A close-up picture of a stack of lots of notebooks.

Am I Studying Too Much?

That’s not a question most high-achieving students ask themselves.

After a week of medical school — and a typical undergrad course’s worth of information in that week alone — I’m still standing. And I took yesterday evening off from studying to celebrate, so I guess I’m not drowning (yet).

But I could how I might. I have been studying 5 or more hours a day, and that’s after every morning full of classes, some afternoons full of classes, and the few hours a week that I’m working as a tutor. And I still don’t feel like I know the material completely.

My verdict?

I am studying too much.

We were told during orientation that there would be an information glut — that we would be bombarded with too much information to learn and we will, inevitably, try to to learn it all. In fact, we have an orientation lecture tomorrow called “Surviving the Information Glut” in which, I believe, they will repeat over and over again: you are not supposed to learn it all.

This week I had thrown at me almost an entire undergrad semester’s worth of information, but this is not the only time that I will see this information. This is the first of ten times — of fifty times, even, and, if it’s in the field I will eventually go into, the first of innumerable times. If we only absorb 30% on the first pass, that’s okay, because by the time a patient is in front of us we will have seen this information so many times that we no longer have to work to actively recall it.

In fact — in fact! — an MS2 told us that her friend was making high As on every test, and the professors and her advisory dean told her she was studying way too much. We need a 70 to pass the test, and residencies won’t see whether we got a 99 or 71 in the class. In fact, our professors are teaching us so a 70 shows the mastery they are looking for. We aren’t supposed to get everything right.

But tell that to 150 students who, in undergrad, had good enough grades, MCAT scores, and extracurricular activities to gain admission to Columbia P&S!

The good news is, we’re all struggling.

But not to understand the material — just to simply accept that we can’t grasp it all, that we need to cut ourselves a little slack, and that, when we get our first 70 on a test, that’s okay. We’re exactly where we need to be.

Photo by ninniane on Foter.com / CC BY-NC

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