Nontrad Pre-Meds: How many hours a week do you study? What's your methodology?

Feb 2, 2010
92
1
Louisiana
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Pre-Medical
I've seen this post a ton of times, but I haven't found one directed solely at nontrads.

What have you found successful as a nontrad in an effective balance between your work/life commitments and studying time?

The best advice I've been given (from an incredibly successful doctor) is to take new notes on everything that was gone over in class every day, even if it means staying up until midnight or 1am every day. Then using weekend afternoons solely for review and/or catch-up. That way you don't burn out because you have your weekend evenings as free time OR as volunteer time and your weekend mornings as recovery from the night before OR as volunteer time.

For me, this means I get off work anywhere between 6-8pm (because I work 8 hours a day and mix in school, so I have a long day starting at 7am to get my 8 work hours plus school hours for 2 science/lab courses a semester) and I'll have 1 hour for exercise/meals, 3-5 hours for study on weekdays, effectively offering me 12-20 hours of studying during the week, then anywhere from 12-24 hours to study on the weekend.

I'm just now starting my pre-med, so I'll see if this schedule works for me or not, but I thought I'd share and see how others are tackling the pre-med beast. :cool:
 
Aug 10, 2009
1,807
13
Tulsa, OK
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Medical Student
I'm just now starting my pre-med, so I'll see if this schedule works for me or not, but I thought I'd share and see how others are tackling the pre-med beast. :cool:
The fact is that I haven't really been a good student for the last couple of years. I've made straight A's only because I very carefully calibrate exactly how many points I need to make to get through this class with the extreme minimum of effort. I'm graduating with only 1 credit hour more than required. I've taken the easiest possible classes that I could find to fulfill requirements. (Next semester I am actually taking "Phys Ed 101" online )

I still burned out after 2 years. Fortunately, I am getting laid off with Trade Allowance benefits in 10 days and my last semester in undergrad will be as a full-time student.

I planned to do the same that that you described when I started this - work 40 hours a week and take 12 hours every semester. You won't be able to keep up this up for long.

My suggestion is to read the syllabus carefully and make sure that you know exactly where you are in each class and what needs to be done. Treat your time like a miser treats his first gold piece. Fight against every friend who thinks that you can afford a 2 hour phone call discussing his marriage problems. Schedule in time to do fun things, but make sure that they are YOUR fun things - not everyone else's.

My church owns part of my time. I often teach Sunday school and I lead worship in each service, but I will not let them own my holidays for canoe trips, and they can't take my time for a thanksgiving get-together.

This has not been an easy couple of years, and I am glad that I am getting over it. I depending on medical school not being harder.
 
OP
lsu hopeful
Feb 2, 2010
92
1
Louisiana
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Pre-Medical
I planned to do the same that that you described when I started this - work 40 hours a week and take 12 hours every semester. You won't be able to keep up this up for long.
Very good insight. I have a Bachelors already, so I'm just taking 2 science/lab courses a semester, for a total of 8 hours. I know some people managed to do 12 and make it work, but I know I'm not one of them.

Interested to hear more stories, hours, etc.
 

MCAT guy

...
May 24, 2010
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11
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Other Health Professions Student
I've seen this post a ton of times, but I haven't found one directed solely at nontrads.

What have you found successful as a nontrad in an effective balance between your work/life commitments and studying time?

The best advice I've been given (from an incredibly successful doctor) is to take new notes on everything that was gone over in class every day, even if it means staying up until midnight or 1am every day. Then using weekend afternoons solely for review and/or catch-up. That way you don't burn out because you have your weekend evenings as free time OR as volunteer time and your weekend mornings as recovery from the night before OR as volunteer time.

For me, this means I get off work anywhere between 6-8pm (because I work 8 hours a day and mix in school, so I have a long day starting at 7am to get my 8 work hours plus school hours for 2 science/lab courses a semester) and I'll have 1 hour for exercise/meals, 3-5 hours for study on weekdays, effectively offering me 12-20 hours of studying during the week, then anywhere from 12-24 hours to study on the weekend.

