Work-Life Balance for a First-Year Med Student

September 28, 2015
Kevin Yang

Being a first-year med student is tough, but you can’t study 24/7.

As a first-year med student, don’t forget to make time for yourself outside of medical school.

At every panel during our orientation week, whether it was composed of older students, faculty, or clinicians, every first-year med student asked the same two questions:


  • What tips do you have for succeeding with med school studying?
  • How do you maintain balance in your lives with medical school classes?


Answers ranged from “be sure to attend lectures by Dr. A, but not by Dr. B” or “go to the beach every single day,” but the advice that stuck out the most to me as a first-year med student was:

Know what you value the most and never offer it up as a sacrifice to medical school classes.


Some of these values included: sacred Saturday date nights with a spouse, weekly beach volleyball, and frequent visits with family. Regardless of the specifics, all of the panelists (who all seemed to lead well-balanced lives) built academic careers around what they valued most—and they still managed to do a lot of med school studying.

This was great advice for a first-year med student, but during the first few weeks of medical school, I gave up my personal life and personal time to make room for a torrent of cardiology, genetics, and transporters. I finally understood what some first-years mean when they compare medical school to drinking from a fire hose.

Now I’m happy to report that it feels like I’ve started to figure out the whole “how to survive medical school” thing.

A lot of this is because I manage my time better and study more effectively than I once did. I realized I didn’t need to know everything to succeed in my medical school classes, and once I realized that, I was able to get back to doing the things that make me happiest outside of med school studying.

Monday nights are no longer filled with physiology. Instead, I rock climb with classmates. Likewise, I look forward to Thursday intramural soccer and seeing college friends on the weekends. Not only do these activities give me the energy to return to my med school studies, but this kind of ability to prioritize the things that are important to me will make me a better, happier physician.


What do you like to do to unwind? Share below and then when you’re ready, check out our fast-paced Step 1 High Yield study program here.


Kevin Yang Kevin Yang is a fourth-year osteopathic medical student with an interest in psychiatry. He has been working for Kaplan since 2012 in teaching/tutoring/mentoring for the SAT, ACT, MCAT, and USMLE. In his spare time, he enjoys reading science fiction and fantasy novels, and he also has interest in writing, computers, and video games.

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