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AlynHoffman

Undergrad vs Medical School

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To the medical students, how do you find medical school compared to undergrad? Ie. in terms of workload, difficulty, overall stress… etc.?

I’m finding that my undergrad is burning me out a little bit, I’m in my 3rd year, and I was wondering if medical schools becomes a bit less intense? (I heard that everything is P/F)

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The volume of information you cover in medical school is crazy. 

In undergrad, one month of content is like a week in medical school. I could go weeks doing minimal work in undergrad and study a few days before the test, but in medical school, there's work (almost) everyday if you want to keep up with the material.

But it's also different because you don't need to strive for 90s anymore.

Also the last 2 years (clerkship) will be completely different. Pretty sure it's normal to be sleep-deprived and stressed, because you have real responsibilities at the hospital, spending 9-5 at the hospital (and sometimes more, being on 24h call, weekends) and you also have to write exams every 6-8 weeks - so being an employee and a student at the same time can be challenging. 

I guess to summarize, you have WAY more free time in undergrad compared to medical school and you're only responsibility was studying but in medical school (in 3rd and 4th year), you'll have dual responsibilities at the hospital and studying as a student. That's not to say you have no free time in medical school, you definitely do, just have to use it wisely and ensure you don't burnout!

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If found pre clerkship to be a moderate step up from undergrad (usually 4 hours of class a day and then I studied most days of the week for a few hours after class). Clerkship is a much bigger step up from pre clerkship. It depends on the rotation, but right now my hours are 7-5ish and I still have studying to do when I get home for the rotation as well as for exams (and these don't always overlap since you may not rotate on subspecialties that are covered on the exams). And I have call every 4-5 days, which means you're there ~24 hours i.e. 7am to 8 am the next day (or as long as it takes to handover). 

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I found my experience to be the converse. I really found med school to be much more pleasant than undergrad. The P/F system is helpful to engender a more cooperative atmosphere and at this point you are really learning for your patients. Sure a 60 gets you a pass, but ultimately you want to make sure you understand enough to be a competent doctor. Yes the content is voluminous as @brady23 had alluded, but I did not find that to be too overbearing. You really need to weigh the pros and cons of reading "recommended" chapter readings. I am personally not a fan of "high yield" - this adj. gets way too overused in med school and when I hear it now it's actually kinda repulsive lol Study smart and know the big picture during pre-clerkship. I don't need to know 100% of the nitty gritty that is put on undergrad exam as the med exams are normally based on big picture concepts. Sure some memorization is inevitable, but pre-clerkship is no really different from undergrad.. and in my case, I found it to be easier and much more enjoyable.

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I'm only an M1, but so far I have found med school to be much more stressful and demanding than undergrad, but in a different way. Like brady23 said, the stress is different because all you need to hit is the pass cutoff (74 for my class) and you don't need to worry about getting 90s and doing a million extracurriculars on the side like you did in undergrad; it's the time and effort that goes into covering enough of the material to get that 74 that's challenging. 

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2 hours ago, AlynHoffman said:

To the medical students, how do you find medical school compared to undergrad? Ie. in terms of workload, difficulty, overall stress… etc.?

I’m finding that my undergrad is burning me out a little bit, I’m in my 3rd year, and I was wondering if medical schools becomes a bit less intense? (I heard that everything is P/F)

Medical School is way better than undergrad. As mentioned you don’t have to fixate and marks and can actually learn for the sake of learning, which is much more enjoyable. The material in medical school is pretty easy. There is very few concepts that are difficult to grasp, just a lot of facts to learn. The challenge if finding the time to study. Where I did medical school, we have class from 8:30-5:30 almost everyday.

A few people have mentioned you don’t need to do extracurriculars in medical school. Having gone through CaRMS I can tell you that the whole process mirrors applying to medical school. You will need to do research, meaningful extracurricular etc to match to a competitive specialty.

With respect to clerkship, the learning curve is quite steep, but once you figure out how to be a good clerk, you can pretty much excel at any rotation with minimal stress. Your schedule will vary on rotations. On surgery you will be working 5am-6pm plus call shifts. On other rotations you might work 9-3pm. I would say on average, my work days started at 8am and finished 6pm. 

