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What extracurricular experiences (beyond academics) do you believe were most beneficial in helping you prepare for and enter medical school?

I plan to apply for medical schools within the next 2 years and am curious as to what has been most helpful for others (in their personal opinion) to gain acceptance. I often hear that while grades and honors are important, there are many other things that admissions committees look for in an applicant. As a psychology student, I also wonder if extracurriculars will be even more important for me as I don't have as strong of a biology/chemistry background. #medicine #physician #medicine-school #extracurriculars #admissions #application #academic

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James’s Answer

hi anders,


i graduated med school in 1993 but i think the following still applies.


first, what the admissions commitee is really looking for is whether you're truly committed. sure, grades and test scores are important. but all the applicants will have good grades and test scores.


med school (plus residency) is a long haul and some do not finish. it's also changing more rapidly these days than in the past. so a good applicant will demonstrate understanding of not just science but also of health care policy, customer service, computer technology, financial matters, etc.


the worst applicants, the ones the admissions commitee is focused on weeding out, are the ones who are simply good students but don't demonstrate any goals. what that means is that you should know what you're going to do with a medical degree. will you become a researcher to find a cure for Alzheimer's? a professor to teach future doctors? a surgeon who goes on mission trips to poor countries? a family doctor in a rural area? a pediatrician focusing on ADHD? or something else?


the more specific you can be the better. this shows that you have thought out this path. it'd also be helpful if you knew which residency program you wanted to attend, where you wanted to practice, etc.


next, is a a back story. why do you want to do undertake this path? here's your chance to talk about losing a relative to a disease, or growing up with an undiagnosed illness, or volunteering as a candy striper in a hospital, etc.


what the admissions committee does not want is a bunch of med students who simply want to make a living. medicine is reverting to a vocation again, and less of a trade.


you ask about extracurriculars. i'm not a big fan of engaging in activities in an attempt to fluff up a resume. and i'm pretty sure the admissions committees see through that fairly easily too. what i do see as helpful is customer service jobs. anything that teaches you how to deal with the public will be useful.


communication skills are also handy. taking Spanish or sign language courses for instance. again, this demonstrates you want to connect with your patients.


you say you don't have a strong science background. that's a problem. a big problem. no matter how much lip service they give to the need to attract non-science people, admissions committees are still heavily biased towards science. here's my suggestion. look over the list of med school prerequisite courses. there should be some that are not required but are "recommended." take them. even if you do it Pass/Fail it will show that you are doing everything you can to prepare yourself for the tough med school curriculum. the ones i would suggest are Biochemistry, Physiology, and Immunology.


on that same thought, you should be scouring your college course list for every medical course you can take. i would suggest Medical Ethics, Medical Terminology, and History of Science.


now for a personal note. i did not have awesome grades or test scores. and i did not get a science degree. but i still made it. so keep your chin up. however, on the other hand, i spent 5 years in college in order to complete all of the prerequisites, additional "recommended" courses, as well as my Business Management degree.


i would strongly that you take more than 1 MCAT prep course. they help and that score is critical.


i recommend that you learn about every medical school that you'd be willing to attend. and possibly also about some residency programs if you already know what specialty you want to go into.


i recommend you speak with as many health care providers as you can. now. you really need to know what you're getting yourself into. ask about their med school and residency experiences. ask about their specialty choice, their current job, their personal sacrifices.


good luck!

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Ken’s Answer

Hi Anders!


Here is some helpful information:


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IhLgtTMTklQ
https://www.theguardian.com/education/2014/feb/10/doctor-different-routes-take
http://www.wikihow.com/Get-Into-Medical-School
http://www.mtu.edu/magazine/winter1112/stories/med-school/

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Richard’s Answer

Try to find opportunities to pursue research.
Volunteer at your local hospital or low-income clinic. Ask physicians, PAs or other clinical providers if you can shadow them.
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