Enhance Your Application With Your Extracurricular Choices

Medical school admissions committees select applicants who have demonstrated intelligence, maturity, integrity, and a dedication to the ideal of service to society. One way they assess your nonacademic qualities is to look at how you have lived your life prior to completing your medical school application. To this end, you have an opportunity to submit a description of up to fifteen activities, club memberships, leadership roles, honors, awards, and jobs within the AMCAS Primary Application. Furthermore, many committees will ask you to submit a more comprehensive list of the extracurricular activities with which you have been involved.

While not all admissions committees consider them in the application process, many value the nature and depth of your extracurricular activities as significant factors in your admissibility to medical school.

Areas to Consider

Clinical Experience

Of all the activities you could be involved in, the one that is most likely to be considered essential by a medical school admissions committee is direct-patient-care clinical work. Start by calling hospitals or health centers in your community. Ask to speak with a representative from the volunteer services office. These individuals will be able to direct you to the specific departments, offices or other individuals who work with people in the management of chronic illnesses, the prevention of diseases, or advocacy for victims of abuse and domestic violence. Pick an organization whose focus interests you and go for it. Remember that you may be asked to make a commitment of up to one year, but in return you will be a real member of the team.

Research Experience

In general, the only time research experience is an absolute must is if you are planning to apply to M.D./Ph.D. programs or are considering an academic or research career. If this is the case, then it is important that you have documented experience that validates your interest and potential in the research field. However, that doesn't mean that applicants planning a pure clinical career wouldn't benefit from a research background. As a physician, your job will involve research, either as you seek to determine your patients' medical conditions or through the process of continuing education, in which you read and study the published findings of research groups.

Teaching Experience

One of the most important roles that a physician plays is that of a teacher as he or she imparts information to patients and teaches them to play a more active role in their own health care. The diversity of teaching experiences of medical school applicants during their undergraduate years is very broad. Such experience might include teaching swimming or a musical instrument to children, or becoming a teaching assistant in a lower division class in which you did exceptionally well. Teaching can encompass just about anything you enjoy doing. All you need to do is share it with others in a structured, organized manner.

Employment

Many undergraduate students need to work throughout their college years. Most admissions committees recognize that the time you work necessarily means that you have less time for your studies and other forms of extracurricular activities. These committees understand that maintaining academic performance while holding down a job is hard work.

If an applicant has been able to do both well, it is an indication that she will be able to maintain her academic performance upon entering medical school when academic pressures increase.