Need a little encouragement

Well, I’m just finishing my 11th week of med school. It’s been a rocky ride so far. I don’t want to discourage any of the premeds–so if you’re reading this, stop here!

I’ve kind of lost sight of why I came to med school in the first place. I remember how excited I was about it and how hard I worked to get in. But lately, I hate med school.

I’m struggling in my classes, getting C’s. Everyone at my school says there’s tons of help available, but when I go to ask for it, it’s often just a classmate who’s volunteered to tutor. I already feel so bad about myself over how much I’m struggling (I’ve failed two tests already), that I really don’t want my fellow students to know I’m having trouble. The teachers are often too busy or arrogant to help me.

And to make all this twenty times worse, my husband is in Colorado while I’m here in Washington D.C. He should be able to move out here in June (We’re both Air Force), but being away from him is just tearing me apart.

I know there probably isn’t much advice you can give me, because all of this is just normal med school struggles, but I could sure use some encouragement or even some affirmation that being a doctor is worth it. Thanks for all your help!


Hi Leia23, I’m on Bonaire for now 10 months away from family, I understand! I have gotten through 3 semesters into 2nd year and passed some classes well and some, well I passed!

Yes some of this is a struggle, You have to study even more than undergrad, a lot more, Help? I’ve never gotten the help I needed, it seemed that most classes (except Biochem ) I just needed to spend the time to read and reread everything, one professor said you need to read over once then reread at least twice before you start to memorize these facts! I try but there never seems to be enough time. So I read over quick then reread the good stuff I need to know per my lectures then I go over my lectures and Power Points again and agian. Anatomy I draw everything over and over ( not too well but) I memorize where everything is that way.

I also use BRS series to study from and questions so I have a variety of sources but I do focus those, if the BRS doesn’t seem to have the right stuff then I make up study sheets ect…

There are many ways to help yourself, thats the thing Medschool is you against your self, Study groups help me little ( I want to talk too much) so I’m alone like right now.

Hang in there, you got there with hard work I know you can do it! FInd your method to do better do practice tests before the exam to see how you are doing!

Try video on the web with messenger or Yahoo it works well ( free too) and you get to see each other. I skype my wife a couple times a week and IM and email a lot.

I get to see my wife in 6 weeks! I cant wait! At that point we will have been apart 11.5 months! WOW Good luck to you.


Hang in there. We have all felt similar struggles along this journey. Mine was in physiology when I failed multiple tests and (as I later learned) I was in the 35% of my class that was in a position to fail the class going into the cumulative final. For me the solution was a classmate who became my study partner. We made a deal, I would help him the next year with our physical diagnosis class and he would work with me in physiology. We got together every weekend, reviewed all of the weeks lectures (key points, how it all fit together, reviewed the study objectives listed for each lecture). We ended up keeping our routine all the way through second year and became terrific friends.

That part of my journey was a tough one for me given that I was virtually a straight A student all through high school, college and post-bacc. In retrospect, part of my struggle was trying to balance my family and my academics (an issue I didn’t have in undergrad).

Now that I am an intern, I still think first year was by far harder then what I am doing now (though being an intern has its own set of issues). But when I take 10 minutes to help a patient, even if it’s for something as simple (at least to me) as helping them understand their medication regimen or understand what is happening to them, I remember why I came into medicine. I focus on those individual encounters and try not to allow myself to be overwhelmed by the big picture.

Try to focus one lecture, one day at a time. Get together with someone to help sort through the details and work on integrating the data you are learning. Keep your chin up!!

Hey Gina -

Stick with it. I also struggled last year. I failed our first anatomy test, improved a little, but then got behind (I do independent study) and failed 4 of 5 tests in the spring. I had to seriously consider whether or not I should choose to repeat the year rather than risk failing more tests and being forced to repeat.

Although no one ever seems to mention it up front, several of the people I talked to during my struggles said that they felt the first year was the toughest for some people. Medical school is just so different from undergrad and etc, and some of us just don’t adapt as quickly as we need. I really struggled with figuring out the best method of studying for me. I still tinker with my strategy some, but I have finally found a plan that seems to work a little better for me.

What made the struggling harder for me was the feeling like everybody else was doing just fine. I eventually found a few classmates that were also struggling - I can’t tell you how much better I felt just knowing that people I considered to be much more intelligent than myself were also struggling the way I was. Nobody wants to admit that they are having a hard time - trust me, though, you have classmates that are also struggling.

Is there an academic or other counselling service available at your school? If so, perhaps making an appointment with them would be worthwhile. At the very least, they might have some ideas on how to deal with your frustration over the lack of help that you perceive to be available and your lack of comfort in seeking help from your classmates.

