Tips on What Pre-Meds Should Do Over the Summer

Padya Paramita

Tips on What Pre-Meds Should Do Over the Summer

If you’re a pre-med student in college, you might be considering spending your summer hovering over textbooks and studying for the MCAT. However, that’s something you can do anytime, including after you’ve graduated. Your application cannot stand out as unique because a lot of other applicants will bring high MCAT scores. So then you might be asking what pre-meds should do over the summer. We’ve compiled a list of activities and initiatives that can help distinguish you from other candidates and show that you care and are genuinely interested in the medical field.

Conduct Research—And Try to Get Published

If you find yourself asking what pre-meds should do over the summer, it’s time to think about what interests you the most in medicine. Applying to medical school is all about showcasing your passion and potential in the field and having research under your belt helps boost your application if done right. If done poorly, you’ll be just another one of the thousands of applicants with typical work experience on your file. Research can occur to different degrees depending on where your interests lie. Deliberately put some thought into the kind of clinical research or scientific lab work that is available and consider how it might demonstrate your dedication to medicine. You could be involved in bench research, clinical research, qualitative research, or quantitative research depending on your medical interests and the kinds of opportunities you can find for students at your level. And if you or your team get a paper published, that’s even better!

Shadow A Doctor

You could also spend your summer shadowing a doctor. Because shadowing is such a common pre-med activity, it’s important that you put careful thought into it. When looking for doctors to shadow, try to find one in your field of interest. For example, if you want to be a heart surgeon and have other activities that align with this interest, such as working in a cardiology lab, try finding a cardiologist to shadow. It wouldn’t make sense for you to shadow a pediatrician, after all. Admissions committees would be confused, as this experience wouldn’t align with the rest of your application. 

One of the biggest benefits of shadowing a doctor is the one-on-one relationships you have the chance to build. This connection, if strong, could prove to be essential when the time comes to ask for letters of recommendation for your applications. 

Do an Independent Project

If you’re wondering what pre-meds should do over the summer in order to stand out, you could take on your own independent project. This doesn’t necessarily mean research or lab work. You could show that you care about your community and have traits looked for in a doctor such as empathy and compassion through other initiatives. You could start a clinic in your community that helps with COVID patients. Or you could study the water quality in your local pond and make sure it’s safe for residents of the neighborhood. Think out of the box so that you stand out in the application process in a unique way. 

Some other ideas might include:

  • Work with a friend in STEM or if you yourself know how to code, build an app that helps with healthcare in your community
  • Initiate a fundraiser to support a health organization whose work resonates with you
  • Start a project that focuses on a specific goal, such as a collaborative documentary interviewing family members and friends on how COVID has impacted their lives 
  • Study how various cities around you have implemented medical care for patients
  • Explore the role social media has played in spreading authentic news about diseases

Volunteer With Patients

You can spend your summer as a pre-med by volunteering in medical settings. Volunteering can be tricky. If it’s a one-time opportunity, perhaps avoid it. However, you can seek out a longer-term active opportunity to work with a person or a group of people who are ill and need help. This can develop your clinical skills as you observe how they are treated, as well as understand their needs and support them. Some potential ways you can do so include:

  • Work at a camp for children with medical needs, such as a camp for diabetic kids
  • Volunteer at an assisted living facilities and work with elders who have Alzheimer’s
  • Volunteer at a hospice; see how care providers interact with patients and their families 
  • Volunteer at a hospital or clinic abroad if you’re traveling during the summer
  • Volunteer at protests as an emergency medic

Pick Up a Hobby

Some nontraditional ideas of what pre-meds should do over the summer include stepping out of the obvious. Medical schools receive applications from a lot of candidates that read as similar. While you should definitely have experience in the medical field, it’s also key that you find ways to stand out. This is where having an extracurricular interest in another field comes in handy. Are you a really talented saxophone player? Do you have 100,000 subscribers on your YouTube channel? Do you speak 5 different languages? You get the idea. If you don’t have any standout experiences under your belt, the summer is the perfect time to pick up a new hobby or start a new initiative. 

Work in a Non-Medical Field

We can’t emphasize enough how much you need to frame your application in a memorable way. You should be able to connect your summer activity to your love of medicine and passion for helping others, but you don’t have to get a job at a hospital or internship working with patients. If your undergraduate major is in a field like political science, business, or computer science, these are all disciplines that overlap with the medical world in one way or the other. 

So instead of taking the traditional clinical position route, you could spend the summer involved in a seemingly completely unrelated field as we’ve seen many successful applicants do, such as being a chef or a librarian (yes, these are real examples). A certain job might seem random but it could serve as the very factor that helps you stand out. As a doctor, you’ll work with people constantly—so think about how you could spend your summer honing skills that can prove to be useful for your work with others. 

Hopefully, this has given you a strong idea of what is possible and what pre-meds should do over the summer. So, check out the research opportunities available at your own or a local university or figure out the medical needs of your hometown. The possibilities are endless. Good luck!

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