You Have Your Offer, Now What?
The culmination of all your efforts towards getting into medical school have now come to fruition and you’re embarking on your dream to become a doctor. This means a new environment and with that, new challenges. And like everything with medical school, getting started can be overwhelming at times but exciting nonetheless. How can you prepare to ensure a smooth transition and set yourself up for success in your first year?
What should I do first? Actually accept your offer
After the celebratory drinks and tears with your family and friends over what is certainly a massive achievement, it’s time to check your emails for a nice little package from your medical school admin team. This is usually a document filled with papers to complete and sign, outlines of what you will be studying in first year and how to accept your offer. Now I bolded that because in the whirlwind of it all, it can be easy to actually forget to press accept. Or, if you’re like me, unable to accept because the option isn’t there to do so. Before panicking that they’ve sent you an offer by mistake, it’s always good to give the medical school a call. Turns out that I started too early for them to publish the option to actually accept the offer. And I was dreading the fact that I had to sit the GAMSAT again.
In saying that, the second tip is to actually start doing this process early. I’ll tell you why.
Make a checklist
It is important to stay organised as there can be loads of items to account for and paperwork to submit. One way to do this is to create an itemised checklist and set a deadline for when you need to complete each task.
Staff at some universities (Griffith and University of Sydney come to mind) publish placement checklists online, which can help you over this first organisational hurdle. If you haven’t been afforded this luxury, go through your student package and make a list of what you need to complete and corresponding due dates. The point is to plan well enough to generate minimal stress and avoid ruining your holidays getting overwhelmed before even beginning study.
This is arguably one of the most time-consuming parts of the orientation process. One thing that only ever comes up in medical school is an incomplete vaccinations list. Whether this is because you’ve misplaced your baby book with all the hand-written dates you’ve received your immunisations or you are simply unsure, it’s time to pop into your local GP.
Usually you will be asked to have a serology done to evaluate what you have immunity against before any immunisations are organised. It’s good to get this done as soon as possible as some immunisations can take up to months to complete depending on where you are on the cycle.
It’s also important to keep in mind that different states in Australia may have different guidelines to comply with for your vaccinations. This is particularly important if you will be attending a medical school interstate, as your local GP may not be well-versed in what immunisations are required. The takeaway here is:
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Make sure you bring the list of required immunisations . Do your research by looking at the guidelines of that particular state.
Australian Federal Police Check and Working With Childrens Check
Medical schools will ask you to complete a police check for any court records under your name. If you’re concerned, ask your medical school as to what kind of checks are done. The timing at which you do this can also be important, as applying for a police check too early may clear you for the current year but not the one in which you commence medical school. Save yourself the cost of this mistake by checking the correct date you should submit by.
Most medical schools will also ask you to apply for a Working with Children Check. This can be quite a lengthy process, especially for those applying interstate. For example, if you’re moving to Victoria from interstate, you will apply through a different system from current residents.
Hold off on the technology splurge
Let’s face it: we all love spending money on things we think we need (where ‘think’ may be informed by a generous serving of distorted priorities). Now that we have the excuse, “I’ll need it for medical school,” it’s easy to spiral into a gleeful shopping spree populated by unnecessary purchases. That said, there are a few investments it is wise to accomodate for:
Laptops are near essential for graduate study. No matter which laptop strikes your fancy, they all require a significant financial sacrifice. With this in mind, it is important to find a laptop that matches your preferences.
Look out for the following:
- Battery life – important for long study days, crowded libraries without power sources, and studying during commutes
- Portability - weight and size
- System preference – Mac and Windows dominate the market, but there are alternatives
You might want to consider upgrading elements of your laptop, like hard drive space or memory, particularly for future proofing. An external hard drive or cloud storage subscription, which can be subsidised by your university, would also be worthwhile to consider. Data loss can be painful - you do not want to experience this additional stress in the midst of semester.
Youtubers such as Dave2D have informative and entertaining videos going through various tech for students. He considers budget and functionality when it comes to recommending equipment so I would recommend watching his videos to help you make a decision as to which trusty device will be your new best friend.
Extra tech: do I need a tablet or additional monitor?
This really comes down to personal preference and the flexibility of your budget. They can make your life easier but are by no means essential. I’ve had my trusty iPad for a few years and personally, the extra screen capability and portability increases my efficiency ten-fold. On the other hand, many of my friends prefer to study at home because they have a monitor with fantastic screen real-estate, which means they can look at more than three windows at once. All of this is personal preference but if you have the extra cash to burn, why not?
Ask your school whether it is essential to buy a stethoscope before starting medical school. For our university, we don’t start using stethoscopes until 2nd semester of first year. Other schools will require first years needing one as a foundational item as placements can begin within the first two weeks. But choosing your perfect stethoscope is an article unto itself. Stay tuned!
Stay tuned for part 2 which looks at how you can get your life in order before starting medical school!