Stick with it . . . you’ll figure out what you need to do to succeed.


Just stick with it. First year is hard for everybody and even if you entered med school with brilliant scores, you can have failures in med school. You aren’t alone. Many people have been there, though some wouldn’t admit it. It can be overwhelming and obviously isn’t helped by the separation from your husband. I agree with whuds that you should take full advantage of video messenging (unless that has a tendency to make you feel worse) to make you feel less alone. If its truly the subject matter thats getting you flustered, there are tons of online resources and question banks. I highly recommend testing banks. Many people tend to read, read, read, but if you’ve been through the material, try doing the questions first for an indicator of what you do or do not know, THEN go back and do your reading, focusing on the areas your knowledge is weak. I would personally recommend doing a minimum of 25 questions every day you are in medical school. Not only will these serve as barometers of what you know, after two years in medical school, doing 25 questions a day, you will have done 18,250 questions!! I doubt there are that many questions in any test bank, and you will have seen them asked more than one way. All the best in your first year.


My only advice, as a fellow M-1 also stressed, is take the help that’s offered you. Fellow classmates want to help you, need the money they may get from tutoring, and are probably going to do a good job for you.

If word does get out that you are getting tutored, there will probably be a few people in your class who will think less of you. This is great news! I know of no quicker way to identify the jerks in your med school class so you can concentrate on being friends with the vast majority of others who are just as overwhelmed as you are and are also struggling to get by. There will also be a few people in your class who wish they had the nerve to see the tutors. Be a role model! This is a hard road; take all the hands that are given to you. You can pay it forward later.

And hang in there! We’ll make it.

  • samenewme Said:
there will probably be a few people in your class who will think less of you. This is great news! I know of no quicker way to identify the jerks in your med school class so you can concentrate on being friends with the vast majority of others who are just as overwhelmed as you are and are also struggling to get by.

And hang in there! We'll make it.

HAHAHAHA I thought this was funny but so true!

I went to Medical school only to go back to Highschool kinda attitudes. I guess there are some self centered people that make it to Medschool, But why do half of them half to go to my school?



I also want to emphasize that you should ask for whatever help you need. Ask your advisor; also many med schools do have some kind of learning specialist; do whatever you need to do to keep yourself out of academic trouble.

Especially in the first two years and even after there is a lot of macho talk about how you are a doctor unto yourself and you need to be some kind of towering medical colossus ready to take on all comers. In the hospital and even beyond, you are never alone. Not only is it OK to ask for help, it is required. What matters is your ability to care for patients. If you let pride get in the way of your learning you’ll not only be doing yourself a disservice but also your patients.

A couple more things. You sound like you are not in a great space emotionally. Many if not most medical students encounter depression at some time in their medical career, and again, the key to getting through it is knowing when to ask for help. I’d suggest getting yourself to a counselor or psychologist or psychiatrist forthwith. Not because it sounds like you’re in deep trouble but because it sounds like you’re a couple of steps away from it. Don’t go any farther in that direction. Make sure you’ve identified what’s keeping you from taking pleasure in this adventure–it may not be what you think–and make sure you have a plan for getting through it. You will almost certainly need help to figure this out. There is too much that is new and frightening and difficult about this experience to be able to master it on your own, and no one really does. (Everyone either has secret allies–eg they talk to their dad the doctor every week or they bond together with a couple of other students–or they get help from learning specialists, counselors, et al.) Your support system is far away–so put together a support system where you are in the meantime.

Now, step two is thinking about the learning part. You’re struggling academically but you’re not totally sure why. Being sad and frustrated and stressed and removed from your support system is probably a big part of it.

As for me I had never truly come up against my intellectual limits until I came to medical school. I only did things that came easy and avoided things that didn’t. Pre-med was tough. But med school was way tougher. That meant that I had to realize that my learning style–which had got me this far–created a lot of problems for me. I got a lot of help on this. I’m still struggling with it. But I’m also getting better and better at it. You need to ask for help.

As for classmates, some of them will help you now, whether with kindness or smug condescension. There will come a time when you will be able to help others. These folks wouldn’t be willing to work as tutors if they weren’t willing to help people who were having problems. So, do take advantage of them. But, also make sure you’re getting all the professional help you can–getting assessed for learning disabilities, for instance, which might not emerge until you are really against your limits; learning study strategies beyond just learning the material; and so on.

Good luck. If this wasn’t hard it wouldn’t be so impressive when you finished. Keep your eyes on the prize, and your chin up. You deserve to be here. You belong here. And you deserve all the help you need to get through it now that you’re here.


Hi Leia -

The pain does get easier - well, let’s say it gets duller, not so sharp. My husband and sons live 400 miles away from where I go to medical school. The first semester was really bad, but it did get better.

