Life as a Pre-Med Student: Balancing Your Schedule

As a pre-med student, you may feel that you have much more to worry about than your peers in different majors.  While most undergrad students concentrate on their classes and their social life, as a student with medical ambitions you are forced to think about much more.  That’s because, of course, medical schools expect more than just a strong GPA from their applicants.  Med schools want to see a strong record of extracurricular activities, time spent volunteering, and experience in a medical-related job— in addition to a stellar GPA.  So while many of your college peers can spend evenings playing video games and the weekends partying, life is not so simple for you.  I do have some good news for you, however.  While life will always be demanding for pre-med students, you don’t have to give up on your social life and resign yourself to working, studying or sleeping 24/7.  The key to achieving a good balance between your career preparation and your social life lies in prioritizing and scheduling.  Keep reading for practical suggestions on how to achieve that balance:

1) Prioritize. It’s impossible to structure your life and your time if you haven’t determined your priorities.  So that’s the first step—take out a pencil and list your priorities.  If you’re serious about getting into a good medical school, you’re going to have to academics and extracurricular activities high on your list.  But that doesn’t mean you can’t list your social life or athletics high on the list as well. 

2) Schedule. Once you’ve made your list of priorities, it’s time to create a plan.  Find a weekly calendar (a daytime planner works well) and begin budgeting your time.  Start with your top priority and schedule the time necessary to accomplish it.  Then move to your second priority and schedule sufficient time.  Keep moving down your list until you’re out of time to schedule.  Were you able to find time for each priority?  If so, great.  For most of you the realistic answer is probably no—there is simply not enough time each week.  But that’s okay, because at least now you’re looking at your life realistically.  You’ve identified your priorities and you’re getting to as many of them as you possibly can.

3) Stick to the schedule. The time you’ve spent prioritizing and scheduling is meaningless if you don’t have the discipline to stick to the schedule you’ve created.  But the temptation to toss the schedule in the garbage and play video games with your roommate all afternoon simply must be resisted.  Otherwise, you’ll end up wasting time that you could have devoted to more important tasks.

4) Learn to be efficient. As you become accustomed to following your schedule, hopefully you’ll be able to save time here and there.  As you do that, you can adjust your daily routine and fit in more of your priorities.  Look for time wasters and try to cut them out—for instance, many students get sucked into browsing the internet for ten or fifteen minutes every time they sit down at the computer to start a project.  If you can cut this out, you’ll save an hour or two each week—valuable time that you could spend more efficiently.

Life as a pre-med student is busy, no question about it.  But it is possible to achieve a balance between academics, extracurricular activities, and your social or recreational life.  Doing so requires intentional prioritizing, scheduling, and a tremendous amount of discipline to stick to your schedule.  But it is achievable—I know you can do it!

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Very interactive and entertaining. The presentation has revitalized my confidence. The information went beyond the usual good GPA good MCAT score lecture. C. S.

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