15 Medical School “Thrive-vival” Tips

First we lay down the difference between survive and thrive. To survive is to continue to live or simply exist on the other hand to thrive is to prosper or flourish. Of course, we wouldn’t want to just simply exist, we want to bloom wherever we are planted.

  1. Prepare

It’s going to be tough. Prepare your mind, your emotions and even your body. The dream requires sacrifices. How much you are willing to give up will determine how much you can achieve. Also manage your expectations. You may be excelling in your premed or people around you has primed you that you are cut out to be a doctor. But I tell once you’re there, it’s a whole different world, a different battle. Be prepared to fail yet be prepared to get up. Over and over again. Be prepared to be humbled down. This sem you may be the top, but you can’t tell you may be on the removals list next sem. There’s no room for complacency.

Excerpt from elementary yearbook
  1. Have a strong heart

This is actually a part of your preparation. But I tell you. Be real tough. The medical field is harsh. The schedule is harsh, so are the exams. Our seniors could be harsh too. The medical hierarchy is real.

  1. Be enthusiastic

Enjoy the journey. Take a happy pill everyday. Don’t think of it as something of a burden you cant wait to get over with. Yes, its difficult but its thrilling and enjoyable all at the same time. Life is a matter of perspective.

  1. Be a team player

You may argue that you are an introvert or an independent, in medical school you will not survive alone. The relationship has to be mutual tho. Days will come when you will need others whether for a copy of a handout or to listen to your fears of failing.

Don’t be a burden in group activities. Do your share. Learn to initiate. Med school is stressful enough without your unacceptable work attitude getting in the way. In medical school there is almost always no acceptable excuse. You are expected to act as adults though you are in prolonged adolescence


5. Don’t skip lectures

You may argue that you are not a classroom learner. But attending lectures is more than just going to class and signing the attendance sheet and trying hard to learn the art of listening. By not skipping lectures you also get to impose discipline on yourself by adhering to a schedule. It also teaches you time management. It also teaches you to respect authority and abide by the rules. Attending lectures is a form of respect to professors who spent their time to prepare. Lectures are part of the school program for your training as future general physicians. Thus attending lectures is a practice on how to participate and respect a preformed system which in the first place you volunteered to be in.

  1.  Stop ranting. Or if you can’t, limit it.

Don’t waste your time and energy ranting about the subject, the exam or the professor. Spend it rather on studying for the next exam. Move on real quick. Soon enough you’ll prove that in medschool time is real gold.

  1. Cry

Pwedeng umiyak. Don’t let it get bottled up inside. Bilisan mo lang. Mahaba pa ung trans.

  1. Surround yourself with the right people

It is important that you are with right people. The ones who encourages rather than complains. The ones who see that the greatest glory is not in never falling but in rising every time you fall (Ralph Waldo Emerson). The ones who are never mediocre. The people you are with can make or break you.


  1. Balance

The pressure and stress are real in medical school. To keep your sanity, remain doing the things you love. I am big fan of kdramas since college (way before it begun as system that eats people haha). And I didn’t let it go. I watched ongoing dramas to avoid binge watching and killing my studies. I was even able to go to concerts and fanmeets. I still watched live UAAP and NCAA basketball games. Continue to do things outside our field. There’s life outside school. Just make sure to do it in moderation. Always prioritize based on you capacities. If you need a 75 in your final exam, skip the concert, start studying.

March 3, 2013: 2PM Live in Manila (weekend before compre exams week)
  1. Study wisely. Conserve memory space.

You are being trained as general physician, while studying be at the lookout for terms or ideas that would seem critical to becoming a general physician. In biochem for instance it’s not important what happens to the sulfhydryl group, what’s more important is the step catalyzed by the enzyme. Because eventually you would encounter a drug that inhibits that reaction. So when you give that drug to your future patient you know how it works. And what could be the possible side effect that you should warn you patient about. Look at it at a bigger scheme of things.

Refer to the syllabus. In the syllabus, written are the learning objectives that you are supposed to achieve for the semester. Simply put, you are expected to learn certain things thus the exam questions will revolve around those.

Don’t rely on recall questions. That is a lame way of studying. You may find an easy way out for now, but not for long. What you need to develop is not merely the ability to memorize but the capacity for critical thinking.

Attend lectures not just for attendance. Listen intently. The professors emphasize the must knows over nice to knows. These are the topics you will expect during exams except for few questions that test how faithfully you’ve studied.

Read your textbooks. It strengthens your foundations on subjects. It widens your understanding. It gives structure to your bulleted handouts. Come board exams, you’ll be thankful you read your books. Especially Physio, Patho and IM. Think long term kids, our career doesn’t start and end in medschool.

  1. Sleep

Study is life but sleep is lifer. When you sleep, the info you’ve studied gets arranged into folders in your brain that makes it easier for you to retrieve the information during the exam. That’s consolidation. Click the link below for proof 🙂


3rd year medicine: quick power nap before the next lecture
  1. Be organized

Organize your handouts. Compile them properly in envelopes including the syllabus. You’ll be thankful you did so. Do proper record taking of your grades and exam scores. Even make an excel file for it and save it your tablet wherein you could conveniently enter your latest scores. Organize your room. Organize your study place. Clutters add to the stress.

13. Color properly

Use colors correctly to your advantage. Personally, I use yellow and orange for my first reading, red for second and pencil for third. But you can check the link below on how to study effectively using colors.



  1. Doodle

While memorizing, rather than just mumbling (while staring at the ceiling), get a scratch or the back of your handouts, doodle what you are trying to memorize. It helps you focus more, grasp and retain new concepts. Click the link below to know more about the power of doodling.


  1. Pray wisely

My spiritual and life mentors used to say, “be specific when you pray.” My prayers back then were:

“Lord, give me the knowledge and wisdom. Help me recall ung mga naaral ko, wag niyo po hayaan na may lumabas na hindi ko naaral.”

“Lord, I rebuke the spirit of laziness, sleepiness and procrastination.”

“Lord, give me the enthusiasm for studying and a heart that yearns for learning.”

“Lord, teach and help me to study with discipline and excellence.”

“Lord, I pray for favor from our professors. Touch their hearts while they are making the exam questions.”

I never plainly prayed: “lord, sana po makapasa, kayo na po bahala.” Because thriving in medical school is not just simply getting a good mark. It involves  pruning of heart,  change of attitude, honing of values, and recognition of weaknesses and striving to overcome it. And these things are difficult to achieve all on our own. We need a being higher and bigger than ourselves.






3 thoughts on “15 Medical School “Thrive-vival” Tips

  1. It is not. The final grade, the overall standing, the reputation of the school you graduate from that counts dbut the overall attitude ,care, compassion and devotion you give to your patient, their family and the community you serve that make you a great and sucessfull doctor. You will not get rich at the start but it will come later if you deserve and work for it. You will not learn all thru medical books, conferences, internet , guidelines or lecture but through the eyes, the pain, the anguish once they sit in front of you and tell their stories. Be first a general physician before becoming a specialist coz this will show you the true medical art of healing.


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