A lot of people wonder if it’s possible to have a social life during med school. Watered down, the answer is yes, but it takes work. If you are reading this as a student about to enter medical school, or if you are thinking about medical school for the future, my advice would be to not worry about this yet. Like every turn in life, you figure out how to adapt when you get there.
The advice I have on how to adapt is likely advice that you have heard before: Plan your schedule, make to-do lists, prioritize, set goals and deadlines, avoid perfectionism, and honestly assess the amount of time you spend on each task. You probably already do this to a certain extent, it just becomes more crucial in medical school with the increased workload and faster turn-around times. Buy a calendar and assignment book, and make sure that you take time to plan things out. While this may seem like more work, it will be helpful long-term.
The good news I have regarding how to have a social life in med school is that all medical students will be figuring out the same balancing act. Most programs are designed to have all students take the same classes, so it will be easy to create relationships with people that understand your scholastic needs. This also makes it possible to study with other students and friends, which on a rough week, can be a nice social “break.” You will want to try having study parties on the weekend with friends, or do work with colleagues at a coffee shop, giving you the opportunity to catch up and talk before becoming focused on the tasks on front of you. If you’re more likely to study alone, try making some of your daily habits a social component of your day. For example, get a group together to go to the gym, cook dinner with friends, run errands with friends, etc. As for maintaining relationships outside of medical school, it all comes back to planning. Plan which nights you will go see friends a few weeks in advance so that you know it will definitely happen, and you know to manage your time leading up to the event.
For students entering medical school with your own kids and/or a spouse, balancing your life may be extra difficult. While I do not personally balance a family with school, I have several friends in school that have found a way for this to work. They have shared with me that it is important to have a strong support system to help you out when things are hectic. They have also told me that their time-management is a bit more tightly regulated, and includes an “ending time” — for example, every day after 7pm is family time, no matter what.
Taking time away from your studies to be with friends and family is incredibly important. As you are going through school to become a healthcare provider, you need to make sure that you are keeping yourself healthy as well. Maintaining and creating relationships is one of the most important ways to create a healthy lifestyle. These relationships will be crucial when you are stressed and need a support system, and also when you are happy and looking to celebrate. Yes, it takes some effort to figure out an appropriate work-life balance, but it is definitely possible, and you will be able to do it.
Kate Levenberg is a second year medical student at Penn State College of Medicine. She completed her undergraduate degree in 2017 at Elon University.