For most college students, spring break looks like beach trips, social events, and visits back home. But if you’re a pre-med student, this valuable time off can be a strategic way to increase your chance of getting into medical school.
With a break from the classwork, you’ll have extra time for some alternative spring break activities like gaining clinical experience hours, shadowing a physician, studying for the MCAT, or volunteering abroad.
In this blog, we review the most effective ways to spend your spring break as a pre-med, focusing heavily on activities that have the most impact on your med school application and future career.
Choosing a Spring Break Activity
When choosing a spring break activity, look for areas in your education and extracurricular experiences that could use some improvement for your medical school application and align with your interests. Make sure whatever you choose offers:
- Alignment with career goals — This could mean hands-on clinical experience in a long-term care facility, volunteering as an EMT, or a job in a related health profession.
- Academic enrichment — Try participating in research, shadowing a doctor, or even taking the time to focus on your MCAT studying without distractions.
- Skill development — Look for opportunities that help develop relevant skills such as leadership, communication, critical thinking, and empathy. These skills are invaluable in a medical career, and you don’t have to do something directly medical to develop them.
- Networking — Activities that allow for networking with medical professionals, fellow pre-med students, or mentors can provide guidance and open doors for future opportunities.
- Ethical considerations — When participating in volunteer programs abroad, especially in medical volunteering, it’s crucial to choose ethical programs that sustainably benefit local communities without contributing to voluntourism. (In other words, don’t just volunteer abroad so you can show what a great person you are on social media.)
- Work-life balance — As important as it is productive, remember that you deserve time to relax. Spring break can be the break you need for mental rejuvenation.
8 Best Spring Break Ideas For Pre-Meds
The best spring break ideas for pre-med students offer educational value, skill development, and opportunities for personal growth. Here are some top suggestions:
1. International Medical Volunteering
Participating in a sustainable medical volunteer trip like Global Medical Brigades allows you to step out of your comfort zone and start learning about global health. Many of our trips are scheduled during spring break and other break times throughout the year, like summer and Christmas vacations.
Our brigades partner with communities in countries like Guatemala, Honduras, Ghana, Panama, and Greece. They offer hands-on experience in rural settings, working alongside licensed healthcare professionals, providing valuable healthcare access to under-resourced communities.
If you don’t have a Global Medical Brigades Chapter on your campus, you can become a Chapter President, gaining valuable leadership experiences while on your brigade and possibly earning a scholarship for your program.
2. Clinical Shadowing and Medical Internships
Spring break is an excellent time to shadow a healthcare professional or pursue a clinical internship at a hospital, clinic, or assisted living facility. These internships provide real-world medical experience and a look into the world of public health.
Plus, shadowing a healthcare provider may trigger a desire to work in a particular specialty. You may be able to find a virtual shadowing opportunity as a more flexible option.
3. Language Courses
Being bilingual is a significant asset in healthcare. Pre-med students can use spring break to intensively learn medical Spanish or a common language in the community they wish to practice.
Joining one of our Central American brigades offers you the opportunity to set English aside and immerse yourself in the Spanish language.
4. Medical School Application Writing
Spring break is an excellent time to focus on aspects of your med school application, such as outreach with medical schools, working on application essays and personal statements, or building your school list.
This preparation can allow you to submit your application as soon as the AMCAS or AACOMAS window opens.
5. Research Projects
Participating in or initiating a research project can deepen your understanding of the medical field and enhance critical thinking skills. This could be laboratory research or a community-based project, depending on your interests and goals.
Talk to your pre-health advisor and professors about available research opportunities during your upcoming spring break.
6. Community Service Projects
Involvement in community service can be a fulfilling experience. Volunteer opportunities range from working at health clinics, mentoring high school students, and participating in public health campaigns.
This type of volunteer work not only contributes to your personal development but also demonstrates your commitment to service, a core value in medicine.
7. Personal Development
Developing new habits and routines or initiating a capstone project that combines your skills with a community need are ways to grow personally while making a significant impact.
You can get certified in life-saving procedures like CPR, first aid, and administering NARCAN®. It might be a great opportunity to read that leadership book you’ve been staring at on the shelf. Or perhaps this is a time for self-reflection and personal growth.
Engaging in activities unrelated to medicine can provide a well-rounded profile and demonstrate your diverse interests to medical school admissions committees. After all, it’s ideal to present yourself as a well-rounded applicant — committee members aren’t just looking for people with medical experience.
8. Relaxation and Self-Care
Your physical and mental well-being are paramount, especially during the busy pre-med years.
You probably work diligently and study in your free time. Don’t overlook the value of rest and relaxation. Burnout is a real concern in medical education, and spring break may give you a chance to recharge.
Get Closer to Your Medical Career Goals With a Strategic Spring Break
Spring break gives pre-med students the opportunity to take a moment to breathe and reflect. Strategically using this break or your winter break can advance your medical school goals — it just takes a bit of planning.
Choosing to participate, and even lead a Medical Brigade offers practical experience, leadership, language immersion, and a short-term commitment that will make long-term impacts. Embrace this time to grow, explore, and prepare for the exciting journey ahead in the field of medicine.