Tough Questions for Non-Trad

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What is the typical medical school student schedule, as in what are the normal/usual hours in class and studying weekly?

Is it true that many medical students don't go to class but are able to do well?

If a person has a family and wants/needs to stay in a certain city and it's indicated thusly in their application, when looking for residencies, do the residency programs care at all about that and consider it in their selection process?

Once in residency, say a "career" choice, such as Dermatology, Anasthesiology, or Radiology, what are the normal residency hours?



Senior Member - Resident
10+ Year Member
7+ Year Member
Apr 17, 2005
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I'll answer this quickly, although it may get moved to the non-trad forum. This is only my own opinion.

Hours - lots. During your first two years, you'll spend most of your time outside of class studying. I knew people who didn't go to class who felt that they could get all of their studying done during the day in order to have the evenings free with the family, but I don't know how they did it. For the sake of my sanity, I would usually try to take Friday afternoon and evening off - but the rest of the time, I was working - Saturdays and Sundays included. I lived off sandwiches and food that could be cooked in the microwave - the only times I ever cooked were the first week after test blocks. It's the only time in your life when housework will feel like a recreational break.

Yes, lots of people never go to class and do quite well. It depends on your learning style. I was a reader, which is pretty amenable to working at home. Plus, my school had an extensive online video and audio system for replaying lectures - which I think is pretty common these days. Most allopathic schools don't require attendance - although, especially in your first year, you will probably have some small-group sessions that are mandatory - and, of course, you have to show-up for gross anatomy lab.

Third and fourth year are up and down. Some rotations are pretty much 9-to-5; others involved (for me) 14 hour days and overnight call requirements where you sleep in the hospital (or try to sleep). In addition, you always have the "shelf" exam hanging over your head at the end of rotation - so you will do a great deal of studying and reading articles within your limited time at home. It's not easy.

Unfortunately, no, residencies don't much care about where you live or how settled you are. The positive side is, if you're applying to a residency connected with your own medical school, many residencies view their own graduates favorably. Other than that - you'll go where you match and you have very little control over the process. You're limited to an 80-hour workweek in residency averaged over 4 weeks and most programs fall somewhere between 60 and 80 hours with only one 24-hour period per week off. Some specialties have heavier overnight call requirements than others.

Sorry if this is mostly bad news, but medical school is just about the biggest commitment of time out of your life that you can make. I knew lots of people who didn't work as many hours as I did, but I also knew plenty of people who worked more hours.


Thank you for your honest reply. I hope I get a lot more honest and thoughtful responses.


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May 15, 2008
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I agree with the above, with the exception that I know that some residencies definitely do care and take into account that someone wants to live in a particular city. I mean for less competitive specialties like internal medicine, etc. and even for fellowships a lot of the time. That doesn't mean they'll take you just because you want to be in that city...but if you are competitive for the program anyway and you get to the interview (or you indicate in your personal statement, "I also wish to stay in Chicago due to having family here in town") then it can help your rank I think.