What Activities Will Inspire Med School Admissions Committees?

Each fall, med school admissions committees wade through hundreds of applications looking for just the right students. It can be a mind-numbing experience.

So how do you make your application grab the attention of weary reviewers?

Obviously, since this is med school, admissions committees are going to look at your clinical and extracurricular experiences. They certainly do not expect you to have had a fulltime job in health care, but they do like to see meaningful experiences that have given you insight into your chosen field of medicine.

Why are clinical and extracurricular activities important? Many can help develop skills that will help you as you begin your medical career. For example, volunteering in a free medical clinic provides exposure to both clinicians and patients, which exposing you to issues such as access to care and lack of insurance. Working at a hospital will help you understand a different side of the healthcare story. Extracurricular activities like competing in sports, leading a youth group, or holding a part-time job also reveal important things about you. Admissions committees like to see variety in your activities that have helped solidify your passion for medicine and taught you important life skills.

We’re often asked if an applicant should shadow physicians or other healthcare providers. Shadowing is an invaluable experience, but most involve just a day or two of activity—not enough to gain much knowledge. Most applicants have shadowed at some point and admissions committees know it does not demand much of the applicant. They find it much more impressive when an applicant has invested weeks and months volunteering or working for an organization. More time-intensive experiences demonstrate commitment, discipline and other qualities important in doctors.

As you prepare for med school and seek to strengthen your application, think carefully about your clinical and extracurricular activities. Don’t do something just because you think it will look good on your medical school application. Do things that interest you, that you enjoy and that will make you want to become a doctor and a better person!