Choosing a career can be a daunting task. There are limitless options, tons of people giving away free advice and a fear of the unknown. What if I decide I like something different later? What if I don’t pass my initial classes? Will I still have time to be me?
For those choosing to be doctors, that decision has to be made earlier rather than later. Studying to be a doctor takes about an entire decade and includes undergrad, medical school, test taking, residency, and additional training. From the day you say to yourself “I’m going to be a doctor” until the day you do become a doctor are years apart. Keeping yourself motivated and focused during that time may be difficult.
Medical school is a huge hurdle for many and is an essential part of pursuing your medical dreams. Here are some things to consider before going to medical school.
It’s Pretty Expensive
This might be the least surprising item on this list, but it’s important to remember that going to medical school is not just a big life commitment, it’s a huge financial commitment. The average medical student graduates with nearly $200,000 in debt and almost 90% of students will be in debt after completing school.
While no one likes to be in debt, it’s unavoidable for the majority of students and you’ll have to prepare yourself to start paying off that debt with your first paychecks. You’ll eventually pay off your debt, but just be prepared to be living a few steps below the luxurious lifestyle you may have imagined earlier.
You’ll be Studying A Lot…
For many, the last few years of undergrad were a time when they had their routine figured out. Maybe you were taking fewer hours, finishing the last few classes in your major or taking more time to enjoy the last few months of college.
Unfortunately, that isn’t going to fly in medical school. It’s an intense time filled with a lot of different information and activities. You may feel like you’re drowning in books and your brain is so packed with knowledge it might start leaking out of your ears.
If you’re feeling anxious or struggle with anxiety, you can always ask for help. Find a study group and work together with your peers. You all can help relieve those difficult moments by being together.
It Shouldn’t Dominate Your Life
While the above item may appear grim, it’s important to remember that medical school doesn’t define who you are. Sure, it’s probably taking up over 80% of your life, but that doesn’t mean you should stop being who you are. Keep playing your favorite video game, make sure you get down to trivia night or weekly dinner with your friends. Don’t stop being you just because your schedule is all topsy-turvy.
There will be plenty of stressful moments but just as you did before, find and explore your stress-relieving activities. Whatever that may be, you need to keep at it and don’t let your schooling take over your life completely.
Hammer Down some Healthy Habits
While you may be on the go constantly and running from one thing to another, remember to make sure you’re staying healthy. Develop a solid nutrition plan and exercise regime. Substituting healthy snacks throughout your day is sure to improve how you feel. While a late night pizza may be necessary from time to time, try and plan out some healthy meals.
Chances are your sleep schedule is going to change and it’s better to fuel your body with healthy foods instead of relying on junk or fast food.
Keep hitting the gym, taking your dog for a walk or going to your boxing class when you can. Even if it’s just 20 minutes of activity here, that’s better than nothing! Your future job is going to be physically demanding so it’s good to be physically fit.
Besides, your future schedule is only going to become (somehow) even busier and more hectic. Speaking of hectic…
Medical School is Just the Halfway Point
Once you finish medical school, you’ll be matched to a residency program. It’s an exciting time as you’ll finally be out of the classroom and onto the real world. Hopefully, you have your healthy habits set and are able to manage your stress levels. It may feel like a rush at first but you’ll soon be adjusting to your new schedule and life.
One of the most important things to do in your residency is to make sure you have yourself covered. While you may still be young and spry, you want to make sure you’re covered from the unforeseen or uncontrollable. Hospitals are full of hazards and you don’t want to put so much work into everything, only to have it washed away by an injury or disability.
Even though you just got through medical school, another challenge lies ahead. But if you’ve gotten this far, you can do it all.