How can I build my medical school resume during the summer?
Getting good grades in your pre-med classes is only half the formula for getting into the med school(s) you want. The other half is building a resume that helps convince adcoms you’re someone unique, amazing, and definitely not to be overlooked!
Summer is a good time to add to your resume, as it’s a little easier to decompress and focus on something other than tests and endless assignments. If you’re lucky you can combine a resume-builder with a job that actually pays you something.
Find a job/internship in medicine/healthcare
There are plenty of jobs in most towns, small and large—paid and unpaid—that can give you tangential experience in a medical setting. Use contacts that you, your parents, or your friends may have to target jobs in medical clinics, hospitals and doctors’ groups. Even an administrative position will put you in a setting where you can see healthcare decisions and delivery up close.
Try on medical careers as a volunteer
If you can take an unpaid position, it could be as valuable as a paid one and in the long run be a launching pad for your medical career. Let’s say you can do some work on an oncology ward, or in an ER, or assisting in an orthopedic practice. You’ll be able to “try on” the specialty or career choice and either embrace it or check it off your list. Even if you’re working a full time job, you could ask a local hospital if they accept volunteers during the night shift. Any time you can spend in a medical setting can potentially be valuable in furthering your medical career. Or volunteer at a homeless shelter or free clinic. And if you can volunteer at the same place summer after summer, you’ll be making great friends, and the people in charge at the clinic or practice will provide invaluable recommendations when you need them.
Serve a medical mission
I traveled to India for a month-long program during the summer of my junior year to participate in a program designed for pre-med (and medical) students. I got to travel around to impoverished towns with local doctors, listened to stimulating lectures, and got a wealth of experience examining the components of effective health care delivery systems. The program was a little pricey, but it helped me seal my interest in this critical area of health care. You can Google these kinds of programs (domestic and foreign) and find a whole host of them that can help you find some purpose and direction in your pre-med years.
Shadow a doctor
As I’ve recommended elsewhere, shadowing a doctor or two is a great way to spend any unused time. I’ve even provided a list of questions to help make the experience more beneficial and valuable. Remember that the shadowing experience doesn’t necessarily need to be in the specialty or setting in which you want to practice personally. It’s an opportunity to get your feet wet and become more familiar with different areas of medicine/health care. These opportunities shouldn’t be too hard to come by, especially if you make it clear that you only want a short-term commitment, like a week or two. Doctors are often happy to make the time for young pre-meds, as they remember that stage of life and know what you’re up against.
Buy MCAT prep books and crack them open!
You may not be taking the MCAT for another year or more, but it doesn’t hurt to get familiar with MCAT study materials. If you have an hour or more a day that’s totally uncommitted, you can make a lot of progress in familiarizing yourself with the material you’ll confront on the MCAT. There are a host of different companies that offer a full line of MCAT prep books and materials. From flash cards all the way to questions submitted to you daily on your cell phone, it’s out there. You can check out our comprehensive list here:
Everything doesn’t have to revolve around medicine or health care. Adcoms are interested in applicants who show curiosity about and interest in the world around them. It’s great if you’ve volunteered in elementary school summer programs, if you have an interest in astronomy, or if you’re involved in politics or special interest clubs. Getting so focused on your medical education and career that it blocks out all other pursuits in your life can take away from your effectiveness as a health care provider. Round out your interests and take on a new hobby!
Do NOT take required classes at a junior college
It may seem a practical choice to get some pre-med requirements out of the way during your “summer vacation.” But taking a class or two at a local campus can telegraph that you took the easy way out. Adcoms want to see that you’re expecting the most of yourself, so if you do take summer classes, do it at a college or university and don’t take just one class…take a full schedule. Be forewarned that some medical schools won’t even give you credit for upper level courses taken at a junior college.
Get off Facebook!
If you have free time this summer, dispense with the time-wasters and plan a resume-boosting summer.