New member asks: med school with Kids...what are the hours really like?

Hello all…this website is kind of a God-send. I’m 37, and this fall I’ll just be starting the pre-reqs to get into med school.

I’m in a different situation than a lot of you. My spouse is TOTALLY for this. She’s probably even more excited than I am. Her total confidence in me actually makes it a little scarier somehow!

We’re going to both continue working for about a year, then I’m going to leave to work on pre-reqs full-time, before taking the MCAT and applying. So about two years before applying, then the year wait to start.

My big question is this. I have two daughters. ONe is 2. the other is four months old right now. For those who’ve been in med school with kids, what are the hours of study REALLY like?

I’ve read other accounts, but they didn’t have much detail. My plan is this, obviously, subject to revision, and increased studying before core exams, etc. But basically, go to school. Study at each opportunity, including lunch. Come home, and it’s kids/wife time from then until the kids in bed about 8/8:30. When 9 p.m. hits, it’s study time, til midnight or later.

Is this enough time on a daily basis? I mean, there’s only 24 hours in a day. Are most medical students really studying every waking second like some suggest?

I realize I’ll have to take some weekend time to study, etc.

Does anyone here have any experience with this? What can any of you tell me? To be honest, this is the ONE THING that would keep from following through with this. I’m doing this to make a better life for my family. I don’t intend to lose them in the process.

Thanks all…



Paulo, at most places I have interviewed, classes go from about 8am-2pm. Since most children get home from elementary school around 4, you will also have time after classes to go over your lecture notes.

Paul -

Your answers are going to vary widely. First, curriculums differ widely from school to school. So, your in class time is hard to predict. Some schools are in lecture/small group from 8 - 5 or 9 - 5. Others are done most days at 2 or 12. My school offers an independent study pathway for the first two years, where after anatomy, we have very few lectures. Most of the guys with families treat studying like a job and study from 7 - 4 or 5 every day Monday - Friday, maybe doing a little more evening or weekend study right before a test or before the boards.

Not all med students study every single waking moment. It’s hard to predict how much you need to study. Students at my school seem to find plenty of time for working out, intermurals, barhopping, volunteering, etc. The lecture pathway here has tests every three weeks or so, so a lot of people tend not to study much outside of class the first week after a test, then they study a little bit the second week, and then the third week they are full-on cramming because they didn’t keep up the first two weeks. Those who are more organized study consistently so they don’t live in the library during test week.

A lot of it is going to depend on you. Students who can’t live with themselves if they don’t get an A, or who want AOA (the honor society) or a super-competitive specialty tend to study the most. Many other people (myself included) are unwilling to sacrifice every waking moment for study (because you CAN’T learn it all) and find a balance point where they study enough to get a grade they are satisfied with and still meet their family obligations. Satisfied is a relative term. Many students become satisfied with “average”, while some students simply can’t live with themselves at average. Mind you, we ALL go in thinking we want the best grades possible (A’s or whatever those may be) but a lot of us end up finding a balance point that it is a little more reasonable.

Other options that may help you out - Many students find the lectures to be less valuable than studying on their own, so they quit going to lectures and then study on their own from 8 - 5. A lot of schools now offer lectures online via audio, video, or both, and many students choose to watch/listen to lectures at times that are more convenient to them, when they feel the lecture may help them understand the material, or just to take advantage of speeding them up to a faster speed.

So, as you can see, there is no easy answer. How much you need to study is going to largely depend on you. How fast do you pick up the material? Can you be satisfied with lower grades in order to have more time for your family? You may find that your timeline changes from spending time with your family from the time the kids get home from school to bedtime to from dinner time to bedtime or from after school to dinner time. No matter what you end up doing, you will want to set aside a certain amount of time for your family/wife. Some people set all day sunday aside for family time. Some set Friday nights aside.

Like I said - its hard to predict how much time you will need. But, I do feel that most people with family are able to make time to spend with their families. It may be a little less than they used to or would ideally like, but they don’t feel like they have sacrificed their family to the medical school gods.

Hope that helps -


Amy, Matt,

thanks for both your responses…

Amy, I think you spelled out the approach i’d more than likely take. I know I can be hypercompetitive at times, and when it comes to academics, or any type of learning environment, I usually strive to excel. That said…as my brother (who just finished his ER residency) says, “C equals MD.” Of course, he did much better than Cs. But, as he put it, learn the material, and your grades take care of themselves. Don’t focus on grades.

Again, my big concern is not losing my family in my efforts to change my life, and earn the career I think I’ve really always wanted.

As I said, my wife is 100 percent behind this. And as she puts it, with my current job, I’m gone half the time anyway…the hours for medical school can’t be much worse. On top of that, I’m in the Army Reserve, so she says she’ll consider third year pretty much like a deployment, except she’ll actually get to see me once in a while.

Now, on to tackle the pre-reqs. I just hope I don’t get too ambitious, and try to tackle too much too fast.

Any tips from anyone on jumping into the sciences after 16 years?

Two pieces of advice for not getting in over your head:

  1. Brush up on your math skills. A solid understanding of Algebra will serve you well in Gen Chem, and Algebra and Trig are both big parts of Physics.

  2. Start off slowly. Take one or two courses the first term and see how you do, how much time it takes you to study, etc. If all goes well, then add a heavier load the next term.

First of all like many have said it will be hard to “predict” how much YOU will need to study. I was the curve in undergrad and always got A’s with minimal effort. Medical school is vastly different where you may find yourself studying a lot to “pass”. There is a huge misconception out there that those students that put in mega hours are doing this to ace the exams! some do that to PASS the exams so beware. Assume the worst, meaning assume you will be studying quite a bit and then IF you do not have to great! Most medical students DO study quite a bit and not everyone is at the top of the class so obviously some need that much time just to keep their grades in the passing range. You will have time for your family but depending on how much you have to study, this time may be limited. Also, third year and residency is many hours away from home and then studying on off time for your shelf exams. Medical school is VERY time consuming not impossible but time with family/friends is limited for “most” folks. Good luck.

Amy, Exfex,

Thanks again for your responses. Exfex, I was a little like you in college…in fact, my roommates senior year actually got angry at me, because I succeeded in school without basically any studying. Just did the basic homework, and showed up for class, and I got it. Of course, I was 20 years old, and didn’t realize what I could have accomplished had I applied myself, and I regret that now, very much. I really took alot of easy paths back then, because it left more time for fun. Now, I’m in a career I don’t enjoy, don’t really help anyone, and don’t feel I’m making a difference in the world at all.

I realize this is a BIG step up however, and that it will take an incredible level of dedication and time to complete, and that the conseguences of failure (either in school, or later, as a doctor) are much greater than a missed deadline or going overbudget on a project.

Again, I appreciate everyone’s advice. Like I keep saying, I want this, my wife wants this, but not at the expense of losing my family.

Do not worry about failure in medical school as most folks make it through w/o a problem. Once they have you in, they try their hardest to make sure you make it.

Take it one day at a time and never give up!

I second what Efex said. Once you are in medical school, most medical schools will work very hard with you to make sure that you do not fail. The biggest problem is that many students see it as a failure to even ASK FOR HELP. They are afraid it will make them look weak and inferior, when nothing could be further from the truth.

I don’t think you will have to lose your family to do this. Yes, sacrifices have to be made by everyone, but I think you will be fine because you are already thinking of your family.