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12 Things Medical Students Wish They Would Have Done in Their First Year

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We understand that the first year of medical school can be both thrilling and overwhelming. The first year of medical school often resembles a whirlwind of exams, clinics, and lectures, leaving many students yearning for a different approach.

As experienced medical graduates reflect on their journey, they often recognize that a few strategic choices could have significantly eased their path. For those embarking on this transformative journey, learning from the insights of their predecessors can be invaluable. The following guide presents a compilation of the most sought-after advice from graduating medical students – a compendium of the “12 Things Medical Students Wish They Would Have Done in Their First Year.”

So, let’s dive in and explore how you can set the foundation for a successful and fulfilling medical journey!

1.  Building a Supportive Network from Day One

Starting medical school is a journey best taken with friends who understand the challenges. Begin networking from the very beginning – introduce yourself to fellow students, attend orientation events, and join student clubs. These connections will not only ease the stress but also open doors for study groups, shared resources, and long-lasting friendships.


While the prospect of residencies may appear distant, the foundation of a robust professional network starts in your initial year. Establish connections with professors and physicians encountered during clinical rotations. Windsor University School of Medical and Science is committed to personalized education through small class sizes, facilitating connections among students and professors from the outset. Our educators foster open dialogue and collaborative environments, fostering the success of aspiring medical professionals.

2.  Foster Bonds with Second-Year Peers

The academic journey in medical school often intertwines with peers from the same cohort. While this camaraderie offers support and study collaborations, forging connections with second-year students can yield a fresh perspective. These more experienced peers can serve as mentors, providing pragmatic guidance for navigating the initial year’s challenges.


Witness the exemplary initiatives of Vincent Shieh and Matthew Barvo, who initiated the Trinity Think Tank, a platform fostering engagement in research and academic activities. Peer mentors cover a spectrum of topics, from research endeavors to statistical analysis, cultivating holistic growth.

3.  Taking Care of Your Physical and Mental Health

Your health is paramount. Regular exercise, a balanced diet, and sufficient sleep are non-negotiable. Additionally, don’t hesitate to seek mental health resources provided by the university. Establishing healthy habits early on will set a strong precedent for the rest of your medical journey.


Amidst the rigours of medical studies, self-care remains paramount. Neglecting physical and mental well-being hampers long-term success. Priorities nourishing activities, exercise routines, and mindfulness practices. At Windsor University, we advocate holistic development, understanding that resilient medical professionals arise from a foundation of balanced health.

4.  Discover Joy Outside the Classroom

The intensity of medical studies can overshadow life’s enjoyable facets. In the pursuit of excellence, students often sideline relaxation and recreation, leading to heightened stress levels. Counter this by dedicating time to activities that bring joy – socializing with friends, basking at the beach, or engaging in intramural sports.


At Windsor University, a plethora of student organizations awaits, nurturing extracurricular passions and networking avenues. Immerse yourself in island adventures, from hiking to scuba diving, or participate in the university’s vibrant student activity groups.

5.  Refrain from Comparisons

Comparing your progress with that of peers is a common pitfall among first-year medical students. Remember that everyone’s journey is unique, and outward success doesn’t unveil underlying challenges. The seemingly high-achieving student may be grappling with unspoken struggles.


Windsor University’s ethos stands in contrast to cutthroat competitiveness, focusing on individualized development and service to communities. Our measure of triumph lies in each graduate’s contribution to their chosen medical specialty and their dedication to community welfare.

6.  Engage with Diverse Learning Resources

Broaden your learning horizons by tapping into diverse resources. Beyond conventional textbooks and lectures, access medical podcasts, online forums, and contemporary research. Active participation in educational webinars and conferences nurtures a comprehensive understanding of medical advancements, preparing you for the dynamic medical landscape.

7.  Seize Mentorship Opportunities

Mentorship is a cornerstone of professional growth. Don’t wait to seek guidance from experienced mentors. Faculty members and upperclassmen can offer invaluable insights into succeeding in medical school. They’ve been through the journey and can provide advice on everything from study techniques to maintaining work-life balance.


Actively seek mentors among faculty, clinicians, and alumni. Leverage their wisdom to navigate the labyrinth of medical education and career choices. Windsor University encourages mentorship, nurturing a culture of guidance and support to foster the aspirations of future medical practitioners.

8.  Learn to Master the Art of Time Management

Medical school demands exceptional time management skills. Begin cultivating these skills in your first year by creating a detailed schedule that balances classes, study time, relaxation, and extracurricular activities. This practice will not only improve your efficiency but also prevent burnout.

9.  Exploring Specialties Early

While it’s still early days, expose yourself to a variety of medical specialties. Attend guest lectures, shadow experienced professionals, and engage in discussions about different fields. This exploration will help you find your passion sooner and guide your future career decisions.

10.  Experiment with Varied Study Approaches

Undergraduate study methods may not seamlessly translate to medical school’s demands. Adapting new strategies is often indispensable for success. Priorities exploration before settling on a study routine. For instance, if you favoured handwritten notes before, medical school may unveil the necessity of typed notes. Flexibility in study strategies empowers efficient learning and paves the way for academic excellence.

11.  Embrace Patient Interaction

Lectures and exams undoubtedly contribute to your medical education, yet no substitute exists for firsthand patient engagement. Windsor University School of Medical and Science uniquely enables students to engage in clinical interactions from the start. Guided by seasoned clinical and basic science faculty, students gain invaluable exposure to patient care. This tangible experience enhances understanding, bridging classroom theory and real-world medical practice, unveiling the true manifestation of symptoms in diverse patient scenarios.

12. Finding Balance and Enjoying the Journey

Lastly, remember that medical school is not solely about academics. Engage in hobbies, spend time with loved ones, and nurture your passions. Maintaining a balanced life will not only keep you grounded but also prevent burnout, fostering a sustainable and rewarding medical career.

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