Part of your AMCAS application requires that you write about your “meaningful experiences.” Do you want to create a winning AMCAS application? Then let’s jump right into learning about how to choose and write about your experiences…
“I became a better listener from volunteering on help lines.”
“Joining the college debate team enhanced my ability to organize and present a case clearly.”
“Despite communication barriers, I made strong personal connections with my host family while studying in Costa Rica.”
I’ve done all these things. It’s obvious that they’re meaningful, right?
Well, not really. Sure, I’m showing where my skills came from, and that’s a start. But without any context, I’m not explaining why these skills are important. How exactly are they significant, special, meaningful? What can you do to make sure that you fully explain how meaningful your meaningful experiences truly are?
1. Goals: Connect Your Experience to Your Goals
One way an experience becomes meaningful is when you can show how those skills helped you achieve a goal. For me, all of these skills – better listening, organizing and presenting arguments, and making connections with others – are meaningful because I always knew I wanted to work in a writing profession. Connecting with a client, listening to their stories, and helping them present their “case” in a compelling way are critical to my success as an admissions consultant.
2. Values: Show How Your Values Tie into Your Experience
Self-reflection on your values and beliefs reveals that you have a strong awareness of who you are, which is always important when you’re making a life-changing decision about your future. Sometimes an activity is meaningful because it challenges you to adjust your personal values or beliefs. Working with an international student association, for example, might expose you for the first time to people with different belief systems, forcing you to question and modify what you had previously believed to be true.
On the other hand, sometimes an experience is meaningful because it challenges you to stick to your values. Maybe you withstood pressure to drink alcohol while still coordinating successful campus events. Maybe you were tempted to overlook a friend’s cheating while you were a TA. Used effectively, a defense of your moral principles can make an ordinary event quite meaningful.
3. Personal Qualities: Express which Personal Qualities are Prominent in Your Experiences
Again, self-reflection is required to write about who you really are, but identifying your personal qualities and showing how they have become your strengths can make an outstanding story for your meaningful experiences. Your shyness might be overcome by a role in the school play, or it might help you empathize with the child in the pediatric ward who keeps to himself. Playing the “class clown,” which got you into trouble all through school, might turn out to be the thing that enabled you to connect with elderly residents at a hospice.
Remember, the point of these experiences is to show the medical school admissions committee that your experiences will contribute to your med school success, so don’t be afraid to spell out the connection between your experience and your future career in medicine. The people reading your application shouldn’t have to make that connection themselves – and you don’t want to risk that they won’t. Emphasizing that your goals, values, and personal traits all support your future role as a physician will make that important link in the reader’s mind.
By Cydney Foote, Accepted consultant and author of Write Your Way to Medical School, who has helped future physicians craft winning applications since 2001. Want Cyd to help you get accepted? Click here to get in touch!