Class of 2018; It has Begun and I'm cracking!

So, hi all. I have zero time, of course, now that M-1 year is in full swing, but I’m feeling so odd I had to post among friends.

So, I feel totally disconnected and out of place at med school. I never ever expected to feel this way after working so hard to get here. School feels like high school and I feel like the much older kid who couldn’t get her crap together to do this earlier! I have no desire to make my way socially because I’m 37 and I have my social groups already and family and priorities so all these things these 20 somethings are doing is of no interest to me. Not to mention, I’m here to train for my career, not join cliques/groups and go out on Friday nights to the bars. Not my thing anyway. However, it’s not just the social thing, but the fact that I just don’t have the same kind of time to devote to medical school as most of my classmates and therefore am struggling with the fact that I have to settle for average and just “passing” because I fear I cannot keep up any other way. I have errands to run, appts to keep and make, a child to raise, Kindergarten activities to coordinate, etc, etc, etc. The list goes on and on. So, yeah, even if I wanted to I cannot spend every waking hour studying.

Plus, the way to study is just freaking me out because it is so much stuff and I kept hearing that you cannot study like you did in undergrad. So, I tried taking digital notes the first few weeks, and realize now as I enter 4th week that this isn’t working for me. So, now I’m backtracking a little and am pulling out my pens and notebooks from now on. I don’t care because it works for me!

I feel like this is crazy that I’m full of such self doubt after I have managed so much already and was always on top in undergrad despite the same challenges I am facing now.

I feel like the med school experience is just happening “over there” and I am just sitting off to the side managing in my own way. I just feel sooooo disconnected. I love anatomy and love dissection (I did cadaver dissection in undergrad) but I don’t even look forward to lab days. I don’t look forward to lectures. I don’t look forward to commiserating with my classmates for the most part. There are a few I like and get along with but otherwise I feel so out of place and different. I am totally whining and this is not like me normally, but I feel like I was really hit upside the head with these emotions and I am having a hard time dealing with it all. I am having a monumental time concentrating which is also unlike me. I had my first quiz last week and got an 80% which isn’t horrible, I know, but I guess the class average was like 88% and 50% of the class got “honors” scores (90% or higher I think) so I feel rather inadequate by my 80%. But, I could not feasibly study anymore than what I did. Plus, this one quiz kind of threw me off the rest of my classes so I’m starting to feel like I’m drowning already.

I find myself in tears when I should be memorizing 39 muscles just for this teeny tiny portion of one of my classes and it’s frustrating! I’ve been through so much in my life that this is not quite expected at all. Tears? Over studying? Really, Shannon? So, feeling not like myself at all.

So, really I just needed to unload. I have an appt. with someone at my school to discuss my concerns about the nontrad path in medical school. I mean, I can’t even attend the tutoring sessions because I just can’t be at school at any given hour of the day. I have so many other responsibilities and cannot just pop back to school at 7 pm or what not for a large grp. tutoring. So, all the resources I am paying for ($50,000/year tuition for example) I cannot even utilize. So, I’m at home using YouTube (which really is a godsend and to be honest, got me an A in ochem despite never going to lecture because the prof didn’t “do it” for me) but shoot, I’m in med school. I can deal with learning the way I learn best because that is the point, but I’m frustrated nonetheless mainly because the subjects don’t scare me- I love most of this stuff!, the lack of time does! It’s hard being a nontrad!

I am projecting too far ahead as well as I realize there is no way I can even think of going into a “low paying” specialty because there is no way I will ever get out of debt if I do. But, how to be competitive for something else that pays better (and that I actually want to do) when I have no time?!? Plus, I want to keep my residency to 4 years so doing a 3 year residency plus a fellowship, for example, is just too long for me. I’ll be at least $300,000 in debt when I graduate at 41 as it is.

So, thanks for “listening” everyone. I’m just freaking out on so many levels right now and I do realize I’m feeling scattered and should totally not be projecting so far ahead but it’s hard not to think about these things now when my life is not entirely my own as it is.

I wish I had more to offer you than an ear. But I’ve followed along with your posts for awhile now, and you HAVE worked incredibly hard to get where you are. I think so much of what you’re feeling is common.

It’s good you’re talking about it. Don’t stop venting when you need to vent. Maybe it’s not as obvious, maybe they’re hiding it more, but I’m sure so many of your classmates feel this way. Knowing that med school is hard and facing it are two different things.

