Once the academic year is done, the summer is a chance to let go, sit back and relax - but there is a lot more you can do in the 2-3 months before the next academic year so you can hit the ground running when you start again. Summer is also the perfect time to reflect on what you’ve achieved, refocus and figure out what goals you want to reach next… and how you want your next academic year to look like. These are some of the things I try to do in my summers to ensure I start the next year refreshed but also refocused.
Try and earn some money!
Getting a summer job is a great way to sustain yourself (especially if you’ll be spending more) and gain some more experience. From paid research internships, helping out at summer schools, tutoring, or full-time medical roles such as being a 111 NHS caller or vaccinator - get applying and get earning! The NHS website has a nice page on summer job ideas for medical students.
I'm currently working with my university's Widening Participation department as an ambassador, going out to schools to speak with secondary school pupils about university and medical school. I also work as a bank HCA over the summers.
The Wellcome Trust is a great place to start to look for research internships: https://wellcome.org/jobs/summer-internship-programme
Universities usually have their own undergraduate medical student research opportunities. At King's, an example is the NIHR Guy's & St. Thomas' Biomedical Research Centre which advertises Summer Research Studentships.
Set career development goals and attempt at least one career-oriented activity a month
There are so many career-related activities you can do over the summer to challenge yourself.
Submit your work for presentation at a conference or attend one you're interested in
Get some research published
Spend some time updating your CV / LinkedIn
Actively think about what you have achieved and what you want to do next to challenge yourself.
All of these things will help you GROW over the summer. I set myself targets and deadlines so I do not procrastinate.
My career-oriented goals so far for this summer are:
Submit 2 papers for publication, one of them has been 2 years in the making (already submitted) and the other is my systematic review and meta-analysis from my 3rd-year research project.
Confirm my research plan with my supervisor for my Master's at Cambridge next year.
Finish reading 4 books that I have had on the go for a while now.
I recommend writing these down or making a mental note of them so you hold yourself accountable over the summer. See my blog post on 'Making yourself visible' to learn about how I seek out opportunities and record them on my Notion page (template available to download).
Give some TLC to your extra-curriculars
Things that I do outside of my studies such as mentoring, running Progress with Jess, hitting the gym, etc. have taken a back seat due to university. This is the time to pour your time and effort into everything you were putting off throughout the year because your studies took priority. It is also a great time to take up new hobbies!
This can include charity work, side hustles, Youtube and social media, swimming, cooking ... whatever makes YOU happy and enriches YOUR life!
Summer = FREE TIME! I love meeting new people (especially all the ones I promised I'd meet throughout the year but always had to cancel due to university work or COVID-19) and this is the perfect time to expand your network and meet people you may have virtually connected with. It is also a good time to reach out to supervisors as they may have a bit more free time too and therefore, will be more likely to be able to help you on a research project or have one for you to join. Collaborate on projects, introduce one another to other people in each other's networks, become friends, and, most importantly, have fun!
Spend the last few weeks of summer preparing to transition back into the academic year
I’m not suggesting you go over all the content for the upcoming year, but make sure you’ve got a good note-taking system in place, you know what’s expected of you when you go back, what content you’ll be covering that year (e.g. modules, summative projects/exams, placements, term dates) and have a few BIG quarterly goals in mind.
The month before university starts is my time to wind down and start brushing up on a few things I may have forgotten. I do light revision such as reading over my notes and doing a few flashcards. This ensures you hit the ground running when you start.
For me, my biggest task at the moment is having my research project confirmed before October and knowing what will be expected of me when I start. I'm going to spend September making sure that I know what a dissertation is, its structure, how much time and effort it requires, have a good referencing system in place, and plan out what my year will look like (I cannot take writing a 20k word dissertation lightly). Because my research requires active data collection, this is a major thing I also have to factor in.
I hope that gave you some motivation to be a go-getter this summer (but also enjoy yourself)!