Wow—its June already! For many, this signifies the end of the academic year and a chance to take a deep breath and relax. Hopefully for all of us it is a time to enjoy some good weather, a barbecue or two, and a bit of time to recharge after a rigorous year. Time for this rejuvenation process is crucial, and I encourage you to take full advantage of that opportunity! But summer is also a great chance to be productive, and to strengthen yourself as a student and future medical school applicant. Many of you may be watching the NBA finals right now, as I am. I have heard it many times from the mouths of the greatest NBA stars—Kobe, Lebron, and the likes: “The offseason is when you put the work in. The summer is when you really get better. Greatness is made when no one is watching.” These NBA legends use the time off in the summer to get better and come back the next year more prepared. So why can’t we all do the same?
Balance between relaxation and productivity is key. Here are my few tips for the aspiring pre-med student to ensure that summer is a success. Note that depending on your year in undergrad and how close you are to the application process, some of these recommendations may be more or less applicable at this moment in time. But they all will have utility at some point, so would still be beneficial to consider!
1| Summer Research
Summer is a great time to start early on securing a research position. Consider contacting professors (or PI’s—principal investigators) who run labs or are involved in research at your institution. If you are interested in a specific field, you may be able to find professors on that department’s website. Many schools also have a directory of PI’s who allow research for academic credit. By establishing research early in your undergrad career, you will be way ahead of the game! This will allow you to perform projects longitudinally as the years progress. The more time you have, the better results you can get, which may in turn result in a publication or even a great letter of recommendation! If possible, I would recommend looking for a position during the summer after your first year of college.
2| Clinical Volunteering
Just the same as research, getting involved in this early is a smart way to go. The earlier the better, as you will feel less pressed for time later in your academic career and will likely accrue more work hours. Again, seek out your institutional resources. Even if you do not work over the summer, it can take weeks to months to secure a position, so just tackling that process over summer would be a big win!
It is best to start thinking about the MCAT during summer after second year of college. If you are planning to attend med school without a gap year, this would be a great time to take the MCAT! You will have finished the majority of your pre-med requirements. These courses can be helpful, but don’t fret if you have not completed them all. Independent preparation is vastly more important than undergrad classes for the MCAT. During the summer you will have dedicated, free time to take a prep class, seek out private tutoring, or study on your own. For this reason, taking the MCAT over summer can be beneficial. Alternatively, if you are not ready to start studying for the MCAT, at least familiarizing yourself with what the test consists of may be a good idea. Consider buying a book to familiarize yourself with the exam.
|| How I Aced the MCAT ||
4| Clinical Work Abroad (Medical Mission Trips)
It is certainly not a requirement, but I have found that medical school admissions committees are generally impressed by clinical volunteer experience abroad. If this is something that is feasible for you, it may be an awesome way to strengthen your application, gain exposure to global health, and learn some practical medical skills. At the same time, this can serve as a summer vacation to an interesting destination! Consider this as a fun and exciting way to expand your horizons and strengthen your resume.
5| Have Fun!
This may sound obvious and perhaps even silly, but it is important. The road to medicine is long and rigorous. As I mentioned above, balance is key in this process. Time to recharge and with necessary rest, relaxation, and fun is not to be overlooked. Enjoy the fun times while you can. Take care of your body and mind. This will allow you to come back to campus in the fall ready to tackle any hurdle that comes at you!
Summer is a great opportunity—both to enjoy yourself and better yourself. If you are able to make strides in even a couple of these areas, you will strengthen your future application and take positive steps towards medical school admission!