Stepping up from Sixth form to first year
If you are planning to make the transition from A Levels to Medical or Dental School, congratulations! The first year is a journey in itself comprising of laughter, tears and joy. See more below for advice and insight.
Why am I writing this blog?
Making the change from A levels to first year of medical school there is undoubtedly a large workload that can often feel insurmountable, however it is a time to also explore new hobbies, new aspirations and form new friendships.
I will explore during this blog ways to ease into the first year and aim to show you ways to learn effectively, to navigate the maze of change and to illustrate that you can do both at the same time!
Sit down with a drink, relax and enjoy the read.
A noticeable change you will find is the increase in the volume of content from A Levels to the First Year of Medical or Dental School. Gone are the days of printing past papers and using convenient revision guides, instead now you will face recordings, slides and realms of notes. However, it is possible to work through the pages of notes systematically despite any initial feelings of being overwhelmed. My best advice would be to work through the material logically. Keep on track with lectures. This does not mean spending 18 hours a day dissecting material (although if you want to that is entirely fine!), it simply means following lectures, understanding the material and applying the content. Some choose to make notes and others choose to annotate notes provided by seniors, some do both! I personally find a combination of both useful. Time is an important factor. The first year is largely about understanding is not always physically possible to get through everything, and that is ok! Often, the largest job is prioritisation.
Learning strategies are key during the first year. Looking back, I wholeheartedly would say that flashcards are a fundamental aid. Flashcards were not a feature I relied on hugely in A Levels however they are an incredibly useful tool to wade through the information, enabling you to recall the facts months later. Anki is a great tool to download. It uses a strategy called Spaced Repetition to help reinforce facts.
First Year is a great time to start something new! Whether that is football or singing or anything in between, Medical School really does have something for everyone! I would suggest signing up at to a range of activities and groups at the Fresher’s Fair and Medsoc Fair. You can always decide on discontinuing the activity or group later on but you never know unless you try! Groups are also a great way to meet people from similar backgrounds or people who hold similar beliefs to you.
This is a really important part of the First Year. I would advise you to get out there and meet new people! There are plenty of opportunities to meet new people, whether this be your flatmates, course mates in your group and people you meet in the Societies. I personally had a relatively quiet flat and I made a conscious effort to meet new people and socialise in different environments. It can be undoubtedly difficult and your friendships may change throughout the year, that is part of first year!
Looking after your own Mental Health is a fact I cannot stress enough! There are so many support services available to help you and I would advise you to make the most of them. Adjusting can be difficult and it can be useful to speak to someone about any problems you are facing, no matter how large or small. Medical and Dental Schools often have their own Support Services available to help. I was not well informed of the services prior to beginning Medical School however I found them extremely useful throughout the year and in later years.
Organising your time
When you organise your time, it is possible to fit in many different things! Try a new hobby, study and meet up with friends. You can achieve so many things when you manage your time.
If you would like someone to speak to in first year or any advice, feel free to contact me by email on firstname.lastname@example.org
Good luck going forwards. Remember that in first year it is important to work hard but also explore different avenues. I would urge you to use your summer to venture into the city where you are heading (COVID Permitting!), acquaint yourselves with course mates (Facebook is a very useful tool when University starts!), and enjoy yourself!
University of Birmingham
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