Ok...I just have to ask...how bad is it?

Hi everyone! I am a old premed student on the verge of applying this coming June. I’ve worked extremely hard to get things ready for my application. My MCAT scores are reasonably good and I’m completing a Masters degree in Molecular and Microbio. This semester has been extremely challenging. In addition to taking four classes, I work full time, teach at a university part time, and have five children, ranging from ages 9-22. So, basically, I haven’t been able to spend much time with my family this semester. It’s really hard because I feel like their needs are not being met adequately.

My husband and I have had discussions and disagreements about what med school life will be like. He says that it will be just as time consuming and hectic as my life is now. I disagree. So, I turn to you, the experts. I don’t have any fantasies that med school will be a walk in the park. I know hard work is involved but, I would like to know how hard is it? How many hours do you spend each day in class? How many hours do you spend each day studying? Is it possible to balance your academic demands and family demands? Any comments on this matter would be appreciated.


linda, check out my post from last year when I was a first year.(copied below)Good Luck! Cheers.


After doing some Q and A with some “1st years to be” the other day I thought I’d give a brief impression of my 1st year of medical school from the eyes of a non-trad. I hope that my non-trad colleagues can chime in as well on their thoughts.

“How much do you study?”

This was variable with the “system” that I was in, but my typical week was lecture from 8a to 12p, labs (Gross, Clinical Med, OMM) from 1-5. Typically fridays were lab free. For me I study best away from the distractions of home, so I typically stayed on campus in the library from 5-10p Mon-Thurs, and tried to be home by 5 on Fridays unless I felt I was behind or if we had a Monday exam. Weekends I generally studied anywhere from 5-8 hours on Saturday with Sunday off, Monday exam days meant at least 8 hours both sat and sun, and more if I needed it (see Neuro/head/neck block YIKES!)

“Any free time?”

Non exam weeks, meant taking Friday evenings, sat. evenings, and Sunday for R and R and wife time. Lots of Netflix, Redbox friday nights with the wife, BBQ or cocktails with our friends on sat. nights, and sunday I was typically skiing or mountain biking depending on the weather.

Exam weeks were another story, and there were times when 3-4 weeks would string together with exams and suddenly I felt like I had zero free time and was a “ghost” to my wife and friends…this was not typical and really only happened during 4 of the weeks of MSK, all 7 weeks of Neuro/Head/Neck, and finals at the end of both semesters.

“Do you really have to buy all those books?”

This will vary by school I am sure, but for me I only bought a select few and these were the ones I could not have survived 1st year w/o.

Rapid Interpretation of EKG’s, Dale Dubin, MD

Pathologic Basis of Disease, Robbins and Cotran

Physiology, Costanzo (I used this as a reference for EVERY system and the BRS version was great review and used the question bank before exams)

Atlas of Human Anatomy, Netter (You haven’t had real fun in med school till you’ve spent many glassy eye hours with Frank!)

“What suggestions do you have?”

Exercise, Exercise, Exercise! I can not stress how much more focus I had when I was consistent with my workouts. There were weeks when I did not due to “time” and I paid the price in how I felt and how I studied. During the most stressful block of Neuro/Head/Neck we were under even more time crunch with written final exams and patient encounter finals for clinical medicine and omm and I forced myself to stay on my workout schedule (AM before school) and I felt better and performed better in Neuro than I did in other “stressful times” when I skipped the workouts.

Time for Family,

Take advantage of this time when you have it and BE IN THE MOMENT. It is easy to be thinking about what studying you should be doing, or what exam is next. Avoid this during your family time, take advantage of every chance you have with them as there will be times when this time is limited and they deserve your 100% when you do have time for them, and you will be more refreshed when it is time to hit the books.


Get what you need every night. AVOID late night cram sessions, keep up with the work daily so you can sleep before exams. For me 7 hours was great and I slept 11-6.

I could keep going, but I will stop there for now. (Gotta get my 7hours!) Please respond with specific questions, and I (and hopefully some of my non-trad colleagues) will let you know our thoughts of what medical school is really like for an OPMer!

I’m a 2nd year med student, age 38, husband, no kids. I joke that med school is like a vacation for me. I’ve worked full-time since I was 18, usually more than one job and often 6-7 days/week. At the time I discovered (after finding oldpremeds!) that I wasn’t too old for med school, I didn’t have a degree, so I finished 4 years of undergrad full-time while working full-time. To make that happen, I was in class M/W/F and worked T/Th/Sat/Sun - so with the exception of a few vacations, I never had a day off during those years.

I can honestly say that I’ve watched more TV during my first year and a half of med school than I’ve watched in my whole life! Seriously. Lots of Netflix. And I work from home anywhere from 4-8 hrs/week, but still there’s downtime. Also, I had 10 weeks off over the summer. 10 weeks!! Even though I did a research project during that time and put in extra work hours, it’s just not the same as the deadlines and expectations and all the things that go with full-time employment. I haven’t had that much time off since middle school.

I expect that year 3 will be crazy hectic, but in my opinion, if you’re used to working hard (and it sounds like you juggle a lot!!), years 1 and 2 are easily managed. I spend more time with my husband now than I did during the first 14 years we’ve been married. I like to study at home (and he’s finishing his undergrad and working), so there are times each week that we’re at home together studying/doing homework. Even though we’re not chatting that whole time, we’re in the same room and it’s really nice.

If during the hours you devote to studying, you are focused and use that time wisely, there’s downtime and some flexibility. Not to say there aren’t days you want to pull your hair out, but it seems to come in discrete waves rather than every day.

This has been my experience, and I know it varies according to school, family, learning style, etc. but it’s one perspective among many. Hope it helps!