One Thing We Wish We Knew: Words of Advice from Medical Students

Last updated: 4/11/2020

To help ease your transition into the first year of medical school, we’ve contacted students from each medical school to ask them for a niche piece of advice they would tell their first year students. 


Medical School

Words of Advice

Anglia Ruskin

“My main problem was motivating myself to get revising in the first place. As strange as it sounds, I found that by keeping busy, I'm sort of forced to work around my schedule and find time for me to study. For example, I work weekends and sometimes even weekdays, which allows me to be even more careful with my time and lets me study better. It's a bit weird but it works for me.”


“Always at least check the group work activity before each session or you’ll be very confused.” “Don’t underestimate the lift; you’ll be waiting ages then end up five minutes late for you lectures or, alternatively, you’ll end up climbing mountains of stairs which’ll make you not only late but also sweaty and breathing very heavily in a quiet lecture hall.”


“Try and get involved in audits and research from the beginning (nothing too intense, but something that could help your CV). That way you’ll be less likely to be struggling to get stuff on your portfolio in your last years of medicine. You can reach out to your professors, your GP/Hospital placement supervisors, or even just search up consultants on the internet.”


“I think networking with senior students would have been really useful. I did this more in second year and it really helped. Those in later years of medical school have gone through the same experiences and have done the same examinations, so they would be great for providing advice and which resources to use. This can be very reassuring. However, it’s not always easy to network - so I would recommend getting yourself out there. This could be done through joining societies or in some cases applying for leadership positions!”

Brighton and Sussex

“Aim to work with your fellow medical students to master topics by sharing the workload and teaching each other. This will firstly allow you to grasp the key concepts that underpin medicine, which you will revisit in the latter half of medical school. Working with others will also prepare you for the group-based learning ahead of your objective structured clinical examinations (OSCE)s encountered in clinical school.” “Lay back, settle in and explore Brighton. It's very easy to get lost in the chaos. Our first year doesn't count so be sure to visit the 'end of the world' (bar + escape room), the lanes, and beach. Also, be sure to get more involved in societies and sports. Not only will that help you meet new people but serves as a perfect excuse to get out of the house.”


"Joining a medic family allows you to meet seniors and you'll have someone you can always look to for solid advice! Bristol p2p teaching is a great teaching platform for revision of certain topics."


“Get involved with different societies - there are so many opportunities at uni.” “Bring a doorstop (or just use textbooks!) so people can stop by, it’s a great way to make friends.” “The amount of content can be overwhelming, but make sure you prioritise yourself and have fun!” “Talk to each other (and us - Cambridge Medsoc - !!) for support and don’t be afraid to ask for help - everyone’s in the same boat.” “Remember that you deserve to be a medical student as much as everyone else.”


“Take the time to complete notes from PCS (platform for clinical sciences, a.k.a. your first term) as it provides a good foundation for starting case-based learning in your second term. This way you'll find it easier to refer back to stuff you have learnt rather than having to spend time making notes on content you should have learnt previously in addition to new knowledge built due to the spiral curriculum. Getting into the habit of completing lecture and tutorial notes will help you in good stead for CBL as well, as it will help you to be organised and prevent overlap when you move from cases every two weeks.”

Central Lancashire

For UCLan, our advice would be to embrace the natural diversity that comes with having an international cohort, bring your culture with you to share!”


“Treat PBL as a valuable learning resource. Putting in a proper effort will help you to feel its value and improve significantly in your understanding of medicine whereas not doing so will make it feel like a waste of time. Also, try to fully understand the research you’ve collated for each question. This can be done quite easily using YouTube videos that aptly condense more challenging concepts or biological processes in the body. Also, finding the simplest yet most accurate and fairly detailed explanations for things makes them easier to learn and remember. This will all ensure that you can contribute to discussions without being reliant on your notes and understand what others are saying with far more ease and in a more meaningful way. Additionally, we’d say to make PBL notes in a way that makes them easy to revise from.”

Hull York

“As all our lectures take place on one day and the information can be really packed in, we’d recommend going through the lecture slides beforehand and writing out your notes from this before going to the lectures. This way when you’re in the lectures you can properly listen to the lecturer and add any extra information if needed. We’d also say to do this before PBL too as these notes will be useful for your learning outcomes!”

