Here’s a continuation of my #MedSchoolHacks Series… I decided to switch it up and make this a little less academic than the other posts.
So this is the time that current applicants are narrowing down their medical school choices and prospective applicants are starting to think about the MCAT (if they haven’t taken it already) and AMCAS so they can start getting ready to apply to medical school. I know that we spend a lot of time worrying about resumes, extracurriculars, letters of recommendation, and personal statements but lets not forget about some of the things we can be doing in our personal lives to make the transition to medical school a lot easier. Here’s a list of some of the things I tried to be mindful of (or I wish I was more mindful of) before starting med school.
GET YOUR FINANCIAL LIFE IN ORDER
- Personally I think this is one of the most important. If you have credit cards, previous debt, past collections, etc then you need to become financially literate. If you have no idea what your credit score is, when your next payment is due, how to access your credit report, or any other pertinent information related to your credit history then please take some time to get informed (don’t worry I knew nothing about finances until recently). You don’t want derogatory remarks (collections, overdue on loan payments) etc to affect your ability to take out loans if needed for medical school. Also without good credit, you may not be eligible for a car or a new apartment, which are things you may need depending on where you go to school. It’s not that these things are impossible to get without good credit, but it does make it a lot harder (you’ll need a cosigner/ guarantor and it may be more expensive because your interest rate will likely be higher). It may be a good idea to have a backup credit card that has space on it for last minute expenses, emergencies, car troubles that you may come across in medical school. If life makes it so that you can’t keep a low balance on your credit card (let’s be real, med school apps & review MCAT books are expensive) then at least try to pay the minimum balance on time each month. Also don’t forget to save some funds if possible for emergencies.
DO THE THINGS YOU ALWAYS WANTED TO DO –
- Go on that last minute trip, spend time with family, take up that new hobby, or just sleep. Chances are you likely have more time now than you will during medical school (or grad school). It’s not that you can’t do these things during medical school, but personally I find things much more enjoyable when I don’t have thoughts of studying in the back of my mind while I’m trying to have fun.
STOCK UP ON BUSINESS CASUAL
- So this is one of the things I didn’t do and I actually wish I did. Thankfully I’m in medical school on the west coast (aka BEST COAST) where the professional environment is a lot more “chill” and laid back (especially compared to the east coast). Perhaps its the Cali vibe and the warm weather? Anyways, when you see sales for suits or business casual items you may want to grab a few things or yourself. I waited until the last minute to get my interview suits and I ended up paying more than I should. What I should have done was shop smart and get them when I saw them on sale a few months before. Be careful with buying too many items though… I went shopping during Black Friday of my interview season and I stocked up on so many winter business casual items but I ended up having to give them all away because they were way to heavy/ warm for Los Angeles. You definitely don’t need to go overboard with the shopping. A bulk of your business casual wear will be needed during third year, but until then a few outfits for clinic and OSCEs should be just fine.
KEEP A WORKING RESUME
- I had one resume file that was my master resume and whenever I did new research, got a new job, added a new leadership position, etc, I updated it immediately. When I was applying for something I would copy and paste the relevant experiences and positions from my master list into a new document. It made my life so much easier. Also filling out the extracurricular section of my AMCAS was a breeze after doing this.
KEEP A LIST OF PEOPLE TO WRITE RECOMMENDATION LETTERS
- My undergrad allowed us to ask for letters as early as freshman year. They encouraged us to ask for letters while we were “fresh” in our professors’ minds and then our deans office held all of our letter for future applications. I know it varies from school to school, and some institutions require your to pay for your own letter service and make you do it yourself, so this may not be applicable for everyone. Definitely consult your advisors for the best timing on when to ask for a letter of recommendation. But regardless of when you ask, keep in mind who you want to ask. The last thing you want is to be ready to apply and realize you have no idea who would be able to write a strong letter for you.
LEARN TO MAKE A FEW MEALS (+ OTHER BASIC LIFE SKILLS)
- No one’s saying you need to become the next Martha Stewart or Betty Crocker but your life would be so much easier if you knew how to do things yourself. Learning a few basic meals is cost-effective and healthier than eating out everyday. I think it’s also important to learn a few other basic life skills as well such as: writing checks, knowing how to speak in “adult” settings like when you visit an apartment or buying a car, how to pay bills online, how to manage your own finances, how to access your bank account information on your own (this means without texting your parents for account info), knowing your own social security number, and having your insurance cards on you.
Honestly I can go on and on about things I learned during my time living on my own but 1) I need to study and 2) I really don’t want to overwhelm anybody. I just wanted to share a few tips of things I learned (and some things that I wish I learned sooner) to help others out.
Of course you can’t prepare for everything and there are so many things that I learned on the spot. For instance, I recently learned (and by recently I mean today) that when you move, its important to update all your addresses (this is the most annoying thing ever by the way). I spent a bit of time today updating my bank statements, voter registration, school registration, drivers license address, and other accounts to my new address so I could have a seamless transition to my new place.
Some things you learn from experience and other things you can prepare for. But please don’t go crazy trying to accomplish the things on this list. If anything, I think it just helps to be mindful of what’s to come. So maybe you’ll think twice before swiping your credit card for those items you know you’re never going to be able to pay off, or you may join your mom before dinner once in a while to learn your way around a kitchen. Either way, I hope this helps and if you have any more tips/ advice on “adulting” then free to share below!
Want more Med School Hacks? Click the links below: