The road to medical school is a long one. As soon as a student decides they want to be a doctor, there are many ways they can work toward that goal during their summer vacations.
Some of the advice will surprise you. Did you know that most pre-med students applying to medical school have over 400 combined hours of medical school admissions prep? While other kids are busy planning trips to amusement parks, students interested in medical school should consider some of these activities to get a headstart on their med school application.
Hands down, the best resource for pre-med students of any age or education level is the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC). Their Premed Navigator site is the complete guide to everything you need to know about applying to medical school.
Medical schools are looking for well-rounded students who have more than just high grades. Volunteering with a food bank, animal hospital, or even tutoring other kids is considered valuable service experience. When possible, document the volunteer experience with an email or letter from the volunteer coordinator for future reference.
This is when you organize an observership with a physician or other healthcare provider and log hours simply watching what they do. A good place to find shadowing opportunities is to ask your own family physician or friends. Most doctors will accept students 16 and older for shadowing, so don't be discouraged if you are turned down.
Try to coordinate a wide range of shadowing experiences in all different specialties, and make sure you log all of your hours, along with contact information.
When you do get ready to submit your application, you will have to choose the medical schools to which you want to apply. Do your homework, and visit as many as possible beforehand. Attend open house events, and talk to current students. When casting a wide net, you may end up applying to dozens of schools you know nothing about, so at least try to read about their programs online.
It's never too early to start working on admissions essays. Have a few versions of key components you can use when you're ready to officially apply – both to your undergraduate and medical school programs. A classic formula for a good personal statement is a hook (compelling story or quote), followed by a "why you" paragraph (describing why you want to go to that particular school), then a "why me" paragraph, and a conclusion.
Think about how you can paint a picture of yourself that practically leaps off of the page. The "why me" paragraph is usually the most difficult, but just come up with three or four adjectives that describe you best and elaborate on them. Give examples that set you apart from the other applicants.
From the moment you decide you're pre-med to the day you get your acceptance letter, everything counts as an experience. Start a notebook or spreadsheet of all of your activities. Include volunteering, shadowing, and any travel and extracurricular activities, along with hours spent and contact information. You will need to recall all of this for the medical school application.
You only have a finite number of summers before you have to start working. Go on those family trips, see all of those movies, but make sure you keep one eye on your future.
For more information about things you can do to prepare for a medical career, visit the AAMC Premed Navigator website. You can also talk to your pre-health advisor at your school.
**All of the photos in this article are courtesy of Pexels.
Are you applying to medical school or thinking about a career as a physician? What prep have you done so far? Let us know in the comments!