Transitioning to Medical School

Answers to your questions about transitioning into medical school.

I’ve been accepted and I’ve decided which school I want to attend. How do I inform all the schools of my decision?

The AAMC (Association of American Medical Colleges) has established a series of recommendations called Application and Acceptance Protocols (which are often called “Traffic Rules” by advisors and admissions officers) to ensure that applicants provide timely notification of their enrollment decision. Once you choose your specific school or program, the AAMC recommends that, in fairness to other applicants, you promptly withdraw your application from any other school or program to which you applied or were accepted.

The AAMC recommends that you communicate directly with medical schools in writing; email is acceptable if the school has consistently used this method of communication.

What are the steps to accepting financial aid and putting my loans into deferment?

Once you complete your Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and schools receive this information, you will receive an award letter from the financial aid office at each school that offered you an acceptance. After you read through the award letter(s), you’ll need to decide if you want to accept the full financial aid package or only a portion of it. It’s best to borrow only what you need; you always can request additional funds if you don't accept the full award at the beginning of the year.

If you have any outstanding federal student loans from your undergraduate education, you can defer payment on those loans. To qualify, you must be attending medical school on at least a half-time basis. It’s important to keep in mind that during deferment, although no monthly payments are required, interest will continue to accrue on those loans. Therefore, if you’re able, it’s always best to pay the interest on your loans. You’ll need to contact each loan servicer directly to request a deferment. To find out who services your federal student loans, visit National Student Loan Data System (NSLDS). If you have private loans, you’ll need to contact the lender or servicer of those loans as well. To determine the lender/servicer of your private loans, check your promissory note or your credit report.

What else should I do before orientation?

Use the months leading up to medical school to take care of the things that likely will not get a lot of attention once school starts. According to Tara K. Cunningham, assistant dean at The University of Arizona College of Medicine-Phoenix, here are the top three things to do:

  • Get yourself into a physician’s office. This is the time to make sure you’re taking care of yourself and getting your health care records organized. Students at most institutions, if not all, must provide proof of recent health immunizations and immunity to certain diseases prior to staring medical school. Your transition to medical school and clinical training will be smoother if you take the time now to locate your childhood and adolescent health care records. After all, you will be asking your patients to do the same so this is excellent practice and role modeling.
  • Get your finances in order. Remember, you will be living on a medical student budget, not a physician’s budget! Here are a few budget tips to consider. Talk to medical students at your future school to find a reasonably priced place to live, possibly with other students with whom you could share the monthly expenses. Run a credit report and take care of any adverse credit issues that may cause problems down the road should you need a credit-based loan. If you are working or have some money saved up from college, pay off any debt that is recurring (credit or department store cards) because consumer debt will not be considered in your standard cost of attendance (COA) for medical school. Lastly, enhance your wardrobe with clothing to wear during clinical rotations. It should be professional, comfortable, and washable!
  • Whatever you do, do not study! Medical school will teach you what you need to know to become a great physician over the next four years. Cracking the book for one or two months beforehand is not going to get you ahead! Instead, visit friends and family, or travel to a place you’ve wanted to visit but never had the time. More important, take time to reflect upon the many reasons you are entering the medical profession. Think about the privilege bestowed upon you to care and treat those most in need and remember, you have worked hard to get into medical school and now it’s time to work even harder for your future patients!

Is there anything I can do to make a good impression at orientation or the first week of classes?

According to Assistant Dean Tara K. Cunningham, “You should walk into your first lecture excited and ready to engage with your colleagues and faculty. Sit at the front of the room and embrace the challenge ahead of you by facing it head-on! Be willing to ask for help. After all, this is your first medical school experience and as a recent graduate said, ‘It takes 10 years to get 10 years of experience.’ Everyone at the medical school is there for your success, so take full advantage of student services, tutoring, and other tools designed just for the medical school culture. Finally, be thankful for the opportunity to learn medicine as there are thousands of others still waiting for their first day of medical school.”

Follow the AAMC

Like AAMC Pre-Med

Follow @AAMCpremed

Aspiring Docs Diaries

Male freelancer busy working on laptop computer sitting at wooden table of modern coffee shop, experienced businessman keyboarding on notebook while connecting to wireless, student learning at library