Welcome to IUSM

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Welcome to the Indiana University School of Medicine! This page is written for new MS1s who are just about to begin their medical school journey, and it is based on the advice of several students as they finished their first year of school. It is intended to answer some of the questions that most new students have, and to provide some advice to make beginning medical school easier.

Much of this information was adapted from the "Surviving MS1" guide available on the IU Box. Check out that guide if you'd like more information (albeit from an Indianapolis-specific perspective).

Studying Advice

Medical school classes will be different from undergraduate classes in many ways. You will be expected to understand and retain a far greater amount of information in less time (hence the well-worn but accurate cliché that med schools is like "drinking from a fire-hose"). It will be very difficult - perhaps impossible - to try cramming for exams, even if this strategy worked for undergraduate classes. Instead, try to review each day's material after class; strategies include re-watching lectures at a faster speed (if they are recorded at your campus), re-organizing your notes from class, making and reviewing flashcards, and so on. You will likely spend a large part of your first year trying new study strategies; what worked for you during your undergraduate years might not work for med school, and what works well for other medical students may not work as well for you! Don't be afraid to try new things and don't be discouraged if other students use different methods; we all learn in different ways, and medical school often exaggerates those differences.


The way you take notes will likely depend on which campus you are at and which professors you have. The majority of classes will be taught using PowerPoint; this may be convenient as it provides a template on which to take notes. Many students print out the corresponding slides before each lecture (some campuses will place the day's slides in your mailbox) and take notes on them during class. Others download the slides onto their laptop and use a note-taking program during class (Microsoft OneNote allows you to import PowerPoint slides and directly annotate them, either using a keyboard or a stylus; see Resources below).


Have one! Med school is a marathon, not a sprint - take care of yourself and you will do better. Studies show regular aerobic exercise improves your memory; don't forget to work out, and eat relatively healthily. Cramming all night may earn you a couple of points on a test at the start of the week, but the wear and tear on your body may just as easily cause you to do poorly on a test at the end of the week. Look for social opportunities as well; getting involved in Student Interest Groups (SIGs) and the student government will help provide a social outlet.

Supplies & Resources


If you are comfortable reading on a screen, you may not need to buy many textbooks. Many of the MS1 and MS2 textbooks are available on the Ruth Lilly library:

At some point between now and the start of your MS2 year, you will need to buy a copy of First Aid for the Step 1. This is a study guide designed specifically to prepare you for the Step 1 exam (which you will take after your second year; it plays a large role in determining which specialties you may pursue after medical school). The Ruth Lilly library has older versions of First Aid available, but you will likely want to purchase a hard copy of the most up-to-date edition.

Note-taking Software

  • Microsoft OneNote: Allows direct annotation of PowerPoint slides. Compatible with Windows and OS X, but the Windows version has far more features. Although Microsoft also offers an iOS app and a website interface, neither work well (especially not with PowerPoint files). Free.
  • Evernote: Works well on many devices; Windows, OS X, iOS, and the web. However, does not support annotation of PowerPoint slides. Basic plan is free, but extra space costs a monthly fee.

Flashcard Software

  • Anki: Uses a "spaced repetition system" to organize your flashcards. Every day, Anki schedules a batch of flashcards for you to do. You tell Anki how well you remembered each card, and Anki uses this information to decide how soon you should re-do the card (ranging from minutes to months from now). Compatible with Windows, OS X, and iOS; can also be used via a website (both on desktop and on mobile). Free for Windows, OS X, and to use the website; $24.99 for the iOS app.
  • StudyBlue: Online flashcard website that is easy to use. StudyBlue makes it easy to share your cards with others; students have used it to create flashcards together and then share the cards with their class.


  • University of Michigan Anatomy Quizzes: The University of Michigan medical school has a fantastic collection of anatomy lessons and quizzes. Includes very helpful pictures.
  • IU Med Student Summer Opportunities: IU maintains a list of opportunities available to med students during the summer between their first and second years. This is the only real "summer break" you get in medical school, so if you're interested in getting involved in research this may be a good time to do it!

Anatomy Lab Supplies

You will need to buy scrubs or other disposable clothing for anatomy lab. Depending on your campus' policies, you may also need to buy gloves (Indianapolis students must buy gloves, the Muncie campus [and probably others] provides gloves). Anatomy lab can be messy; don't wear anything you wouldn't mind throwing out (including your shoes). Wal-Mart and Goodwill both tend to carry scrubs. The Emergency Medicine SIG (EMSIG) also sells scrubs and gloves at the start of the year, but they are often more expensive. You do not have to wear actual scrubs; you can just as easily wear old jeans and a T-shirt. You will, however, end up throwing away whatever you wear.

Remember that (at many campuses) you will re-enter the lab during Neuroanatomy to study the brain and spinal cord; depending on how vigorous you were during Anatomy, you may or may not need another set of disposable clothing. Neuroanatomy is not as messy of an experience, however; many students do not bother changing clothes for lab (other than wearing gloves).

You will likely want to have copies of Netter's Atlas of Anatomy and Grant's Dissector (Netter's is a great atlas, and most of the dissections will be straight out of Grant's). You may not need to buy them; many campuses provide copies of both in the lab. Remember that these copies cannot leave the lab (they will be pretty disgusting) so you may still want to buy copies for your own use. Many students also found Rohan's flashcards useful.

Getting Involved

There are many ways to get involved with the student body at IUSM. There are several Student Interest Groups, or "SIGs," which are student-run organizations that collect people with similar interests, from medical sub-specialties to interests entirely unrelated to medicine. Depending on your campus, there are also opportunities for participating in the student government; check out the IUSM MSC website for more information. At regional campuses, there are also various boards and committees for organizing service events and class activities, and often opportunities to volunteer at local clinics.