I’ll be the first to admit: I did not have great study habits prior to coming to veterinary school.
I spent high school and most of my undergraduate career not having to put in anywhere close to maximal effort to do well in my classes (at the time, I thought I was working pretty hard, but vet school will put things into perspective FAST what actually constitutes hard work). I could spend a night or two re-reading class notes, alone, or do some extra practice problems, and be pretty set for the exam for the majority of my classes.
But vet school is vastly different. Every class is going 100 mph, every lecture, every day. Every last bit of information is important, and once ‘exam season’ gets rolling, the exams are relentless – there isn’t time (nor is it beneficial) to try to cram for every test. So I needed to really re-develop my study skills – and fast.
There’s a variety of things I’ve had to do successfully build study habits – from making Quizlets from each lecture, to trying to review lectures a little bit at a time, to learning how to study with other people, utilizing outside resources, drawing diagrams, making matching games and other interactive tools…and learning to shelve.
Now, “shelving” and “procrastinating” can look very similar on the outside, but the difference between the 2 is important.
Especially with a semester with 22 credit hours and long labs like I have right now, there is just not enough hours in the day to be in class and pay attention/take notes, eat, sleep, make flashcards, review every lecture, and get in intensive studying for whatever exam is upcoming (and do non-vet school things so you don’t drive yourself up a wall).
So you have to learn to shelve some things for later to focus your efforts on what most immediately needs your attention.
I make extensive amounts of to-do lists: what classes I have work I need to do, what exams or quizzes are upcoming, what events outside of vet school I need to keep on my radar, scholarship deadlines, etc. My computer desktop is full of digital sticky notes, my planner is full literal sticky notes, and my to-do list is never completed.
I look at what tasks I have to complete, and I sort them: what do I *absolutely* need to get done today? What would be beneficial if I could get done today? What can wait until tomorrow? What can wait until the weekend?
I sort tasks into these basic categories until I have a more manageable list. If I were to try to complete everything in my busiest day, I would get overwhelmed pretty easily because there is absolutely no way to get it all done (and some days, even my condensed list is still too much to get through).
When I pick items to shelve, I make sure to write myself a note when I plan to do it, but then it is out of my mind for the time being – I have to use all my open brain-space for the things I decided were necessary to complete today, and I’ll come back to the shelved items at their designated time.
If for some reason I get through all my essential tasks, I can work my way down my to-do list, but by learning to categorize my tasks, I keep from feeling totally buried by my to-do lists, and make sure everything still gets accomplished!