While there are many enriching, engaging and relevant activities in which pre-medical students can spend their extracurricular time during the school year, the summers are also a terrific time for robust career exploration that can benefit patients, your community, and you, as a future applicant to professional schools. In the past, it was commonplace to apply to medical school during the summer following junior year in college. Today, about half of all medical school applicants take 1 or more gap years before matriculation to medical school. Still, the time between the collegiate and medical school experience is brief, and should be used wisely. Below are some ways that are likely to be most beneficial use of summers/years before medical school entrance.
1. Clinical experiences
1. There are many avenues for gaining exposure to patients and to witnessing physicians and other healthcare professionals in their professions. Working as a medical scribe will afford one the opportunity to work with physicians, learn medical lingo and observe various styles of interacting with patients.
2. Volunteer with patients
Working as a volunteer in a hospice, nursing home, or “crisis nursery” or Veteran’s Hospital will afford close interaction with patients
3. Shadowing physicians
Use your “own network” of physicians who know from home – your own physicians, or those of your parents, or the parents of your friends. Inquire about shadowing them one or more times during the summer.
4. Volunteer at a children’s hospital
Many of them have programs in which college students can participate – with art, music, science or play programs.
5. Take required classes
Taking required classes during the summer (e. g. organic chemistry or physics) can be a welcome way to lighten the load during the fall and spring semesters of college.
6. Get deeply involved in research
Getting deeply involved in research during the summer months demonstrates your interest and curiosity about moving an area of study forward. Research can be in the natural or medical sciences or in an area of particular interest that aligns with your major, e. g. in psychology, public health, etc.
7. Volunteer at a homeless shelter
Volunteering at a local homeless shelter, soup kitchen, etc. demonstrates to others that you are invested in and care about the welfare of others.
8. Study Abroad
Studying abroad during college can be difficult as one marches through required courses and MCAT prep, etc. The summer, for those interested, can be a great time to experience a culture different from one’s own, while being engaged in a clinical, research, academic or service experience.
9. Traditional summer work
Many students will have the interest in or necessity of participating in a traditional summer work experience, which can be in a medical field, or can be a part-time endeavor that, combined with one of the experiences outlined above, can make for a very satisfying summer.
Michaele Penkoske, M.D. contributed this article to Associate Vice Chancellor and Dean of Career Services Mark Smith’s “Between You and Me” blog. To learn more about Michaele or to schedule an advising appointment, click on her profile below.