Stellar grades and a fantastic MCAT score aren't enough to make it into medical school. You need extracurricular activities to garner that acceptance you've long awaited for. Be sure to tackle various extracurricular activities as a pre-med across all 6 categories below to increase your chances of matriculating into medical school.
Research looks quite favorable on a medical school application, especially if your research has been published or presented. By conducting research as a pre-med, you're already beginning to think like a future physician, hence why it's valued so heavily by medical school admission committees.
A common question pre-meds have is, "How do I find research opportunities?" And the answer is fairly simple, you ask.
If you attend a university, your professors are the people you want to ask. Many of them are conducting research in addition to their teaching schedule. Pop by your professor's office hours to establish rapport with them first. After a couple of visits let them know you'd greatly appreciate the opportunity to conduct research alongside them. More often than not, your professor will have a task for you, and voila you've got your initial experience with research.
If you attend a small institution or a community college, then finding research might be harder, but it's still definitely possible.
During the summer months, many schools across the country offer summer research internships where pre-meds gain research experiences from renowned scientists. To make sure you're accepted into one of these internships it's imperative you have and maintain a stellar GPA. Research internships like these are a great means to network with future health professionals, and more importantly, gain research experience. Take a peek at a current list of upcoming summer research opportunities.
2. Physician Shadowing
Shadowing a physician is extremely important because it shows as an applicant you understand what you're signing up for. Shadowing a physician is fairly simple, contact local physician offices in your area, and see if any of them are willing to allow you to shadow. If your schedule is tight, then you can always do virtual shadowing from the comfort of your home.
Many pre-med students enter college thinking they want to become a physician, only to be let down by the career upon shadowing a physician. Think of shadowing as a way to confirm your decision to pursue a career as a physician.
3. Patient Care Experience
Having patient care experience is crucial for applying to medical school. Patient care experience shows your dedication and desire for a career as a physician. It also allows you to become well-versed in taking care of patients and aiding their needs, something all physicians do.
Many pre-med students believe shadowing or scribing is considered patient care experience, however, this is a common misconception. Shadowing is only a passive experience. Scribing is great for learning medical terminology, but your actual interaction with the patient is limited.
To gain patient care experience, you can work as a CNA (Certified Nursing Assistant) or an EMT (Emergency Medical Technician). Pre-meds should plan accordingly when they want to begin gaining their patient care experience because these two jobs mentioned require an examination to become certified. You'll want to designate ample time to ensure you pass your exam.
Volunteering allows pre-med students to demonstrate their altruism, a trait that admission committees look for when admitting their students.
As a physician, you'll always put the needs of your patients before your own, so it is absolutely crucial to be a selfless person. When deciding where to volunteer, you want to make sure you're volunteering somewhere you actually feel passionate about, instead of it just being a means to log in hours.
For example, if you have an interest in painting, see if you can contact and volunteer at a local organization that helps children paint. Approaching volunteering this way allows you to speak passionately about it when it comes time for medical school interviews. Admission committees will take notice and it adds to your character and personality.
Or, go on a trip with Global Medical Brigades! A Medical Brigade is a week-long volunteer opportunity for students to take part in a mobile medical clinic in a developing country. Student volunteers shadow local doctors during patient consultations, support medicine distribution within the pharmacy, and lead health education workshops. If you want to take on a leadership role, you can even volunteer to bring a chapter to your university!
5. Life Experiences
Speaking/writing about your life experiences is where you show your uniqueness as an applicant. Shadowing, volunteering, and patient care experience are staples that all pre-meds must have. There isn't anything special here, everyone applying to medical school will have these things. But your life experiences are what differentiates you from the rest.
Think about your journey into medicine, and what the initial catalyst for you was that sparked your interest in a career in medicine. How you reflect on these experiences will help you tremendously with getting into medical school.
When you look at a healthcare team, there are many professionals working together for a common goal, to take care of the patient. There are nurses, physician assistants, respiratory and physical therapists, and more. And of course, the physician, who is the leader of the healthcare team.
It only makes sense for pre-meds to have leadership qualities in them because they'll soon be leading a healthcare team. Having leadership experience is fairly broad. For example, becoming a tutor can be considered leadership, or becoming an elected member of an on-campus club.
Being a leader should come naturally, you want to avoid searching for an opportunity solely to gain leadership experience. Remember, you want to reflect on these experiences, that way come time for medical school interviews your passion is there. This is something admissions committees actively search for and admire.
How can I improve my extracurricular credentials even further?
If you need help creating a strategic plan for your extracurriculars, consider a medical school admissions advising organization like MedSchoolCoach. Beyond providing application support, essay editing, interview prep, and MCAT tutoring, they also assist with extracurricular guidance. A real physician can help you better understand med school requirements and prerequisites.
MedSchoolCoach provides tailored professional advice from admission experts and physicians. Tap here to learn more, and best of luck on your medical school journey!