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What to Expect in Medical School
Universidad Autonoma de Guadalajara offers advice to prospective medical students, explaining what to expect in medical school.
As you begin your journey towards a medical career, you may be nervous about starting medical school. What can you expect from your medical training? While no two schools are exactly the same, schools that award an MD follow the same, quite rigorous core curriculum and adhere to the same national accreditation standards. Because each unique school has its own mission, curriculum, course format, and academic schedule, you will need to research the schools you are considering, in order to determine which schools have policies that align with your needs, and which have mission statements that match your goals. It’s also wise to take a look at the graduation requirements in terms of factors like coursework, research experience, and community service, before you apply. All of these considerations will come into play with your specific school but here, we give you a general overview of what you can expect from the average medical school. 

•    Typically, medical school training is organized into two parts: pre-clinical and clinical. Traditionally, a four-year curriculum involves two pre-clinical years, in which you learn the basics of medicine, including the structure and functions of the bodies, diseases, diagnoses, and treatments. During this time, students also learn the basic things you’ll need to know to practice medicine, like how to take a medical history. There is a push, in some schools, to shorten the pre-clinical phase and move to clinical experience more quickly, but generally speaking, you can expect to begin your clinical rotations in your third year. During your clinical training, you will receive basic instruction and hands-on experience, working with patients in different medical specialties. Medical schools have some flexibility in how they carry out their clinical training, and some have a curriculum that’s more integrated, providing a multidisciplinary education that incorporates patient interaction early in the medical school journey. 

•    The way students are evaluated will vary from school to school. Some medical schools use a letter grading system, but others use a pass/fail or honors/pass/fail system, and some use a combination of these or switch between them. A few schools use a competency-based evaluation system, measuring student progression in certain competencies that must be mastered. Remember, no matter which approach your school uses, grades are only part of the story. There are many other criteria by which you are evaluated while you are in med school, and balance is important. 

•    Patient interaction is an important part of medical school. In the traditional medical school structure, students would not interact with patients until they reach the third year. However, this is shifting. Some schools may introduce patient interactions as early as the first week, and some require incoming students to receive EMS or EMT certification before beginning classes. However your school sets up the clinical work, you can expect to have experience in internal medicine, family medicine, obstetrics and gynecology, pediatrics, psychiatry, and surgery by your final year of medical school. This experience is not meant to be enough to prepare you to work in one of these fields, but rather to determine your interests and help you choose your career path.

•    You will not be rushed into choosing a specialty. From the beginning of your time in medical school, you should be considering your interests and goals in terms of the specialties available to you. However, most students do not choose a specialty area until the end of the third year, after their clinical rotations have given them a stronger feel for how their interests and skills fit in with the various specialties. There are other ways to explore specialties too, through extracurricular opportunities like special interest groups and student sections of medical societies. Doing research, finding ways to gain further clinical experience, and looking for other opportunities to explore your career options can also help you decide on a specialty so that you can apply for your residency. Work with the career advisors at your school and look for a mentor to help guide you.

•    The process of attaining a medical license begins in your second year. That’s when you will take the United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE) Step 1 exam. This covers the fundamental sciences of medicine, while the Step 2 exam, taken during the third or fourth year, measures clinical skills and knowledge. Step 3 is the final exam, and this is taken during the first or second year of residency, after you have already completed med school and received your degree.

•    Be careful not to make these common med student mistakes. Don’t skip classes, thinking you can study the material on your own. It’s important to attend lectures, particularly in the beginning of med school, while you are getting adjusted and understanding the demands of the coursework. Don’t procrastinate and cram for exams, but study material right after it’s presented, reviewing it regularly until you’ve taken the test. Don’t overload your schedule because overcommitting can lead to burnout. Focus on classes and activities that are truly important to you. At the same time, don’t get so focused on one area of medicine that you miss the opportunities to explore other fields. Take care of yourself, making time for self-care, and establishing a strong network of support. Don’t be afraid to ask for help because it’s normal to feel stressed out or overwhelmed from time to time as a med student. Reach out to a faculty member, dean, mentor, counselor, or spiritual advisor to help you manage these feelings. Remember, too, that attending medical school is a true privilege, as students get the opportunity to learn all sorts of new things through hands on experience. Go ahead and enjoy the experience, embrace the wonder and fascination, and cherish this time in your life. 

If you are looking for a medical school with a deep-rooted tradition of quality, look into Universidad Autonoma de Guadalajara. The first medical school in Latin America to offer a US-style curriculum, we are committed to cultivating future physicians who have the skills and abilities necessary to meet the challenges of personal and community health. With the best facilities in Guadalajara, state-of-the-art laboratories, and a close working relationship with many of the hospitals in the city, we are able to provide an excellent educational experience for our students both on campus and in the field. With the goal of preparing graduates for careers as physicians where they can provide individuals, families, and communities with outstanding preventive, diagnostic and therapeutic services, our medical school offers a curriculum of excellence. We prepare our students to heal and serve their community, and we encourage them to strive for innovation, academic excellence, leadership, and commitment to society. For more information about our college of medicine, call 833-220-7645 or contact us through our website.


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