4 Steps to Take Before Medical School

Learn how to fill the downtime between getting accepted and starting your medical school odyssey.

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For a pre-medical student, there is truly nothing that compares to the moment that you find out that you've been accepted to medical school. The memories of the hyper-caffeinated all-nighters spent working in the library and the parties that you missed because you had a biochemistry exam fade away, and you realize that it was all worth it.

Once you've posted your news on Facebook and texted your friends and family (in that order), take a moment to reflect upon the fact that no matter what happens during the rest of the admissions process you are one step closer to your goal, and you will eventually be a doctor.

As the euphoria begins to fade and it sets in that your hard work has paid off, you may begin to ask yourself "now what?"

Some say that the time between receiving your first acceptance letter and actually starting school is the best part of your medical school career. To help prepare you for the road ahead, below are three things to do (and one not to do), after you receive an acceptance letter.

[See U.S. News's rankings of Best Medical Schools.]

1. Attend your other interviews.

But be somewhat more selective. After you have an acceptance or two in the bank (so to speak), medical school interviews can be an interesting and anxiety-free experience. You will meet dynamic people and may find something unexpected about a school that you previously wouldn't have given a second look that makes it a good "fit" for you. If you decline the interview you'll never know.

2. Take the opportunity to travel.

No matter how cosmopolitan the city or area where your future medical school is located, much of the first two years will likely be spent within the confines of school, the library, your favorite coffee shop/study place, and home. Capitalize on this time by rewarding yourself and take the opportunity to explore somewhere new. You'll be grateful that you did.

3. Learn a little about health policy.

After you've been accepted, and before you begin the rigors of medical school, is an opportune time to begin to understand the role of various stakeholders (patients, physicians, insurance companies, government, pharmaceutical industry, etc) in the healthcare system. Physicians and medical students can be powerful advocates and play a meaningful role in the future of healthcare. You don't need to become an expert, but you are entering a field that touches lives and impacts everyone. Understanding the broader context of the medical world will enable you to better serve your patients.

[Use these medical school tips and stats.]

4. Do not begin studying for medical school.

Any physician reading this will give me an 'Amen' on this one. Before long you'll be inundated with so much information that it will feel like you're drinking water from a fire hose. Trying to brush up on anatomy and physiology will truly be a waste of time. The admissions committees and professors know what they are doing and are confident in your demonstrated capacity to learn; you are ready.

So for those of you who have been accepted to medical school, congratulations! You have successfully completed one of the most difficult legs of your journey to becoming a doctor. Take some time to enjoy it.

Mark D'Agostino, MD, MS, MSc is a Brigade Surgeon in the United States Army. As a Marshall Scholar, he earned a Masters degree in Biochemistry at the University of Nottingham Medical School, and a second Masters degree in Health Policy, Planning and Financing from the London School of Economics (LSE) & London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM). After graduating from Brown Medical School, he trained at Walter Reed Army Medical Center.