There is so much to do to get into med school: get good grades, prepare for the MCAT, volunteer, shadow, research… the list seems infinitely long. You would be excused for loading up your schedule with activities and classes, giving yourself very little time to do anything else.
But of course, you would be foolish to do so. I want to recommend an alternative that you may not think is possible as a pre-med, something that Cal Newport calls The Radical Simplicity Manifesto.
The Radical Simplicity Manifesto program looks like this:
This manifesto espouses a single goal: simplicity. It asks you to cut loose all extraneous obligations; to construct a college life built around a manageable load of fascinating classes and a small number of extracurricular activities that hold real meaning; to schedule less than you have the time to handle.
Revel in free time. Use it to relax; to socialize; to explore new intellectual horizons. Reserve the right to spend an entire afternoon reading some random book you stumbled across in the business library. Spend time having pretentious, overly serious conversations with friends over cheap liquor and pirated Coltrane MP3s. Do all of this even if it means looking slightly less impressive on your resume. Do it because life is short, and young life is even shorter.
Let me make my best case for why you should not cram your life full of classes and extracurriculars:
You will experience less burnout, illness, anxiety, and depression. All of these rear their ugly heads at some point in your pre-med career, and they can seriously impact your life (not to mention your chances of getting into med school).
By cramming in so much, you will do very few of these activities well. Focusing on one activity or one hard class at a time is the best way to rise to extraordinary heights.
More isn’t that impressive. Quality trumps quantity every day. 300 hours of volunteering versus 400? It matters much more who has had the best conversations with patients during that time. A 3.7 versus a 3.68? Doesn’t matter at the end of the day.
The whole article is highly recommended!