First Generation Medical Student: 11 Best Tips For Survival

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I am not a first generation medical student but my elder brother was.

And guess what?

Today he is a medical doctor, making him among the 67% of first generation medical students who makes it through medical school.

Yes! You read that right.

According to the Education Advisory Board, 33% of first generation students do not finish medical school.

They usually leave before completing their 3rd year of medical school.

It is very understandable because as a first generation medical student, you have a lot to go through in medical school.

And if you are not well guided, you will be among this 33% who keep leaving the medical career usually because of failure to pass the medical school professional exams.

Table of Contents

What Is a First Generation Student?

A first generation student is a name used to refer to a college or university student who comes from a home where neither of the parents completed a 4-year degree in the university.

However, a first generation medical student is a medical student who is the first in their family to attend medical school.

Such a person comes from a home where neither of the parents nor siblings is a medical doctor.

first generation medical students
first generation doctors are the first doctors in their family

So do you see why life in medical school is usually difficult for people who want to be first generation doctors in their families?

They literally have no one from home to guide them on every step of their medical school journey.

So they rely mostly on mentoring from older colleagues, and their own personal experiences to survive the rough medical school journey.

The major support that many first generation medical students have from home are financial and moral support which although highly needed cannot be compared with support coming from someone who has passed through medical school before you.

What do first generation medical students struggle with?

What do first generation medical students struggle with?
What do first generation medical students struggle with?

According to Clay Center, first-generation students pass through a whole lot of challenges most of which include;

  • Family conflicts and guilt: This is usually because they have the opportunities other members of their family did not have.
  • Anxiety: First generation medical students will be anxious about medical exams as they do not want to let their families down. This is a major challenge they face which kind of impedes their success in exams.
  • Difficulty Understanding the Academic System: First generation medical students will often find the medical school environment to be a bi overwhelming and complex. Because they know no one, they may struggle with finding mentors; a very vital support system in the medical school environment.
  • Poor Finance: In many poor resource countries, only a few percent of families have the funds to train their wards in medical school. So it is expected that a larger proportion of first generation medical students in such countries will come form a not-so-well-to-do homes. Thereby making it difficult for a first generation medical student from such a home to survive through the hurdles of medical school.
  • Increased Social Isolation: Medical students who are not first generation usually have a way of bonding easily with their colleagues. It’s a kind of an unwritten rule that people from homes where there had been a doctor before find it easy to adapt to the medical world. But first generation medical students usually struggle with this adaptation and it contributes to the majority of their challenges.

All these among many others unlisted are the major challenges of first generation medical students. Now the next question is:

As a first generation medical student, how do I overcome these challenges and join the 67% of first generation students who complete medical school?

11 Helpful Tips For First Generation Medical Students

First generation physicians are the first in their families
First generation physicians are the first in their families

To overcome most of the challenges faced by first generation medical students, then you will be needing the tips and advice below to make your stay in medical school a little bit seamless.

Below are some of the advice for first generation medical students:

  • Find A Mentor
  • Join School Associations
  • Identify with Socio-cultural groups
  • Find Other First Generation Students
  • Keep Yourself Motivated In Medical School
  • Find Online communities for First Generation Students
  • Join Online Communities for medical students
  • Apply For Grants and Scholarships for First Generation Medical Students
  • Get the necessary mobile apps for medical students
  • Have Plans for Your Medical School Loans
  • Remember you need to study harder

Find A Mentor

Since you do not have someone very close to coach you during medical school, the next good step for you to take is to find a mentor in medical school who you can rely on to give wise counsel when you are facing difficulties in school.

Some medical schools already have a formal student-doctor mentoring program specially organized by the school admins.

This program is usually helpful if it is available in your school. It is a good avenue to find a good mentor.

However, this program should not limit you from asking older colleagues directly for guidance.

In many cases, they will be willing to help.

Join School Associations

School associations are one of the best places to find guidance and moral and academic support without having to ask for it.

In my own school association, forums make it very easy for older and younger medical students to come together and interact.

And as such, you can make as many friends as possible within your own class and in other classes.

Identify with Socio-cultural groups

In many universities, there are very nice and friendly associations formed by people who come from the same place or share the same belief system.

Such places are one of the best where you can find support as a first generation medical student.

Spaces like this help you not to feel alone in school because you meet people who can understand you and who you can relate with without fear of judgment.

Find Other First Generation Students

In some schools, you may find groups for first generation medical students. If you find any like this within your medical school, then you just hit a jackpot.

This group will serve as a very strong support force for you.

Here you can make new friends and ask older first generation medical students how they were able to overcome their own challenges.

Keep Yourself Motivated In Medical School

It is very easy for anyone to lose motivation in medical school due to the whole burnout, tough medical exams, and tight schedules.

However, we have written a special blog post to help medical students to stay motivated in medical school. Go ahead and read it now.

Find Online communities for First Generation Students

If you do not find a community in your school for first generation medical students, then the next option would be to look out for such communities on places like medical Youtube Channels, Reddit, Quora, Facebook, and any other social channels.

I am pretty much sure that you will find many of such groups online, and they will be helpful as well.

Join Online Communities for medical students

By online communities, I am referring to blogs for medical students like this one or our WhatsApp groups for medical students.

Other online communities you may find helpful are also available on places like Reddit and Quora where you can ask questions about any confusing concept during your journey as a first generation medical student.

Apply For Grants and Scholarships for First Generation Medical Students

There are lots of scholarship opportunities all over the world for medical students who are struggling to be first generation doctors within their immediate families.

You can find many of such opportunities online by searching for them directly on Google, following pages that offer grants on Twitter, and hoping to take advantage of any of such opportunities when they come.

I stumbled upon a scholarship opportunity for first generation medical students on one of the pages of the American University of the Caribbean School of Medicine Website.

And this scholarship is worth over $50,000. You can go ahead and check if you are eligible for this scholarship before it is over or before it is taken down. You can view it using this link.

Get the necessary mobile apps for medical students

I have been collating a list of the necessary study apps for medical students and I came up with a comprehensive list of study apps used by our audience at Medarchive Magazine.

You can find these study apps and download them as well from this blog post.

They will be helpful in reducing the work you do and trying to find the best study resources online as a fresh medical student.

Have Plans for Your Medical School Loans

I always tell my audience this; gone are the days when studying medicine and entrepreneurship do not mix.

If you do not want to be in debt for more than half of your life, then you must find ways of making money even while in medical school.

This is especially for first generation medical students who do not have people to take care of their tuition.

But luckily for you, there is also a separate post on this blog that will teach you practical ways of making money as a medical student some of them with little or no capital at all.

Remember you need to study harder

Of course, everyone needs to study hard in medical school.

But remember that as a first generation medical student, you are not on the same pedestal as other non-first generation med students.

Also, bear in mind that you have more challenges than they do, so the only solution to succeeding in your medical exams will be to work harder than everyone else.

Remember that you left people at home who are eager to have the first doctor in their whole generation. So make them proud!

Also, Read; How to prepare for your medical exchange program

Final Words!

Studying to become a first generation physician in your family should not be too difficult.

If you are able to find the right people and places to draw guidance and motivation from, then passing through medical school should not be much of a problem.

The most important thing about succeeding as a first generation medical student is finding a community of like-minded medics, and people who you can ask questions and rely on for guidance at every stage of your med school journey.

I wish you the best in your journey through medical school.

By Paschal Madueke

Medical Doctor and ICT enthusiast

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