A Day in the Life of a First Year Medical Student

Be prepared to spend more time studying than you do sleeping.

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Many of you are either applying or thinking of applying to medical school—but what is it really like? For some, vivid images of long hours in the anatomy lab or an alarm ringing at 3:30 a.m., summoning you to the hospital, come up.

Akash Parekh, a first year medical student at the University of Chicago Pritzker School of Medicine, was gracious enough to give a window into a day in the life of a medical student.

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"I'm picking a typical day; however, since Pritzker happens to be on a quarterly system, our class times change every three months (more often than some other schools), but the time frame is probably similar at every school," Parekh says. Below, in his own words, is how he spent a day in March:

7:00 a.m. — Time to wake up! Today it's hitting snooze a few times and then actually getting up at 7:15. Make breakfast and tea. Try to squeeze in 15 minutes of studying before heading to class.

8:10 a.m. — Running to catch the bus to get to school!

8:30 a.m. — First lecture of the day—today it's cell pathology and immunology.

9:30 a.m. — Second lecture of the day—usually it's a different topic, but today it's another hour of cell pathology and immunology.

10:30 a.m. — Third lecture of the day. This morning we started a microbiology small group discussion class. Each week, one of us will have to present a different bacterial illness, lead a discussion on the diagnosis, and answer questions from the professor. I'm a little relieved I'm not first up today!

11:30 a.m. — Lunch! This is usually the time extracurricular organizations also hold their meetings (since everyone's already on campus). This also means free food! Today, it's a REMEDY coordination meeting for me—we're a group that collects donated medical supplies and distributes them in Central American countries. This year, we're raising money to travel to Peru. Our big faculty auction fundraiser starts in two weeks, so it's crunch time!

1:00 p.m. — Afternoon lectures start. It's the first day of the third part of our clinical skills course, where they try to introduce us to actual patient contact in the first year. We found out today that the third part is all about getting very personal information from patients without feeling awkward (which most of us do!).

3:00 p.m. — Second afternoon lecture. They didn't waste any time—we were guided on the best way to take a sexual history from a patient.

4:00 p.m. — End of classes. Usually organizations also hold meetings at around this time, or there are speakers holding talks on various different topics around campus. However, today is unscheduled, so it's a brief break of catching up and socializing (yes, we sometimes have time for that!) with classmates after class.

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5:30 p.m. — Arrive home. Time for me to grab a bite to eat and catch up on some news online. Also time to return calls from family and friends.

6:00 p.m. — Studying. Reviewing today's material so it sticks for me!

7:30 p.m. — Gym time. And sometimes, motivating myself for gym time is included.

8:30 p.m. — Home. Time to shower, eat, and get settled.

9:00 p.m. — More studying. I usually like to review tomorrow's material for class during this time, but tomorrow we have a microbiology lab quiz, so that's topping tonight's agenda.

11:30 p.m. to 12:00 a.m. — Bedtime!

Medical school can be a really busy time in your life. However, most people find a work/life/fun balance that makes it manageable—and sometimes even fun!

Ibrahim Busnaina, M.D. is a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine and coauthor of "Examkrackers' How To Get Into Medical School." He has been consulting with prospective medical school applicants, with a special focus on minority and other nontraditional candidates, since 2006.