May 09, 2019

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

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Dear Entering Class of 2019,

A lot of you have wondered this question. The answer is different for each of you, but all of you deserve a celebration and a break. As my classmates and I reflect on our first year of medical school, we are grateful for our faculty and staff, peer mentors, classmates, family and friends who provided advice and support to ensure we succeed and thrived. We want to continue to pass it on to you.

Prematriculation Checklist. Before you forget, take care of the prematirculation checklist so you can attend school in July, including immunizations, background check, and deposit.

Find Housing/Roommates & Explore Birmingham. Securing a place early and settling down will be less stressful. For those who are not familiar with Birmingham, you may want to get to know some new friends/roommates and to see what Birmingham has to offer. (Please refer to the Google spreadsheet, Facebook group, and the story below about different neighborhoods.)

Have Fun & Treasure the Time with Family and Friends. You’ve been officially accepted to medical school. You can take time to take care of yourself and relax. This summer is a perfect time to make memories with your family and friends who have been and will be supporting your journey in medicine. (Don’t forget to call them every now and then during medical school!)

Physical & Mental Health. There’ll be endless hours of sitting while studying your first year. In order to prepare yourself to succeed in the long run, go ahead and establish habits like eating healthy, staying active, practicing mindfulness, and good sleep routine. While you have time now, learn how to cook wholesome meals so you can meal prep when school starts. (We have free lunch and learns periodically!)

Personal Growth. Be ready to be open-minded to challenges ahead and to meet people from all walks of life. For a glimpse of medicine, there are some books (not textbooks!) and podcasts recommended for leisure and personal growth-


  • Discuss with your family, learn about your credit report, submit your FAFSA, check the status of undergraduate loans if you have any, and apply for external scholarships.
  • Establish habits of budgeting- live like a medical student, not like a future physician. A side note, you will be wearing comfortable clothes most of the time for lectures. But you will want to have a few sets of professional clothing in your wardrobe and your locker in Volker hall because Alabama is hot and humid, and you will be seeing patients. There’ll be opportunities to buy UABSOM embroidered gear like scrubs and jackets when school starts.

Don’t Study (looking at you, gunners/type A individuals). Med school will teach you what you need to know. It is wise to figure out your study styles. Everyone’s study method is different. However, chances are you will learn to adapt different study modes depending on the subject, like pharmacology versus physiology.

  • Some of you asked what classes are like, so I’ll answer here- Fundamentals of basic sciences in the first few months will ensure everyone is on the same page, no matter what major you were in undergrad. You will learn clinical skills in Intro to Clinical Medicine (ICM), and there will be cool co-enrolled classes available after you complete Fundamentals, e.g. Medical Spanish, Clinical Ethics, and Mind, Body, & Medicine.


  • The iPad Mini will be distributed during orientation. It’s up to you what technology fits you the best but be mindful that you will take some quizzes and exams on your laptop/Surface Pro/iPad-
  • Don’t Buy Textbooks Yet! Many 2nd, 3rd and 4th year students will be selling or passing on textbooks that maybe useful and maybe cheaper than new books.
  • Lister Hill library provides online textbooks access, as well as books and resources to check out. There’re also individual and group study rooms you can reserve.
  • Keep some important numbers in your phone, like your classmates’ phone number, and the late-night on-demand van service
  • Medical school can be challenging yet rewarding. After the first block or two, you may realize you may not make honors in class, and not everyone will make honors grades or high board scores. Please know that it is okay and don’t beat yourself up about it as long as you have tried your best to learn. There will be doubts on the way whether medicine is the right path or not. All of us feel the same way at some point, so you will not go through these tough times alone. There will be times of feeling anxious, fearful, and/or uncertain seeing your first patient (probably your second and third patients as well), failing an exam, remediating a block, experiencing health concerns, or anything else unexpected happening in life. I want you to remember that UABSOM has resources that focus on YOU, so take advantage of the support system available to you for free- Medical Student Services, Disability Support Services, Office of Diversity & Inclusion, Professional Development Office (which provides confidential counseling, consultation and coaching), and many more.

I know this article contains a long list of information and tips to soak in. Not all of the above will be feasible for everyone, but we hope you find this article valuable. We can’t wait to meet you all at orientation!

Isabella Mak
Entering Class of 2018