The first two years of medical school ask students to process a lot of new information, and quickly. For this reason, it's common to find that study methods employed as an undergrad don't always work as well in this new environment. But not to worry: Students have many resources available to help build their study skills and provide support as they find new ways of learning.
"Med school can be as much about how to learn the material as actually learning it," says David DiTullio, an MD/PhD student in the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA. "You have to test different strategies, different ways of organizing the material."
Take guidance through tutoring
DiTullio spearheads the Peer Tutoring Program, which offers students who need extra help the chance to partner with a mentor as they progress. They also can join small group-tutoring sessions, where one tutor facilitates a discussion among three-to-five students. The advantage is that students are able to ask one another questions and explain things that ultimately help them to retain information.
As the tutoring program has received more interest, however, it has added more study-skills and support programs. For students beginning preparation for the USMLE Step 1 licensing exam, the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA provides weekly study sessions to review the material and listen to tips on how to stay organized.
"We try to offer different levels of tutoring for everyone in every subject throughout medical school," DiTullio says.
Find your study style
DiTullio specifically encourages new students to speak with older students about how they adjusted to the workload.
"When I started [medical] school, I found that the ways I studied as an undergrad didn't always work," he admits. "I tried new techniques every couple weeks until I found what was best for me."
Students can take advantage of the many resources available within the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA. For example, Student Affairs has a Learning Skills Office with a wealth of ideas and people willing to advise. The office provides help to match students with a tutor and offers reassurance and general advice on adapting to a medical school curriculum.
"A lot of times it helps new students to hear that they're not alone," DiTullio says. "Everyone feels anxious or wonders how they're comparing to everyone else. The Student Affairs Office will listen to concerns; give advice on creating schedules and point to further resources."
Of course, the UCLA campus at large extends its own resources for general learning, writing, study skills, social support and similar academic needs.
Grow as a tutor
As much as students benefit from tutoring, becoming a tutor also is a rewarding experience. "Tutors get experience working with people they hope to teach one day as a professional," says DiTullio, who is interested in being an academic physician, teaching students as well as engaging in clinical practice. "The program at UCLA is well developed and a great opportunity to be a mentor."
by Patricia Chaney