We spend a lot of time looking at our phones— so why not make that time as productive and healthy as possible? Finding balance and productivity is especially important for pre-meds, who often feel overworked and stressed. Here are my recommendations on mobile apps that are perfect for pre-meds.
Health & Wellness
Everyone has their favorite health and wellness apps that they swear by. Sometimes, the best way to get your fix of digital wellbeing is just to turn your phone off or to limit your usage of social media apps that can be draining like Instagram and Facebook. But here are some alternate choices where technology can make your life feel more healthy!
Headspace (or, alternatively, Calm)
Finding a way to integrate meditation and mindfulness into your daily routine can feel difficult. The internet, and YouTube in particular, has a lot to offer — from crazy new ASMR videos to follow-along yoga tutorials— but Headspace compiles tutorials from meditation expert Andy Puddicombe and only requires you to use the app for ten minutes a day. Puddicombe is trained as a Buddhist monk and his British accent is gentle and soothing. Headspace also allows you to select your goal, whether that’s sleeping better, general mindfulness, or to increase your attention span. Meditation also has proven effects on improving your physiology and body chemistry, so there aren’t any downsides. A 30-day trial plan is free for both apps, after which there’s a per-month subscription plan.
Why not use your phone to optimize the time when you’re not on your phone— when you’re asleep? Sleep Cycle is a smart alarm clock that tracks your sleep patterns overnight and then wakes you up when you’re in light sleep, so you feel as refreshed and relaxed as possible. Place your phone on a table next to you as you sleep, and it will wake you up in a specified window to optimize the interruption. There are five stages of sleep: stages 1-2 are categorized as “light sleep”, stages 3-4 are “deep sleep”, and the fifth is REM (rapid eye movement) sleep or the dream state. Sleep Cycle uses accelerometer and microphone data to detect when you are drifting in and out of sleep (during stages 1 and 2) when your muscle activity is low and waking up is most pleasant. The app has a free trial so you can check it out.
We all want to be more fit and eat as healthily as possible, and a lot of apps tackle this, but lack the generality to be useful to many people. Calorie counting isn’t for everyone, and if you don’t have a smartwatch or other wearable, exercise tracking can also feel tedious. Streaks, on the other hand, is a simple light-weight app designed to keep you accountable for daily tasks that you want to repeat, like taking medications, going on a run, or reading for ten minutes. It sends notifications that motivate you to keep streaks of positive tasks up without feeling too intrusive.
Study & Productivity
There are a million apps that attempt to make your life easier with to-do lists, note-taking platforms, and organizational tools. Finding a one-size-fits-all app can be hard, but here are my favorite apps that will make your day become a little more efficient:
Forest, ironically, is a cute app designed to keep you off your phone by gamifying the digital health experience. The app starts with you planting a tiny seed in a terrarium, and as you spend less time on your phone, the plant starts to bloom and grow. You can even grow communal forests with your friends and family to keep you accountable. The app developers have partnered with an environmental non-profit organization, so if you grow enough virtual trees, a real one might be planted on your behalf!
This one’s a little different because it’s a website and not a mobile app, but it’s just as useful to help you stay productive. The Pomodoro technique is a famous tip designed by a college student when he was studying for finals. After realizing that he was getting distracted easily and not being efficient, Francesco Cirillo decided to use a tomato-shaped kitchen timer to force him to work without any breaks for ten minutes, after which he allowed himself a quick five-minute break. This constant back-and-forth between extreme focus and laid-back relaxation is essentially the Pomodoro technique, and many people swear by it. Pomodoro.cc is a simple website where you can customize the length of your focused time blocks and your breaks.
Want to combine the guilt of killing trees and the Pomodoro technique? Check out Flora (available on iOS, not Android)– it will allow you to use the Pomodoro technique to check off a list of to-do items that you input into the app, and then you watch as trees grow when you check off items and avoid distracting apps.
Never make an arithmetic error on a math problem again. Know how to apply the quadratic formula but don’t want to bother actually plugging in the numbers into a calculator and finding the correct answer? Type your math problem directly into the Wolfram|Alpha search bar and watch as it shows worked-out solutions for complex problems (it can even do calculus!). The app costs $2.99 but the browser version is free for most college students with a ‘.edu’ account.
In terms of finding an app that tests you with flashcards, I still favor the ultra-simple and free app Quizlet, which also connects to a beautiful website that you can use to make your flashcards. You can create, review, and test yourself on flashcard associations, and it even has helpful built-in services to make the process of making and sharing flashcards as seamless as possible. There are a lot of publicly available flashcard sets for MCAT and med school-related studying, which will help you confirm how thorough your own flashcards are. For an alternative flashcard tool, consider Anki (which we have covered in many previous posts), which many med school students swear by.
Yes, this app with over 248 million actively monthly users is nothing new, and many of you may have it already. But are you really exploiting it for its full potential? Spotify has a curated list of playlists with ambiance and acoustic music that will help you be productive and make your study sessions easier. Looking for coffee shop music but it’s too cold to go to Starbucks? Spotify has a playlist for that. Want ambient ocean sounds as background noise while you read your textbook? Choose from their hand-picked lists. If you want to keep up-to-date on the news or current events but don’t feel like you have the time to, check out a podcast on Spotify. We’ve even created our own study playlist which you can find here.
Of course, one of our favorite study apps here at Med School Insiders is Anki, an app that utilizes flashcards and optimally spaced repetition for maximum potential. Read more about Anki, its benefits, and how to most effectively use Anki here.
And, last but certainly not least, here are the apps that focus on medicine and clinically-relevant content for pre-meds.
This viral app is built by medical professionals and focuses on optimizing the study process for anyone in the health industry— from pre-health students, to nurses, to doctors, and beyond. The app uses picture mnemonics (pic + mnemonics = picmonic) to make studying way more fun than reading a textbook. Different characters represent different concepts in a process, which aids in retention. Picmonic even has an MCAT-specific study plan for $4-6 per month, so if you’re a visual learner, this might be what you’re looking for.
The Premed App
Built by Motivate MD, this app provides med school mentorship, goal tracking, and a course planning interface for $2.99 a month. It pairs you with a real med school student to help answer questions immediately without having to schedule a meeting with your school’s pre-health office. You can track your GPA, MCAT scores, shadowing hours, volunteer work, etc. to see how to divide your time and what areas you might lack in. There’s also a pre-med dashboard that allows you to chart all the pieces of an application you need— from your transcripts to your letters of recommendation, your personal statement, and secondaries.
It’s really hard to feel up-to-date on clinical information. Medicine is constantly changing, and doctors don’t always have the time to read medical journals cover-to-cover. DailyRounds is trying to fix this by creating a mobile hub for doctors to share case-based problem-solving approaches to different medical scenarios. Check the app for current cases (from a network of over 300,000 doctors) that are relevant to you.
Human Anatomy Atlas
Anatomy is a core part of medical education, yet a lot of people hate it because there’s a huge memorization component. This app has a 3D atlas of both the male and female body and has more than 10,000 3-D structures in which you can zoom, pan, and rotate from multiple viewpoints to truly understand what the object looks like. The atlas also has definitions, pronunciations, Latin terms, and explanations about each object’s functionality. The app also has a vast question bank of over 1,000 anatomy-related questions that you can use to study.
Check these apps out, maybe you’ll discover a new way to study or finally find some zen! Let us know if you have other app suggestions with a comment down below – we’re a supportive community here at MSI and love to spread knowledge as much as we can to help support others in the medical field.