Tightrope Time Part 2: Balancing Life in Medical School

September 26, 2013
Emily Hause


Hello my crazy-busy pre-med readers! Last week I listed out the different categories that I use to prioritize my different activities and I promised that this week I would lay out exactly how succeed at balancing life in medical school. Here’s a step-by-step guide to how to wedge all of your important activities into your busy schedule and find balance as a pre-med or medical student.


1. Lay out your musts.

That means you need to start your schedule by laying out priorities. That means including things like class-time, volunteer commitments, important family or friend events (i.e. weddings. So many weddings!) and sleeping. By putting down your musts first, you ensure that you will be able to achieve all that you absolutely NEED to do to at the bare minimum.

2. Around your musts, build in your fun time.

This time should be full of activities that fill you up instead of emptying you out. This is where I personally place teaching/tutoring as well as exercising, reading for fun, baking, dancing, walking and time to just hang with your friends. By putting in your fun time second, you allow yourself to not only be functional, but productive and happy during your other timed sections.

3. Around your musts and fun time, build in flexible time.

That flexible time can be used for studying, group projects, returning important emails, filling out applications etc. It’s important that you classify this as flexible time, because it will vary by week which of these things you choose/need to do.


Overarching goals of schedule-making:

Make your schedule sustainable for long-term success. There are definitely going to be some weeks that are busier than others, and that’s okay. Those weeks might be low on fun-time, but by making a good schedule you can ensure that although fun-time may be low, at least it’s not non-existent.

Schedules are not rules, they are guidelines. For example, today I planned to study at a certain time, but it’s really nice outside and I’m inspired to go for a run. That’s great! I can swap out my exercise time with my study time, no sweat! (Pun definitely intended)

Don’t let your schedule stress you out. If making your schedule is stressing you out more than the actual tasks you have to accomplish, then you need help. Feel free to toss me schedule-building questions, comments, or concerns in the comment space. I would love to help! Your schedule should be a tool to help you stay on track and successful, not a confining or anxiety-creating pit of despair. A good schedule helps you excel as a student and as a human being.


Happy studying!

Emily Hause Emily has been a teacher for Kaplan for over eight years; she's taught MCAT, ACT, SAT, SAT2 and tutored pretty much every subject under the sun in both the classroom and live online (aka Classroom Anywhere) settings. She's also worked for Kaplan in content development and teacher mentorship roles. Emily is currently a fourth-year medical student at the University of Colorado and is hoping to go into Pediatrics. She's involved in many campus opportunities such as being a Prospective Student Representative, admissions committee member, CU-UNITE member, and co-president of the Education and Teaching Interest Group. Prior to medical school, Emily got a BA in Biochemistry and Spanish from Lawrence University and a Masters in Public Health- Epidemiology from the University of Minnesota. In her free time, Emily enjoys dancing, baking, playing tennis and exploring her new Colorado home.

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