Friday, November 27, 2015

Five Ways To Strenghten Your Med School Application Over Winter Break

A student knows well that once you reach the Thanksgiving holiday, winter break is not too far behind. Many students find winter break to be a welcome respite from college life.

The winter break gives students time to relaxfree time to unwind a bit should always be a priority. Whereas spring break is typically a week or two, winter break may be up to three or four weeks for many. So some students hoping to eventually apply to med school may wish to use this lengthy free time to strengthen their individual profile.

Especially when it comes to preparing for the med school application process, free time is important. Here are five things you can do during winter break to help your med school application:

Volunteer Abroad: Alternative Winter Break

Schools across the country offer various programs that will allow you to serve at locations across the globe. Volunteering abroad can go a long way when it comes to one's individual growth and experience.

Independent organizations like Project Abroad also offer opportunities to serve or even intern abroad. You may need to apply to certain programs and some opportunities even have a selection process. If it's not too late, research alternative winter break opportunities to ensure that it will allow you to do something you're generally interested in.

It doesn't have to be related to medicine or health. Schools will want to see applicants who took the time to do things that show their individual character. Showing growth from these opportunities outside your bubble, so to speak, can really help when it comes to your personal statement and secondary essays.

If you want to do something that is medically related, perhaps a medical mission is a suitable option. But you should only go on a medical mission if you have specific, substantial reasons to travel overseas. Rather than to simply pad your application, your connections to the location and intentions with the program should be clear.

As it pertains to medical missions, there are also ethical and even legal issues in overseas health-related programs that must be considered. Students must show a proper code of ethics because school officials will surely frown upon experiences where a student performs tasks they are untrained to do, abroad or not.

Volunteer Domestically/Locally

Just like they offer alternative winter break opportunities abroad, there are also programs within the U.S.

Volunteer experiences don't necessarily have to be health-related. 

Schools like to see students helping in areas they have a connection to. So if you prefer to stick around campus or your hometown, it can be easy to find opportunities to serve. Free clinics, nursing homes, and hospices are just some places you can reach out to for possible opportunities.

Non-profit organizations like the American Red Cross, American Cancer Society, Susan G. Komen for the Cure, and Habitat for Humanity are good bets year-round. Come winter, Salvation Army and various Christmas-time non-profits are in need of help throughout the country.

Again, it doesn't need to be completely related to medicine. Food banks, rescue missions, and even humane societies are also great options. It's a matter of what interests you and where you feel you can make the biggest impact.

Shadow a Doctor

If you have the opportunity, shadowing a physician is a good opportunity to see what a physician's day is truly like. It can also let you see specific medical specialties. In fact, thinking about what specialties you're interested in observing should be a starting point that will help you decide where and who you'd like to ask to shadow.

Shadowing a physician gives you some quick yet meaningful clinical exposure that you can use later in your application. Most importantly, it can be an enlightening experience that will allow you to better decide whether a career in medicine is something you truly want to pursue.


After taking those tough biologies and chemistries of the world, it won't hurt to simply review your notes over the idle break. Refreshing your memory will ensure you retain critical information you'll need in those crucial upper level courses and even the MCAT.

Speaking of the MCAT, studying for the standardized exam should naturally be a priority if you plan to take it soon.  There are many resources that can help you prepare.

Take a Course: Winter Sessions & Study Abroad

Some schools offer two- or three-week courses on campus. Intersessions or "Winter Sessions" can be helpful in that they may allow you to satisfy a particular requirement, should it be available. If winter sessions are available at your school, check with your financial aid office to see about funding.

Winter sessions may also be opportunities to participate in optional enrichment programs over various subject areas. Once more, it doesn't need to be health-related. Programs can vary in length and scopefrom purely recreational to intensive training.

An intersession study abroad trip may also be an option for you to earn a few more credits while on break. These programs offer a taste of studying abroad and won't affect your "on-campus" time.

All in all, you can engage opportunities of specific interest or even try your hand at a brand-new subject. Chances are, you're interested in the course or program if you're enrolled over the break.

The MSU College of Human Medicine Office of Admissions hopes this helps in your pursuit to build a competitive medical school application. But keep in mind that the down time is also important. The medical school application process is tedious and lengthy, so down time prior to applying is also important.