What Extracurriculars Do Medical Schools Look for? A Comprehensive Guide

Are you thinking of applying to medical school, but unsure of what extracurricular activities to highlight on your application? It can be overwhelming to navigate the many options available, but rest assured, there are certain extracurriculars that medical schools tend to look for. While excellent grades and a high MCAT score are essential, medical schools also want to see that their applicants are well-rounded individuals with a passion for service and leadership.

One particular extracurricular that medical schools value is community service. Volunteering at a hospital, clinic, or with a non-profit organization shows that you have a strong desire to help others and are willing to give back to your community. Medical schools want to ensure that their applicants are committed to serving others, as medicine is a profession that requires compassion, empathy, and a dedication to helping others.

Another extracurricular that medical schools appreciate is research experience. Whether it’s conducting your own independent research project or working as part of a team, having research experience demonstrates your critical thinking skills and your ability to contribute to the advancement of medical knowledge. Medical schools want to see that their applicants are intellectually curious and have a strong desire to learn and innovate. Overall, participating in these extracurricular activities shows medical schools that you have what it takes to succeed in the challenging and rewarding field of medicine.

Importance of Extracurricular Activities in Medical School Admissions

When it comes to getting accepted into medical school, your grades and test scores aren’t the only things that matter. Admissions committees are also looking for well-rounded individuals who have taken the time to explore their interests and passions outside of the classroom through extracurricular activities. Here are some reasons why extracurricular activities are important in medical school admissions:

  • Shows commitment: Admissions committees want to see that you are committed to activities that you are passionate about. Participating in extracurricular activities over a long period of time shows that you have the dedication to stick with something even when it’s challenging.
  • Leadership skills: Extracurricular activities also allow you to develop leadership skills, which are essential for medical school and beyond. Whether you were the captain of your sports team or the president of a club, these experiences show that you have the ability to motivate and lead others.
  • Demonstrates teamwork: Medicine is a collaborative field, so it’s important to show that you can work well with others. Extracurricular activities like team sports or group projects demonstrate your ability to collaborate and communicate effectively with others.

What Extracurricular Activities Do Medical Schools Look For?

While there is no one size fits all answer to this question, some extracurricular activities that medical schools tend to look favorably upon include:

  • Volunteer work: Whether it’s volunteering at a hospital or a local nonprofit, this shows that you have a passion for helping others, and have experience working in a medical setting.
  • Research: Participating in research projects shows that you have an interest in scientific inquiry and have the ability to think critically and creatively.
  • Student organizations: Being involved in student organizations such as pre-med clubs or medical mission trips demonstrates your commitment to the field of medicine and your desire to make a difference.

How to Choose Your Extracurricular Activities

It’s important to choose extracurricular activities that you are passionate about, as these will be the ones that you will stick with and make the most meaningful impact.

It’s also important to choose activities that align with your future goals. If you’re interested in a particular specialty in medicine, consider participating in activities that are related to that field. For example, if you’re interested in pediatrics, volunteering at a children’s hospital or working with kids in a community-based organization may be a good fit.

Extracurricular Activities vs. Grades

While extracurricular activities are important, it’s worth noting that they are not more important than your grades and test scores. Medical schools still prioritize academic achievement, so it’s important to maintain a strong GPA and perform well on your MCAT.

Extracurricular Activities Grades/Test Scores
Shows commitment and leadership potential Demonstrates academic aptitude and potential for success in medical school
Demonstrates teamwork and communication skills Shows ability to handle rigorous academic coursework
Illustrates your personality and unique qualities Used by admissions committees to compare you to other applicants

Overall, extracurricular activities can help set you apart from other applicants, but they should never come at the expense of academic performance. Strive for a balance between excelling academically and pursuing activities that showcase your unique qualities and passions.

Clinical Volunteering

Clinical volunteering is an essential aspect of extracurricular activities that medical schools often look for in applicants. It is critical to demonstrate your interest in the healthcare profession through hands-on experience with patients. Volunteering at a hospital, clinic, or other medical settings is an excellent way of getting exposure to the realities of the healthcare profession and helping to shape your understanding of it.

