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How to Have a Life in Medical School

By OnlineMedEd February 13, 2018

So you got accepted into medical school. You’re smart and hard-working, of course. Until med school, you always found time for the occasional Netflix binge and tailgate party. Now you’re in the midst of it and seem to have no life. It’s hard to do anything other than studying. Between your time at the hospital and studying for exams, it’s quite obvious you’re going to be slammed. Busy isn’t the word for what you’re about to embark upon.

But no need to fret! It’s not completely impossible to have a life outside of medical school. You still need some downtime to survive! With the following tips, you should be able to squeeze in some real-life moments between trips to the cadaver lab.


Study smarter, not harder

With the plethora of topics thrown at you in medical school, you might find that your study methods from college aren’t working. You may also find yourself reconstructing the ones you use. Spending hours rewriting notes helped you ace year 2, but may not be the right approach for year 3. You may have heard of people studying for full days (even outside of exam season). If you’re doing fine only studying for several hours each day, don’t change just because it’s different from what you see others doing. Everyone is different! What works for someone else, might not work for you and vice versa. It might take you a while to find your own rhythm, but once you do you’ll be able to start saving valuable time. Using P.A.C.E. is a good place to start. It’s a method that won’t take up more than an hour or two every day.


Make a list of your priorities

It may sound like elementary advice, but making a list of priorities can prevent future conflict and free up more social time. Plus, who doesn’t love crossing off to-do lists? Some people might prioritize medical school after family, friends, and a significant other. Others might drop it somewhere in the middle, ahead of friends but less important than family. It all depends on you. But, getting a grip on your priorities can simplify decisions like whether to attend your best friend’s wedding or to study. If you still struggle with making decisions and picking your priorities, ask yourself, “what do I currently want out of my life?” and see what you lean towards. For example, once you get home from the hospital, go through a lesson using P.A.C.E. Then revisit your priorities and decide whether you can spend time with your family or need to study more for your Step 2 CK.


Use accountability buddies

You may already be using accountability schedules for your studying. However, it’s also a nice idea to have people hold you accountable for the social aspects of your life. For example, if you tell your friends you’ll go to a movie with them Friday night, or your mom that you’ll go shopping with her on Saturday, it’s more likely to happen than if you didn’t make the commitment. If you are the kind of person who doesn’t even like to make plans for fear of too much work to do, then give your significant other or close friends permission to partake in planning a social outing for you once a week. It might be hard to turn your back on studying for a little while, but your brain will thank you afterwards.

While these are not the only ways to maintain a life during medical school, they’re some of the simplest. If you still find yourself struggling to find time for a social life, just hang on. Remember that soon the day will come where you’ll have fulfilled your dream of becoming a doctor!


Deep dives into real issues impacting medical education, brought to you by OnlineMedEd.


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