Three diverse women in scrubs looking at spine model held by female doctor

Med School Success Guide: Excelling in Your Academic Life

Medical school is one of the most difficult academic challenges you can pursue. Here's a guide to all the ways to not only succeed but excel academically.

Med school is not for the faint of heart. It requires the utmost commitment and true excellence, and a big part of that is doing well in school. It's not just about good grades—it's about building a strong foundation for your future as a health professional. Working in the health industry involves treating patients and saving lives. Therefore, as much as possible, the medical profession leaves no room for error. You must strive to acquire deep health knowledge, develop strong medical skills, and establish savvy academic habits to get there. Here are a few recommendations to help you be the best med student you can be and achieve more academically.

Set academic goals

Establishing goals can make a huge difference in your personal or professional life. As a medical student, it’s important to have reasonable expectations and set realistic goals for the school year. Doing so can guide your academic life and help you graduate with flying colors. Be sure to establish SMART goals:

  • Specific: List what you specifically hope to achieve for the academic year.
  • Measurable: Make sure you can measure and monitor these goals, like the number of medical cases you can tackle in a month.
  • Achievable: Ensure these objectives are realistic by assessing if these goals are within your skills and abilities as a medical student.
  • Relevant: These goals must be relevant to your aspirations as a medical student.
  • Time-bound: Set a specific timeline for each task through the end of the school year.

Employ time management tactics

Time is of the essence in medical school. Unfortunately, many students juggle a lot of tasks, from classes to internships to constant reviews. And for the most part, they never seem to have enough time. With that said, time management is key! Try some of the following techniques to get your work done in an efficient manner:

  • Eisenhower Decision Matrix: Prioritize your tasks by deciding what to handle first and last based on order of urgency and importance.
  • Eat-The-Frog Rule: Start with the most difficult, extensive, and important task. Don't stare at it; go ahead and get it done.
  • The Pomodoro Technique: Work for 25 minutes, rest for five minutes, and repeat. This strategy is perfect for those who can't help but procrastinate!

Related: 4 Practical Time Management Tips for Grad Students

Capitalize on learning resources

Unlimited learning resources are readily available today. The internet is a goldmine of medical information through free online courses and programs. You can even take a break from your medical studies by pursuing other creative interests—try taking an art class or tackling a Latin language learning program, for example. As a medical student, you should also start building your resources library early since you’ll turn to it often after graduation. You may need it for review when you take the board exam and when practicing your profession, so invest in quality books from trusted sources.

Be systematic and organized

Navigating the world of med school can be complex. Whether you’re exploring human anatomy and memorizing all parts of the body or handling various medical cases in clinical settings, being systematic and organized can have a major impact on your success. As a medical student, can’t just casually refer to your schedules for classes and duties. Keep a digital or manual record and schedule all your school-related activities with a system that works for you. Sort all your tasks by priority for certain deadlines and task size. The more on top of it you are, the less stressed you’ll be.

Enhance your focus and concentration

As a medical student, you should study almost every day. That can make or break your academic success. Start by refining your focus and concentration skills. Learn how to lengthen your attention span, and when you actually sit down to study, remove all possible distractions, such as clutter, background noise, and technology. If frustration starts to set in, remind yourself why you’re studying and why med school is important.

Stay curious and interested

People who succeed are curious about the world around them. If you want to become a pediatrician, you should be genuinely interested in childhood health. If you want to become a surgeon, you should have a knack for doing incisions. To help people with mental health conditions, you should be driven by the desire to explore the human mind. To learn fast and effectively in medical school, you need to be interested in the medical world.

Related: How to Improve Your Study Skills for Grad School

Navigating med school is no easy feat. Consider all these practical tips, from setting goals and employing good time management to maintaining your curiosity and interest. They can help you succeed as a medical student and future health professional with a little more confidence and a lot less stress. 

Still feel like you need academic help for graduate-level work? Check out our blog on 4 Quick Tips to Take Your Writing Skills to the Graduate Level.

Like what you’re reading?

Join the CollegeXpress community! Create a free account and we’ll notify you about new articles, scholarship deadlines, and more.

Join Now

Join our community of
over 5 million students!

CollegeXpress has everything you need to simplify your college search, get connected to schools, and find your perfect fit.

Join CollegeXpress
Courtney Smith

Courtney Smith

High School Class of 2022

CollegeXpress has been a huge help! The website is very organized with finding the right scholarship for anyone and anything. With CollegeXpress, I've been able to find many scholarship opportunities to apply for. Not only that, I'm also able to search for the colleges I have interest in and see what’s required and what scholarships they offer. I've learned a lot from CollegeXpress. They've helped me in many ways to achieve my goals!

Ruth Aguilar

Ruth Aguilar

High School Class of 2021

CollegeXpress helped me by providing me with many scholarship opportunities and information about universities I want to attend. What I love about CollgeXpress is how it provides a variety of information, and as the first child attending a university next year, it has been very essential and helpful. I’m so grateful for this because the information provided by CollegeXpress has also helped me see that there are so many college opportunities, and it always informs me by email. In other words, CollegeXpress has been like a guide for me as a future college student.

Maurice Whan

Maurice Whan

$2,000 Spring Scholarship Contest Winner, 2021

This year has been tough for my family and myself, so receiving this scholarship has been a blessing in disguise! CollegeXpress has been an excellent resource in helping me prepare financially for college. Thank you again for this amazing opportunity!

Jessica Rinker

Jessica Rinker

Student, Fairhaven High School; CollegeXpress Student Writer

My high school counselor introduced me to CollegeXpress freshman year. It has made such a difference in high school, and I plan to continue relying on it in college. CollegeXpress is my go-to because it addresses each aspect of being a student. There are the articles you’d expect regarding college applications and financial aid, but you will also find advice on things like de-stressing and maintaining relationships while balancing a heavy course load. CollegeXpress will also keep you updated on current scholarships through e-mails each Saturday. (They don’t harass you with any product promotion like so many other sites do.) CollegeXpress is a lot like an older sibling who has already conquered the challenges you are facing. Now, they are reaching out a helpful hand. I say take it.

Lexie Knutson

Lexie Knutson

High School Class of 2021

This whole website has helped me overcome the attitude I had before. I was scared to even approach the thought of college because it was so much. I knew it wasn’t just a few easy steps, and I panicked mostly, instead of actually trying. Without realizing it, CollegeXpress did exactly what I usually do when I panic, which is take it one step at a time. With college I forget that because it’s more than just a small to-do list, but this website was really helpful and overall amazing. So thank you!

College Matches

Colleges You May Be Interested In

Stevenson University

Stevenson, MD

Hofstra University

Hempstead, NY

University of Cincinnati

Cincinnati, OH