When you apply to medical school you will need to write about the extra-curricular activities you participated in during college. Be prepared to have about 10-15 activities outside of school that you can talk about on your application or during interviews. You should be committed to each activity for more than 1 year and you should strive to have a leadership position in these activities if possible. Just being a member doesn’t cut it for your activities, but as a freshman this will suffice. The most important extra-curricular activities you should participate in are listed below in order of importance:
- Research experience (basic science is better than clinical, but clinical is better than nothing): You should try to gain experience with basic science or clinical research. Medical science is furthered by the progress made through research, and you should learn about the research process and how this progress happens. If you can find a basic science research opportunity you should learn about different laboratory techniques used to study biochemical, molecular, and cellular level changes.
- Clinical experience (in a hospital or clinic): You should gain firsthand experience in a clinic or hospital setting. This is so that you can demonstrate that you have insight into what a physician actually does. You should try to shadow physicians to get a better understanding of this as well. You should also begin to understand what the physician-patient interaction entails. You may be given opportunities to work with patients and you should really see if this is what you want to do for the rest of your life.
- Leadership experience (with clubs and organizations): You should gain experience in coordinating events with your organization and other organizations and leading meetings
- Volunteer experience/Community service (outside of medicine): You should show your dedication to service by volunteering outside of the medical field. If you do not have an interest in serving others you should really question if medicine is the right career for you.
In general fraternities (premedical or otherwise) will not bolster your application to medical school and should be avoided. Ultimately you should strive to have 2-3 activities from each category listed above that you have worked on for at least 1 year. You can write about these experiences on your application to medical school or talk about them during your interviews. Medical schools appreciate when you have been a part of a meaningful experience or activity for a substantial amount of time. A good strategy would be to check out multiple organizations and opportunities your freshman year and then just stick with the ones that you liked for the remaining years. If you have a hobby that you already love (playing an instrument, sports, or writing, etc.) you can also add this to the mix of activities by continuing this activity during college – it will show your human side.
While you are trying to explore extracurricular activities keep in mind that you are not in college for these experiences, but rather for your education and ultimately to maintain a high GPA. So if at any time your grades are suffering as a result of your extracurricular involvement you should re-focus your energy on your academics, as this will matter more for medical school admission.
As you participate in extracurricular activities we recommend that you make a log of these activities. In this log you should document your hours and what you have done. You should also include anecdotes of events that moved you. For example, if you had a unique patient encounter at the hospital you should write about it in the log. Later, when you are sitting down to write your personal statement you can draw from these experiences. Additionally, when you need to calculate how many hours you worked on each activity, this information will be readily available.
- How You Can Get a Research Position at Your School
- How to Shadow a Physician
- How To Find a Volunteer Position at a Hospital
- Medical College Admissions Test (MCAT)