Spring Semester Guide to Pre-Health Success

April 20, 2017
Ingrid Murati

Here’s how to make the most of the spring semester.

Springtime distractions are no match for a motivated pre-health student.

It’s unanimous: No one likes studying when the sky is clear, the birds are chirping, and the weather is warm. It almost feels like a slap in the face from the universe: “Seriously? You choose TODAY to be pretty—when I have a five-page paper due and an exam tomorrow?”

Alas, the spring semester stops for no one, least of all pre-health students, and the nicest weather often comes around finals week in April or May. Let’s talk about some strategies to maximize study time while quelling your spring fever.

Add some sun to your spring semester

It can be easy to convince yourself that you don’t have time to do anything—that you have to sit in front of a textbook until you learn something. But this can actually hinder more than it helps. It’s been said that the optimal study block for the brain to function at its peak is three hours. After that, your brain stops comprehending the information you’re feeding it, and you find yourself reading a whole page of text without having understood a word of it.

Taking 20-minute breaks can recharge your mind and give you enough energy to power through. No, that doesn’t mean you should read one paragraph and break for 20 minutes (though that is tempting). Set a study goal for yourself to finish either a section or a set number of pages, then reward yourself with a break. Go outside! Vitamin D does wonders for the mind, body, and spirit. Walking around outside for a few minutes will relax your eyes and your head after sitting and staring at a computer screen for hours.

Get ahead on your pre-health planning

With the spring semester comes spring break. You may find yourself looking forward to taking that entire week off and catching up on Netflix. Spending one or two days relaxing is an absolute must, but don’t spend a whole week of free time forgetting your endgame: graduating and earning an advanced medical degree.

If you are a pre-health student looking ahead to applying to a professional or medical school, this is a great opportunity to devote some time to researching different programs to find the one you want to pursue. Spring break is invaluable for checking items off your pre-health task list: personal statements, checking up on professor’s recommendation letters, volunteering hours to build your resume, etc.

Exercise your body and mind

Sometimes the hour-and-a-half that it takes to get dressed, go to the gym, do a small workout, come back, shower, and continue your day may seem unappealing. In reality, you probably spend much more time than that doing unproductive things—and the payoff from a daily exercise routine is worth it.

Even just 30 minutes of cardio a day is enough to warm up your muscles and raise your adrenaline. In those ruts where you tell yourself you don’t have time to workout, you need to study for the MCAT, you might find yourself feeling tired, groggy, and unable to actually use that extra hour of study time. Better to spend that hour doing something that will ultimately make you more productive in the long run.

In short, the key to staying a productive pre-health student during the spring semester is finding a balance: Don’t wear yourself out studying so much that you don’t enjoy the good weather, but also don’t spend all of your time outside and neglect your studies. A happy balance between the two will leave you rested and ready to study.

Working towards your highest possible score this spring? Take our free MCAT pop quiz for a quick mental workout.

Ingrid Murati Ingrid is a business major on the pre-optometry track at the University of Alabama, Birmingham. She is also a Kaplan Student Brand Ambassador and an ROTC cadet.

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