 

 

 

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I remember hearing so many scary stories about the intensity of med school but I could def confirm that it's been way better than undergrad so far. Undergrad was a huge mental struggle because you're constantly stressing over your GPA and every exam ends up weighing heavy on you. When you're finally in med school, sure there's a lot of info, but it's a whole different ball game especially if you're at a P/F school (which is the case for most schools in Canada at this point). You have this inherent motivation to just learn and absorb as much as you can without it feeling like a burden because you want to be a good doctor in the end. I find myself being significantly less stressed than I was back in undergrad. You're pretty much going through this path with a huge family too so it makes it more fun and less stressful since you're all in it together. 

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1 hour ago, Aetherus said:

 

A few people have mentioned you don’t need to do extracurriculars in medical school. Having gone through CaRMS I can tell you that the whole process mirrors applying to medical school. You will need to do research, meaningful extracurricular etc to match to a competitive specialty.

My residency program was the most desirable program in a competative surgical specialty. I participated in ranking candidates for almost the entire time I was there. I can tell you with certainty, we never discussed someone's extracurricular activities from med school.

That's my experience anyway. 

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I believe it varies quite a bit between medical schools. The folks who went through UofT medical school (brady23 and mew) seem to have vastly different experiences. Personally, I felt like the volume in medical school was significantly heavier; akin to "trying to drink from a firehose".

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1 hour ago, NLengr said:

My residency program was the most desirable program in a competative surgical specialty. I participated in ranking candidates for almost the entire time I was there. I can tell you with certainty, we never discussed someone's extracurricular activities from med school.

That's my experience anyway. 

I think each specialty will vary in terms of what they will look at. I do agree that it seems fairly insignificant in the selection of candidates (I have yet to be on the other side of the CaRMS match). 

That being said, invariably every year medical students will fixate on this as it is one of the few things you can work on to make yourself a better candidate prior to electives.

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So far, I've found that medical school lectures are similar to undergrad lectures in terms of how much content each individual lecture covers. The two diverge in terms of how many lectures each exam comes. Since you don't have the luxury of taking 5 different courses (like in undergrad), your exams in medical school will cover every single lecture for that block. In any given block, your final exams may cover between 50-80 lectures (assuming 15-20 lectures a week), whereas in undergrad, my final exams usually only covered about 24 lectures worth of content (since most courses were only 2 lectures a week). Personally, this is why I believe medical school is way harder in terms of workload. In undergrad, I could get away with not doing any reviewing after lectures until a few days before the exam. There is no way a person would be able to do that in medical school. 

As some other posters mentioned, medical school can be less stressful than undergrad since you aren't really worried about grades. To be honest, the consequences of failing an exam aren't high either because you can always remediate an exam (without it showing up on your transcript). Although I am less stressed in medical school, I find myself working 3x as hard as I did in undergrad. 

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3 minutes ago, Blasé said:

So far, I've found that medical school lectures are similar to undergrad lectures in terms of how much content each individual lecture covers. The two diverge in terms of how many lectures each exam comes. Since you don't have the luxury of taking 5 different courses (like in undergrad), your exams in medical school will cover every single lecture for that block. In any given block, your final exams may cover between 50-80 lectures (assuming 15-20 lectures a week), whereas in undergrad, my final exams usually only covered about 24 lectures worth of content (since most courses were only 2 lectures a week). Personally, this is why I believe medical school is way harder in terms of workload. In undergrad, I could get away with not doing any reviewing after lectures until a few days before the exam. There is no way a person would be able to do that in medical school. 

As some other posters mentioned, medical school can be less stressful than undergrad since you aren't really worried about grades. To be honest, the consequences of failing an exam aren't high either because you can always remediate an exam (without it showing up on your transcript). Although I am less stressed in medical school, I find myself working 3x as hard as I did in undergrad. 

Exactly this. While the hours you spend in class are similar, the amount you need to retain for one exam is like 5 times the amount in undergrad where you could study for one exam, purge and cram for the second exam. 

My personal experience as a M1 is that I find it way more enjoyable than undergrad because I'm learning exactly what I'm curious about, so while I'm spending more time studying, less of it feels grueling. While I didn't dislike my undergrad, there were definitely things that made me throw a crisis. In med I'm finding that the entire environment is so pleasant and I'm still frequently getting that post-acceptance letter feeling where you're so excited to be doing this. 

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13 hours ago, Aetherus said:

Medical School is way better than undergrad. As mentioned you don’t have to fixate and marks and can actually learn for the sake of learning, which is much more enjoyable. The material in medical school is pretty easy. There is very few concepts that are difficult to grasp, just a lot of facts to learn. The challenge if finding the time to study. Where I did medical school, we have class from 8:30-5:30 almost everyday.

