The number of qualified students applying to medical school each year far exceeds the number of available seats. On top of that, among the pool of applicants are a great number who are the nation’s best and brightest students. So, unless you’ve been living under a rock, you know that you’ll need far more than just grades and test scores to earn a coveted spot at one of the nation’s medical schools.In fact, one study conducted by the AAMC found that approximately eight percent of applicants with GPAs ranging from 3.80 to 4.00 and MCAT total scores ranging from 39 to 45 were rejected by all of the medical schools to which they applied. On the contrary, the same study revealed that about 18 percent of applicants with GPAs ranging from 3.20 to 3.39 and MCAT scores ranging from 24 to 26 were accepted by at least one school. In this super-competitive medical school admissions arena, you’ll need to stand out from the crowd and your extracurricular activities could give you the competitive edge that means the difference between getting in or not.Extracurricular activities give medical schools a chance to see what you’ve done during your pre-med years outside lecture halls and other than studying for the MCAT. More than ever before, medical school admissions committees are putting more emphasis on recruiting students who, beyond having a strong academic background, are balanced, well-rounded students who will be a good fit for their school.
According to the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC), a well-rounded sampling of extracurricular activities or work experience, both related and unrelated to medicine, will help broaden an applicant’s knowledge and development. When it comes time to complete your AMCAS (American Medical College Application Service) application, you have 15 spaces to enter your work/activities that you would like to highlight to medical schools. Aside from your potential to succeed academically, this is your chance to give medical schools up to 15 more reasons as to why they should invite you for an interview and ultimately offer you acceptance to their medical school.So now that we’ve told you what you probably already knew about the importance of extracurricular activities, the next thing you should know is that not all extracurricular activities are equal.
Here are 5 extracurricular activities that every medical school admission committee wants to see on your application:
Volunteering/Community Service (Medical):
There’s no way to tell beforehand as to whether or not the activity you choose will be meaningful or not so it is important to give yourself enough time during your pre-med years to plan and manage your time accordingly. The first one or two activities you become involved in may not be the ones that you gain meaning from and it may very well be the next one that does. However, you don’t want to be left at the end of your pre-med years with a long list of extracurricular activities that have meant nothing to you.
- Volunteering at a hospital or clinic to gain broad exposure to working within a health care setting
- Volunteering as a summer camp counselor working with children who are disabled
- Volunteering on an on-going basis with a blood bank to assist in various activities of the operation
- Volunteering as a member of a medical corps to help restore crisis-affected communities
- Volunteering as an emergency medical technician
Medical/Clinical Work Experience:
Community Service (Non-Medical):
- Volunteering with an organization like Habitat for Humanity to help build homes for individuals and families in need
- Volunteering with an organization like Feeding America to support food donation efforts and a mission to end hunger
- Volunteering as a manager or coach for a little league in your community
- Volunteering through an organization like AmeriCorps to participate in work ranging from public education to environmental clean-up
- Volunteering on a on-going basis to organize a coat, book, toy drive to support individuals in-need within your community
If you can use at least one of your 15 slots for work/activities to tell school’s about a leadership role you held during your pre-med years, you’ll be sure to gain a few extra points compared to an applicant who can’t say the same. While it will not guaranteed your acceptance, having a leadership role on your resume will help build your case for why you’re the one to pick.Many medical school look favorably upon applicants who have held leadership roles and some actually require applicants to have at least one leadership experience to apply. And it helps a lot if the school’s you are applying to are particularly big on leadership. For example, on the Website for the Geisel School of Medicine, under the page that outlines what the school stands for they have an entire section on ‘Creating Leaders and Leadership’ and explain that they are ‘committed to creating a new type of physician leaders who exercise the kind of superb leadership required to tackle our most vexing challenges in health care.’ So, the point is, if you’re applying to a school that is big on leadership, which is pretty much all medical schools, make sure that you’re able to show why you’ll be a perfect fit for their school. Examples of ‘Leadership Experience’ Extracurricular Activities:
- Holding an office in student government, club, or organization
- Mentoring at-risk youth though a program like Big Brothers, Big Sisters
- Becoming the team captain for a sport played during college
- Organizing any type of event on campus or in your community
Experience with Underserved Populations:
By participating in a program working with underserved populations you will now have the opportunity to talk first-hand about your experience, what you gained from it, and why you are passionate about committing your life in medicine to serving individuals in these areas.