As a busy premed, free time might start feeling like a foreign concept to you. Until summer hits, that is. During the summer, an empty schedule might stretch out in front of you, leaving you to wonder what to do with your time. It’s tempting to spend the entire summer on the couch, and while you certainly can, there’s plenty you can do during the summer to continue to grow and develop your interests.
Gain Clinical Experience
You don’t want summer break to be the only time you get clinical experience, but it can be a great time to start. You might be able to get a lot of experience under your during the summer and scale back to a few hours per week or month when you’re back in school. The experiences and connections you gain during the summer may help you find volunteer or paid positions during the school year.
How to Get Clinical Experience
There’s a lot of ways you can get clinical experience! It’s all about finding the role that fits your interests and scheduling needs. You can get your clinical experience in a hospital, private practice, or in home health. Your job description and daily tasks are much more important than your job title or the setting. Your clinical experience can also be paid or unpaid. You can sign up for a full or part-time job, or volunteer for a few hours per week or month. Consistency over time matters more than how many hours per week you’re getting.
If you live in a state that requires a certification for medical assistants, summer break can be a great time to take those courses or take courses to become an EMT, if that interests you.
Shadow a Physician
Summer is also an ideal time to gain shadowing experience. Reach out to physicians in your hometown or near your university. If you are moving back to an underserved area for the summer, you can still participate in eShadowing. If you’re wondering whether to prioritize clinical experience or shadowing, check out our post on the differences between the two!
If you’re wondering how to get shadowing experience, here are some ideas for places to reach out:
- Your Wider Social Circle
- Do you know anyone in medicine, or does anyone in your family know someone who might let you shadow them?
- Your Own Physician/Family Members’ Physician
- If you already have an established relationship, that makes it more likely that they might be more willing to let you shadow them.
- Cold-Calling Clinics
- You can also drop by in person with a resume or short cover letter and ask about potential shadowing opportunities. Not all of these will lead to anything but some might.
- Clinical Experience
- Sometimes, your clinical experience or non-clinical volunteering in a hospital or clinic will give you the opportunity to get to know physicians, giving you the opportunity to ask for shadowing opportunities.
Get a Summer Job
If you already have a paid job, summer can be the perfect time to continue working and pick up more hours. If you don’t work during the school year, this is also the ideal time to start a new job. Employers hiring college students know that many will leave or reduce their hours during the school year. You might be able to find a position that you can come back to each summer, allowing you to build deeper relationships than if you work somewhere new each summer. Saving up money during the summers might enable you to work less during the school year, freeing up time for your other extracurriculars.
Reflect On Your Experiences So Far
Now is a great time to reflect on everything you’ve done since graduating high school. It doesn’t have to be something related to medicine to have been valuable in your journey. Taking time to reflect on experiences while they’re still fresh means you’ll be able to write higher quality activity descriptions when it comes time to complete your primary application. At least some of the experiences you’ve already had will become part of your personal statement. Having previous reflections to look back on will make it much easier to remember how an experience impacted you and will allow you to describe it in greater detail.
Use Mappd to track your hours in each activity, and any reflections you have. Taking the time to dig deep now will make your life easier down the line.
Get Involved in Research
If you’ve wanted to get involved in research, or if it interests you, summer can be the perfect time to get started. You can begin what might become a more permanent position during the summer, or you may be able to find a short-term project to join. Short-term roles can be an excellent opportunity to find out if you enjoy research and want to keep pursuing it. You can join a lab at your college or see if any schools nearby have opportunities for you if you live far from your school. If you join a lab, and find you don’t enjoy the work, it’s perfectly reasonable to leave the position. Just be sure you do it respectfully and avoid burning any bridges.
Take a Summer Class
If you’re staying near your university during the summer, you might be able to take some of your prerequisite courses during this time. I wouldn’t recommend taking prerequisite courses at another school or community college. Community college is fine if that’s your best option, but switching back and forth between a four-year university and a community college is not ideal. If there’s an exciting course you haven’t been able to fit into your schedule, summer is a perfect time!
Do Whatever You Want
If there’s something you’ve wanted to do but have been putting off, now is your time to do it. Not everything you do can be or should be intended to further your application. Making time for what you enjoy and your priorities outside academics will help you develop as a well-rounded person. This can also help protect against burnout because you have something to give your mind a break or to turn to when other things become overwhelming. Remember that you’re a person first and a premed second.
Schedule time by yourself and time with friends and family. If there’s a hobby you’ve neglected during the school year, now is the time to pick it back up! Take time to relax as much as possible between everything else you might be doing.