I'm just now starting my pre-med, so I'll see if this schedule works for me or not, but I thought I'd share and see how others are tackling the pre-med beast. :cool:
I was a very good student the past few years. I couldn't imagine beginning studying after a 12 hour work day (7am - 7pm). Med school isn't even that rough.

Never schedule every waking hour of your day. Never. The busiest I ever liked to be was 12 hours of scheduled work in day. That meant I was super busy. But when I worked, I worked. No down time.

I feel like a 4.0 could be achieved by a full time student with < 6 hours of study 6 days a week. That is 12-15 units. Labs are a different animal because they are so time consuming sometimes.

8 science units? I would probably say 3-4 hours a day would be plenty with a ramp up before tests. But again, planning every waking hour will be the beginning of the end for you.
 

MacVA

10+ Year Member
Aug 28, 2008
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for 2 science/lab courses a semester) and I'll have 1 hour for exercise/meals, 3-5 hours for study on weekdays, effectively offering me 12-20 hours of studying during the week, then anywhere from 12-24 hours to study on the weekend... :cool:
Studying for 12-20 hours during the week and taking two lab science courses a semester? And wait studying for 12-24 hours during the weekend?

You aren't really doing this; are you? You will burn out quick. You really should need more than 12 hours of study time per week unless the lab report writeups for your class are extremely time consuming.
 
Nov 28, 2010
138
1
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Pre-Health (Field Undecided)
my schedule in college was VERY different because i was a traditional student in every sense except that i was raising my daughter as a single parent.

NOW...i am working full-time in research (hours are 930-530) and beginning an MCAT prep course either in feb, march, or april (i have not decided which one yet), the hours of which will be pretty hellacious. my study schedule currently includes study time after my daughter goes to sleep, usually beginning around 8/830PM at night and going until between 12AM-1AM. luckily my husband does a lot of freelance work (web design) on top of his full-time position, so he is pretty busy at night himself. i think a burn out is in my future :)) i think once i get the MCAT over with (planning to take it this summer), things will calm down a lot as long as i do relatively well on it. i am going to do a post-bacc, though, beginning after my MCAT is over, either summer session II or fall 2011, because my work pays for it.

it would be nice to not have to work and just stay home and study:laugh: i miss my college days!
 
Aug 10, 2009
1,807
13
Tulsa, OK
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Medical Student
i think once i get the MCAT over with (planning to take it this summer), things will calm down a lot as long as i do relatively well on it. i am going to do a post-bacc, though, beginning after my MCAT is over, either summer session II or fall 2011, because my work pays for it. !
I've seen people take the MCAT years early like this and I don't understand why. The more familiar you are with biology - genetics, biochemistry, anatomy and physiology the better you will do.

The MCAT is typically the last thing that people do before applying - because every science class that you take adds a point or more to your score.

I think that people approach the MCAT as if it is just another standardized test - and it isn't. The MCAT prep industry tells people that the MCAT only tests 1000 and 2000 level science knowledge and that is only true in a minimalist sense. What the prep industry does not tell you is that they can't really help you prepare. The only prep for the MCAT is a really thorough grounding in university level science with a lot of exposure to upper level biology.
 

spiderpete

dontstartalandwarinasia
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Dec 6, 2008
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I've seen people take the MCAT years early like this and I don't understand why. The more familiar you are with biology - genetics, biochemistry, anatomy and physiology the better you will do.
I agree with this and wish I had more (read 'any') upper level bio courses before MCAT. But taking all the undergrad prereqs in one year and immediately before MCAT was a great help.

As for schedule, I was balancing 8 hours of science classes per semester (but no other courses), ~10 hours of work (self employed, so very flexible about when the work got done), wife and 3 little kids, volunteering (but not the last 6 months before MCAT), and a 1 hour commute to school. So...
Up at 4-4:30am
1/2 hour of exercise (essential to maintain sanity and energy level)
1 hour of MCAT Audio Osmosis or review of recorded lectures on commute
At school by 6-6:30 am
Study for 2-2 1/2 hours
Class and study until about 4 or 5pm
Commute home (tunes, phone calls for work, chill)
Family time 6-9pm, then bed
Weekends - a few hours of work, lots of family and friends time, studying only when test load was heavy (mid terms and finals). When I was volunteering it was either during a weekday evening and involved my kids (like coaching or church stuff), or Friday evenings at the local hospital ED.