It sounds like you’re doing all of the best things for you. Talk to your school, make some noise about services, study how and when works best for you. Don’t worry about not going to bars, it might help the social scene, but it doesn’t translate to anything in the classroom. Talk to someone at the counseling center if you’re really struggling (most people wait until they’re at a breaking point to do this. Don’t do that.)

Above all, give yourself a break. You are capable of doing this. Struggling is no fun, but you’re working out the kinks now on how you learn best. It’s better to do it now than realize in June you never learned how to capitalize on your time and preferred study method.

You got this.

Thank you for the kind words, Tallulah Philange! It does mean a lot to hear it. I get busy as we all do but I never forget that I’m usually among friends here at OPM and that I can “speak” with candor and be received with kindness and honesty.

I do feel better today after anatomy lab so things are looking up as of later in the day. Sometimes it’s hard to readjust the attitude, but I had to try and I’m managing better.

I did make an appt. to talk with someone at school in student academic services about my fear over limits on time and I’m sure the office there will have some novel thoughts for me.

It does help also that another student and I went over some stuff during anatomy lab and she helped me and then after lab she had some questions and I felt totally better that I was able to help her in return with some neurophysioloy stuff.

Now, I’m taking a little break, but I am going back to using what works for me and you’re right, far better to do it now, work out the kinks as you say, than to realize this after a few tests have already come and gone or even the whole M-1 Year. So, at least I am being proactive when I could just as easily shut down. I’m forging ahead like always so I should give myself a break for that.

Well, not too much of a break…

Thanks again for the kind response!

Once you’re in med school most schools will part water to make sure your graduate, so take a deep breath and breath!!

Some options to consider if they’re available:

  1. Divide the first year into 2 years.

  2. Listen to the videos from your lectures and skip class.

    I know a Mom of 2 that did both of the above and it made all the difference in the world!

    Good luck and hang in there, it’ll get better.

    PS, P=MD

Shannon, You are not alone! What you experience is absolutely normal. I am in my 2nd year of med school now, and I still feel overwhelmed. Hang in there. When you get an opportunity to see patients, you will realize the effort and hard work are so worth it! Feel free to shoot me a PM if you like.


This feeling is absolutely normal. I remember my first Biochem test, scored in the top 3% of the class, was all proud and happy! I didn’t have the week-end job at the time and my wife was caring for the kids. It has gone downhill from there.

In second year now and I feel constantly behind and running, while achieving average or below it seems so far. Not that the content is difficult, but with a job, kids and other things to care for, I have to give up on studying for my sanity and because of so many other things that are piling up. I try to stay around the average and that will have to do for now.

So the bottom line is to 1) Pick your battles, 2) Remain calm and have a plan and 3) Hang in there.

It is not easy, not matter how smart or bright you are. The truth is unless you can devote 10h/day of studying then you can’t keep up, and with so many other obligation, I get lucky when I get 5h a day. I have never wished for a photographic memory like I am wishing for one now!

Take it easy and do what you have to do. Just hang in there.

Thanks everyone! I have been feeling better since later on Monday afternoon. Tuesday was a good day even though I skipped class to study at home. Frankly, I realize that works WAY Better for me! So, unless something changes, I’m sticking with what works for me. I am far more distracted in the lecture hall than I am at home, so I’d rather listen to the podcasts and/or review the notes from home. I think out of necessity I have had to be an independent learner and I have had little choice but to study at home since going back to school 4.5 years ago, so to try to change that now isn’t in my interest. I am not like a lot of classmates and I have to embrace that, focus on my strengths, and as much as the overbearing type-A overachiever in me hates me to say it, I have to settle in some respects, to. As you said it redo-it-all, it’s not the content, but the volumes of it and the time required to “know it all”. It just isn’t there when you are an OMS (“Old” Med Student) with kid(s) and other responsibilities. I have to be okay with that or I will mess myself up unnecessarily. The “go big or go home” mentality as to retire. Settling for average (or even below- ugh, I know-but PASSING), I must realize will still get me an M.D.

I skipped morning lectures yesterday, but I did go to a mandatory Clinical Medicine lecture followed by group work in a clinic type classroom with a standardized patient. I volunteered to do the patient interview and it went well. I had a “good time” with the group I was in as well. I needed to adjust my attitude before going into class yesterday and it worked. Old dogs can learn new tricks or at least can learn to be less stubborn and stuck in the grumpiness of adulthood!

Of course, after class, I had to rush off to a Kindergarten parent thing, struggle to stay engaged (read: awake) through it and then get the child to bed before hitting the books again. I didn’t accomplish much studying last night, but that is the way it goes. Having some time to be a mom was a good thing. It’s not all about me and my school -Go figure! ;)- my young girl is in a whole new world, too, and it’s exciting for her. Though I admit sometimes I get a bit too caught up in what I’m doing.