  • Hospital volunteering – Volunteering in a hospital provides a wide range of experiences, from working in the emergency room to assisting in cancer wards. Hospital volunteers can help patients and their families feel more comfortable while they receive care. They can also assist medical staff with non-medical tasks to help keep the hospital running efficiently.
  • Clinic volunteering – Volunteering in a clinic provides more direct contact with patients. Clinics usually focus on specific medical conditions, such as cancer treatment or diabetes management. Volunteers here can assist with patient intake, record-keeping, and even outreach and education programs. Clinics may also offer observational opportunities to shadow medical professionals, allowing you to gain valuable insight into their specialty.
  • Medical mission trips – Medical mission trips are organized trips that offer volunteers the opportunity to assist healthcare professionals in underserved communities. The programs can be both domestic or international and can range in duration from a few weeks to several months. The volunteer’s support can make a significant difference in the healthcare outcomes of communities with limited access to healthcare services.

Volunteering in a clinical environment communicates your passion for helping patients while demonstrating an understanding of the day-to-day work of a healthcare professional. Most importantly, it shows admissions committees that you have practical experience in working with patients and a solid foundation in interpersonal skills essential for a healthcare provider.

Here’s a table that highlights some of the essential aspects to keep in mind while considering clinical volunteering:

Aspect Description
Responsibility Consider the type and level of responsibility expected from the volunteer.
Time commitment Determine the duration and scheduling requirements of the volunteer opportunity.
Skills gained List out the skills that will be developed through the volunteer role and how they can contribute to your healthcare profession.

Volunteering in a clinical setting is an excellent way to gain experiences, develop interpersonal and professional skills and show the admissions committee that you are committed to pursuing a career in healthcare. Take the time to research different opportunities, assess which is the best fit, and get started on your extracurricular activities today!

Medical Research Experience

While not a requirement for admission, medical research experience is highly valued by medical schools as it demonstrates a student’s intellectual curiosity, ability to work independently, and capacity for critical thinking. Medical research can take many forms, including clinical research, basic science research, and health services research.

To gain research experience, students can join a research lab or team at their university or seek out external opportunities such as summer research programs or internships. It is important to identify research experiences that align with one’s interests and career goals.

What Medical Schools Look for in Research Experience

  • Depth and Breadth: Medical schools are interested in applicants who have had a significant and sustained involvement in research with depth and breadth in their area of interest.
  • Contributions to Research: Applicants who have made substantive contributions to a research project, such as presenting their findings at a conference or publishing in a peer-reviewed journal, are highly valued.
  • Skills and Knowledge: Medical schools are looking for applicants who have developed skills such as data analysis, literature review, critical thinking, and effective communication.

Examples of Medical Research Experience

Medical research experience can take many forms, and the type of research experience that is most applicable will vary depending on the applicant’s medical interests and field. Some examples of research experience that medical schools may look for are:

  • Participating in a clinical trial to test a new treatment or drug
  • Conducting laboratory research to investigate the basic mechanisms of a disease
  • Working with a team of researchers to analyze large data sets from electronic medical records

Sample Research Experience Table

Research Experience Location Duration Mentor/Supervisor
Investigated the role of T-cell activation in the development of Type 1 diabetes Johns Hopkins School of Medicine 2 years Dr. Jane Smith
Supported data visualization and analysis for a study on healthcare disparities in breast cancer screening University of Michigan 1 summer Dr. Thomas Lee

It is important to showcase one’s research experiences in a clear and concise manner when applying to medical school. By highlighting the skills and knowledge gained through research experiences and demonstrating one’s contributions to the field, applicants can impress admissions committees and increase their chances of acceptance.

Physician Shadowing

Physician shadowing is one of the extracurricular activities that can significantly boost your chances of getting into medical school. Shadowing a physician can provide insights into the daily life and responsibilities of a doctor, as well as give you the opportunity to learn and observe medical procedures and patient interactions. Many medical schools highly value applicants who have hands-on experience shadowing physicians, as it demonstrates a genuine interest and commitment to the field of medicine.

  • Find a physician to shadow. This can be a challenge, as doctors are very busy people. You can start by asking your personal physician, family members, or friends if they know any physicians who would be willing to allow you to shadow them. You can also reach out to hospitals or clinics and ask if they have opportunities for shadowing.
  • Set up a schedule. Once you have found a physician to shadow, it’s essential to work out a schedule that works for both of you. Be respectful of the physician’s time and availability, and make sure to communicate your schedule and availability as well.
  • Show up on time and be prepared. When shadowing a physician, it’s essential to arrive on time and be prepared. Be professional in your demeanor and dress appropriately. Bring a notebook and a pen to take notes or record your experience.