I'd guess I was doing about 20-25 hours/week of studying on top of class time. I never felt burnt out, I think because I had a lot of personal time baked in. Also, this schedule wasn't rigid. There were nights where I stayed late at school and studied and mornings where I slept in. But more or less this is what I did and I was happy with the results.
 
Jun 18, 2010
272
38
Status
Pre-Health (Field Undecided)
I've seen this post a ton of times, but I haven't found one directed solely at nontrads.

What have you found successful as a nontrad in an effective balance between your work/life commitments and studying time?

The best advice I've been given (from an incredibly successful doctor) is to take new notes on everything that was gone over in class every day, even if it means staying up until midnight or 1am every day. Then using weekend afternoons solely for review and/or catch-up. That way you don't burn out because you have your weekend evenings as free time OR as volunteer time and your weekend mornings as recovery from the night before OR as volunteer time.

For me, this means I get off work anywhere between 6-8pm (because I work 8 hours a day and mix in school, so I have a long day starting at 7am to get my 8 work hours plus school hours for 2 science/lab courses a semester) and I'll have 1 hour for exercise/meals, 3-5 hours for study on weekdays, effectively offering me 12-20 hours of studying during the week, then anywhere from 12-24 hours to study on the weekend.

I'm just now starting my pre-med, so I'll see if this schedule works for me or not, but I thought I'd share and see how others are tackling the pre-med beast. :cool:
I read the chapter BEFORE the class and TAKE NOTES. So, when a professor is lecturing, I already know the stuff. And then I take notes in class as well. So, when the exam comes, I don't need to study much, only memorizing some details maybe.
 

PostHaste

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Jun 7, 2010
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I'm taking Ochem 1, 3 online classes, and the Princeton Review MCAT online class right now.

Ochem - I put in about 6 hours a week total, class + studying.
- Go to 2 out of 3 classes a week (b/c of work meetings)
- 3-hour study session on Wednesdays (all tests/quizzes are on Fridays). I'll usually copy notes from missed classes from a classmember and do the practice problems during this time. Helping the other people in the group is probably the biggest help to my studying.
- Stop in to office hours immediately after class if there's something I don't understand.
- I make summary sheets before each test, about 3-5 pages per test. Put these together = study sheets for final exam.
- Altogether, this seems to be working well for me; I have a comfortable A in the class and feel like have a good grasp of the material for the most part.

Online classes - About 2 hrs/week each, plus reading time.

PR class - 10 hrs/week of class, 2 hrs/week of reading, 1-2 hrs/week of questions.

I'm not taking the MCAT until March and will ramp the practice time up after the course is done. I probably will not exceed 10 hrs/week of MCAT study in the 2 months before the test, though. Biology is my weakest subject and my classes are bio-heavy next term; I'm hoping that will offset it some.

I work ~36 hrs/week in the office + ~4 hrs/week from home as an engineer, am married with 2 kids under 4. I'm not volunteering right now except at church as a Sunday School teacher once a month. I'm definitely stressed, but in more of a work-hardening way than a fracturing way.
 
OP
lsu hopeful
Feb 2, 2010
92
1
Louisiana
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Pre-Medical
I'm definitely stressed, but in more of a work-hardening way than a fracturing way.
Definitely a good statement to remind myself over and over throughout pre-med. Thanks.
 
Dec 16, 2010
106
0
Status
Pre-Medical
I've been working fulltime, going to school fulltime (18 hours/sem), and volunteering for 2 years. I have a lousy 3.75 PostBacc GPA BECAUSE I didn't quit my job and focus solely on school. You can balance it all but one way or another it'll show as it has in my case.

