Medical school is a busy time. Between studying, getting acclimated and preparing for a career, students may get overwhelmed, but it doesn't have to be that way. With a little planning—and some helpful advice from peers—students can find a comfortable and healthy working balance for a smooth four years.
Two fourth-year students at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA shared their advice for time management in medical school. Nicholas Villano, 2017 Class Vice President, and Sarah Lonowski, 2017 Well-Being Committee Representative, offer three ways students can make the most of their time.
1. Learn how to study.
Studying stresses out many students, who have to absorb a lot of information in a relatively short time. Lonowski says students need to figure out what study methods are most effective for them and how long it takes to succeed. Everyone’s ideal study process will look a little different.
Villano emphasizes knowing when to stop. "With much of your academic work, there's no clear end," he says. "You can always study more. You have to learn when to be done and how much to take on."
Lonowski adds that she tried study groups of different sizes to find what suited her best.
"I often studied with one or two other people," she says. "For me, groups with a lot of people and a lot of talking and distractions were not helpful."
Villano also advises new students to talk with upperclassmen, tutors or advisers to get study tips.
"You can get a lot of support and feedback at UCLA," he says. "Upperclassmen can help you figure out how to spread your time across different studying activities."
2. Make a schedule.
Villano strongly recommends that students build a schedule in advance. It doesn't have to be set in stone or regulate every part of the day. Students can build their schedules by figuring out how long academic activities take and then deciding how much time they’ll have left for personal activities.
Between academics, interest groups and activities offered at UCLA, students often fill their plates early. After that, scheduling comes down to prioritizing.
"In medical school, you learn that time is precious and hours become a currency," Villano says. "You know that studying this lecture will take two hours and the gym will take an hour. Then you build those blocks into your schedule."
Villano recommends working a few activities into the schedule but cautions against overdoing clubs or trying to schedule every hour of the day. An ideal schedule might help a student get work done earlier in the day to free up an afternoon.
3. Take a break.
Villano and Lonowski agree that students need to take time for themselves to relax and maintain their sanity. Lonowski makes sure that exercise is part of her routine and is scheduled in at least a couple of days a week.
"When you get bogged down with stress, call someone who has nothing to do with medicine and talk about regular life," Lonowski suggests. "Give yourself a break every now and then. Do whatever you need to do to recharge."
Time management in medical school is a learning process, but UCLA and the school of medicine have a range of resources to help.
By Patricia Chaney