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How to Build Successful Study Habits for Med School

August 24, 2022
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If there's one thing that students learn in med school, it's that you can be a smart, successful student without feeling stress or burnout. In fact, the most successful students are often the ones who approach learning as an adventure. They relish each challenge they face with curiosity and optimism.

It's not always easy to stay motivated when you're studying for long hours every day and dealing with all those life changes that come with med school, but if you set up some intelligent study habits early on, it'll make a massive difference down the road. Here are some guaranteed methods to improve your successful study habits at SJSM.

Learn Your Learning Style

Learning styles are different for each person, so it's important to identify yours. There are four types of learning styles: auditory, visual, kinesthetic, and tactile. You might prefer listening to audiobooks or watching videos, writing notes or drawing pictures, or recording lectures and taking notes. Knowing your learning style will help you determine how best to study for med school exams—and how much time you should spend.

Identify Productive Times

For many people, the ideal time to study is in the morning. If you're one of these folks, try to do all of your studying during that window. It's also helpful to identify your peak times and figure out when your mind is at its sharpest throughout the day. Then, make sure that at least some of your studying aligns with those rare moments. You might even want to keep a calendar tracking when you're most productive so that you can plan accordingly.

Make an Appointment with Yourself

Think of your study sessions as appointments with yourself that you cannot miss. This places more emphasis on these moments in time and prioritizes them over other aspects of your college career.

Set a Realistic Schedule

You're going to be constantly busy, so it's essential to keep your schedule reasonable. This is a marathon, not a sprint. So don't over schedule yourself!

Yes, you might feel like you have the time and energy to do everything right now. But once school starts, it will become apparent very quickly that your schedule is already full. You won't have time for extra activities or commitments if they're not going to help get you where you want to go. Be gentle and flexible with yourself as you learn what scheduling works best.

Take Breaks

Breaks are important for reducing stress and improving productivity. They can be as simple as taking a walk around your campus or as involved as going on vacation with friends. The important thing is to have a plan in place so that you know how often to take breaks, how long they should last, and what steps you need to take before returning back to studying. If you don't plan out when/how/why you will take breaks, you may end up feeling guilty about doing something other than schoolwork.

Stay Organized

It's crucial to stay organized, especially in the hectic world of medical school. Make a list of all your assignments, exams, and projects due throughout the term. This will help you manage your time wisely and allow you to get everything done on time. It's also helpful to make checklists for each assignment—that way if you miss something while working on an essay or studying for a test, it'll be easy enough to add it back onto your schedule.

Get a Study Partner

Just like losing weight or building an athletic career, having someone who can hold you accountable to your study schedule will boost your success rate. You will feel like you are not alone and have a second mind willing to bounce ideas and reference materials from.

Stay Healthy

Move throughout the day and eat a well-balanced diet. You do not need to have the perfect body to be a med student, but you do need a lot of energy and staying in shape is a great way to stay awake and alert.

It’s Not About Perfection - It’s About Routine

You may be tempted to obsess over grades and being perfect, but that's a huge mistake. Your grades in med school are largely irrelevant—what matters is your performance on the boards and how well you can communicate with patients.

As far as being perfect goes, perfectionism is one of the biggest obstacles for students struggling with mental health issues like depression or anxiety. If you're striving for perfection in all aspects of your life, not only will you never be satisfied with your work and performance, but also you'll set yourself up for unnecessary stress and anxiety when things inevitably don't go exactly as planned.

Focus on what you want from this experience and where you want your medical degree to take you next. You can be a smart, successful student without feeling stress or burnout. Take your time and find those supportive habits that will allow you to go from a matriculated student at SJSM to a graduate and proud alumnus.

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