So, I feel better now but I also know that this journey will be a roller coaster. My emotions are going to ebb and flow and I have to just learn to ride them all out. I’m at least old enough, mature enough, and have been through way too much of the “Real World” to not know how to deal with the ups and downs. Med school is no different; it’s just packaged a little differently, but the take home message is the same. Keep your head up, work hard, learn about yourself and what works for you, take “defeats” with aplomb and learn from them, take the victories no matter how small, and in the end, just keep moving and doing. Eventually, you’ll end up where you are supposed to be.

Thanks again everyone!

I was going to post here my advice and support but it looks like everyone else has done that for me and you’re well on your way to figuring this all out.

Of course all of what everyone said is true and I definitely went through much of that my first year. Due to added commitments I’m going to have less time this second year and I’m going to really struggle with my lowered expectations!

Head down and do the best you can and don’t care yourself to others!

Hey Shanport

If that makes you feel better, I go to about 0 to 5% of the lectures. I go only to mandatory things like trainings, patient visits etc…

Streaming lecture videos and reviewing at home has worked for me. In the second year about 75% of the class is doing that. Usually out of 240 students, less than 40 attend lectures on a regular basis.


Wow, did your post take me back! That was me almost to the day 12 years ago, except you’re figuring it out earlier. It sounds like you’re already on track with finding what works for you in terms of studying and managing your time. The runaway horse you’re on right now will slow down by the end of this semester. Try not to beat yourself up because the grades aren’t honors level right now; it’s WAY too early in the game for that. As long as you don’t outright fail a course, and you do really well on the Step exams you’ll be competitive in a “high paying” specialty.

jmdmd- “high paying” specialty just sort of made me laugh and I’ll bet my concerns about a “low paying” specialty made you laugh as well! I don’t want to be sounding so overwhelmingly concerned with the money issue (though it’s clear I often am!) because I am also fiercely passionate about medicine. Unfortunately, though, the usual mantra of “do what you love, the money will follow” just isn’t putting my mind at ease on the financial front. If I do a 4 year residency, I will be 45 when I am a “real doctor” and chances are I will not make tons of progress on my loans during residency if at all so I cannot help but to keep thinking about the money issue, too. Let’s face it, some specialties that pay more are naturally also more competitive so I have to kind of paint the picture now so I perform adequately for any scenario. Of course, to be honest, I want to do well no matter how competitive my chosen residency and that is how it should be. Of course, I also need to be realistic about what I can reasonably do with multiple commitments as it is. So, I’m just plugging away. A conversation with a more traditional age student makes me realize that even the younger students with much more time and less “other” worries are also just sort of plugging away, too, trying to find their groove and figuring out what is reasonable for them.

As you said, jmdmd, it is pretty early for me to worry, esp. about “honors” grades. My school is Honors, High Pass, Pass, Low Pass, and Fail which is ridiculous IMO. I guess there was some talk of changing to P/F but I guess it didn’t pan out this semester or something. But, I for one, do not like this “5 point” system. I’d rather it be P/F with a focus on what we need to know to do well on Step 1 because that seems to carry much more weight than basic science scores in M1 and M2 esp considering most schools are P/F. So, well, go figure. I also understand that when it comes to residency time, clerkship grades are often “weighted” more heavily than M1-M2 grades except perhaps in certain specialties, but I digress. It’s too early for me to freak out no matter what, but still the lack of time is bothering me nonetheless!

Anyway, thanks for the reply jmdmd. It’s nice to hear from someone who had the same concerns and made it through to the other side! You are an example of the “light at the end of the tunnel”! Thanks for taking your time to share your thoughts. I’d better get back to studying now…

To begin with calm down. You were accepted to medical school so some one has faith that you can complete the program. Now you need to have faith that you will as well.

Now that you have taken a breath. Look at the big picture. You are in medical school. You have one job and one job only, and that is to do well in your medical school career to not only complete the courses but also pass your boards and become a physicians. Being a non traditional student, who is older than the typical student in your class is a bit odd.

For starters, you will not feel as if you will ever fit in. I have been there. I felt the exact same way. However, remember that you have no one to impress but yourself. The one advantage of not being in that mess is that you will not be involved in all of the drama that WILL happen among the younger students. It is really like high school all over again since the class size is small again and every one is taking the same exact courses. But you should not care.

