting chance. All these tips on coping with studying might sound like yet another lecture, but they are genuinely useful.

However, don’t let it get you down. Make sure you give yourself and your brain time to relax. One of the major benefits of University is the whole experience of the place, so don’t lock yourself away every hour of every day with your head in your books. Refresh yourself and your brain will be sharper than ever. You need to be able to process the information and retain it, and this can only be done if every once in a while you let your hair down, go out, stay in and watch TV, read 50 Shades of Grey, anything that gives your brain a rest. Just keep a balance between study life and social life. Try not to neglect either one.

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