Advice from your peers

Life Lessons: 10 Tips for Med Students with Families

If your med school journey will include one or more passengers along for the ride, then these 10 tips from Michigan Med students with families may be just the ticket for you.

Speak to other students in the same boat.

“The medical school (my Student Services Counselor specifically) has been great about helping me arrange my schedule when there are obligations for my family that I absolutely don't want to miss. I don't know that ‘balance’ is really a word I would use, but I am able to still participate in some aspects of my children's lives and that is really really nice for all of us.”


“Find other families like yours and make friends; it helps to know that there are other people in similar situations and everything is going to be fine.”


Set expectations for your family.

“For my relationship, it was helpful to just lay out priorities, and we went in saying that my education was going to be number one for the next three to four years, so I never felt guilty studying because we had agreed on what was important to both of us.”


“Open communication and grace become extra important in medical school. My husband lets me have bad days and meltdowns and weeks I'm pretty MIA. I have gotten better at verbalizing that I'm upset and snippy on a certain day because of school, not because of him. Again, super obvious but becomes essential in med school.”


“Be very intentional about communicating expectations for time spent together, activities you plan on doing together before starting school. Having those expectations set up front will help you to better manage your time once you start school, while setting standards that both you and your partner understand.”


Treat med school like a job.

“Find good mentors, but know that a system that worked well for person A or B may not work well for you. Keep asking around/trying out new systems until you find something that works for you and your spouse.”


“As a preclinical student, I tried to get most of my studying/work done during ‘normal’ working hours so that I would have more time to spend with my husband when he got home from work. I think flextime quizzing definitely helped with this as well. Depending on the hours, that has been a bit more challenging in certain clinical rotations. While there will always be more studying that could be done, it's still important to take time to tend to the needs of your relationship as this will help maintain your wellbeing in the long run.”


Take full advantage of flextime quizzing and streaming lectures to customize your schedule.

“Flextime quizzing and streamed lectures allow me to balance life at home with school. This means I don’t have to miss important family time but can also optimize my schedule for studying and testing.”


“Flexible quizzing times and recorded lectures were both helpful in maintaining a balance and setting a family-friendly schedule. For the past year, I've been able to eat dinner with my family most nights and go to my children's soccer games on the weekends.”


“My husband and I were long distance during medical school. The fact that we had flexible quizzing and recorded lectures during the preclinical years definitely allowed us to spend more time together.”


Make time for family.

“You are a person who is in medical school, not just a med student. Work hard when you're supposed to, but also play hard with your family and spouse when you're supposed to do that too. It is all about the balance, but you can do it!”


“UMMS, at least as I experienced it, is about as flexible of a medical school as I can imagine. Allowed me to get done what I needed to get done at times that allowed me to still spend time with my family.”


“Frequently acknowledge/thank your spouse/partner for their support! I'm not sure I could swap positions with my husband and be the wife of a medical student, honestly. He puts up with a lot! So remember that med school is temporary; your relationship is long-term and can't be put entirely on hold for four years.”


Explore Ann Arbor to find interesting activities for your partner/spouse/kids

“Living in Ann Arbor is quite easy and offers a wide breadth of activities. Michigan Medical School is flexible, and allowed for me to maximize the amount of time I had outside of medical school to enjoy activities with my wife.”


“Make sure that there are activities or communities in Ann Arbor that appeal to your spouse outside of the med school community. This will allow them to establish their own sense of identity and belonging here.”


“My husband and I came to Ann Arbor together for a few days after Second Look to explore the area. He and I found this very helpful in determining if Ann Arbor would be a place we could live and raise a family.”


Define boundaries between school work and home life.

“Make sure you make enough time to study and meet academic responsibilities, but don't let school consume your entire life. Make time to spend with your family regularly and keep it a priority even when school is busy.”


“Be kind to yourself, because even with planning, life is busy and things happen but med school and home can still be very rich side-by-side experiences--part of the same life vision.”


Find out what activities partners/spouses/kids can participate in.

“There have been many opportunities for my spouse to meet and get to know my classmates at both student-run and M-home functions.”


“I would encourage prospective students to ask current students about couples/families in their class and how they manage that balance. While I was applying, I asked this of students at each school and got widely varying responses -- from blank stares and the general impression that nobody has made it work to big smiles and stories about how warm and welcoming everyone is.”


Be prepared: sacrifices will happen.

“We're still searching for balance. Honestly, your role as a medical student and parent might not be in balance and you have to recognize the sacrifices that you will make to do both.”


“As a parent, the intensity of med school will be one notch higher in every respect, but the upside is that you have a support anchor with you every single step of the way, making it more than just doable--you will thrive on their love and encouragement.”


“Spouses need to know that they will probably have to do even more than the usual in regards to household chores, lifestyle maintenance and just normal bill paying and things like that. It’s really overwhelming when you start, just getting organized and finding your groove.”


“When juggling family and medical student life, it's hard to feel completely successful at both. You'll sacrifice school time for family/partner time, and you'll feel like you're missing out on home life (or at least relaxing home life) when you are working. Figuring out that balance is unique for every student and his/her family.”


Reach out for support.

“The medical school (my Student Services Counselor specifically) has been great about helping me arrange my schedule when there are obligations for my family that I absolutely don't want to miss. I don't know that ‘balance’ is really a word I would use, but I am able to still participate in some aspects of my children's lives and that is really really nice for all of us.”


“Connect with students with spouses/partners/kids.”