One of my mantras that I still hand on to today is “Not My Problem”. I would not ask about people’s relationships, their personal like, their situations because I simply could not and would not care. Sure I knew what was going on but it did not bother me because I did not care. What I did care about were my children and their happenings. It was nice not going out with the crowd on a Friday night to Philadelphia or to the bar or to here or to there. My money was tied up in other things and I already had a very close knit group of friends that I really did not need any new ones.

In fact, because of my age, I had a good relationship with the faculty. But, as it turns out, I came to have a close friendship with two new people who to this day are close friends. We would study together for all exams, we were partners in anatomy, and we would help each other out and study for boards.

And you know, there was no drama. Which is great because there were other more important things to care about.

As for your studying, you need to find out what works for you. I am a very visual learner and I needed white board and videos to help me out. Repetitiveness will be your friend. Unfortunately, a lot of first and second year is rote memory. You just have to come up with a strategy that works. What I would do is write notes on the slides either on the computer or the notebook and then re-write them later in outline form. I would search the internet for pictures and link the picture to the concept. Treat your medical school experience like a job and realize that reviewing things and studying is a second job.

Don’t short change yourself on your grades. Aim high and if you pass, then you know that you are doing just fine. Get a tutor. Ask questions. Vent here.

Thanks Gabe! That means a lot that you took the time to give me such great advice.

I am feeling better for several reasons. Though, exam week begins on Monday so we’ll see if anything I’ve done pays off.

I am also a very visual learner and kinesthetic, too. So, YouTube is my BFF and I really love Dr. Najeeb lectures, too, because he draws out a lot of pictures and I love to do that, too. Sitting in lecture is very ineffective for me. I will watch the lectures from home and go through the Power Points, but if it’s not doing it for me I will go through it quickly and then find other resources to drive the material home for me if necessary. I am also learning when to just put something aside. This is a hard lesson to learn. If I get really stuck on a concept I don’t have the same luxury as I did in undergrad to just spend lots of time on any one thing until it sunk in. I have to learn that in the interest of time there are some things I just may not be able to do that with. Really crucial stuff I can, but getting picky with stuff that clearly is not “high yield” is not the best strategy for me at this time. It’s hard, though, as I never liked the “high yield” approach because I have always wanted to really “get” “it” “all”, you know? So, studying just major stuff that someone out there thinks will be tested on Step 1 (because that is what high yield seems to be in med school just like high yield in undergrad was “Is this MCAT worthy?”) I never liked that. As a bio major, I wanted to know this stuff in and out because I loved it and knew it would be useful to me down the line as I built upon my knowledge layer by layer. But, I do also understand that the vast landscape of knowledge to be had just is pretty dang near impossible to master and so, yeah, “high yield” makes some sense in this respect at this point in my medical education. I would expect and hope that residency will bring the refining necessary to really practice in a particular discipline, but I have years until I find that out.

As for grades, while I will aim high, I have to also give myself a big giant break. I never see my kid anymore and my parent’s have been outstanding and understanding in that regard. But, mom guilt takes over, too, and there are times when I have to pack it in and call it a day and just be there for her, too. If that costs me a few points in the end, so be it. I want to be the best doctor I can be in the end, though, don’t get me wrong. I owe it to my future patients to aim high. I owe it to myself, but I also have to be kinder to myself as well and understand that I am in a vastly different situation than some of my peers and so I have to adjust accordingly for my situation.

Often times that means less sleep, sometimes it means less time studying, most of the time it means I cannot make it to extra tutoring sessions or group studying either. But, I have been used to that. I have had to (in undergrad), by circumstance, be an independent self-directed learner who can study at home in a variety of home situations and I have adapted well to that. Medical school is different “they” say, but while that may be true as far as volume and (some) content, the fact is that I learn best a certain way whether it’s medical school or basket weaving so to know how I am most effective is pretty crucial at this point. But, I am also adaptable and willing to change strategies if need be, but I have to admit, that logistically I have very little wiggle room in that matter so I’m going to try my best to make this work!

I am also not so much concerned with fitting in as I don’t think that will ever really happen, but the feeling so disconnected from the experience bothered me. It’s changing as I get accustomed to things. I feel a bit more a part of the “experience” of medical school, but not completely. Of course, being an independent learner is partially to blame, too! Plus, I have found people I can get along with including my anatomy lab mates. So, while I am not really interested in socializing for several reasons including the fact that I have a social life already and a child, etc., it is nice to at least feel connected to a few people out of this class of 200+. If only so that I have someone in my own class to complain with, or share fears with, or share helpful resources.

