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Making It All Fit

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Nope 99

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It's difficult trying to combine work, school, somewhat of a social life, good physical health, adequate sleep. It's harder trying to squeeze in research, volunteer work, anything extra that could help you get into medschool, and keeping up a stellar GPA.

For someone with a hectic life schedule in his fresh/soph year, what would you recommend? Should you try to be doing research and volunteer work this early, or save it for the later years of undergrad? Should I just stick to those in the summer?

Help on how to balance out my schedule would be nice, if anyone's willing. Merci.
 

VanBrown

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I had the same issues as an undergrad. Trying to find time to do everything that is needed is hard especially when you have to support yourself and are (in my case) taking care of your parents.

I just slept less. Maybe 4 hours a night. Keep your head up though... if you need inspiration go to 1 Peter 1:7.
 

A Long Story

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You don't have to do eveything that everyone else is doing. For instance, unless you have an interest in research or your school requires it, you don't have to do it. Doing some things just to stand out is not a good plan, do what you are genuinely interested in and give a good effort. You should be able to have a balanced life as along as you don't take too many hard classes together and try to volunteer just a few hours per week as opposed to 20 hours per week. If you have to work, make sure that your availability reflects this as oppsoed to saying you are available more than you really are. Some classes and also preparing for the mcat will cut into your free time but remeber that this is your future....you must make the sacrifice if you want to do well. The main thing is to remember that life is more than just good grades or ECs....college is about getting to know yourself...
 

DrYoda

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I separated the research and volunteer work. I did volunteer work one year, research the other. I also tried to get as much of it done as I could during the time of year when I knew my work scheduel would be lighter.
 

Proctodoc

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I did the same. Did research one summer, worked at the hospital and volunteered the next two summers, then threw in clubs and community service here and there throughout the school year while focusing on classes. I TA'ed as well but that was only during senior year when I had fewer classes. 6-7 hours of sleep a night was ideal for me, I'd say any fewer than 5 hours night after night can't be healthy for anyone, but you don't need more than 8 hours of sleep ever. Also, work out. Even if just 30 minutes once a week, it really helps keep you energized and resistent to illness.
 

kansaskid

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I spent a semester doing research at a state college where I had more time taking a lighter course load and I volunteer in the summers. I work year round (~35-40 hrs/week), so separating the activities makes it easier. I've done shadowing during the summer as well as during winter breaks. You don't have to do it all at once; just throughout your college career. And like others had said, research isn't absolutely necessary unless you're interested and/or want to go to a heavy research institution.
Good luck with the balance!
 

STXGregor

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Here's how I broke everything down these past four years.

Work:
I've worked 20-30 hours a week every semester (30-40 hours during summers). Make sure you have a job that can give you the availability you need. I work at HEB (TX chain of grocery stores), and this job is very flexible and I've worked there for so long now (5+ years) that I can pretty much set my own schedule from semester to semester.

Research:
I've done this for my junior and senior years. I put in roughly 5-10 hours a week and it's for my thesis. Do it if you enjoy it, or if you have to for a thesis, class, major, etc.

Volunteering:
Weakest EC for me. All I did is volunteer in an ER for about 6 months during the 2nd semester of my junior year at like 3-6 hours a week. Not very significant, but I had thousands of hours of patient contact from work (I'm a pharmacy tech) so I guess that made up for the clinical aspect. Everyone and their dog does ER volunteering. But it is pretty interesting, and you get to roll volunteering and clinical experience into one. And that's what you gotta do, streamline.

Social life:
I'm engaged and enjoy the occasional party. So my weekends are pretty much split up between work at my fiancee, so that's basically my social life for the past two years. I got all my partying out of the way freshman/sophomore year, so I don't really feel like I've missed anything.

Sleep:
I make sure to get 8 hours of sleep a night, though for tests and crunch times it can go down to about 3-4 hours. I feel the best when I've sleep 8 hours a night, I've tried running on 5-6, and I don't get half as much done. Just tell yourself that you're going to bed at midnight, and that's that. Really, you can get a lot more out of that 30 minutes of sleep, than you would studying, reading, whatever.

Health:
A lot of Subway sandwiches lol, and I work out 4-5 times a week. Really, if you get this into a routine it doesn't end up cutting out too much time, and it's a nice study break. I figure, if you're spending more than an hour in the gym, you're wasting time (or a serious body builder, but I doubt many of us here are).

Anyway, this is probably too much info but I'm procrastinating before class. Good luck, and if you got any questions, just PM me.
 

efitzpat

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Best advice I can give is to do things you enjoy. That way it is much easier to make time for them and its not such a chore to do them.
What ultimately worked for me was cramming everything into 5 days of the week. That way, I had the weekend open to catch up with studying and spend time with my friends and family. Granted, this mean that I had 10-14 hour days most of the time. Most people did ECs on the weekend, but I needed those 2 days of nothingness to say sane.
Summer research is great and there a lot of opportunities and grants available. Also, at my school you can get class credit for doing research. So there are ways to make it ocunt doubly.

Ultimately you don't want to do anything just because you think you need it for medical school. I think adcoms will appreciate genuine interest and dedication more.
 
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