Many medical schools require applicants to have a certain number of physician shadowing hours, usually ranging between 50-100 hours. It’s essential to keep track of the hours you spend shadowing, as you will need to report them on your medical school application.

Shadowing a physician can provide invaluable experience and insight into the medical field. Below is a table that highlights the benefits of physician shadowing:

Benefits of Physician Shadowing
Gain hands-on experience in the medical field.
Learn about medical procedures and patient interactions.
Demonstrate genuine interest and commitment to the field of medicine.
Make connections with physicians who can provide letters of recommendation.
Meet potential mentors who can guide you through the medical school application process.

Overall, physician shadowing is an excellent extracurricular activity to pursue if you’re interested in pursuing a career in medicine. It provides valuable experience, insight, and connections that can benefit you both in your medical school application and future career as a healthcare professional.

Medical Mission Trips

Medical mission trips provide valuable experience for aspiring medical students and can make a significant impact on their medical school applications. These trips typically involve providing healthcare to underserved populations in developing countries or areas affected by natural disasters. Here are some reasons why medical schools value this extracurricular activity:

  • Hands-on experience: Medical mission trips offer students the opportunity to gain clinical experience and interact with patients in a real-world setting. This can provide valuable insights into the challenges of delivering healthcare in resource-limited environments.
  • Cultural competence: Working in a different country with a different language and culture can help medical students develop cultural competence and empathy, which is essential for working with diverse patient populations.
  • Leadership and teamwork: Medical mission trips often involve working in teams to coordinate healthcare delivery and manage resources. This can help students develop leadership skills and improve their ability to work effectively in a team setting.

In addition to these benefits, medical mission trips can also demonstrate a student’s commitment to service and social responsibility. This is highly valued by medical schools, which are seeking future physicians who are dedicated to improving the health of their communities.

However, it’s important to note that medical mission trips should be approached with a critical lens. Some critics argue that short-term medical missions can be detrimental to local communities and perpetuate a savior complex. Medical students should carefully consider the potential impact of their participation and seek out reputable organizations that prioritize sustainability and community involvement.

Pros Cons
Hands-on clinical experience Potential harm to local communities
Cultural competence development Reinforces “savior” mentality
Leadership and teamwork skills Short-term impact

Overall, medical mission trips can be a valuable extracurricular activity for aspiring medical students. However, it’s important to approach these experiences with humility, critical thinking, and a commitment to sustainable and community-driven healthcare.

Leadership and Community Involvement

Leadership and community involvement are highly regarded by medical schools when evaluating applicants. Medical schools look for individuals who possess both of these qualities, as these attributes illustrate an applicant’s ability to work well with others, communicate effectively, and take initiative.

Extracurricular activities are a great way to showcase your leadership and community involvement skills. Joining a club or organization can allow you to take on leadership roles and guide others towards achieving a shared goal. Volunteering in the community can also demonstrate your compassion for others and your dedication to making a positive impact in society.

  • Joining a club or organization: Medical schools are impressed by applicants who have taken initiative to start a club or organization, or have taken on a leadership role within an existing club. Being a club or organization president, treasurer, or secretary can demonstrate your leadership and organizational skills. Additionally, joining a club or organization that is related to the field of medicine, such as a pre-medical club or a health-related club, can illustrate your passion for the field.
  • Volunteering in the community: Volunteering is a great way to show your commitment to helping others. Medical schools look for applicants who have a passion for serving others, and community service can demonstrate your willingness to go above and beyond for the greater good. Examples of community service activities include volunteering at a hospital, nursing home, or soup kitchen.
  • Participating in research: While not directly related to leadership and community involvement, participating in research can show your commitment to the scientific process and your ability to work in a team. Medical schools are looking for individuals who can think critically and work collaboratively, and research experience can demonstrate these qualities.

It is important to remember that quality is more important than quantity when it comes to leadership and community involvement. Medical schools are not necessarily looking for applicants who have participated in a large number of extracurricular activities, but rather for applicants who have demonstrated a genuine commitment and passion for the activities they have engaged in.

