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Congratulations! Your years of hard work and dedication have paid off. You've conquered the MCAT and AMCAS. You've shined during your interviews, and you’re finally starting medical school this fall. As excited as you are to get started, you’re probably also wondering how best to spend your time between now and your White Coat Ceremony. Great question! Fact is, you’re about to start one of the most amazing experiences of your life, but also one of the most challenging. So whether you have one month, two months, or even longer until medical school starts, you’ll want to use this valuable time to your best advantage. Here’s how:

Reconnect. 

I know you’re starting medical school, but you don’t have to put the rest of your life on hold! In fact, as you go through the long days and late nights of medical school, you’re going to need your social supports more than ever, especially if you’re moving far from home. Take time this summer to reconnect with friends and family. Go on that camping trip with your brother, or take your grandmother out to breakfast. Relationships will be the support you rely on to get you through the challenging moments in the next four years. Nurture them!

Refresh.

Simply put, medical school is going to change your life forever. You’ll meet new people, learn more than you thought possible, and experience emotional highs and lows alike. But to take care of patients, you first have to take care of yourself. Practice a few critical habits that, reinforced now, will greatly benefit you later: Eat a healthy, balanced diet. Do an exercise you love at least four days per week. And start going to bed earlier than your instincts might tell you. (I recommend ten o’clock, when possible; trust me, you won’t regret it!) Follow these few simple guidelines, and you’ll feel not only physically fit, but mentally fit as you begin your medical school journey.

Read.

With the mounds of MCAT practice questions and tests behind you, this summer is a great time to begin exploring the tremendous volumes of books, journals, atlases, blogs, and other resources available in medicine. But what to explore? Believe me, now is not the time to start reading highly specialized, borderline-arcane original research articles, or to start memorizing your anatomy textbook. The time for that will come soon enough! Rather, ask yourself the following questions: What first got me passionate about medicine? Was it a particular disease? A specialty that fascinated me from the beginning? Search the web or visit a medical library and find introductory resources that really fascinate you. Indulge yourself! Sure, you won’t understand every word, but that’s fine. The point is to begin exploring what’s out there, and to get yourself even more excited for the amazing career you’re about to start.

Reach out.

It’s hard to imagine, but you’re about to cross paths with a whole class of fascinating people from all different walks of life, all of whom are totally stoked to start medical school with you! Take the chance over summer to reach out to them, whether via Facebook, email, or even in person. Over the next four years, your shared experiences will turn your classmates into some of your closest friends. Getting in touch with them early will not only ease the transition into medical school, but also get you even more excited about the incredible journey you’re going to share.

Relax!

I know you’re excited, and you should be! But remember, you’re starting a marathon, not a sprint. Medical school is the critical first step to an endurance event (both mental and physical) that will span your entire career in medicine. Follow these basic but critical guidelines now to prepare yourself for success from day one of medical school!

We'd love to know how you plan to spend your summer before med school. Send us your stories, questions and feedback. Good luck!
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David Chapel

David Chapel

David is currently in his fourth year at Columbia University’s College of Physicians and Surgeons. He paired natural brilliance and daily diligence to attain straight honors marks during his major clinical year, and continued his success with rock-solid scores on the USMLE Step 1 and Step 2 CK. David has shaped himself into an outstanding mentor for medical students at all levels of study through a combination of truly remarkable academic ability, diverse extracurricular talents and six years of experience in student-centered tutoring in the basic and applied sciences.
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