This is a repost of a popular article from our series Journeys with Joshua.
It’s that time of year when premeds across the world are gathering everything they need to put on their AMCAS application. In this article, I’ll walk through one facet (one of the largest) of this dainty little application, the experiences section. I will outline what makes a good experience to write about, which ones should be deemed “most meaningful,” how to format them, and how to hopefully get you a coveted spot in medical school with white coat in tow. Before we move forward, you should familiarize yourself with the format of the experiences section.
What experiences should I write about?
Rule #1: Did it have an impact on growing you as an individual? If yes, write about it. If no, move on.
Rule #2: It does not have to be medically related.
Rule #3: You should be able to comfortably talk about it in an interview.
I imagine you’ve done a lot in your life from volunteering to receiving scholarships, presenting research posters, shadowing, working a summer job, etc., and it’s often hard to narrow down what should make the final cut for your 15 experiences. What specifically you should write about is simple: the events that have shaped you to become the person undeniably drawn to medicine. But being a camp counselor didn’t make me want to become a doctor. Well, no, but it gave you leadership skills, exposed you to the pediatric population, and showed you a lot about how you work in team dynamics, a massive component of today’s medicine. Long story short, choose the experiences that if asked about in an interview, you can say, “being a camp counselor was such an impacting experience because I grew as a leader; my interest in pediatrics was sparked, and it showed me how much I like working in teams.” Good experiences to write about have a cool story behind them – use that as your rule of thumb in narrowing down your top fifteen.
How should my 700 characters be formatted?
There is a simple way to format your experiences, and here’s the magic formula:
Intro: “I did X” – as in what specifically was your role? Don’t restate your volunteer title, but say, “I was in charge of taking patients back to their rooms.”
Body: “Here’s a cool story from this experience that stood out to me.” The middle few sentences should tell why this experience was important to you. Playing off of the shadowing theme, choose one patient interaction that really stood out to you, “Seeing Dr. So-and-so help Mr. Jones quit smoking was rewarding for me, and further peaked my interest in primary care and preventative medicine.”
Conclusion: “From this experience, I gained skill/life lesson Z.” You did something cool, but this concluding sentence should say why it was important and cool to you in your growth and development as a future doctor. Further playing on the shadowing experience: “Following up with Mr. Jones two weeks after he quit smoking showed me how personally rewarding medicine can be and the joy of celebrating victories with patients.”
An example of one of my shadowing experiences:
Which three experiences should I choose to be my most meaningful?
There’s a simple rule about this…which three experiences were the most meaningful to you and your growth as a person?! But really! Which experiences opened your eyes the most? Which ones did you have strong mentors throughout that watched/helped your growth and could write you a letter to complement your application?
I had a career in music prior to coming to undergrad, so I felt I really needed to show them how much I loved science and medicine through the experiences I had that solidified my decision to pursue medicine 175%. With that being said, there were two shadowing experiences and my undergrad research that really stood out to me as times of growth, because I developed strong relationships with amazing mentors that really helped me in my pursuit of medical school. These mentors watched me evolve over a couple years from a burned-out musician to an eager young scientist, wanting to help people through medicine, and were able to write invaluable letters of recommendation.
An example of one of my most meaningful experiences:
Best of luck, and feel free to reach out with questions!
This is a repost of an article by Joshua Wienczkowski. For more articles by Joshua, check out our popular series Journeys with Joshua.