Study Tips

The Do’s and Dont's of Summer Studying

Doris Gasangwa
Published on Jun 1, 2020. Updated on Sep 15, 2020.

Preparing for the exams is one of the most stressful times in the life of a med student, and taking advantage of the summer break can make all the difference. In this article, first-year medical student Doris Gasangwa discusses her dos and don’ts for getting the most out of summer studying. 

Studying during the summer can always be challenging. Friends and family are enjoying the sun and beach and relaxing, and you are trying to review everything you have spent the last couple of months learning.

I have spent my share of summers (and honestly some winter breaks) studying rather than relaxing. In this post, I will highlight some do’s and don’ts that helped me succeed, and how I am adapting while distance learning. 


Be protective of your schedule: By this I mean build a schedule and stick to it as much as possible. Whether it’s scheduling every minute of the day or creating a daily task list to complete, it’s important to find something that works.

Create a study space: Having a dedicated study area will really help build the separation that you need in order to put you in a study mindset.

Be realistic: It’s nice to say that you are going to review 13 lectures and do 100 questions. While breaks are a time to review, they are also a time to relax and recharge. It’s summer. You’ll want a break. You’ll need a break. You’ll deserve a break. So when building a schedule, less is more! Be kind to yourself.

Be selfish with your time: It’s okay to say “no” to plans! Medical school is stressful, and unfortunately, we miss out on a lot—but we can’t do everything. The most important thing is to take care of yourself. Say “no” to: 

The list could go on! Someone very wise once told me that it’s okay to say “no,” and later on, it’s always easier to change a “no” into a “yes” than to change a “yes” into a “no.” 

Take care of yourself emotionally, mentally and physically: Medical School is a lot! Remember to take care of your needs: 

Your personal wellness is just as important as your future patients'.

Illustration of a medical student looking stressed-out at their desk.


Forget your friends and family: After all, this is a summer break!! Enjoy the company of those you love or like! 

Cram a term or year’s worth of information into a summer break: Focus on the topics that were really challenging for you! There is not enough time to review everything; be selective about what you want to review.

 Keep studying until the new term begins: By the end of summer, you will have accomplished a lot! Take a week or two to just relax. Go see the movies you have missed out on. Meal prep! Whatever it is that brings you joy and calmness; do it! Recharge, because you are about to start another leg of the medical school marathon. 

Be afraid to try new study habits: If you notice that your current study style didn’t really work for you, now is the time to try new study habits to help you become more efficient.

Study in your pj’s: Get up, put on a bra, a tie, or whatever else you'd wear when you go out, and treat it like you are going to campus to study! Build the separation; it will definitely go a long way in helping you get into the study mindset.

Illustration of a medical student who has achieved effective work-life balance.

Summer studying in the world of distance learning

So, while reading this article you might be wondering what this all has to do with distance learning. Well, some of these do’s and dont's still apply. Distance learning definitely has its challenges: You are stuck inside, you are still on a strict schedule, and you still have looming exams. Mentally, emotionally, physically, and even spiritually it is a bit of rough time.

In order to keep doing great, here are two additional do’s to help during this pandemic:

  1. Video study with friends: Accountability and camaraderie really do help in this time.

  2. Give yourself breaks: Whether it’s watching clips of SNL skits on YouTube or Scooby-Doo episodes on Netflix, giving yourself a break is important.

While I hope you take away something from this article, just remember that there are countless medical students going through the same thing, and even with the difficulties, every day brings you closer to achieving your goal.

Osmosis illustration of work-life balance.

About Doris

Doris Gasangwa is a first-year medical student at St. George’s University. She is originally from Rwanda but grew up in New Hampshire. Studying medicine in a different country is great for her because she loves to travel and explore new places! In her very little spare time, she enjoys cooking/baking. A fun fact about her is that she loves watching Scooby-Doo episodes during her study breaks!

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