When considering your long term goal of attending medical school, selecting extracurricular activities that will set your application apart can seem overwhelming. This blog post will provide you with strategies for finding and selecting activities. In choosing activities, it’s important to consider the following:
1. Do what you love.
It’s more interesting to see applicants who have a diverse variety of genuine interests rather than those who only participate in activities that will “look good” to medical schools. If you are an artist, continue developing your skills as this may help you when you take anatomy or may result in you having the fine motor skills to perform surgeries. You never know how your interests may guide the direction of your career in the future.
2. Look for activities that cover multiple areas.
It is important to have some leadership, clinical, and volunteer experience. When looking at activities that you enjoy, be flexible and open to taking on roles that may combine more than one of these areas. For example, some students volunteer at free clinics or health fairs; this combines volunteer and clinical work, as well as the possibility of leadership if they take on more responsibility with the organization over time. The time they put into this activity benefits them three-fold. Rather than running around and participating in three different activities, this is fantastic way to use their time to gain valuable life experience.
3. Manage your time, realistically.
Time is finite. There are only 24 hours in a day so every choice we make (or don’t make) about how we spend it is important. Look for activities that allow you to create more balance in your life. Participating in inter-mural sports or exercising regularly can allow you to de-stress and also include teamwork in your activities section. It may take some time to locate those activities that will relax you the most in the shortest amount of time possible, but you will be glad you did once you get into medical school and have less time to maintain the same level of balance.
While this advice sounds great in theory, you may be wondering how to apply it. Start by making a list of the activities that you most enjoyed in the past. Are there any that you would like to continue? Are there any that also cover leadership, clinical, or volunteer work? Here are some practical ways to find these activities:
• Visit your premed advising office on campus.
Often, they will maintain a binder or list of activities that you can peruse for ideas. Some schools even have a lottery for the most popular clinical activities in the area.
• Search the web for a community service planning council or composite list of volunteer activities in the city or town where you live.
Some cities actually sell a directory of community services opportunities in the area, from working with children to assisting the elderly. They often provide the most comprehensive perspective of what’s available and needed in your community. Or you can stop by your local town hall or civic center to inquire in person.
• Ask friends and family in the area.
Network by asking everyone that you know in the area about the activities you are interested in pursuing. If you are new to the area, this can be a great strategy in establishing a strong network of support early in your education.
The more time that you spend deciding how you will use your time can ensure that you make the most of it. Pursue your interests and continue to develop those skills that may benefit you in unexpected ways. More outlets and support systems that you have in place will keep you grounded. As you further your education, you can enrich your life as well as your AMCAS activities section by taking the time to make the conscious decision to participate in those activities that will bring you the greatest joy and nurture personal growth and development.
Alicia McNease Nimonkar is an Accepted advisor and editor specializing in healthcare admissions. Prior to joining Accepted, Alicia worked for five years as Student Advisor at UC Davis’ postbac program where she both evaluated applications and advised students applying successfully to med school and related programs. Want Alicia to help you get accepted? Click here to get in touch!