Leadership and Community Involvement Activities What They Demonstrate
Club/Organization Leadership Leadership, organizational skills
Volunteering in the Community Compassion for others, dedication to service
Participating in Research Commitment to scientific process, ability to work in a team

In summary, leadership and community involvement are highly valued by medical schools when evaluating applicants. Joining clubs or organizations, volunteering in the community, and participating in research are all great ways to demonstrate these qualities to medical school admissions committees. Remember that quality is more important than quantity, and that demonstrating a genuine passion and commitment to your activities is key.

Sports and Athletics Participation

Sports and athletics are a popular extracurricular activity for many students, providing opportunities for physical fitness, teamwork, and competition. Medical schools recognize the importance of these activities and often look for candidates who have participated in sports and athletics during their undergraduate years.

  • Teamwork and Leadership Skills: Participating in sports and athletics can help develop important skills, such as teamwork and leadership, which are essential for success in the medical field. Medical schools are looking for candidates who can work well in a team, communicate effectively, and take on leadership roles when necessary.
  • Time Management: Balancing schoolwork and athletics requires excellent time management skills. Medical schools are looking for candidates who can handle a rigorous schedule while still excelling academically.
  • Character Development: Sports and athletics can also teach important life skills, such as perseverance, discipline, and the ability to handle setbacks. Medical schools appreciate candidates who have demonstrated these qualities in their extracurricular activities.

While participation in sports and athletics is beneficial, it is not the only factor that medical schools consider. They also look for candidates who have demonstrated a commitment to service, research, and leadership in other areas as well.

Below is a table showing some examples of sports and athletic activities that can be beneficial for medical school applicants:

Sport/Athletic Activity Benefits
Team Sports (e.g. soccer, basketball) Develops teamwork and communication skills
Individual Sports (e.g. running, swimming) Develops discipline and perseverance
Club Sports (e.g. ultimate frisbee, quidditch) Opportunities for leadership and organization
High School Sports Demonstrates long-term commitment and dedication

Ultimately, sports and athletics can be a valuable addition to a medical school applicant’s resume. Not only do they demonstrate important skills and qualities, but they also show that the applicant has the ability to balance multiple commitments and thrive under pressure.

FAQs: What Extracurriculars Do Medical Schools Look For?

1) What are extracurricular activities?
Extracurricular activities refer to any non-academic activities that an applicant does outside of the classroom, such as volunteering, research, leadership roles, sports, music, art, or other clubs.

2) Why do medical schools look for extracurriculars?
Medical schools seek well-rounded applicants who have demonstrated a commitment to their community, a passion for learning, and a diverse set of skills and experiences that will prepare them for a career in medicine.

3) What types of extracurriculars are most valued by medical schools?
Medical schools value extracurriculars that demonstrate leadership, communication, teamwork, problem-solving, and compassion. Activities related to healthcare, community service, research, and diversity are especially relevant.

4) How many extracurriculars should I have?
There is no set number of extracurriculars that are required or preferred by medical schools. Quality over quantity is more important, so focus on a few activities that you are truly passionate about and committed to.

5) Should I focus on healthcare-related extracurriculars?
While healthcare-related extracurriculars can be helpful, they are not required. Medical schools value diversity and want to see a range of experiences and interests. Pursue activities that reflect your own unique passions and strengths.

6) Can I include extracurriculars from high school or earlier?
Yes, you can include extracurriculars from high school or earlier if they are relevant and demonstrate skills or experiences that are still meaningful and applicable. However, focus on more recent activities if possible.

7) How can I showcase my extracurriculars in my medical school application?
Be sure to describe your extracurricular activities in clear and concise language, highlighting the skills and experiences you gained and how they apply to a career in medicine. Use examples and stories to show your achievements and impact.

Closing Thoughts:

In summary, while extracurricular activities are not the only factor in getting accepted to medical school, they can play a significant role in demonstrating your passion, commitment, and diverse skill set. Remember to pursue activities that you truly enjoy and that align with your career goals, and be sure to showcase them in a compelling way in your application. Thanks for reading, and best of luck on your journey to medical school! Don’t forget to check back in with us for more useful tips and advice.