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The weeks preceding medical school can be exciting but stressful times. Many students often wonder what, if anything, they should be doing to prepare for their new lives as medical students. The following list contains suggestions on how to best spend the summer before medical school.

1. Secure housing and other necessities.

One of the most helpful ways to prepare for medical school is to prepare your life outside of medicine. Be sure to secure housing that is a reasonable distance to the medical school. Consider how far you will be willing to drive to classes each day, and purchase a parking pass if needed. If you are moving to a new city, take some time to learn about the location. If you are passionate about fitness, find a local gym to join or consider joining a sports team. Perhaps you like hiking and can find local parks in your area. You may also want to consider searching for options like local daycares, churches, shopping malls, and auto shops. Even simple things like getting your car inspected or receiving an oil change during the summer can help to free up some of your time to study once classes begin.

2. Consider need for financial aid.

A stressful part of medical school is the cost of attendance. Really take some time to consider this before you get started. Will you receive federal loans? Will you take out private loans? Does your school have scholarships you can apply for? In rare instances, out of state students may be able to switch their residency to in-state after the first year. Talk to your school or upperclassmen about this possibility. While the cost of living can vary substantially from city to city, consider ways that you can minimize your expenses, such as having a roommate or getting a membership to shops like Costco or Sam’s Club where you can buy items in bulk each month.


3. Learn about your medical school’s curriculum and prepare for the upcoming year.

It is generally not advised to begin studying for medical school the summer before starting. Trying to teach yourself new material is almost certainly a waste of time. You will not know what to focus on and won’t be productive. The only exception to studying over the summer may be for very non-traditional students who have spent many years away from school or those who failed some of the premedical coursework. In some instances, medical schools may have special summer classes to help these students get a head start. Nevertheless, all students should take a little bit of time to learn about their school’s curriculum. Are your first two years entirely pass/fail or do you have grades and ranking? Is your curriculum systems-based or subject-based? How often do you have examinations? Considering all of these questions can eliminate some of the fear of the unknown and put you at ease when you begin orientation and classes. If you know other upperclassmen, consider talking to them about how the curriculum is structured. Consider which (if any) textbooks you want to buy. While most medical schools have a long list of textbooks they recommend or require, in many instances you will not use all or any of them. Also, if you know when your vacations are, you may want to think about how you want to spend them. Having family outings and fun trips scattered throughout the year can help you stay motivated and give you something to look forward to as you’re studying.

4. Have fun!!!

The most important thing to do prior to starting medical school is to have fun! Your next four years will certainly be enjoyable, but they will require a lot of hard work and dedication. It is likely that you will have to make some sacrifices in order to succeed in medical school. I once heard a physician describe life in medical school by saying that “you’ll still be able to do all the things you love to do outside of medicine, but you may not be able to do all the things you like to do.” The best advice you can receive is to take the time before medical school to relax and have fun. Visit with your family, take vacations, and enjoy your free time. You’ll then be refreshed for a fast past start to your first year of medicine.

Want more tips to help you prepare for your first year of medical school? Read our survival tips for the first year of medical school, get advice on how to make a smooth transition to med school, and find out how much you should focus on your med school grades.

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Lauryn Falcone

Lauryn Falcone

Lauryn Falcone graduated Summa Cum Laude and as co-valedictorian from Rollins College before pursuing an MD/PhD degree at West Virginia University School of Medicine. She is currently working towards a PhD in cellular and integrative physiology at the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) in a respiratory toxicology laboratory. Lauryn completed her first two years of medical school as an honors student, scoring a 254 on the USMLE Step 1 examination and achieving above the 90th percentile on eight NBME shelf exams. Lauryn has a strong passion for tutoring and mentoring students and enjoys helping them navigate the challenges of medical school.
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