The Premed Prescription

Take this advice PRN, apply liberally.

Extracurriculars

Did you win an art contest?  Did you go an a humanitarian trip to the Honduras?  Are you a ping-pong champion?  Whatever you do, try and show involvement and dedication.  These activities set you apart from every other applicant and allow you to have something interesting and unique on your application.  So do just that–find something that you enjoy and that sounds interesting.  I knew an applicant that cycled across the United States for charity and was a volunteer firefighter.  The more interesting it sounds, and the more involved you are, the better.  If you are the average Joe applicant, like me, at least show involvement, dedication, and that you made a difference to the program and those that you served.

I volunteered for two years as a missionary for the LDS church, and volunteered for two years as a program director for BYU’s tutoring program.  These were my two main extracurricular activities, and I loved both of them and talked about them in my interviews.

Shadowing

Shadowing is also a requirement: it shows that you are aware of the lifestyle and work that a career in medicine entails.  The more the better.  I would say get 50 hours, minimum.  By the time I applied, I only had 64 hours; by the time I interviewed, I had over 100.  A wide variety of specialties will help too.  I got most of my shadowing through connections, but I also cold called an office once to shadow an allergist.  Do what you have to to get those hours.  Once you are done with a shadowing session, ask if you can come back for more.  Shadowing a doctor for only three hours doesn’t really give you much of a picture of what he or she does.

Keep in mind that doctors also have different styles of teaching when you are shadowing.  Some encourage you to ask questions–others prefer you to be a fly on the wall.  Just ask the doctor what he would like you to do.  Also, remember that everything you see and hear in the office is confidential.  Look professional, bring a small notepad and a pen.  You know the drill.

Clinical Exposure

In addition to shadowing, many schools also look at how much exposure you have to medicine in a clinical setting.  You don’t have to take a humanitarian trip to Africa to get clinical exposure.  I volunteered at a local hospital about 30 minutes away every Saturday for 4 hours for about 6 months.  This gives you some hands-on experience that shadowing doesn’t provide.

Note: If you want to volunteer at a hospital close to campus, many other pre-meds might also want to volunteer there too, so apply early or even before the semester starts to get a volunteer position.

This year, since I was not accepted, I am working at an ophthalmology clinic.  Luckily, I was able to start working a couple of days before the AMCAS application started, so I was able to include it in my application along with a letter of recommendation from the ophthalmologist.  If you do have an off-year, getting some clinical exposure will definitely boost your application.

I do not know any recommended hours for clinical exposure, something like 40?

Looking Ahead

An important aspect of extracurricular activities is documentation.  Later on when you apply to med school, you will want to list all of your amazing achievements and experiences, right?  Well, in the application, it will ask you for all sorts of information, like average hours per week, starting and ending dates, and names and phone numbers of your supervisors.  So, make sure you keep a spreadsheet or something that has that information for everything you want listed in your application.

 

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3 thoughts on “Extracurriculars

  1. Thank you so much for all of this wonderful advice! I have a question though. I’m about to start the second semester of my sophomore year and I’m feeling pretty good so far. I’m still averaging a strong GPA and I’m very happy these days. I’m an RA, a tour guide, I’m going abroad in the summer, and I recently became an Organic Chemistry tutor for my school. And I’m officially starting research next semester, which I’m super psyched about. I still have 0 hours shadowing and volunteering in hospitals (have to get on that), but I still have 3 semesters left, which makes me hope I have lots of time left.

    Sorry, I felt the need to add a little background info. Anyways, my question is this: How important is community service? Can I supplement doing CS by just having more extracurriculars?

    1. Great question carson92. It looks like you have a great start! While having a lot of extracurricular activities is great, it is essential to also have some community service, especially clinical exposure. The reason is this: community service shows admissions committees that you have a desire to help your fellow man. Large exposure to clinical medicine also shows admissions committees that you are committed to a career in medicine. I was also a tutor, but I tutored for free and became a volunteer program director for the tutoring services at BYU–maybe you can check into doing something like that if you enjoy tutoring. With community service, there are also awards you can get, like the President’s Volunteer Service Award or Americorps. If you can quantify your service through these awards, it’s even better.

      That being said, unless your extracurriculars are stellar–like you are an All-American athlete or you’ve published 5 scientific articles, I highly recommend showing involvement in community service. Start small, like maybe 1-2 hours a week. I hope this helps! I know balancing school, a job, research, extracurriculars, and community service is stressful. Feel free to ask me any other questions, or let me know of anything else you would like me to talk about. Also, share this blog with your friends!

      1. Thank you for the advice! I think I’m gonna look into getting some clinical exposure this semester and hopefully shadow when I can. You have a great blog! I’ll definitely be checking back to see what you’ve posted here!

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