My weekly hours break down like this:

Work ................. 40 hours
Class/Lab ........... 22 hours
Sleep ................ 44 hours
Volunteer ............ 4 hours
Hygiene/Exercise.. 14 hours
Commuting ......... 10 hours
Study ................ 27 hours
Research ............. 3 hours
Misc ................... 4 hours

Every hour is accounted for. By the end of each semester I'm a complete wreck. In between semesters I catch up on sleep, friendship, etc. But during the semester there's no television, no socialization outside of class, no facebook, no SDN, and not much sleep.

I don't have much time for studying but I maximize my study time as much as I can. I don't multitask. I focus completely on the book at hand. I also pay close attention in class, keeping my textbook open during class and taking notes. It's terrible. I even study while driving by rote recitation of biochemical reactions.

Advice?

Don't multitask. Minimize internet facetime. Be completely focused on whatever it is that you're doing: when you're at work focus on work, during family time, focus on them, and when you're at school or studying don't let anything distract you. Keep the BlackBerry (or whatever) and laptop at bay - they're both major time suckages.

Good Luck!
 

IHOPness

H. H. Holmes
Dec 19, 2010
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Funny Farm
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With 20+ credit hours last semester, I devoted 40-50 hours weekly to studying and writing papers.

I try to stay consistent with the times and places where I study in order to reduce distractions. I also try to read the first several chapters for each class before the course even begins so that I have a little wiggle room for anything that life throws my way.
 

mauberley

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Don't multitask. Minimize internet facetime. Be completely focused on whatever it is that you're doing: when you're at work focus on work, during family time, focus on them, and when you're at school or studying don't let anything distract you.
And when you're driving...for the love of your fellow roadway users, please focus on driving. ;)
 

TickTock719

obviously procrastinating
Feb 19, 2010
39
0
Chicago
Status
Medical Student
Advice?

Don't multitask. Minimize internet facetime. Be completely focused on whatever it is that you're doing: when you're at work focus on work, during family time, focus on them, and when you're at school or studying don't let anything distract you. Keep the BlackBerry (or whatever) and laptop at bay - they're both major time suckages.

Good Luck!
Best advice ever. I learned to do this while working full-time, taking orgo/bio at night & volunteering, and it pays major dividends in med school.

Figure out your most efficient study methods. I find flash cards useless, but I remember almost everything when I teach someone else (or pretend to).

I've always needed a full 24-hour period every week completely free from work/books/studying (except before finals, when I cut it down to 12 hrs). Usually it starts about 6PM Friday. My relationships are better too because my BF/friends/family know I'll be more relaxed and focused on them.

I also found that I could get in 20-30 mins of really productive studying at my desk during lunch or at the beginning/end of the day at work.
 
Dec 16, 2010
106
0
Status
Pre-Medical
Figure out your most efficient study methods. I find flash cards useless, but I remember almost everything when I teach someone else (or pretend to).
"Teaching" others has been my best study tool. At one point this last semester, I was even teaching my dog. If he could talk he'd be able to tell you all about the secretion pathway including COPII, COPI, and Clathrin protein coats. Insane? Yes. But it helped.
 
Dec 16, 2010
106
0
Status
Pre-Medical
And when you're driving...for the love of your fellow roadway users, please focus on driving. ;)
LOL. I've gotten much better. I read an index card at a light then just repeat it over and over while I'm driving with eyes on the road.
 
OP
lsu hopeful
Feb 2, 2010
92
1
Louisiana
Status
Pre-Medical
"Teaching" others has been my best study tool. At one point this last semester, I was even teaching my dog. If he could talk he'd be able to tell you all about the secretion pathway including COPII, COPI, and Clathrin protein coats. Insane? Yes. But it helped.
Epic win! I can see the headline now... "Since Dogs Learned to Talk, First Dog to Become Doctor"
 
Nov 28, 2010
138
1
Status
Pre-Health (Field Undecided)
I've seen people take the MCAT years early like this and I don't understand why. The more familiar you are with biology - genetics, biochemistry, anatomy and physiology the better you will do.

The MCAT is typically the last thing that people do before applying - because every science class that you take adds a point or more to your score.

