Congratulations! You have been accepted into medical school and will soon begin the next phase of your journey towards becoming a physician. The transition period between your previous job / schoolwork and medical school is full of excitement and anxiety. Here, I will discuss my thoughts on the best way to spend this time.
The transition period into medical school looks different for each student. Some enter medical school directly from undergraduate education, while others come from graduate level education or entirely separate professional careers. Some were accepted many months prior to the start of school; others were accepted mere days prior. Each path is unique to the individual, and there is no single best way to spend your transition time. I do acknowledge that differing levels of privilege will allow some people more luxury and freedom during this period. However, I believe the main themes of this time should be to reward yourself and enjoy your time, tie up loose-ends of life to minimize chaos, financially prepare, and meet your new classmates.
Reward Yourself, Have Fun
You have worked tirelessly to earn acceptance into medical school and earn the title of physician-to-be. Be proud of yourself. This is a major accomplishment that warrants celebration. Take some time for yourself as life allows. You want to try and refresh yourself prior to the start of school. This is the time to do the things you typically defer. Take a vacation, visit friends, pick up a new hobby or rekindle an old one, buy that splurge item you’ve been eyeballing, go to a concert, or simply embrace a couch potato lifestyle for the first time in years. Whatever fits your bill, just make sure you do something special for yourself during this time. You deserve it.
Settle In, Tidy Up Loose Ends
Most people will be moving prior to medical school. Some are moving down the street to a new apartment in their hometown, while others are moving cross-country away from family and friends. Whichever you are, do your best to tidy up your new living situation before school starts. Moving is chaotic. Not only is it a logistical nightmare, but medical students are trying to do it on a tight budget which only adds to the complexity. Give yourself time to get everything settled in and unpacked. Get your utilities straightened out. Explore your neighborhood. Have your go-to grocery store, gas station, coffee shop, public transportation means, pharmacy, gym, primary care provider, etc. all picked out. The beginning of medical school can be a tough learning curve; figuring these things out beforehand will minimize unnecessary distractions.
Medical school is expensive. Living life is expensive. One of the best things you can do for yourself is to educate yourself on your personal financial situation. Tight budgets and debt (student loans in particular) are an incredible stressor. If you haven’t already, take the time to create a personalized budget, organize all of your financial accounts/debts/assets, and learn as much about medical student loan borrowing and repayment as possible. Too many people learn the hard way that they have budgeted poorly and missed opportunities to save/reduce cost. This includes me. I did a poor job of researching my medical student loan options. Four years later I realized my poor preparation would cost me significantly. Some of the best learning resources include people who have gone through the process before, your medical school’s student loan office, a financial planner, various books/websites/podcasts (White Coat Investor by Jim Dahle, Medical Student Loans: A Comprehensive Guide by Ben White, Nerdwallet, Studentaid.gov, etc.). Whatever your personal financial situation is, you need to reassess and reorganize prior to starting medical school to maximize your long-term financial health
Make New Friends
Most medical schools will have a week or two of orientation prior to classes starting. This time is usually packed with social events. These are designed for the incoming class to mingle and spark the beginnings of important friendships. These friends will be with you for the next four years. You will lean on each other during stressful study periods and emotionally challenging clinical experiences. Utilize this time, and go to as many of these social functions as you can to begin building some of the best friendships you will ever have.
Your acceptance to medical school is a phenomenal accomplishment. Set yourself up for success before your first year starts by rewarding and refreshing yourself, settling into your new living situation, financially preparing, and capitalizing on orientation socials to meet your new classmates and friends.