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The summer between the first (MS1) and second (MS2) years of medical school are important. It is most likely a medical student’s last true summer vacation, making it an ideal time to relax and have fun. However, it is also a great potential time for personal growth and to explore career options, research, volunteering, or unique clinical opportunities.

Here are 6 suggestions on how to spend your summer between MS1 and MS2.

1. Have fun!

Perhaps the most important thing to do on your last summer break ever is to have fun! Medical school is hard, and it is easy to get burned out. It is extremely important to take time for personal health and wellness as you progress through medical school. When you have time off, enjoy it by spending time with the people you love and doing the things that bring you happiness outside of medicine.

2. Do medical research… if you really want to do research!

A lot of medical students feel like they absolutely must do research. But the truth is, if you aren’t passionate about what you are doing, you will have a miserable experience, and it probably won’t benefit you in the long run. So, if you don’t enjoy bench research, don’t sign up for a summer in a basic science laboratory! Maybe you can work on a clinical project or find other ways to spend your summer instead. For those who are passionate about research, see if your school offers a stipend to work on a summer project and find a mentor you would enjoy working with to get started.

3. Volunteer

Some schools have a volunteer hour requirement for graduation. But even if your school does not, many residencies like to see that you gave back to your school and community. Aside from this, volunteering can help reignite your passion for medicine and remind you why the sacrifices you are making as you spend long hours studying are worth it. Because most students do not have classes during the summer, it is an ideal time to volunteer. If your school has a free clinic, volunteering here can be a great way to bolster your medical knowledge and give back to your community. However, volunteering in areas outside of medicine, such as coaching a youth sports team or playing board games with residents at a nursing home, are also great ways to serve as a volunteer and serve as a role model in your community.

4. Teach Summer Pre-Med Courses

If you enjoy tutoring or mentoring others, you may have the opportunity to spend your summer performing these services. Your local college may offer summer premed courses and be looking for teaching assistants. Or your medical school may be able to pair you with new incoming MS1s who would appreciate your mentorship and guidance.

5. Explore clinical specialty interests

Is there an area of medicine that interests you but you know little about? Or, have you always known you want to be a pediatrician or a surgeon? The summer between MS1 and MS2 is a great time to explore these interests further. Many schools allow you to apply for summer externships where you can gain shadowing experience as well as potential hands-on time in the OR or ED. But even if your school does not offer any structured summer medical experiences, you can always set one up on your own by reaching out to faculty at your school or even in your hometown that work in your field of interest.

6. Travel

Sometimes, the best life lessons are learned outside of the classroom. You can learn a lot about yourself and others by exploring other cultures. If you’ve never left the country before, the summer between MS1 and MS2 is a great time to do so! Your school may have structured summer international rotations that you could participate in, and there are also a number of reputable international volunteer organizations that you may choose to travel through. You also may simply desire to travel for fun outside of a structured clinical or volunteer program. Whatever the case, this summer is a great time to visit somewhere new!

No matter how you decide to spend your summer between MS1 and MS2, remember to relax and have fun while strengthening your clinical experience, participating in research, or volunteering in your community.

Want more tips for your first summer of med school? See our Do's and Don'ts of a Med Student's First Summer Break.

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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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