There’s no denying it. Life as a premed student is busy, and life as a premed student who needs to study for the MCAT is particularly so. Finding time to shadow practicing physicians, fulfill volunteer obligations, excel at undergraduate studies, and possibly even work one (or two) jobs in an effort to save up for medical school makes for a hectic enough schedule, and tossing in studying for an arduous exam whose results seem like they determine the likelihood of you ever becoming a doctor seems overwhelming.

However, learning to balance studying for the MCAT with a busy, full life is definitely a skill that is necessary. Not only will it make studying for the MCAT a less stressful time overall, but it will also help you succeed in medical school once the time comes. After all, the time that you’ll need to dedicate to your studies during medical school will be significantly more than the time that you’ll be focusing on studying for the MCAT. Take these key points into consideration when planning your approach to a balanced premed life.

Recognize the importance of balance

Firstly, before even attempting to live a balanced MCAT-studying life, it’s crucial that you can recognize the importance of balance in your life. If you don’t have a solid belief that a balanced life will help you do your best, then there’s very little chance that you’ll actually focus on being balanced at all. Simply said, balance will undoubtedly help you do better on the MCAT (and your other studies). If you focus solely on your studies, you will most likely burn out significantly earlier than otherwise. Choose to set aside time to relax by exercising, spending time with friends, or engaging in spiritual activities. Your mind will use these times to recharge, leaving you feeling fresh and ready for your next several hours of studying.

Learn to prioritize

At the same time, an important part of a balanced premed life is prioritizing. For instance, while hanging out with friends and family members is necessary for a balanced life, choosing to attend every group gathering probably isn’t practical. If you’re going to squeeze in enough time for studying, you’ll probably need to learn to say “no” to some social gatherings. Even if your friends don’t fully understand the pressures of the MCAT, they should be supportive of you pursuing your dreams.

Check you scale

Additionally, recognize that even though it’s important to live a balanced life while studying, this balance might look different than you originally imagined. Your goal shouldn’t be to spend the same amount of time hanging out with your friends as you do studying or you do working out. Instead, your focus at this point in your life is to balance the “heaviest” need (studying) with everything else in your life. Picture a scale with your MCAT books on one end, and everything else in your life on the other end. Even though this thought might be intimidating, it’s still much better than choosing to ignore all of those other needs in your life completely.

Readjust as needed

Finally, an important aspect of living a balanced life as an excellent student is to be ok with readjusting your schedule if necessary. If you’re feeling like you never have enough time to exercise, schedule time to do so at a time when it just isn’t convenient to skip your daily run. If you feel stressed every time you hang out with your friends, there’s a decent chance that you need to readjust your daily study plans. Doing things other than studying should never be stressful; they should be relaxing, refreshing, and rejuvenating. If they aren’t these things, consider readjusting your study schedule (if you’re studying too much) or your “other things” schedule (if you’re studying too little).