The Ultimate Guide to Optimizing Your Extracurricular Activities for Medical School

Learn how to maximize your chances of getting into medical school by optimizing your extracurricular activities! Find out what extracurriculars are best suited for medical school admission committees.

The Ultimate Guide to Optimizing Your Extracurricular Activities for Medical School

Not only is this important for admission, but it's also important for you as a person. On the other hand, if you're a superstar pre-medical student, you might wonder if you're optimizing your time doing the “best extracurricular activities” for medical school. You're doing research, following a doctor, and volunteering, but are you spending enough hours on each one? Are you missing something important? These are incredibly important questions to ask yourself regardless of the level of school you apply to, and even more so if your goal is one of the 10 best programs. A lot of students ask this question, even though it's not the right question.

When asked about “unique” extracurricular activities, students often focus on how they can differentiate themselves and impress advertising companies on paper. However, their approach should be more along the lines of “What can I learn from this experience and how can I apply what I learned in medical school?” When deciding what extracurricular activities to do, ask yourself what you can expect to learn from a specific activity and how you will apply that knowledge in medical school. For example, volunteering as an EMT would provide exposure to patients, provide an opportunity for learning and service in your community, and allow you to interact with others in the medical field. These are experiences that you would then transfer and continue to develop in medical school and, eventually, in your residency.

Maximizing Your Chances of Getting Into Medical School

Imagine if you could know exactly where to focus your time during college to maximize your chances of getting into medical school. For years, the University of Utah School of Medicine provided its specific extracurricular recommendations, including the minimum number of hours of volunteering, observation, and patient exposure that applicants should obtain, as well as what they were looking for in leadership and research activities. While Utah no longer provides applicants with the specific amount of extracurricular hours needed, we found their previous recommendations so useful that we applied them to create the following guidelines. Ideally, although not mandatory, you should accompany doctors from two or three specialties (e.g., internal medicine, pediatrics, and surgery).

That way, you can demonstrate to medical school admission committees that you are familiar with the breadth of clinical practice. Leadership isn't limited to official club positions or formal titles. Medical school admissions committees care more about their demonstration of leadership, whether it be taking on more and more responsibilities in a research laboratory, leading a new initiative through community service organizations, and so on. When students consider this question, they usually have the impression that they need to be the official “leader” of a group of students or that they need some formal degree that is high up in the chain of command.

If you've never served as the “president” of any student organization, you'll be happy to know that's not mandatory at all. Instead, the important thing is that you demonstrate leadership, which can be done in a variety of ways. Leadership is a skill, not a degree, and leadership skills are necessary to succeed in many positions, whether your role is that of worker or leader. With this in mind, sometimes the best way to gain leadership experience is to look for opportunities.

For example, if you work together in a group, look for situations where a “team leader” or “organizer” can keep things running smoothly, and then volunteer for that position. Keep your ears open to any opportunity to accept more responsibilities beyond your expected duties. Be an inspiration to others as you work to accomplish tasks, whether in a paid position or as a volunteer, and you'll probably realize that opportunities will present themselves to demonstrate your leadership. We often receive questions from students who are interested in contributing to publications but who don't know how to participate as part of their research experience.

The truth is, whether you receive a publication credit as a student depends largely on the culture of your particular lab. Rather than trying to do too many things at once or trying to do everything at once just for the sake of having something impressive on paper, most impressive medical school candidates focus on fewer things and delve into each of them.

Here's Exactly What You Need To Do To Stand Out

It goes without saying that when you're excited about something, you'll be more motivated to participate in it and you'll be more likely to learn from it. When it comes to choosing extracurricular activities for medical school, you'll want to select activities that excite you - if only because you spend a lot of time immersed in those activities - rather than choosing activities that seem dreadful just because they look good on paper.

With so many options for extracurricular activities available there's no reason for you to choose something that seems dreadful to you. Continuing with the example we've been using above - helping underrepresented populations - choose one (possibly two) specific areas that are a problem for them and dedicate yourself to helping solve that problem. You may decide to focus on the fact that incomes often restrict minority populations when working at a clinic that operates a variable pay structure or maybe pay attention to how social factors influence health equity - whatever your cause - immerse yourself in it so much so that people start recognizing your name when it comes up in conversation about it! Generally speaking - unless you are already in the United States on another type of visa - when applying for a student visa - international students must be outside the U. S.

UU. Sometimes students confuse “volunteering” with unpaid internships but there's an important distinction between them - internships are generally paid positions while volunteering is not - however both can provide valuable experiences!.