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May 03, 2018

Student Insights: What should I do with the summer before med school?

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Dear Class of 2022,

This is an excellent question and one that I’m sure most of you have. The answer is going to be different for each person. However, we wanted to offer you some advice. I talked to some of my classmates and asked them what they thought were the most important things to do before starting Med School; I’ve compiled their advice below.

  • Have Fun. This is rule #1. This is your opportunity to go on whatever adventure you’ve been dreaming about in between MCAT studying and application season. Go on a trip, play sports, skydive, try the biggest burger in the country, read, spend time with family and friends, or do anything else you enjoy.
  • Don’t Study (looking at you, gunners). Put your textbooks down and stop worrying about how to get ahead before classes start. Don’t even look at a book with USMLE written on it. The reality is that your first semester is, in large part, for you to get used to the workload and to figure out which strategies work for you. Everyone will be on the even playing field in the spring when scores really begin to count (i.e. Honors). Don’t worry, though, the curriculum is indeed Pass/Fail.
  • Relax. Do not stress (there will be time for that later). You have officially been accepted into an excellent medical school, and you should be proud of this accomplishment. Celebrate with friends and family, get a massage, hang by the pool with your UABSOM gear, or read a good book snuggled up with your puppy (or kitten).
  • Find Housing/Roommates. This one is important because you need a place to live. Although I don’t think it’s technically stated in the rule book, you shouldn’t be living on the streets. Moving in before orientation is ideal, but Fundamentals doesn’t start for a few weeks after orientation so don’t stress if you can’t move in super early. Please refer to the Google Spreadsheet.
  • Visit Birmingham. This one is cool so you can get used to the place you’ll call home for at least the next two years. Some of you may already be at home in Birmingham, but for others, Interview Day may have been the first time you have ever even been to the great state of Alabama. If you can, come check it out! I promise that the food alone is worth it.
  • Admitted Student Checklist. Try not to put this off. If there is one “productive” task you need to accomplish this summer—the admitted student checklist is it. The health clearance is usually the trickiest part, but get your titers, shots, and insurance all set up ASAP. The vaccines will sneak up on you so knock it out now. Yes, now. Get off your couch and go get this taken care of, or else! Seriously though, if you don’t get this done you can’t attend school next year, and you’ll never forgive yourself.
  • Finances. Finances are stressful, we get that. That’s why Ms. LaShaundria Thomas is here for you. Listen to Mrs. Thomas, she is a finance guru. If you do what she says, you will be in good shape. She is super friendly and very receptive to questions, so call her or email her with any that you have.
  • Spend Time with Family and Friends. This is a big one. It’s no secret that Med School is challenging and time consuming. While you’ll find innumerous support systems within UABSOM, when the going gets tough sometimes you just need to talk to someone outside of the Med School world. This summer is a great opportunity to soak up all the time you can with the people who mean the most to you—those that are supporting you on this awesome journey. Make memories, take pictures, and let them know how thankful you are to have them in your life.
  • Be Open to Change. Medical school is full of unique personalities that may be different than you’re used to. Be open to getting to know your classmates. Everyone in medical school is intelligent and has varying experiences. You’ll never find out about the cool traditions, experiences, or talents of your classmates if you don’t make the effort to get to know them!
  • Think About Your Values. This one may not be something you think about often. However, medical school comes with a unique set of challenges, and I personally think it’s beneficial to be grounded in your core values along the way. Write them down so you can remind yourself of them later. Pray, meditate, reflect, or do anything else that will help mentally prepare you for the next year.

I know not all of these is feasible for everyone. However, this will be the last free summer for many of you, because you will likely be caught up in other things next summer (i.e. research, mission trips, shadowing, working, etc.).  Again, these are all bits of advice I feel are worthwhile; they won’t be for everyone. I also know that everyone will have questions at some point this summer so don’t be afraid to ask! Enjoy your summer, we’re excited to meet you all in July!

T. Alinea Esensoy
Orientation Leader, Class of 2021