Why Are Medical Students So Arrogant? (4 Real Reasons)

One reason for medical students’ arrogance is that they’re used to being the best academically. Getting top grades in an almost effortless manner is something they’ve grown used to. Med school is the culmination of all that, a place they’ve been headed their whole lives.

Of course the idea that med students are arrogant is also just that. An idea. How much truth there is to it? That’s what’s open for debate.

My own personal experiences in med school, amid all the med student stereotypes, tell me there could be some truth in it however. But just like every walk of life, or every other field of study, I’m pretty sure the number of arrogant students is no more than it would be anywhere else. 

I guess some people just kind of develop that way!

In many ways though, having a website that talks about med school, medicine and questions relating to being a doctor is kind of an arrogant move. Or at least could be perceived to be. So I’ve probably got to be careful here discussing the question myself.

Anyway, let’s delve a little deeper.

Are Medical Students Arrogant?

Possible reasons medical students might be perceived to be arrogant could include:

  • Thinking they’re special because of the job they eventually get to do
  • Assuming they study harder than other students (especially liberal arts majors – experienced life on both sides of the fence here)
  • Believing they’re more intellectually capable than other students
  • Agreeing that they’re busier than almost everyone else 

But maybe the biggest reason for potential arrogance comes from the act of getting into medicine itself. 

As we all know, it’s a very competitive endeavour. One that (usually) requires top grades, impressive experience and winning people over in admissions interviews. Things that are probably much more difficult than actually staying in med school!

To say that med students are, as a rule, arrogant however? Seems a bit of an injustice to the many humble, modest and even-tempered ones. 

Which there are plenty of too by the way!

Do Med Students Deserve To Be Arrogant?

One common idea I read about in response to this question was the notion that med students somehow deserve to be a little arrogant in the face of being accepted into med school. 

Usually the theory goes something like this…

Med students worked exceptionally hard to get the top grades, get great work experience and put together a sterling application. So it’s totally cool that they get to act arrogant.

But to me that seems a bit ugly. Placing objectivity on the idea that academic achievement is what matters most in life, seems short-sighted. Especially when there are many acts of human kindness that take so very little to do in the first place.

Sure I could get criticised here by the students at elite schools complaining I’m downplaying what I’m sure was a lot of hard work. And I guess they do have a point. 

The trouble is though that studying medicine doesn’t make anybody particularly special. Not if you strip away the questionable ideas about the prestige and status it brings.

At the end of the day you’re still a student. Your contributions to the world are difficult to measure.

The Problem With Calling Medical Students Arrogant

If we do accept for a moment however that some medical students do get to act arrogant because of their “intellectual superiority”, then we’ve got a few extra problems.

The reasons why? Two-fold.

  1. Medical school admissions are not even across the board. Some schools are very easy to get into. Being arrogant as an international student at a European institution? Pretty misplaced compared to a UK or US-based one. Especially if you consider the lower entry requirements.
  2. Studying medicine isn’t that intellectually demanding. Sure there’s a lot of it. But you don’t actually have to be that smart to survive or do well. It’s memorization for the most part.

So generalization is definitely a problem. 

As well as a potential reason for an Oxbridge, Yale or Harvard medic to genuinely be more arrogant than a lowly Medical University Varna student like myself!

Why Are Med Students So Egotistical? 

Arrogance and egoism are like two twins that go together. Being egotistical though probably requires less actual ability. Someone can think a lot of themselves without ever actually having done anything impressive.

Maybe pre-med students, on the eve of becoming fully-fledged arrogant med students, could be better placed here. Especially because they’ve not yet reached the dizzying heights of med school but are doing everything they can to set the wheels in motion.

But of course being egotistical about going into med maybe means there’s something that’s seen as unique about it in the first place. 

Maybe it’s the prospect of becoming a doctor and caring for patients (kind of counterintuitive). Maybe it’s the ill-conceived dream that you’ll soon be on a ladder to exorbitant wealth and riches. Maybe it’s the attraction to the power of prescribing and diagnosing.

Who knows.

There’s also the fact arrogance, egotism and everything else, might just be a misplaced evaluation of someone’s confidence, intelligence and focus.

Possibly even a tiny bit of jealousy.

How to Deal with Arrogant/Egotistical Med Students

Just as I’ve written before about doctors who think they’re superior or doctors who treat patients rudely, the approach to dealing with arrogant med students is very similar. You’ve got to let them get on with it. Also try and readjust the focus to yourself.

Here are some extra tips:

  • Don’t try and compete with them (personally, I’ve tried to stop even asking my colleagues what they score in tests and exams etc)
  • Don’t call them out on their behavior (it’s just a waste of time and probably won’t lead anywhere positive)
  • Don’t play to their ego (it’ll only embolden them in the long run)

As for med schools more broadly, they probably should be more invested in stamping out arrogance, aggression or egotism where it may be visible. This article on KevinMD, in discussion of how introducing more group-based projects into a medical curriculum could help with that, has some interesting ideas.

Working with others, I’ve always found, forces you to think in different ways. It can also give more insight into why the one-man show approach might not be the best way to do things. 

Something that can definitely be useful in helping improve patient-doctor relationships too no doubt.


Perhaps calling all medical students arrogant is something of an overshoot. Sure, there are some – just as there is everywhere else, but there’s plenty of good souls also.

The trick is not to let the arrogance put you off the environment. Focus on your own thing and let everything else fade into the background.

Image Credit – @abbat at Unsplash