Tips for handling schoolwork and a social life when you’re a pre-med student

Do you think that just because you’re pre-med you can’t have a social life? Does staying on top of your studies and maintaining a healthy study/life balance sound like an oxymoron? For many pre-meds, finding a balance between completing schoolwork and having a social life is often difficult to achieve. From attending lectures and completing lab reports to studying for the MCAT and participating in extracurricular activities, pre-meds have a lot on their plates. Achieving a balance between academics and social life is not a luxury – it’s  a necessity!  Sure, you’re pre-med, but that doesn’t mean that for the next few years, while you’re preparing to become the best medical school candidate possible, you’re a slave to a schedule that has you studying like a maniac. You have the same amount of time in a day as President Barack Obama, who, while running the nation, finds time to shoot some hoops and watch an episode of Keeping Up with the Kardashians. So don’t tell yourself that you’re too busy to have a social life. It’s not true. The following are four ways to bring a little more balance to your pre-med life:

INSERT DOWNTIME INTO YOUR SCHEDULE

If you’re not in class, then you’re studying. If you’re not studying, then you’re working on a paper. If you’re not working on a paper, then you’re doing some other activity that must be done, right? Well, while you can’t control all of the factors that affect your study/life balance, there are certainly some things that you can control, and as impossible as it may seem, it is important to set aside some time in your busy schedule to relax. If you don’t have a formal agenda besides the one that comes from your schedule of classes, then you need to create one and make sure it includes activities you find enjoyable,  even if it’s for only 15 minutes a day.

DROP ACTIVITIES THAT DRAIN YOUR TIME

Pre-meds who spend their time participating in countless activities are often so busy being busy that they don’t take a step back to evaluate what they’re really spending their time on or if it is still worth what it once was. Yes, medical school admission committees like to see that you’re involved in extracurricular activities, but that doesn’t mean you have to have your hand in everything. It’s important to spend time on the activities that truly matter to you. If you joined a club or organization at the beginning of the semester and a month later find yourself not really gaining anything from going to meetings, then stop going. Don’t keep forcing yourself to go just because you think it will look good that you were a part of the “Smartest Pre-meds on Campus” society for three years! The space you free up after ditching a “time-draining” activity will allow you to spend your energy exploring a passion of yours and maybe reading some scientific journals to brush up on your verbal and reading skills. By getting rid of activities in your life that take more away from you than you gain, you’ll begin to see how doable a study/life balance can be.

LEARN HOW TO SAY NO

You don’t have to say yes to everything you are asked to do. If you have a weakness for saying yes when you really want to say no, then achieving a study/life balance will be a challenge for sure. You don’t have to say no all of the time, but occasionally, saying this word will give you back the time you were handing out for free. Learning how to say no the “right” way can rid you of the guilt you may feel when turning someone down. One of the best ways to handle a “no” situation is being able to offer alternatives or suggestions to the person asking for your time.. If you learn how to say “I can’t, but…” or “I’d love to, but…,” then people will usually be more receptive to your “no” response. Being able to say no can mean a world of difference when it comes to finding more “life” time.

CHALLENGE PRE-MED STEREOTYPES

In the competitive world of pre-med students, spending hours studying is considered the norm. But you don’t have to study all of the time just because everyone else is doing it. Don’t go to the library just because, in your mind, you feel like you need to be studying. What matters most is making the time you do spend studying and the time your head is not in the books count. The best medical school candidate is the one who is well-rounded.

And, in case you didn’t already know, you don’t even have to be a science major to get into medical school. In fact, each year thousands of non-science majors are accepted, and by not being weighed down by such a heavy course load as a science major, students who elect to go the non-science route may find more time to do the things they enjoy, thus achieving the desired study/life balance.