Housing and Other Details to Consider before Starting Medical School

Even if you went away to college, there are some special logistics related to attending medical school that you should be aware of. Attending medical school takes a lot of planning, from deciding where to live to figuring out the best route to campus. By the time medical school starts, you need to be set up and ready to go.

Find housing for medical school

The biggest logistical issue related to attending medical school that you need to take care of is finding a place to live. Options include:

  • University-owned housing: Many medical schools offer various forms of housing for graduate/professional students, including both single students and those who are married and/or have families.

    University housing is usually low cost and convenient to campus. However, the supply may be very limited.

  • Renting a privately-owned apartment or room in a house: Renting an apartment, condo, or part of a house provides the most flexibility in terms of location and type of housing. Depending on your financial situation and preference, you may elect to live alone or share housing with one or more roommates.

    If you need help finding a roommate, contact your medical school for help in contact fellow students. Also check to see whether a class page has been established at any social networking sites so that you can contact your fellow students directly.

    You’ll need a lot of quiet time to study, so take the time to choose the right roommate for your lifestyle as a medical student.

  • Purchasing a house or a condominium: Buying a home requires significant financial resources, so this option is limited primarily to nontraditional students whose spouses are employed or to students whose families are purchasing a place for or with them.

    Owning a home offers the advantage of stability as well as the potential to build equity, but it also can be a burden if you need to relocate for residency training, especially if the housing market declines during the years you’re in med school.

Figuring out where you’re going to live is especially challenging if you’re moving to a city you’re unfamiliar with. Ask whether your med school can put you in touch with some current students so that you can get their take on the pros and cons of different neighborhoods. In particular, ask about the safety, affordability, and convenience to campus of areas you’re considering.

Decide on transportation for medical school

The mode of transportation you use may change during medical school based on your year in the program.

  • At most medical schools, the first two years (the preclinical years) are spent doing primarily nonclinical activities such as attending lectures and labs. If you have on-campus housing or live nearby, you may not need a car for the preclinical years because you spend most of your time on campus.

  • However, the situation changes significantly during the third and fourth years (the clinical years), when you rotate to different hospitals and clinics located varying distances from the main campus. You may need a car to get to some locations.

Although a car is often necessary for the clinical years, try to avoid being saddled with car payments during med school. When you’re a medical student on a tight budget, that extra expense may be very difficult to meet so a used car may be the best idea.

Other logistics to solve before medical school

Plan to move in at least a week before orientation for medical school begins in order to tackle the details involved in setting up in a new place.

  • Buy any miscellaneous items you need for your household. A desk lamp, microwave, or coffee maker may not be essential to survival (well, maybe the coffee maker is), but if you’re going to get them at some point, do it before you’re knee-deep in schoolwork.

  • Shop for clothing and other gear appropriate to the climate. You may want to ask some of your fellow med students who are locals what basics to stock up on. Start out with a few necessities and then build up your wardrobe of cold- or warm-weather attire after you get an idea of what the weather is like during each season in your new area.

  • Determine the best route to campus. Take a trip to the campus at the same time of day that class starts. Your planned route may turn out to be a nightmare in rush hour traffic, or you may find that the bus you thought you’d take frequently runs late. Work out these kinks without the pressure of needing to be somewhere hanging over you.

  • Get to know the area. Find the nearest grocery store and the cheapest gas station, locate a laundromat, and look for fun places to go for when you have some down time. If you have some free days, do a few of the touristy things that you may not have a chance for later in the year but want to check out.

Another way to spend some of your time before school starts is getting together with some of the other first years. Meet up for coffee or dinner, or see some of the sights the area offers. Walking into orientation already knowing a few people makes the experience of starting med school more comfortable.

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