Pre-Med Academics

7 Ways Pre-Meds Can Make the Most of Their Summer Break

Here are different things you can do during your summer vacation that will strengthen your medical school application and broaden your life experience. As pre-med students, we know that summer vacation can be a bit of a double-edged sword. After finally being free from coursework, those three months off can be a little daunting if you don’t have a plan. It doesn’t have to be.

Study for the MCAT 

Since it’s pretty common for pre-med students to take the MCAT during the summer between the junior and senior year (or shortly after graduating if you are taking a gap year), setting aside these three months to study for the MCAT full-time or part-time is a great first step toward achieving your goal score. With no other coursework in the way, you’ll be able to keep your focus on the MCAT, and while this may not be the most glamorous option for summer break, you can always take your books by the pool!

Shadow Physicians 

We all know shadowing is important, but it’s not always easy to get shadowing times that are conducive to a student’s schedule. So, why not load up your summer with shadowing hours across several clinics, hospitals, and specialties. I’ve heard of students shadowing once a week for a few weeks, or even shadowing 9-5 for one week, whichever works best for you and your interests. Another bonus is that you may be in your hometown for summer vacation, meaning you can leverage your existing relationships with your family physicians to find shadowing opportunities! 

Can’t get into a clinic or hospital yet because of Covid-19? Try virtual shadowing from the Virtual Clinical Education series from MedSchoolCoach. You can earn one hour of extracurricular credit for each medical specialty you shadow!

Participate in a Summer Research Program

Otherwise known as research experiences for undergraduates (REUs), these programs are hosted at colleges and universities across the country. Students selected to one of these programs will typically receive a stipend and housing near the location for the duration of the summer. You can find more information about REUs here: https://www.nsf.gov/crssprgm/reu/. These are a great way to expose yourself to new places and research methods without getting locked into a long term arrangement. Plus, you’ll make some great friends in the process! 

Volunteer in Various Settings

Whether your volunteer work is clinical or not doesn’t matter! As long as you find someplace where you are making an impact and you are enjoying yourself, stay there and cherish it. Students often put too much pressure on themselves to find clinically related volunteer work. However, you can learn just as much, if not more, from non-clinical volunteerism. A summer spent at the local soup kitchen or the neighborhood parks and recreation program is a summer that’s that good for the souls as well as med school applications.

Take Summer Classes 

If you can manage it financially, taking advantage of summer classes is a great way to get ahead on your coursework, reduce burn out during the semester, and keep your mind fresh during the break. However, just because they are summer classes doesn’t mean they count any less! Make sure to do your best in these courses as well. Every grade counts! 

Create Your Own Research Opportunities 

Why stress about finding a lab or research center to hire you when you can explore research interests of your own? Don’t be afraid to get creative and find ways to engage with the community that surrounds you. You could create a brief survey to identify highlights and or gaps in certain community programs or offer to collect satisfaction data from patients that visit your local doctor’s office. Once you have your data, you can go out and find solutions.

Explore Something Totally New

Want to take a productive, yet enjoyable break? Try investing your time in a new healthy hobby or kick start a new passion project! Whether you start playing a new team sport or you start a small side hustle, you can have an amazing summer break that impacts you personally, and therefore makes you a better person and better future physician. Any experience can be of value, you just need to look for it! 

Take these 7 ideas and see what speaks to you. Start thinking about your summer plans as a pre-med a little early and you’ll be better able to hit the ground running when May arrives. See you then!


Have more questions about getting into med school or becoming a doctor? MedSchoolCoach has a team of admissions advisors who’ve all served on admissions committees. They are available to help coach you and to boost your chances of getting into medical school. Look them up!

Olivia Brumfield

Olivia is a senior at the University of Rochester where she expects to receive a B.S. in neuroscience. She is an aspiring physician with expertise in program management, clinical care, and REDCap with intermediate fluency in American Sign Language. She a Clinical Research Associate at the University of Rochester Center for Health + Technology, as well as the host of the PreMeducation video series.

Related Articles

Back to top button
Close