Medical school is intense. Just imagine attending med school all year round! Certain schools, such as Ross University, American University of the Caribbean, and St. George’s University are structured this way. And while not having a traditional “2 semesters a year” calendar might seem daunting, some medical students are invigorated by dedicating themselves to studying medicine year-round.

To get some insights into the year-round med student lifestyle, we talked to one Ross medical student and Cram Fighter Campus Hero, Yasmine, about her experience. “You are always in the mindset of medicine,” she said. “You really need to dedicate yourself to the field. After a two week break at most, you hit the books hard.”

If you are ready to be an independent, self-directed student, year-round programs may be an ideal fit. Whether you are considering attending one or you have already thrown your hat into the ring and enrolled, we have some helpful insights of surviving and thriving in year round programs.

Maintaining a Healthy Lifestyle and Avoiding Burnout

Attending a year-round programs comes with its own misconceptions. “My first semester here, I thought that I needed to study 24/7,” said Yasmine. “I quickly realized that this wasn’t sustainable and made more time for myself. I go to the gym everyday. I still go out with friends. I don’t force myself to study more than I can handle. After I made that change, that’s when I really started doing well. When you force things when you really need a break, that’s when you start going downhill.”

Strategizing for Step 1 Independently

Traditional medical schools often provide a specific window of time for Step 1 studying that all students in a given class use together. At Ross University, students have more options for when they take Step 1 and how long they choose to study. “At our school, there are several entry dates for rotations,” said Yasmine. Choosing when to start rotations means choosing how early you will take Step 1. “I plan to take an eight week Becker course,” said Yasmine, “and then, if I feel ready, I’ll enter rotations early. If not, I will start studying outside of the Becker course and plan to take Step 1 in May.” She emphasized the need to be independent and know yourself in this way, adding, “As a year-round med student, it’s your job to figure out ‘Am I ready?’ ‘Do I need further resources?’”

Being an Self-Directed Student

As a professional student, you will need to judge your own academic needs and strengths. At Ross University (as with other medical schools), videos are posted online after every lecture. “I would say 80 to 85% of students don’t go to class,” said Yasmine, “but you need to ask yourself ‘Do I go to class or watch the lectures at home?’ Some students don’t watch the lectures at all and study on their own. That’s the hardest part: figuring out what works for you.”

Yasmine As a year-round med student, it’s your job to figure out ‘Am I ready?’ ‘Do I need further resources?’

Yasmine, Ross University School of Medicine

We asked Yasmine how year-round students determine how long they should study for Step 1 and what resources they need. Yasmine told us, “We have critical advisement teams, faculty advisors, and learning specialists. We were able to sit down and ask advisors ‘If I want to enter in March, when do I need to take my Step by?’ ‘I have an eight week course, but is that enough for me?’ But no one will force you to go. You have to ask yourself ‘Am I seeking them out?’”

There’s no doubt that students who choose this path need to know themselves and be independent. While year-round students do have many tools at their disposal, like advisors and study resources, it’s up to you to use those tools to make key decisions about Step 1 prep, rotations, and coursework. At Cram Fighter, we study the stats on how long students are choosing to study for Step 1 and which resources students are using. To find out more, check out cramfighter.com/stats.