I think that people approach the MCAT as if it is just another standardized test - and it isn't. The MCAT prep industry tells people that the MCAT only tests 1000 and 2000 level science knowledge and that is only true in a minimalist sense. What the prep industry does not tell you is that they can't really help you prepare. The only prep for the MCAT is a really thorough grounding in university level science with a lot of exposure to upper level biology.

except for the fact that i JUST graduated this may and am the age of a traditional student; my family life is just very different because i am married with a 6 year old. i was a biotechnology major and took MANY upper level science courses which are still very fresh in my mind - i just finished biochem this past may. i am taking the MCAT this summer before my post-bacc because that is what works best for me. i can see how if you have been out of school for awhile, it would be beneficial to take courses before the MCAT. however, my situation is different. in fact, the only reason i am taking a post-bacc is because my work pays for it and id like to boost my sci gpa a bit (right now it is about a 3.45).
 
Aug 10, 2009
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Tulsa, OK
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except for the fact that i JUST graduated this may and am the age of a traditional student; my family life is just very different because i am married with a 6 year old. i was a biotechnology major and took MANY upper level science courses which are still very fresh in my mind - i just finished biochem this past may. i am taking the MCAT this summer before my post-bacc because that is what works best for me. i can see how if you have been out of school for awhile, it would be beneficial to take courses before the MCAT. however, my situation is different. in fact, the only reason i am taking a post-bacc is because my work pays for it and id like to boost my sci gpa a bit (right now it is about a 3.45).
Yes, I understand that your situation is different here. If you have recent biochemistry and you feel confident in the physical sciences, then an MCAT right now is reasonable.

I spoke to a fellow student a couple of years ago who was just then taking Zoology and he had already taken the MCAT and got a 19. That didn't seem reasonable.
 

Rustifer

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Dec 7, 2008
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I've never kept track of how many hours a week I study. I just put in as much time is needed until I feel like I know the material. Nor do I feel like I have any preferred way/method of studying; it changes from class to class even within a semester.
 

Isoprop

Fascinating, tell me more
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It's quality not quantity. I always try to maximize quality study time. Active learning beats passive learning. Try to get as many repetitions as possible. Study in small increments instead of long stretches.

I don't believe the number of hours tell you anything. We've all been through long periods of "studying" where nothing seems to stick. Doing that for ten hours per day is pretty worthless.
 

Esquire

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Feb 10, 2009
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There was no balance for me.

I studied 7 days a week the entire semester, including holidays, kid's birthday, etc. Not a single day off. I don't know the average hours, but my goal was to make sure I studied every day.

I felt tired towards the end of the semester, but I sucked it up.

The work was worth it & I got all A's, including the top score in one of my classes.

Now that the semester is over, it feels weird not to study. I'll probably start reading up on next semester's materials soon.


I've seen this post a ton of times, but I haven't found one directed solely at nontrads.

What have you found successful as a nontrad in an effective balance between your work/life commitments and studying time?

The best advice I've been given (from an incredibly successful doctor) is to take new notes on everything that was gone over in class every day, even if it means staying up until midnight or 1am every day. Then using weekend afternoons solely for review and/or catch-up. That way you don't burn out because you have your weekend evenings as free time OR as volunteer time and your weekend mornings as recovery from the night before OR as volunteer time.

For me, this means I get off work anywhere between 6-8pm (because I work 8 hours a day and mix in school, so I have a long day starting at 7am to get my 8 work hours plus school hours for 2 science/lab courses a semester) and I'll have 1 hour for exercise/meals, 3-5 hours for study on weekdays, effectively offering me 12-20 hours of studying during the week, then anywhere from 12-24 hours to study on the weekend.

I'm just now starting my pre-med, so I'll see if this schedule works for me or not, but I thought I'd share and see how others are tackling the pre-med beast. :cool:
 

ineed2stpsmurfn

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Dec 5, 2008
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LOL. I've gotten much better. I read an index card at a light then just repeat it over and over while I'm driving with eyes on the road.
hahahaha i do this.. only i have mostly highway driving to and from school so i can actually go thru my flashcards many times in the 1 hour total i spend every day commuting lol..:D
 
Feb 16, 2011
395
6
Earth
Status
Pre-Medical
I'm taking
O-chem I AND O-chem two BOTH in this fall term (sequentially) w/labs
Medical Spanish
Physics I w/lab
Also studying for MCAT and volunteering, plus service a few web clients from time to time.