Imperial College London

“Don’t be afraid to ask for help! ICSM has very strong support networks and there are always people around to listen and help you out. Your academic tutor, ICSM Students’ Union officers, elected year reps for Academics and Welfare, and older years in the many many clubs and societies (to name a few!) are available to support you, so please reach out if you ever need something! At ICSM, there is a lot of emphasis on various aspects of student life, and welfare is a very important one.”

Keele University

“At Keele we have exams every 2-3 months, and they don’t really give us time to revise for them (only Christmas break and Easter break). So I wish I had made a plan to revise a little bit everyday, rather than cram closer to the exams. Also, I wish I had spent less time making notes, and focused on more concise notes and Anki flashcards, as it would have been easier for me to revise more frequently. Finally, it’s only first year, so relax and enjoy uni life while you still can!!”

King's College London

“If I could re-do first year, I would take advantage of the open dissection sessions that we have on Wednesday afternoons at King’s. This is a chance to really get your anatomy up to par and help give you a deeper understanding into the complexities of the human body. Since not many people go to these, you often get 1-to-1 support from a demonstrator, who is usually a surgical trainee and will allow you to dissect and ask questions.”


“Get involved in as many societies as possible since first year is a time when you have most free time.”


“Try a bit harder with the MUMS scheme (medic families) because having friends in second year is really helpful when it comes to sharing notes and advice. Also good fun!! :)”


“1) Get involved in as many sports and/or sub-societies as possible! It’s a great way to meet people in other year groups who can offer you advice. 2) Attend those socials and try not to worry so much about work in the first year. Remember that you need to have a good work/life balance. It only gets harder from here! 3) Don’t compare yourself to your peers. Medicine is a long slog and if you start comparing exam scores/deciles with your peers it’ll get you down. Remember everyone has their own strengths and weaknesses and works at their own pace.”


“I would definitely push myself to get involved more in societies and sports teams. There’s so much time in first year to take part in multiple societies and it would be a great way to make friends that aren’t necessarily medics as you all become friends through the course anyway. Being a part of the Guild societies, joining medics sports teams or Artefacts (the medics performing arts society) would be a really good way to help get settled, make friends and keep yourself fit and healthy. Not to mention, you’re definitely more productive the busier you are so you won’t miss out on doing work and falling behind. That was a big worry but literally isn’t worth worrying about at all. Most of all, enjoy it, it’s the only proper year you’re like another uni student! Spend it doing what makes you happy.”


“I’d say that since this year first years will likely have a lot of downtime due to remote teaching, it’d be a good idea to check what essay prizes are available (the Royal Society of Medicine has a long list) - why not use some of your time each week to write a few paragraphs to hopefully get yourself a national prize and some cash to boot too.”


“Take every opportunity given especially early on as time goes so fast! Finding mentors and shadowing is by far the best way to find your passion in medicine, some societies help with this but you can always ask the med school.”


“I would say to not overwork yourself and enjoy the first year of university for what it is! Try to get involved in as many societies and clubs as possible, the time flies!”


“Explore Nottingham more, earlier on, it’s too easy to just be on campus all day and then only venture into Notts on a night-out - but it would have been great to get to know the city more!!” “Utilise any and all the opportunities that appeal to you. This will help you to make friends for life with people that you really get along with!”


“1. The tutors are there to help you, you’re not there to impress them. 2. Speak to people in the year above who’ve been through it all before (including your college parents). 3. Don’t be afraid to ask for help if you’re struggling, in any aspect of uni life - there’s plenty of support around to try to help you to have the best uni experience you possibly can!”


“1. Preparation - the prep work can be as valuable as the sessions themselves, make sure you check for any work that has been posted beforehand and look through the slides before a lecture! 2. Active recall - actively testing yourself instead of using other methods (like reading or rewriting notes) is the most effective way to study and will really help when trying to memorise throughout the course.”


“Don’t compare yourself to other medics or anyone else and go at your own pace of learning! Of course healthy competition is great, but everyone is unique in their own way of learning and in the end even though the end goal is to graduate medical school, each of us carves our own path to the top!”