Speaking of resources… they are aplenty!!! Not only from within the school, but clearly there is a whole giant world full of helpful stuff. So, at this point it’s almost overwhelming and parring down the resources is becoming a necessity. I just cannot use them all! This is a modern dilemma I am happy to have, however. I feel rather lucky to be studying medicine at such an amazing time in the world of technology.

So, there is the good and the bad. The up days (hours, minutes) and down days (hours, minutes) and I know I’ll be okay in the end, but what a ride, eh???

I am learning to calm down a little for sure, too, but boy that is one of the hardest things. Just remembering to breathe and take it all in is something I am working on. After all, I’m in medical school now and my self from a year or two or heck 20 or more years ago would be very disappointed in me for not stopping to enjoy this ride, too! It’s been a long time coming and here I am! So, that alone should keep me going as well, but I’m also going to keep studying hard!

Thanks again everyone!

Yeah, I know that feel.

I am 37, but I spent a lot of time physically present on the undergrad campus where I took prereqs, working in a lab, tutoring, or just looking at the reserve books. There I made a lot of friends who are just out of undergrad, let’s say 22 or 23, not to mention hanging out with undergrads simpliciter, as in 19-year-olds, in labs and recitations. So I have been really surprised at feeling as old and gray as I do. Haven’t I been doing this exact social thing for several (many) years now?!

In my case, maybe not in yours, I think that the overall undergrad population of my (coastal) prereq institution must be a crucial year older than the undergrads at my (midwestern) med school’s feeder schools. Also, a ton of these folks went to undergrad together and are coming here en bloc.

Like you, or like the way I read you, I don’t much care about going out to drink beer…I just feel like I’ve aged 5 years in a matter of weeks, which sucks.

It sounds like your priorities are right WRT child and school. I am sure your grades will edge up over time.

Edited to add my mantra: I keep telling myself that, whatever my immature and/or fun-loving aspects, if I DIDN’T feel out of sync at 37, it would mean that some critical maturation process was not happening. Feeling out of sync is a sign that my life cycle is going properly.

Hang in there!

THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR THIS POST (and all who responded)!!! This is exactly how I have been feeling! I am a first year medical student who feels old and disconnected. I always considered multi-tasking one of my strengths…until I started medical school. I have a lot of gunners in my class which does not help matters! I am 35 y/o and I have never felt more stupid in my life! I moved across the country to achieve my dream and although am happy to have this opportunity, I feel so alone because I have no one to really talk to. I often feel like there are just not enough hours in the day. There have been times when I just can not get through all of the material. I am passing my tests but just feel inadequate! I don’t know how my classmates can get through all of the material several times and be involved in clubs, volunteering, etc. and still have time for fun. What am I doing wrong? I try not to compare or compete…but that is easier said then done. I thought being older was an advantage, however, it now feels like a curse! I am so very thankful though to know that I am not alone! I was hoping these feelings would fade or lessen with time, however, 3.5 months into it and I still feel the same. I feel like I have lost “me” and struggle to put on a poker face when often I want to cry (and do so privately). I know though that not everyone is lucky to have this opportunity and that if I don’t do this I will have regrets for the rest of my life! Thank You for your honesty and letting this oldie know that she is not alone!

Hello! Happy Thanksgiving. Cynically–though I could be wrong–I suspect that many of the “trad” students who have notably busy schedules are also OK with below-average grades. True, they may have a little extra joie de vivre that makes it possible to cram for a 75 a little faster than you and I can. But I think a lot of people advertise themselves as A-range folks, when in fact they aren’t.

I’m really glad you posted this. I’m glad that you are finding what works for you. I feel your pain although I think I’m fortunate that my school has at least 15 other older med students to commiserate with. I can’t afford nor do I care about the ski trips or post test parties or other such things. My free time is spent taking care of my mom and trying to spend time with family. Right now I’m on a shoe string budget because our next loan dispersement date is not until at least January 21st. So school starts again on the 5th but no money till the 21st. and what they think we can live on in this city is laughable.

Some of the best advice doctors who speak at our interest groups have given are :

  1. do what you want as the money follows and this is coming from a family medicine doctor who says all the docs like him make about $250,000 a year

  2. build your life around your family and your practice should fold into that not vice versa

  3. investigate government programs that offer money back to practice in higher need areas - my state offers 35 k per year for five years to practice primary care in a high need area

    4)the first two years are just something to get through

  4. P= MD and you don’t have to be at the top to get a good residences

  5. everyone has doubts and feels behind even the young ones who hide it with arrogance

So how’s everyone doing?