December 15, 2020

6 Holiday Break Activities to Increase Your Chances of Getting into Medical School

By: Savvy Pre-Med Staff

The holiday break can be a time of blissful unproductivity - lazing around, eating hearty meals, tinkering with new presents - but it can also be a good time to put in some work on your medical school application (hopefully it’s a little bit of both!).

So, if you are feeling ambitious, how exactly should you spend your holiday break?

Well, that depends a little bit on how far along you are in your pre-med journey. Regardless of whether you recently applied or won’t be applying for a few years, we wanted to give you 6 possible options for holiday productivity.

6 Holiday Break Activities to Increase Your Chances of Getting into Medical School

If you applied in the 2020-2021 cycle:

We’ve written articles recently about how to compose update letters and how to possibly get off waitlists

But other than those options, there’s a way you can ingratiate yourself with the medical schools and get that proverbial “foot in the door.”

Holiday Break Activity #1: Connect with Medical Schools Virtually

Here is a list of upcoming virtual pre-med conferences and medical school fairs:

Charles Drew University Pre-Health Conference - January 9, 2021

NHMA 2021 Pre-Health Virtual Conference - January 23, 2021

Physicians of the Future Summits - January 23, 2021

UC Davis Virtual Pre-Med Symposium - January 23, 2021

UCLA DGSOM Pre-Med Conference - January 23, 2021

Stanford University Minority Medical Alliance (SUMMA) Conference - February 6, 2021 Virtual Pre-Med Conference : Students Today; Doctors Tomorrow - February 20, 2021

KU School of Medicine Premedical Student Conference - February 27, 2021

UC Davis 2021 Virtual Womxn in Healthcare Symposium - February 27, 2021

AMWA’S 106th National Conference - March 25, 2021

It’d be wise to check the websites of each school on your list to see what types of conferences, fairs, or virtual visits that they’re offering.


For one, you can potentially rub elbows (virtually, of course) with students and faculty from the school, which could potentially give you an edge over other applicants.

Secondly, it gives you something very concrete that you can bring up in your update letters when trying to show your ties or connections to a school. 

Once you’ve registered and logged in for the event, here are some tips for how to conduct yourself and make the most of the opportunity. 

If you’re applying in the 2021-2022 cycle:

Holiday Break Activity #2: Work on Application Essay Writing Exercises

If you’re preparing to submit your AMCAS in May/June of 2021, it’s definitely not too early to get started on your essays. 

This could mean any number of writing exercises:

It’s also not too late to train yourself to become a better writer. You might have to unlearn some bad habits, but it will be worth it. 

Holiday Break Activity #3: Build Your School List

You don’t need to apply to 68 schools or 151 schools, but you will need to carefully construct a rather robust list of medical schools to give yourself the optimal chances of getting in. 

So, where can you start?

Well, if you didn’t already know, our Savvy Pre-Med homepage features an amazing search tool that lets you filter by location, type, metrics, out-of-state friendliness, tuition, and even the difficulty of secondary essays!

Oh, and there are also some other search tools out there, too (not just the MSAR!).  

If you’re a younger pre-med:

Holiday Break Activity #4: Virtual Shadowing

Hospitals and clinics have mostly banned pre-med students from shadowing and volunteering, but medical school admissions committees continue to require hundreds of clinical hours (~300 total, 100 shadowing) in order to get in. 

You could opt to get an EMT or phlebotomy certification, but those essential jobs typically require 20+ hours per week, not a time commitment that most full-time students can keep.

So how do you get clinical experience when you're not "essential personnel?"

We highly recommend virtual shadowing through the THE HEAL CLINICAL EDUCATION NETWORK:

  • Free Tuition - HEAL’s weekly Wednesday sessions are free. Sign up HERE.
  • Real Patient Cases - HEAL uses the most realistic patient experiences available from ReelDx.
  • Interactive Questions - You are put in the shoes of a resident doing rounds with a physician, asked about the patient's presenting symptoms, possible diagnoses, and treatment.
  • Homework Assignments - Using additional ReelDX cases, students learn to take SOAP notes and apply critical reasoning.
  • Certified Hours - Students who come to all shadowing sessions, attend all clinical education sessions, and do all homework assignments will be issued a Certificate of Completion that certifies the clinical hours that students completed to be put on their applications to medical school, PA school, nursing school or other health professions program.
  • Interactive Seminar Courses (Additional Fee) - Using the same case-based model popular at US medical schools, pre-health students form teams to present cases to their peers and get guidance from medical students. Find more information HERE.

Or you can look into other virtual shadowing opportunities as well. 

Holiday Break Activity #5: Become More Efficient in Your Daily Life and Routine

When you have less to do over the holidays, it’s easier to develop new habits and routines from the ground up. 

This could mean any number of things:

If you’re looking for some inspiration, or just some good reading, we recommend the book Atomic Habits by James Clear.

Holiday Break Activity #6: Make a Difference in Your Community

We’re big proponents of what we call the pre-med capstone project, which is a self-initiated endeavor where pre-meds find an intersection between their skill set and a particular community need.

Capstone projects are a surefire way to stand out from the pack, and pre-meds that take the time to complete one are almost always successful in their applications. 

Recently, during the pandemic, we wrote an entire post about how to design a virtual capstone project, including several examples.

If you don’t feel like spearheading something at the moment, we compiled a large list of ways to volunteer from home during quarantine, so there’s no excuse for not getting involved!  

Have any questions about how to spend your holiday break? Let us know in the comments below, and we’ll respond to you personally!

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