“Make the most of time in the anatomy lab and always try and prepare for the labs the night before! The specimens used in the teaching labs are likely to also be used in first and second year exams, so get familiar with how structures look different in textbooks and how to locate these on the specimens. Also, try to focus on getting to grips with basic pharmacology and physiology as this will really help once you reach clinical years (3-5) and have to start putting it into practice! Flash cards and short answer questions are really helpful ways to revise and start applying knowledge and will help with MCQs!”

St George's

“Explore everything London has to offer - it's such an incredible city and it’s super easy to spend your days studying without taking the time to visit the galleries, parks, etc.”


“I’d probably tell myself don’t worry about learning everything first time round and also to get more hospital breakfasts.” “Start making notes on OneNote from the start.” “There are 4 years for a reason ... you don’t need to know it all in first year.” “Sam Webster YouTube videos for anatomy! And always keep checking the learning outcomes. And no, you won’t need to learn the names of all of the hundreds of lymph nodes no matter what they tell you.”


“Consider using London as a resource, particularly when you're developing your interests and have more free time as a first year. The number of conferences and events open to students in London are endless and will likely influence our medical careers in years to come. With COVID many of these events will be accessible online so definitely take advantage of that! Also, throughout this process remember to take it slow. It can get easy to stress and obsess over each and every detail - whether it be while you’re learning or exploring the range of opportunities available to you - so take some time to pursue your other interests, outside of medicine, and enjoy first year!”


“Engage with student sems and peer teaching early - it allows you to engage with the content in a more relaxed manner and ask a friendlier face for help if you’re struggling.”

Northern Ireland

Medical School

Words of Advice

Queen's Belfast

“A little preparation goes a long way. Preparing for tutorials, practicals and clinical attachment sessions truly helps you to gain the most out of the experiences: helping you to identify weaknesses in your knowledge so you can go on to ask the appropriate tutor for advice. Preparation doesn’t need to be extensive - you could have a look through the PowerPoint slides before a lecture or read up on how to do a certain procedure you are learning in clinical attachment or reading up on anatomy before heading off to dissection. Having that prior understanding is extremely beneficial and the repetition helps you remember!”


Medical School

Words of Advice


“The first semester at Aberdeen (from August to December) is purely science-based and you have to do two courses, one called Science for Medicine and the other Principles of Disease. These courses touch on the scientific aspects of medicine and do not explore the bodily systems or pathology of diseases. For example you learn the Krebs Cycle in a lot of detail. It’s a struggle to get through this part of the course because, to me, this was not what I wanted to go to medical school for, and it didn’t excite me. My advice would be to try and get through these courses in the December exams then it’s onto the material you really wanted to go to medical school for. I wish I knew how much better it really got after the first semester as I would have spent less nights worrying that I had chosen the wrong course. The material you learn in the first semester is good for introducing you to university life and a new way of studying but the real medicine starts after you pass those winter exams.”


“1. Work hard and try to find joy in learning but remember to enjoy life outside of medicine. 2. Aim high but don't be too let down if you don't manage to achieve your goals because there will be opportunities for you to try again. 3. Be genuine, kind and supportive to others including your peers.”


"No learning in first year will go wasted even if it doesn’t come up in the exams - think of the fun facts you’ll be able to whip out on the wards when you make it there! But also enjoy first year as all you really need to do is to pass your exams and look after yourself.”


“Don’t go too in-depth when it comes to PBL, as a guide: 6-10 pages per week should be enough and any more than that is going to be super hard to deal with once exams roll around. Also, pay attention to your lab book and do the weekly Moodle quizzes; they’re super helpful and exam questions are frequently taken from them. Finally, get involved with MedChir to find your footing within the medical school! It’s an easy way to make friends within medicine and everyone is super friendly.”

St Andrews

“Do not let the unknown stop you. Starting a uni, let alone a medical school is scary. But it is about taking a leap of faith, and fully throwing yourself into a new community and a degree. And I honestly don’t think there’s a better place for that than the St Andrews “bubble”. It is a place that will most certainly feel like home away from home. And I guarantee that it would be really hard not to make your best friends here, as St Andrews truly feels like a big family."

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