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Peer Advice: How to have a School-Life Balance

Image of person on see saw with one side labeled school work and the other side labeled social life

After graduation, we all strive to have a good work-life balance. So shouldn’t we strive for  a good school-life balance too?

Welcome to MBKU! You’re about to start a new chapter of your life, make new friends and have an endless amount of new experiences. Regardless if you are joining SPAS, COP or SCCO, you may be feeling some apprehension, excitement or both on starting grad school in a month from now. A common misconception of grad school is that you must eat, sleep, study and repeat. While it will be a big part of your life, I’m here to share that it is possible to have a school-life balance. (I am a part of SCCO so these tips may not apply to COP or SPAS.) It is easy to be caught up in the whirlwind that is grad school but here are some of my tips to help stay grounded:

  1. Plan ahead if you know you’re going to be busy on the weekends.

Giving yourself time to have fun on the weekends can be stressful if you have proficiencies or exams early on in the upcoming week, yet studying all the time will lead to burn out. One thing I do to prevent being overwhelmed is to put all of my exam and proficiency dates in my calendar at the beginning of the quarter. This way I know what exams will happen each week and will have a rough estimate on how much studying I will need to get done during that weekend or week. Doing this helps me see whether I have time to go out with my friends and relax or if I have to devote more of my time to studying.

If I know that an especially hard exam is coming up and I still want to do something fun the weekend beforehand, I will start studying for that exam earlier. I would also be sure to be caught up on all of the lectures beforehand as well so that when I do get down to memorizing and understanding the material I already have a baseline of familiarity. For example, if I wanted to do something fun on Saturday but had an exam on Tuesday I would try to be caught up on all of the lecture material by Friday and then get into the details on Sunday and Monday.

Students at their end of year banquet

  1. Fall quarter will be your lightest load of coursework so go explore!

For SCCO, the course load gradually increases with each quarter. In fall, you have one exam a week, in winter you’ll have one or two a week and then in spring you’ll have two a week. I know this sounds daunting but you’ll be well prepared by the time spring comes.

With that in mind, go have fun once you find studying techniques that work for you. Definitely take the time to adjust to the rigor of grad school classes, but keep in mind that it might be the most free time you’ll have during the school year. During my first quarter, I and a few of my classmates went up to Berkeley for the Western Regional Conference. We were only in the Bay for two days and had an exam coming up but it was worth it.

Students at the Western Regional Conference

  1. It is possible to change your lab schedule for a week.

In grad school, you will have to make some sacrifices but you don’t have to miss out on big life events! Let’s say your cousin is getting married on a Friday afternoon, but that’s when you have a lab. Instead of completely missing out on lab or missing the wedding, you can switch into a different lab time for that week! All you have to do is find another person in that lab time that works better for you and ask them if they would be okay attending your lab session instead. Then let the professor know beforehand, fill out a form, and submit it! This way you won’t have to worry about falling behind or missing out.

Also, if you cannot attend a different lab there is another alternative. Some professors are willing to help you out and have a one-on-one session with them if you cannot make it to the lab that week. Remember, they want to help you grow into a health professional but also want you to live your life and be a well-rounded individual. Most of the time they won’t be upset if you have to miss your usual lab time as long as you make up for it.

  1. Remember you’re in school to become a capable healthcare professional, not to be a perfect student.

It is important to do your best in school but if you feel burnt out and mentally drained, give yourself the time to relax and take your mind off of school. At the end of it all you will be prepared for the future, so make sure you make some good memories along the way!

Students at a pumpkin patch