What to Do While Waiting for Medical School Admissions Decisions

Applicants to U.S. allopathic or osteopathic medical schools typically submit their primary applications in the late spring and early summer, and their secondary applications by the end of the summer. Interview invitations can arrive at any time throughout the subsequent eight months, and admissions decisions after the interview can also take months.

The lengthy period spent waiting for admissions decisions is both exciting and emotionally taxing. There can be long periods without communication from schools, which can be extraordinarily difficult after the immense work put into the application.

Premedical students often ask what they should do during this time to be productive and further enhance their chances of acceptance. Here are some pointers.

Stay Productive and Reduce Anxiety

First, recognize that the waiting game is a difficult time and can be challenging in a different way than you may be used to. You want to actively choose how to spend your time during this period; don’t let yourself passively fall into a groove. Instead, continue mapping out and scheduling your time to remain productive.

You may use this as an opportunity to focus on activities that keep your mind engaged and reduce stress levels. Think about incorporating additional physical exercise or time with friends, family or community. Consider mindfulness practices, such as meditation or yoga, for which you may have more time now that applications have been submitted.

The time you spend cultivating these habits will also serve you well when you start medical school and need an outlet to reduce stress.

[READ: Why Resilience Is Key to Medical School Success.]

There are also steps you can take to boost your application during this period. If you have progressed in one or more arenas, including additional research or volunteer experience, presented at a conference, taken a new course or expanded your clinical experience, many schools will encourage you to share such substantive updates with them in the form of a letter.

As admissions committees make their decisions, it is also extraordinarily helpful for them to understand your level of interest in their program. If you retain a high level of interest in a specific school for personal or professional reasons, definitely share this information with them when you send a letter.

Otherwise, keep yourself busy with meaningful activities to avoid fixating on the admissions process. Maintain some of your pre-application activities, especially those that bring you the most joy. Engage in hobbies and don’t be afraid to try new ones — these can also become great conversation fodder for interviews.

Try your hand at cultivating the indoor or outdoor garden you’ve always wanted, attempt some fermented creations or volunteer in your community. You will likely find less time for these activities during med school, so be sure to take advantage of this time period to enjoy nonacademic experiences.

[READ: Volunteering in Underserved Communities: What Premeds Should Know.]

Self-care is essential for reducing anxiety during this period. Prioritize living a healthy lifestyle with exercise, a healthy diet and enough sleep. Staying organized and working within the routine you’ve developed as a busy premed student can also be helpful, as you may find that disorganization accompanying too much free time may be a hindrance to your mental health and allow you to become overly focused on your application outcome.

Pursue activities that align closely with your interests and personal goals. Whether it’s continuing research projects, volunteering at a local hospital or exploring new hobbies, find activities that bring you joy and fulfillment.

If you find yourself enjoying an activity less, don’t force yourself to continue. This is the time to be honest with yourself and spend your time very purposefully.

Try to stay connected with the medical community in any way you can. You can attend seminars, workshops or networking events. If you’re in a lab, try to present findings at a research conference. The discussions that arise organically from these events, with both peers and professionals, can provide valuable insights and support as you look to join the medical community.

Take Advantage of Schedule Flexibility

The takeaway here is to view this waiting period as a valuable opportunity for personal and professional growth. Use the flexibility in your schedule to travel, pursue additional certifications or explore areas of interest both inside and outside of medicine.

This is a rare opportunity, one you may not get again until late in the fourth year of medical school.

[Read: What a First-Year Medical School Student Can Expect.]

Learn a new language, especially one relevant to your local patient population, if possible. Develop a new skill — such as Python, data analysis, a certificate in public health, biostatistics, epidemiology, etc. — or focus on other specific areas of self-improvement.

There is excellent literature available to broaden your horizons before entering the medical field. Consider reading classical works by William Osler, Abraham Verghese, Siddhartha Mukherjee, Paul Farmer and Arthur Kleinman, which will help to prepare you in innumerable ways for a career in medicine.

Take time to reflect on your journey and aspirations. Use this period to clarify your goals and priorities before embarking on the rigorous journey into a medical career, and establish a daily routine that works for you. Entering medical school with a clear set of goals and a plan to achieve them will be a major advantage.

The waiting period before medical school admissions decisions can be a valuable time for personal growth and self-discovery. By staying productive, engaging in meaningful activities and embracing this period of flexibility, you can make the most of this time during your journey into medicine.

Remember to prioritize self-care and maintain a positive outlook as you await the next chapter in your academic journey.

More from U.S. News

The Medical School Admissions Cycle: A Month-by-Month Guide

How to Decide Where to Apply to Medical School

How to Decide Where to Attend Medical School

What to Do While Waiting for Medical School Admissions Decisions originally appeared on usnews.com

Federal News Network Logo
Log in to your WTOP account for notifications and alerts customized for you.

Sign up