I guess I study/take classes about 40 hours per week.

My typical day goes something like this (thought times of day may change)

I started this schedule (different classes) about a month ago and it is working well for me. The key is the meditation/jogging/biking and Nike breaks

  • Jog/Meditate/Eat til 8:30am
  • 8:30am to 3pm study/class (with 15 min breaks every 90 minutes to do Nike Training App on iphone)
  • 3pm-4pm Bike Ride
  • 4pm-5pm study
  • 5pm-6pm dinner
  • 6pm-8pm study
  • 8pm on - my time
  • Fridays volunteer
  • Saturdays volunteer and/or study
  • Sundays OFF!
 

ineed2stpsmurfn

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I'm taking
O-chem I AND O-chem two BOTH in this fall term (sequentially) w/labs
Medical Spanish
Physics I w/lab
wow... and you mean concurrently i assume. phys 1, ochems 1 & 2 all in the same semester... lol holy crap. :eek:
 

ShoTyme

We're going STREAKING!!!
Jul 25, 2011
558
5
Dallas, TX
Status
Pre-Medical
I'm taking
O-chem I AND O-chem two BOTH in this fall term (sequentially) w/labs
Medical Spanish
Physics I w/lab
Also studying for MCAT and volunteering, plus service a few web clients from time to time.

I guess I study/take classes about 40 hours per week.

My typical day goes something like this (thought times of day may change)

I started this schedule (different classes) about a month ago and it is working well for me. The key is the meditation/jogging/biking and Nike breaks

  • Jog/Meditate/Eat til 8:30am
  • 8:30am to 3pm study/class (with 15 min breaks every 90 minutes to do Nike Training App on iphone)
  • 3pm-4pm Bike Ride
  • 4pm-5pm study
  • 5pm-6pm dinner
  • 6pm-8pm study
  • 8pm on - my time
  • Fridays volunteer
  • Saturdays volunteer and/or study
  • Sundays OFF!
How do you take Ochem 1 and 2 in the same semester? Right now I'm taking Ochem 1 with lab, physics 1 with lab, Biology 2 with lab, and Stats. Your exercise regiment looks great. I feel like I study much more efficiently now that I've been working out everyday. I feel like it gives me so much more mental energy than I had before. So the best studying advice I can give is to exercise regularly and make sure to eat good food. Don't get caught in the trap of eating crap because it's fast. To prove this point, I made a dinner for my brother last week in the time it took him to go get a burger down the street.
 

MedWonk

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Well, usually I study a little bit in the morning, eat lunch, then study for 3 or 4 hours before class (all my classes are in the evening, commute is about an hour). Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays no class. I study/do homework 6-8 hours on those days. Plus volunteering 6 hours/week.

Thus far it's worked out. It's nice to have a study schedule a bit less hectic than what I had in the summer.

I don't really study with the goal of studying for a set amount of time per day. I usually study each day until I feel like I have a solid grasp of the material,though sometimes I'll cut myself off to prevent my brain from turning to mush. Too much studying becomes counterproductive and you find yourself just going through the motions and not actually learning anything. How much is too much will vary from person to person. I find 8-9 hours to be my max threshold before my brain starts to tune out and I need a break.
 
Feb 16, 2011
395
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How do you take Ochem 1 and 2 in the same semester?
They are self paced, which means I just go through the course at double the designed pace.

I study much more efficiently now that I've been working out everyday. I feel like it gives me so much more mental energy than I had before. So the best studying advice I can give is to exercise regularly and make sure to eat good food. .
Yes, that is what I found. The physical activity makes a huge difference. I love my I-Phone because it lets me take little fitness breaks quite easily.


Don't get caught in the trap of eating crap because it's fast. To prove this point, I made a dinner for my brother last week in the time it took him to go get a burger down the street.
That is so true. Plus I think it is so much easier to think/learn when fueled with good healthy food. Also I only allow myself wine once a week because I feel that alcohol slows me down.