How Being a Good Roommate Now Can Help You in Med School Later

April 27, 2017

Your roommate relationship can help you on the way to med school.

Your roommate relationship can help you on the way to med school.

By Christine Ascher

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Being in med school is a difficult and isolating time for nearly everyone. You’re under a lot of pressure to succeed and that means that you’re going to be spending most of your time — day and night — studying. Having a good support system is crucial for getting through all of the inevitable ups and downs of medical school.

One way to ensure that you have a good support system in place now is by being a good roommate. In addition to forming a lifelong friend, a lot of the skills that you will develop in living amicably with someone will help you later on down the road in med school.

You’ll make a study buddy for life

As the roommate of a pre-med student, I can attest to the fact that roommates, if they’re willing to listen, can be a huge help when you’re cramming for an exam — whether they’re pre-med or not. Even though I knew nothing about organic chemistry, my roommate loved “teaching” me about the subject as a means of reviewing information and improving her own understanding of it (granted, I didn’t actually learn anything, but it definitely helped her study).

If you’re a good roommate, your roommate may be willing to help you study in return. Even if you’re no longer roommates when you start med school, hopefully they will still be willing to listen and are only a phone call away.

You’ll learn how to communicate effectively

Improving your communication skills — which often means, first and foremost, learning how to listen — will make your relationship with your roommate a much more pleasant one. When your roommate has a problem that they need to talk out, be there to listen. This doesn’t necessarily mean giving them advice; sometimes all they need is someone to talk to.

Learning how to be a good listener will make you much more likable as a doctor, considering you’ll need to listen to a lot of worries from your patients. Even before that, most medical schools want to bring in students who are empathetic and compassionate towards others — two characteristics that you’ll be able to improve upon in growing as a communicator.

You’ll learn how to keep your cool

Whether it’s in an emergency situation or an ordinary conflict with your roommate, practice keeping your cool. Learning how to force yourself to stay calm in stressful situations now will help you in a number of ways later on. For instance, it’ll help you keep your cool during your high-pressure exams, from the MCAT and beyond. It will also help you stay cool in any emergency situations that you need to cope with in your training. Your roommate will be grateful for your calm in the face of tension or fear, and you’ll be better able to handle stress in the future.

You’ll get used to addressing little problems before they worsen

Be proactive when it comes to any issues that you have with your roommate. While you don’t want to bring up every little quirk of theirs that bothers you (some of it you’ll just have to live with), if there’s something that could turn into a larger problem — for instance, if you’ve noticed that your roommate keeps bringing guests over more and more often — bring it up before it gets to the point where you can no longer bear it.

Once you get used to addressing problems head-on, you’ll be able to apply that skill to other aspects of life, including any issues that you encounter in med school. You’ll find it easier to work as part of a team and you’ll improve on your interpersonal skills, handy for dealing with patients later on. Hopefully, you’ll also be able to stop yourself from getting in over your head in med school.

You’ll learn from their questions

While you shouldn’t pry into your roommates’ private lives, if they’re willing to share medical information with you, this is a great opportunity for you to learn. As my roommate was the resident “doctor” in our apartment, she was constantly fielding questions about our minor medical complaints — i.e., “Why do I have a headache and how do I make it go away?”

While she wasn’t always able to answer, she always took the opportunity to apply the information she’d learned in class to our real-world problems. Hearing about medical issues from a real person will make it a lot easier to remember information than if you were simply reading from a textbook. Being willing to answer your roommates’ random questions will not only help them out, it’ll help you prepare for the future as well.

You’ll become more flexible

While you can’t be expected to put up with anything crazy when it comes to your roommate, you should put some effort into living with the minor quirks that don’t significantly impact you. For instance, if your roommate likes to listen to music when they study but you need complete silence, try to switch off going to the library and having the room to study, instead of immediately asking them to change their habits.

If you learn how to compromise and be more easy-going now, you’ll be better suited to deal with adverse situations when you get to med school and don’t have time for conflict or distractions.

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