How to Utilize Your Time During your Undergraduate Degree in Preparation for Medical School

For many of us, our undergraduate degrees were a balance of maintaining a competitive GPA, working a part-time job, doing research, and volunteering in the community. Although these are the standard activities that are required of medical school applicant, the question is how do you have time to do all these things?

Time management was something that I struggled with during my second year when I started in a research lab for the first time. I realized that the way I was allocating time to my academic, professional, and personal development was neither efficient nor sustainable. I asked my peers and mentors for advice and here are the top three pieces of advice that I got to balance my schedule:

1. Write out your timetable

Once a week for about 15 minutes I planned out what tasks needed to be done and what their priority was with respect to school, work, and volunteering. This included listing out which lectures needed to be reviewed, which assignments needed to be completed, and deadlines for each of these. By writing out each task I thought about how work-intense the task was, how much time I needed to complete it, and I was able to gain a better sense of the workload for the week. Writing out my timetable also helped me understand how much time I was spending on different activities, which helped improve efficiency.

2. Revise your timetable to include free time

This is something that I struggled with for a very long time. Each one-hour block in between class or a free weeknight was automatically a night I could be working on a research project or use for revision of next week’s lectures. However, with experience I learned that a more sustainable way to accomplish my school, work, and volunteer related tasks was if I gave myself a chance to relax during the week. This required me to take on a mindset of treating my undergraduate degree like training for a marathon. Naturally, you can’t be running at full steam for the entire duration so it’s important to know when and how to take time for yourself to recover and re-energize. 

3. Update your timetable   

You made your timetable and you used it for a week. Now what? At this point it’s probably very easy to say that you could have accomplished your goals without the timetable and that you didn’t see any benefit. But like anything worthwhile doing, you need to keep doing it and practice doing it for some time. It took me a few weeks to really see the benefit of using a timetable. I noticed that I was significantly less stressed during weeks when there were assignments or midterms because I had been aware of the deadline and had allocated time to study appropriately. 

As a medical school applicant, you will undoubtedly have good time management skills to balance your schedule and succeed. Using a timetable to help manage your day-to-day activities and long-term goals is an excellent way to stay on top of things and contribute to a healthy work-life balance. 

Best of luck with all your endeavors!

More resources for highschool and undergraduate students:
Planning Ahead for Highschool Students: Is Medicine Right for You?
Tips on Picking an undergraduate Program for Pre-med Students
Top 10 tips for a successful McMaster Health Science Application
McMaster University’s Bachelor of Health Sciences Program – What to Expect?
Choosing the Right Undergraduate Program and Courses