Surviving Pre-med: When Work-Life Balance Matters Most

December 04, 2014

AMSA and national partner Kaplan have teamed up for a blog series featuring AMSA leadership from across the country. We are calling this series The Premed Experience, and each week AMSA’s On Call and Kaplan’s Med School Pulse will post new articles from AMSA leaders on their premedical experience and journey to medical school.

by Laté Lawson-Hellu, Professionalism Coordinator, AMSA Pre-medical Leadership Team

Pre-med. That “Pre-,” tell us that we are working toward a specific goal. In our case that goal is medical school. With a great goal comes great challenges that we deal with day in and day out just so that one day we might lose the status “pre” and finally be one step closer to our common dream profession. Life as a pre-med student is incredibly challenging, and some of us face other external challenges due the environment we live in. For instance, some have to financially support themselves while taking classes, or some are taking classes and preparing for the MCAT. Some may also have to financially support their family while working toward their goals. Between going to school, working, and trying to stay sane (enjoying life), we risk an imbalance that can significantly affect our lives.

I am a junior pre-med student at the University of South Florida pursuing a major in biomedical science and two minors respectively in physics and gerontology. I also work about 30 hours a week while attending school mostly to assist my family as much as I can since my father cannot work and my mother is currently in Nursing School. Trying to keep good grades in order to get into a decent medical school is pretty challenging not to mention working while trying to keep good grades to get into medical school. Nevertheless, it is crucial to learn how to keep a balanced life.

My first semester as a premed was catastrophic. Between working, caring for my parents, trying to look after my brother, and getting good grades, I had no life whatsoever. My life was a cycle of three: Work-School-Home. I did not even have time to speak to my closest friends or family members. I kept at it for two whole months before everything started falling apart. My grades were suffering which made me stressful all the time. I was always in my room at home, away from my family and I was always mad for some reason. The only thing that was not taking a toll was my job. Two of the most important things in the world to me were seriously falling apart and I realized I had to do something or my dream will be flushed down the toilet.

I realized that I needed balance. It became the crucial word I worked around and I continue to focus on it to this day. Being disciplined was the only way I considered I still had the possibility of being successful. I sat down one hot day in front of the library at my school, and figured out that I only needed about 27 hours at work to be helping at home, pay my bills and still have enough for myself each month. I also took into account that there were only 24 hours in a day and so I allocated time for my classes, study time, and work. This helped me realize that I still had time to sleep a decent amount and spare one or two hours to relax with my family or hangout with a friend each day.

I had to learn how to make everything fit the hard way and I still struggle at times; however, we are Pre-med and our well-being as well as our grades are dependent upon us going out of our comfort zone to make our goal or dream a reality. It is assumed or expected for us pre-med students to have no life but it is crucial that we find a way to be able to take breaks sometimes and allow our brain to relax. Do not learn that the hard way like I did. Take it from my experience and do what it takes to live a balanced life and be as successful as you can. It may not be easy, but that is what we have signed up for.