I found the first two years of medical school very disappointing. I so hated them that my dean encouraged me to go to Johns Hopkins to get exposure to some other ways to practice medicine, because everything I had seen up to that point was lame. My opinion before I went to Hopkins was that I was grateful to have the chance to go to medical school but it had not been worth the pain of leaving my family.

Then I fell in love with surgery, which you have to go to medical school to learn how to do. It was a shame it took me three years to discover the specialty that makes those first two years worthwhile. (For those that are counting, surgery was my second clinical rotation after I returned from Hopkins.) I encourage you to have faith that you WILL find the specialty that justifies all the pain and effort, and to continue to try to do well.

  • Quote:
As for me I had never truly come up against my intellectual limits until I came to medical school. ... I had to realize that my learning style--which had got me this far--created a lot of problems for me.

Amen to that. Sounds like there's a conference topic in this thread - evaluating and adjusting your learning style before you start those first year classes.

The best advice I received was someone who told me "there are 8,000 to 10,000 new words to learn in medicine." That does sound a lot more like a foreign language. You really are trying to master a new language and culture, even though everyone around you seems to be speaking English. It might help to think of medical school as France. Or China.

So how can you pick up a bunch of new words in a hurry? Drill. Pharmacology, for instance, is a huge amount of new vocabulary and definitions. Sympathoplegic and anti-hypertensive and adrenergic antagonist and ionotropic agent, clonidine and clozapine are much easier to translate when you have memorized a short definition and then hear or read the words in context. Even though you might think you are just parroting words (and at first, you are) you find yourself navigating the material much more easily. That's not how children learn languages, but it is a familiar model for adults to master languages, and you don't have five years to pick up the language organically.

I created a series of spreadsheets where I added about 50 new drugs or words every 3 days, along with very brief definitions (NOT a huge number of facts) then drilled them with a friend. (For example: clonidine-alpha adrenergic agonist, clozapine-atypical anti-psychotic. Maybe one of the tutors could do this with you.) I had been parroting words without understanding - and this boring but necessary exercise gave me the vocabulary I needed to navigate the dense material and new culture around me. It was remarkable - within two weeks, I started making connections between drugs and words to physiology - and then connections to pathophysiology - and then to some academic success.

This was the single best technique that got me out of an academic swamp. Of course, your mileage may vary - but I strongly recommend some simple and boring memorization if you are struggling to process the huge amount of information presented in medical school. Having vocabulary gave my brain the space it needed to process concepts.

Hope that helps. There's no one quick fix, but 15 minutes every day for two weeks can make a huge difference.


Reading the above post I also do the spread sheets and also I take the PPTs and cut them up into one big one for review for each class, our school is heavy with PPTs, you could make you own too.

Hi there, please do not be discouraged. Many folks fail many exams and finish with excellent skills. Do not let this get you down although easier said than done. I agree with Joe in that you should take to a medical professional…you may be seeing the first signs of depression…and medical school has the tendency to bring this on. Take any help you can get! often medical students make for the best tutors. Are you reading from text books? this can be a tremendous waste of time for some courses that may be better served by review books or notes/ppt. We have all been there done that, hang in there.

Thanks everyone for your support! Sometimes it really helps to feel like you aren’t alone. Most of my friends are doing really well, and I just feel so disappointed and embarrassed that I’m not. But I guess the important thing is to use them as resources, instead of being embarrassed. I am getting some help for depression. I’m sure it’ll be a lot easier to study for biochem when I’m not crying!

5 more weeks of 1st semester to go. We’re almost to a break! Thanks again, everyone!



We’re rooting for you. Good luck with biochem, and with crying less too.

Go bravely forward!



Guess what?! I passed Biochem!!! I’m so excited! First semester down, three more classroom semesters to go. At least now we’re studying some really interesting things like neuro and parasites.

Hope everyone is having a good start to the semester.


Congrats! Now I’m a little scared with one more to go before USLME time and I feel like I know nothing, I know it’s not true but I just feel tired and worn out! Oh well maybe my buddies on here will cheer me up LOL!

hang in there…

there are a lot of subjects that aren’t necessarily intuitive for those that are medically inclined… that may sound stupid, but it’s true… I had the hardest time with Physics I. The thing that got me over the hump was a Schaum’s outline book (thanks Natalie for this suggestion!) I did so many practice problems that I basically knew the exam before it came in…

Don’t be afraid to look around at resources that are available to you - whether they’re tutoring services, talking to the professor, or study guides/textbooks… my only advice here is don’t spread yourself so thin that you’re spending all your time reading other sources and avoiding the actual work you need to do.

I want to second what Joe said. Take care of your emotional health. It’s very important.