Med School - Hard?

Pardon me if the title sounds dumb, but I’ve heard different things. I’ve been told that medical school is the hardest, most excruciating intellectual pursuit in the history of higher education. I’ve also been told that it’s harder to get into than it is to finish.
I’m interested in hearing from those who have finished, or are currently studying in, medical school.
Thank you!

It is by far the hardest thing that I have ever done. The material itself is not excruciatingly hard it is the huge amount of volume that they expect you to master in a short period. Nothing can prepare you for this huge load. I took pretty heavy course loads in undergrad and this was still much harder. Also there is a lot of stress with exams, expectations, and the limit that you have to do “other” non-medical related things. You tend to get lost in all the studying but it is worth it. I would not trade it for anything but it is hard specially those of us with families and other commitments.

there are certainly people in my class who don’t think it’s that hard at all. These are often the people with photographic memories, excellent background in the subjects, no major time gap between undergrad and med school, and no outside commitments.
Those of us who are conceptual learners, have little background, have significant outside commitments, and haven’t spent the last few years in school often have a harder time excelling.
I agree with efex - I took 180 credit hours of mostly math and hard sciences as an undergrad (in 4 years), did a PhD in hard science and have certainly intellectually challenged myself. But med school is a special kind of learning that requires mastery of a mile-wide, foot-deep curriculum in a very short period of time, with the constant reminder by faculty that your future ignorance and mistakes may cause death and disaster. Also, you cannot drop a course and retake it another semester, if you feel overwhelmed. It’s like driving in heavy traffic at 80 mph with no exit ramp until you reach California.

It is like trying to take sips of water from an open fire hydrant. Definitely the most challenging & rewarding of undertakings.

Ill chime in!
I agree with efex, mm and omd. It’s not the concepts, it’s the volume. Most things in science are about relationships; when this goes up, this goes down, or this is superior to that. That’s easy when you have 2 things to remember, but when you have 2 million things to remember all hinging on the safety of your patients, it’s hard.
Another thing I have found with medical school, is that they don’t leave you comfortable with what you have learned for very long. Once you are comfortable talking to total strangers about private stuff, you have to touch them. Once you are comfortable with that, you have to figure out what normal and not normal. Feeling confident is a rare moment in medical education.
The first semester was the hardest for me, because I felt like, and sometimes still do, like I don’t belong here. Like it was some sort of mistake that I was good enough to get in. Also, adjusting to being a student again, seeing a cadaver 3 times a weeks, and trying to fit in with normal people outside of school.
All tough, not easy, but super fun!!

I agree with the posters that the volume is quite high and can be overwhelming at times.
drd’s comments regarding getting comfortable with something is very true for the first couple of years and early in 3rd year. But you’ll find that most of 3rd and 4th year clinical experiences is all about that…getting comfortable with being in the doctor role. I have found that my learning curve has lessened dramatically and now it’s my comfort factor that I’m working on and while that curve was steep at first it also has flattened to the point where although I don’t feel like an expert in any one area, I feel pretty comfortable in most every clinical area (although those pelvic exams are a still a little unnerving to me for some reason).

Gary, at one point, I realized that I would never have enough time to study all the material I was given and had to be efficient. Also, I do not have a photographic memory – every factoid in my head has been placed there by brute force (flat out memorization) or with pneumonics (your best friend during study sessions).
It’s hard to realize what is important to know stone cold (ie memorize) and what should you simply recognize (know that you need to look it up, but not necessarily remember all details). When I was studying, I always had a boards review outline in front of me. I would read for detail, then look at the relevant passage in the review book to tell me what was the most important detail to know. I studied Mon-Thur only, except the week before exams when I studied on Fri-Sun as well. I was still extremely busy, but I had most weekends to enjoy my life and my family.
I did not graduate cum laude or AOA, but I was in the top 25% of my class, did well on boards, and got into a competitive residency.
Obviously, the better your grades/board scores, the more options you have when it comes time to apply for residencies, but for some of us (including me), it is hard to sacrifice spending time with loved ones.
By the way, there was a single parent in my class (had baby in 2nd year) who went on to do emergency medicine at a large university program. It can be done!