What To Do Before Beginning Medical School

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It’s an exciting time of year for many pre-med students. Interview season is over, acceptances are rolling in, and you’ve already started the countdown till orientation. Amidst this excitement, it’s easy to make some pretty bad decisions with the intention of being prepared.

I had almost eight months off after receiving my acceptance from Baylor Med to “prepare” for medical school. Caught up in the emotions of having been accepted by my dream school made me all the more determined to be ready. I distinctly remember grabbing my mom’s old nursing textbooks to look through some high yield clinical vignettes even before I understood what the terms meant. As idiotic as this was, I feel others are inclined to behave similarly. With the guidance of upperclassmen and my own first-hand experience after starting school, I quickly learned that there are some things you should do before beginning medical school.

Living

This is perhaps the most difficult task for any incoming MS-1, especially if you’re an out-of-state (OOS) student, but it’s absolutely imperative that you act as soon as possible to find a place to live. Some schools and apartment complexes provide programs to help you find roommates and/or a suitable place to live. If you have a family or plan on staying at the same school for residency, a condo may be a worthy investment. In the case of OOS students at Texas medical schools, you can claim in state tuition after one year of owning property (ie, a condo).

Textbooks/Equipment

You’ll probably receive a list of materials to purchase sometime during the summer. Depending on the school, the items may be labeled as “optional” or “required.” Regardless, it’s always a great idea to ask upperclassmen how many of those materials really are required. Furthermore, you’re likely to come across students who have digital copies of the textbooks and manuals once you start class, so there’s no rush. This also applies to medical equipment like stethoscopes – make sure you ask an upperclassmen!! By not jumping the gun, you’ll save yourself hundreds of dollars and the headache of having to return books/equipment.

Studying

I’ve told this to interviewees before – from my perspective, the individual concepts we cover in medical school are rather easy. It’s just the volume that can be cumbersome. You’ll have plenty of time to learn the material once you start school, so there’s no point in getting a head start. Pre-matriculation is an option at some schools, but for those who choose not to, don’t feel like you’re behind.

Travel

As a general rule of thumb before starting school, you want to pursue things which take more than a weekend. This is a perfect time for international travel, getting married, etc. Once you start the curriculum, it’s nearly impossible to take an extended leave of absence (except maybe in your 4th year, depending on the school).

Paperwork/Second Look

One of the most dreadful tasks in undergrad is filing for financial aid, and depending on your situation, it may still be at the top of your “to-do” list for medical school. Make sure that you fill out your FAFSA, submit any final transcripts, and verify that your paperwork has been completed appropriately and received by all parties. In addition, I recommend attending the second-look (if offered). Now that you’ve been accepted, you’ll be far more receptive to information about the school, meet with the dean(s), and pose questions to current students from the perspective of a matriculant. It’s amazing how much better a tour is when you don’t have to worry about interviews afterwards. ūüėČ

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