Imagine a typical day: wake up in the morning, make breakfast, catch up on the news, and get ready to go out and have some fun! Before you get too happy, we all know this is not a typical day in the life of a college student; especially, not for a student trying to get into graduate school while also working part-time, taking classes, researching and volunteering.
Granted, everyone in college is busy with one thing or another, but the difficulty of studying for a professional school exam on top of the work you’re already doing can be immense. This, however, does not mean it cannot be done. In fact, here are some ways to manage your time, keep your morale up, and make sure you’re preparing appropriately for the professional school exam itself.
Staying on top of everything can be an enormous challenge, but one thing that makes this undertaking manageable is planning out what needs to be done first, finding a way to stick to that plan, and executing it in a timely fashion. The best way to do this is by using a calendar or planner, whether it be online or hard-copy, this is an absolute must to keep track of the multitude of activities you are involved with. Another helpful tool is sticky notes; these can be found on any laptop app. store and they elucidate short-term goals, putting them at the forefront of your to-do list. In terms of managing your time with respect to any non-class related activities (research, volunteering, clubs, extra-curriculars) – prioritizing is key. Prioritizing involves internal examination and an ability to discern what needs to be done now and what can be done later. This can be influenced by social pressures as well as personal motivations, but it is by far the most crucial aspect of time management – both in and beyond the classroom.
Here are some time-management workshops offered by the SASC that might help: http://success.ucdavis.edu/study-strategies/index.html
Once you have prioritized what needs to be done now, you can work on methodically attacking each task. Using a sample day from my life, I hope to show exactly what I mean:
7:00-8:25 AM: Wake up, eat breakfast, get to school, pack study snacks, check emails
8:25-9:00 AM: Get to school, grab a coffee, walk to work
9:00-10:30 AM: Work at College of Biological Sciences – Peer adviser job
10:30-11:30 AM: Eat, clear my head, head back home,
11:30-1:00 PM: Go to the gym for a workout, shower, head back to school
1:00-2:00 PM: Review lecture material prior to class
2:00-4:00 PM: Lecture – MCB
4:15-8:00 PM: Study for professional exam (In my case, the MCAT), get dinner as well
8:00-9:30 PM: Have club meeting
9:45-12:00 AM: Study for my classes
12:00-12:45 AM: Head home, unwind, plan out next day
Now this is just a given day from my week, but it was particularly useful in showing how many activities and commitments a given student might have to deal with and how prioritizing involves doing some things more and ultimately saving other tasks for later.
Ideally, once something is planned, it should be set in stone and followed, but anyone who has planned something knows that this is not the case. Often times impediments or road-blocks appear and plans can be delayed or even foiled. In times when something does get in the way of your plan, you should deal with it first and find a way to make an adjustment to the plan you had made previously. Some of these road-blocks can involve adversity: emotional, academic, social and even personal. When adversity does strike it is important that you keep your morale up, approach the issue in a positive light, and take it one step at a time. This means that no matter how devastating something might be, you have to know that you can overcome it. Furthermore, keeping your morale up, entails staying healthy mentally. This means not overloading yourself, being able to have a social outlet, communicating feelings with others, and having some personal time. A small way to help yourself in this department is to set aside some slots of your schedule as personal time, kind of like what I do from 10:30-11:30 AM in my schedule.
There are also numerous services that help with this offered by SCHS and can be found here: https://shcs.ucdavis.edu/services/mindspa.html
Lastly, the professional school exam itself is meant to be one of the criteria used for selecting students into a specific graduate program. This means that it is substantially difficult in nature and a huge test of a student’s skills they have accumulated as an undergraduate. Studying for the exam presents many challenges to a student, especially during the academic year – he or she must find time to balance their current workload, commitments and activities while preparing specifically for their exam. Doing this is enormously difficult but vastly rewarding as well. To help yourself, you may consider scheduling an appointment with Health Professions Advising ( http://hpa.ucdavis.edu/ ) or explore using a test prep company such as Kaplan, The Princeton Review etc. If you implement the proper planning skills, make sure to keep your morale up, and methodically approach your professional exam then you have put yourself in the best position possible to succeed and make your dreams a reality.
All the best and good luck,
Peer Adviser – College of Biological Sciences
4th Year Biochemistry and Molecular Biology Major