The course won’t be organised
School seems distinctly regimented compared to uni. In my first week, this stressed me out so much. I was used to being told where I was expected to be weeks in advance, and meetings were set in stone. Within days at university, I realised this wasn’t the case. You’re responsible for what you attend and what you don’t – nobody is going to chase you up or remind you what classes you have. Also, the medical schools have a habit of setting students a deadline which you have to meet, however, when they give a dealine for themselves to meet (e.g. giving out exam feedback etc.) it is almost always late. You get used to it pretty quickly, but it can still be annoying at times. I’ll give you an example – on the first week of medical school, we had to go to GP practice. I waited to be told which surgery I was going to, and two days before and I still hadn’t heard so, I emailed the medical school. It turned out I hadn’t been assigned anywhere to go, and so the medical school quickly searched around for somewhere to go. Most people got a placement in Dundee meaning they had to walk to their surgery, or, if it was too far to walk, the uni would organise and pay for a taxi for them. And they ended up going in groups of 3 or 4 so they weren’t alone. Given that this was the first week of term, everyone was still getting to know one another, so I felt a bit disadvantaged when I ended up by myself in a GP surgery in Montrose – a 30 minute train ride away, which, I had to pay for myself!
I don’t think this disorganisation is exclusive to Dundee, but its something you learn to deal with over time.
Get a stethoscope
For some reason, a lot of people seem to have a thing about getting ear infections from using other peoples stethoscopes. I’ve certainly never worried about that sort of thing before, but either way, having your own stethoscope is all in all, pretty handy. I’ve used mine from the first week of medical school, and the chances are, it’ll be the same in most universities.
Don’t buy every book on the reading list
We got a reading list the length of War and Peace when we turned up to uni, and since then, I’ve bought 5 books at the most. If you bought every book on the list, you’d be using up your entire student loan before you’ve even been to tescos for your first shop of the year and besides, half the ones they recommend you probably wouldn’t use anyway. Usually there’s a bunch of books which say the same things but in different styles – get the books from the library and if you like it and use it a lot, then by all means, buy it, but most books you’ll use once or twice and then never look at them again, so using the library is the best plan.
Get a couple of smart outfits
From the first week at Dundee, you’ll be seeing patients. Therefore, it’s a good idea to have a smart outfit to wear for these occassions.
Organise your notes
I definitely recommend this. If you don’t organise your notes from the start, you never will. This is coming from experience here. The notes I keep on my computer are pretty well organised. My written notes on the other hand, are not. And I’m never going to have the time to organise them. It basically means I never use them now cause I can’t actually find anything.
Make your own lunches/learn how to cook
Lunches at the hospital can be expensive and aren’t exactly worthy of a michelin star despite the high number of people that turn up to eat there every day. Making your own lunches the night before can save you a bunch of money over the year and will taste better too.
Study well in advance
A lot of people make the fatal flaw of leaving studying for exams until the week before. It might have worked in school for you, but it definitely won’t work in uni. Medicine isn’t hard to understand, the problem is that you have to learn so much information on so many subjects in a short amount of time. Doing a little bit of work every day will certainly help offset the amount of work left to do in the weeks coming up to exams.
Get the balance
Despite the advice above, don’t spend all your times studying. Going into my 4th year at uni, I kind wish I could turn back the clock and do a bit less studying and had a bit more fun instead. In saying this, my experience is that most people either swing one way or the other – too much partying or too much studying. It really is hard to get the balance.
Join a sports team
I wish I’d done this from day 1 as well. Whether its a sport you’ve done for years or something you’ve never tried, joining a sports team is a good thing to do. Exercise is exaclty what the doctor ordered, you’ll meet plenty new people (and making friends outside of medicine is ALWAYS a good thing, especially coming up to exams when the whole of the medical school becomes a bit obsessed), and doing something recreational means you can take a bit of time out of your hectic schedule to clear your mind.
Join societies, join the medical school society, join the band society. You’ll thank yourself later. Again, you’ll get to meet lots of people, and can work on your organisational skills. The earlier you get in, the more chance you have of working your way up and getting your ideas heard as well. Having positions on the committee is a good thing for your CV, and a lot of societies require you to have been in the club for at least a year before you can apply for any of the more important positions. So, start early and it’ll pay back as you go through medical school.