A few people have mentioned you don’t need to do extracurriculars in medical school. Having gone through CaRMS I can tell you that the whole process mirrors applying to medical school. You will need to do research, meaningful extracurricular etc to match to a competitive specialty.

With respect to clerkship, the learning curve is quite steep, but once you figure out how to be a good clerk, you can pretty much excel at any rotation with minimal stress. Your schedule will vary on rotations. On surgery you will be working 5am-6pm plus call shifts. On other rotations you might work 9-3pm. I would say on average, my work days started at 8am and finished 6pm. 

 

 

 

I guess different med students have different experiences. Throughout Med school, I studied 6 days a week, taking off only one day to relax. I had no time for ECs and undertook no research. This certainly was not an impedimemt for CaRMS. I am in a competitive surgical specialty and neither ECs nor research played the slightest role in my selection. It was all about being considered a good fit for the program, it was about my soft skills rather than a technically knowledgeable background. Moreover, the gunner applicants, who were highly qualified on paper, were not accepted into the program, which I believe was due to an evaluation of their soft skills. 

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16 hours ago, brady23 said:

The volume of information you cover in medical school is crazy. 

In undergrad, one month of content is like a week in medical school. I could go weeks doing minimal work in undergrad and study a few days before the test, but in medical school, there's work (almost) everyday if you want to keep up with the material.

But it's also different because you don't need to strive for 90s anymore.

Also the last 2 years (clerkship) will be completely different. Pretty sure it's normal to be sleep-deprived and stressed, because you have real responsibilities at the hospital, spending 9-5 at the hospital (and sometimes more, being on 24h call, weekends) and you also have to write exams every 6-8 weeks - so being an employee and a student at the same time can be challenging. 

I guess to summarize, you have WAY more free time in undergrad compared to medical school and you're only responsibility was studying but in medical school (in 3rd and 4th year), you'll have dual responsibilities at the hospital and studying as a student. That's not to say you have no free time in medical school, you definitely do, just have to use it wisely and ensure you don't burnout!

This might be school dependent.  I found the opposite (albeit I went to UTSG for undergrad).  I found undergrad, when I was "in semester", often took up 80-100 hours/week (not joking).  Preclerkship (outside of Toronto) was closer to 50 hours a week.  For me, at least, it was hugely easier, and far far less stressful.  Clerkship of course is a different beast, but it completely varied for me by rotation, with some including study being well under 50 hours/week, and some such as gen surg being closer to 80-100 at times with studying+call.  

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I personally find medical school a lot more intense than undergrad. Like @brady23 said, the volume of material you cover is far greater than what was covered in undergrad courses. It does feel like trying to drink from a fire hose. With undergrad, I could take time off from studying and not fall behind, but I’ve found that with medical school, even taking a couple days or a weekend off from studying makes you fall behind for a while. There are also other mandatory things in our curriculum that take time, like community placements, mandatory volunteering in first year, and some meetings. I also find that regardless of how much you study for an exam, you never quite know how it went, and my marks are lower than they were in undergrad (which I think is to be expected). So for me, the workload is a lot heavier and time management is really important.

That said, it is a different kind of stress. With undergrad, you have the stress of trying to get good grades, but with medical school the stress is staying on top of things and learning the material to the best of your ability. Your performance in small group sessions and placement is always being evaluated too, which I know some people find a bit stressful. It’s all about finding the balance though, and our class is very close and supportive of each other, so that definitely helps. Despite the stress and hard work, I’m really enjoying it so far and do find it manageable :)

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22 hours ago, AlynHoffman said:

To the medical students, how do you find medical school compared to undergrad? Ie. in terms of workload, difficulty, overall stress… etc.?

I’m finding that my undergrad is burning me out a little bit, I’m in my 3rd year, and I was wondering if medical schools becomes a bit less intense? (I heard that everything is P/F)

I would say med school is probably the same workload as undergrad. I wouldn't worry too much, once you are in medical school there are career paths to allow you to relax if you choose to. 

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As evidenced by the above posts, basically it depends. It varies depending on your undergrad experience, it varies depending on teaching style at your medical school, it depends on the person.. Everyone experiences things differently

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In terms of credit hours, a full course load was 15 credits a semester in undergrad, my semesters in med have been ~28. 

Medical school is way more busy, and the content is more challenging, likely due to the volume. So I'm stressed, but it's fun. 

Undergrad was distressing. Is was so unpleasant because of the constant fear of not doing well enough and getting into medical school. And my biochemistry courses were much more conceptually hard to understand. 

 

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